Welcome to another edition of my How To Beat Writer’s Block Series focusing on the importance of writing a backstory to your novel and characters. It is not a new idea and is probably already done by most of you, but I want to propose an alternative way of going about it. I warn you now that it may take some work, but your writing is worth it and it will help you get passed the hurdle of writer’s block! For this post I take inspiration from my little brother who is obsessed with Adventure Time. He has a book called The Encyclopedia of the Land of OOO which details the history of the land and its inhabitants. If you haven’t guessed, this is what I want you to do for your story! Don’t worry I am in the process of doing this too!
In fact, I was writing a scene were I introduced a new species which had not had its debut in my book yet. As I was writing this, I was jotting down the cool things that I made up about them in a separate word document. The thoughts running through my head were, what the hell am I doing and where do I go now? Why on earth did I write that and how does this make sense? How did that even come to mind? It was a lot of confusion because I was completely unprepared and had no direction. This is when I realized I needed to do a complete guide to my world. I even talked to people on instagram about it. A wonderful author you should check out called Becket (@ibecket) said that for his upcoming novel The Mandrake he wrote a 10,000 word history of his world and character backstory. So I am not making this up, awesome published authors such as him do it to.
- You will go into writing your story prepared and reduce the likelihood of writer’s block. If you write blindly you will hit walls and your writer’s block will get worse the longer you keep going this way.
- If you know what your characters backstories are and their motivations, you will easily come to know their responses to situations, their dialogue will come easier to you and your knowing them better which will be portrayed through your writing.
- Not only this, but to have a seamless story you should know your world inside and out, because if you do not, nor will the reader. You should know everything from the way that the people dress, their colloquialisms and trends, to politics and scandals. If you do not find the world you are writing as interesting how do you expect the reader to care?
- It will allow you to write better without hindrance. Since you have spent all that time preparing your backstory you will know everything about your world. Your confidence will shine through your words to the reader whereas, if you are confused, it too will be portrayed in your book.
- If you forget certain details, you will have it stored in one place and can easily look it up. In your book you write small details that add to the character of your world, but they can get lost in huge manuscripts. However, if you put them into a handy encyclopedia you can reach for it in you time of need. This is purely for convenience.
- There are a few ways you can go about it. Either you can go the easy route and just make a word document and print it out. Alternatively, you may elect to take the road less traveled (like me) and make a mini e-book for yourself using the design software Canva (www.canva.com). It may take longer but it will be awesome and encourage you to make it and keep looking postproduction. Not to mention when you become a rich and famous author, maybe people would want to buy your e-book haha!
- You can use it to store all of your drawings of your characters and your world for quick reference. Map sure you put a world map and other pictures to break up the words.
- You can record lists of the names of your characters, places and other things you have made up words for. For instance, in my book I don’t remember half of what I call people, places or things so I just use X.
- You can also create a list of names you may use for characters who are yet to come up in your book. Leave a few pages blank at the end to add to the list as you go. You could even call this section ‘Popular Child Names for [Insert Name of Your World]’
- Put a complete history of your world and of each region within it. Also include a detailed backstory to each character, even the minor ones and divide it for easy reference.
- If you are feeling creative and have the time you can create a travel guide to your world. Your readers may never know about half of the places but it makes your world three dimensional and real.
- If you have a book about magic or a world with magic, you can put a mini spell book section. Make sure you include all the spells, potions and ingredients in there.
- You could even put in a section of your world’s fairytales and lore. This may come in handy later on you never know.
I hope that this has encouraged you to take the step in writing a complete encyclopedia for your book. I know it is a lot of work but it will stop writer’s block in its tracks, as you will know where to go in your story! Here are a few free downloadable checklists to get you on started and ensures your encyclopedia includes all necessary information.
A Little Something Extra!
What I did in order to make the encyclopedia document more appealing was to create images to use as page dividers between sections. I want to give you a copy of the image I made for the title page, so that you may download it and use it in your own encyclopaedia or your other WIP notes. All you have to do is copy and paste it into your MS Word Document.
If you want the Page Divider images for the other sections in the encyclopedia stay up to date with my Novel Prep-Work Series. Click here to see posts. In those posts you will also find the various questions I used to help myself develop my world. Simply copy and paste them into a document, delete the questions that don't relate to your WIP and answer away.