Sunday, June 19, 2011

F3: Father Figures in Fiction - Big Shoes Filled

Photo by Carol Healy
Are you struggling with character motivations? On Father’s Day, let’s step into some size 13 men’s shoes and dig into backstory. Every character has one, even if it never makes it onto the pages of your story. What happened to your characters to make them think, act or react to the other characters in your story? How did their fathers influence them?

Imagine yourself as the father in the following scenarios. How would each of these actions affect your characters?

Scenario 1:  Your college freshman complained about the rain, again and you…     
  1. Told her to grow up - it rained every day when you were collecting rare insects in the rainforest 
  2. Sent her your HD rifle glasses so that she would see everything in high contrast instead of gray mist 
  3. Shipped her a credit card and a GPS with the local shopping malls pre-programmed 
  4. Passed the phone to your wife
Scenario 2:  Your 2 year-old dropped your Blackberry in the toilet while potty training and you…
  1.  Screamed and threw the dripping phone at him
  2. Locked him in his room without a word
  3. Made him reach his hand into the toilet to get it out
  4.  Explained what he had done wrong and put him in time out
Scenario 3:  Your medieval kingdom is under siege and the rival warlord has agreed to peace if he can take your teenage daughter as his bride and you…
  1. Sent her servants to pack her things and inform her of her fate
  2. Ordered your men to fight to the death to defend your daughter’s honor
  3. Told her to cut her hair, dress like a boy and ride to your brother’s castle
  4. Gave her a dagger and instructions to kill the rival warlord

The possibilities are limitless. Are your heroes and villains haunted or inspired by the actions of the father figures in their lives? How has their treatment as children warped or strengthened their identity in your fictional world?


  1. Thank you for the reminder of how important backstory is to every character in any narrative.

  2. Hey Carol, this is Courtney from YA Writers Unite. I love this post! Oftentimes in fiction, we don't stop to think about why the villain is so vicious. Typically they have some redeeming quality or something the protagonist can relate too. I look forward to getting to know you through your blog. Hope you're having a great weekend!

  3. Hi Crosby and Courtney. Thank you both for stopping by. Today I'm having fun laying groundwork for my YA fiction WIP, City of Holy Stone. Gabriel and Josh have completely different family backgrounds, which makes for some fun writing and hopefully some fun reading to come. Happy writing!