I’m working on some new characters for a feature I’m writing this fall, and am reminded that character backstory is like trying to get to know a person and they keep ignoring you, so you have to make up things about them until they tell you the truth.
It’s worth it, though. Good character details separates the great from the average. For example, a man yearning over a woman is not nearly as interesting as a poor North Dakotan building himself up to a mysterious millionaire in order to throw extravagant parties in order to lure the woman behind the green light back to him. Specificity of backstory and circumstance can create exquisite tragedy that would not exist had you only known Gatsby as a millionaire with this thing for a married woman.
Here are 6 steps to creating a detailed character backstory: