Late Sunday night, I wrote a bit of Tenzin’s backstory. Now, for those of you who have read the Elemental Mysteries and know how old Tenzin is, you know that’s a lot of backstory, most of it pretty dark. I may end up publishing all or part of this. I may end up not publishing it.
So why write it?
Everyone is different, but for me? I need to know what that story is. Right now, a lot of that character’s past is rattling around in my head. I can hear it. Smell it. It’s very real to me. The way I get rid of that feeling is by writing it down. So for me, backstory serves two purposes.
The primary one is to understand your character in a way that informs your writing. I don’t think you need to write the history of every character in your book; it’s just not necessary. But you should know what made them, if they’re important. Because their past informs their actions and how they interact with other characters. They should be real people to you, so that readers connect with them on the page. That’s my opinion, anyway.
What’s the other reason? For me, it’s a process of working a character out from under my skin. With Tenzin, there’s a lot about her that I know, and a lot I don’t. There’s a lot of time that’s left in shadow, and I think there always will be. I know she’s a favorite character for a lot of people, but you’re never going to get the whole story about her. It’s just not going to happen, even when she gets her own books. That said, I do want to give you guys something.
(Also, if you’re re-reading, take note of what Gio says about Tenzin, because he’s probably the character who knows her best, even though he doesn’t know a lot. But they spent hundreds of years working together. Hint: Tenzin is a very unreliable narrator.)
Anyway, that’s where I am about that character and that story. And for those of you who keep asking me if Tenzin and Ben are going to “end up together” (I believe someone even coined the term ‘Benzin’ over on Facebook.) I get where you’re coming from, but I’m not going to tell you. Not. Going. To. Happen. I think it’s pretty clear that their fates are intertwined, but I’m not going to say how. You’re just going to have to be patient.
So, as of right now, writing schedule looks like this:
- Finish second Irin book.
- Start second Cambio Springs book.
- Dribs and drabbles about Tenzin’s past interspersed with all of the above.
- (And I’m going to China next summer, so make of that what you will.)
I used to have schedules, you guys. Then, I had three fantasy series going on at the same time. So all I can tell you know is that I will write what’s occupying my brain and go where my passion leads. I had planned to be working on the second Cambio book right now, but when all I could think about was the Irin Chonicles, working on Cambio would have been stupid. That’s just the unpredictable way that my imagination works.
There are no formulas. If it’s going to be good, it’s going to just happen when it happens. Luckily, I still write fast, so no complaining about waiting for books. (That’s not cool.) I think most writers can relate to this. You can be as disciplined as you want, but if an idea takes over your brain, it’s not going away. And what I’ve found is that it’s the ideas you’re most passionate about that lead to the best stories.
And everyone wants the best story.
P.S. I keep wanting to do a post about some great audiobooks I’ve been listening to with SmallBoy, and I keep getting sidetracked. I’m going to try to get that up later this week.