The Best Days of Our Lives

When I was a DM for my friends in college, I always insisted that my role players create some sort of backstory for their characters. Written prose or just a conversation with me over beers, I didn’t really care about the format, but I wanted my players to think about where their characters came from to help them with where they were going. I would then work to tie those stories into the campaign as it helped my players feel both connected and invested.

I would often get the same questions from my players in regards to what I expected from a backstory, especially from the inexperienced players. How do I know what events are important? How do I create a life story for a person who doesn’t exist? Whom I’ve made up? How do I know if my character will fit into your world? As readers, we are drawn to the exciting and the flashy. We want fantastic battles, grand balls and epic romances. Most readers don’t care for the small moments that make life, well, life. So then, as writers, we need to be aware of this and cater to it. But only after a fashion. Our stories should be most interesting parts of our protagonists’ lives, but often enough, it’s the small moments that shape who we are a people.

So I always asked my newbies to tell me the small stories. Show me how your character interacted with their parents and siblings. Tell me about a time when they broke their first bone or that time they felt very, very small seeing the ocean for the first time. Show me the moment they picked up their nervous tick. It is the big moments that make and break us, but the small moments that shape and engage us.


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