Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Quick tip: one trick to creating backstory

Written By: Jessica Morrell - May• 04•15

sidewalk drawingQuick Take: Every protagonist comes into a story with emotional baggage and justifications for their behaviors. These qualities and foibles, acquired over a lifetime, are also called back story. And these emotional needs, blind spots and hungers motivate the protagonist to behave the way he or she behaves. Because these behaviors are also coping mechanisms. Coping mechanisms—denial, projection, suppression, acting out and the like are used to stifle or hide from problems just as in real life. If your protagonist fully realized the cause of  his or her problems, he would solve them and your story would lack inner conflict. Characters are often (but not always) blind to why they do what they do, or powerless to stop using their coping mechanisms, but acquire more self- knowledge and strength as the story progresses. The storyline exists to deliver insights.

By the way, your antagonist or villain has his or her own set of justifications and coping mechanisms. Which ones do your characters use?

Keep dreaming, keep writing, have heart


Here’s helpful list of coping mechanisms. Which ones fit your character?


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