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How to craft a backstory

****My Pirate (133/365)

Some evildoers work their way up the ranks in the traditional way, conceiving and executing ever more fell exploits, each one revealing a new aspect of his or her black heart in a way that provides a wealth of historical evidence as to the utter baseness and depravity they come to represent. Others chance upon an artifact of power through no merit of their own, or arise from utter anonymity, or achieve domination by a simple random fluke of natural talent, and the world is forced to confront an unsatisfying blank slate when it comes to their past. Though this is something of a tactical advantage, disguising one's vulnerabilities, a lack of compelling backstory offers the villain's adversaries no reason to sympathize with their foe, slowing their hand, no illusory track record of invincibility to paralyze them with impotent terror. Being a fully-fleshed out bad guy is also more comfortable when interacting with ones peers and impressing ones subordinates. If you are in this predicament, however, it is not a difficult matter to concoct a serviceable paper trail to stand in for a lack of credentials.

Technically speaking, we are distinguishing here between the history rewriting of the full fruition of a villain's reign of terror and the kind of Ret Con (external link) that injects new, preferable events into the timestream prior to the fiend's manifestation on the scene.

*Evil plotpoints

  1. Destroy the evidence. Just as when you overrun a city that offends you and destroy it without a trace before building your own edifices in its place, any unfortunate artifacts which do not harmonize with the backstory you are trying to create ought to be wiped out. Torch that middlebrow suburban cottage in which you were raised, disappear the people you knew when you were just flipping burgers or delivering flowers, and can get your hands on every official record tying you to a lime green Gremlin (external link) (unless perhaps the latter involved an actual evil gremlin).
  2. A variety of sources. Inexperienced villains sometimes issue the canonical backstory themselves and then leave it at that. For added verisimilitude it is better to spread the story out among disparate authorities in your past. If you can spike the genealogical databases, alter archival photographs to show a cute, doomed kitten by your side, and mind-control some "eyewitnesses" who will corroborate the story of your parents' being abducted by space cephalopods, the whole thing will be that much harder to deconstruct.
  3. Cleaning up. The most direct route is to employ a time travel gadget to go back and harmonize any side effects of tinkering with things.

! Strokes of genius

Ransom Note
  • Testimonials. The easiest cross-references you can get come from your underlings who can be trusted to pipe up about the extent of your bad-assedness, the utter corruption at your heart, and the roots of your invincibility. This is all fine, but it is much better if you can suborn an outside source (a hostile one, if possible) to take up the newly fascinating account of your supreme venality.
  • Exaggeration. You may not be able to sanitize every aspect of your distressing past. All is not lost, however, as the vast majority of those in your audience will not be equipped nor inclined to dig into the historical record and will be more than willing to accept your slant on a confusing mix, if you are careful to play up the lines you want to emphasize. You may choose to ignore the rest, trusting it to fall into obscurity, or you might find it advisable to muddle things up enough so as to put up a little barrier to actual reasoned thought
  • On paper. These days, everyone regardless of literary pedigree can see their writing in printed form thanks to the rise in print-on-demand services. You can select cover art, choose a style of binding and format, and handle the details of shipping to your customers. Be careful about putting money down beforehand, however, as there are scams out there that would be more than willing to abscond with the hard-earned money of an unfortunate supervillain who has not done his or her due diligence.

!! Traps for mere fools

  • Flip-flopping. If you are not careful you can find yourself on the treadmill of wave upon wave of revisions, each one undoing some aspect of the preceding or overwriting them completely. This does little to further your official reputation, which was the goal in the first place. To avoid the frenetic flip-flopping that only wastes energy, start with a modest set of invented facts and sleep on any urge to tweak them. Deflect inconsistencies by re-interpreting inconvenient facts in a way that is, on the face, plausible.
  • Over-explaining. Nothing says you have to account for anything about your past that you do not want to. Rely on a mysterious silence to enhance the mystique associated with your past.

+ Precious and needful

  • Script doctor.
  • Photoshop.
  • Reference material. Myths of the world. 7 basic plot structures. Unabridged dictionary.
  • Mystical artifacts.

Maskerade-0

Further plotting



Created by: CapellaNovafyre. Last Modification: Monday 26 of October, 2009 21:19:01 EDT by CapellaNovafyre.

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