on Writers Helping Writers:
In the real world, we’re all products of our pasts. Good and bad, the people, events, and situations we’ve encountered have influenced us in profound ways, impacting our morals and beliefs, our day-to-day habits, our personal preferences, even our personality traits. This should be as true for our characters as it is for us.
As we dig through our characters’ backstories, we quickly come to find that the most formative element is the emotional wound—a terrible past experience that was so debilitating they’ll do anything to avoid going through it again. Wounding events are particularly insidious because the harm they cause isn’t limited to the event itself; it’s often the first of many toppling dominoes that alter the character in alarming ways, molding her into who she’ll be at the start of your story.
Her wound, and the emotional shielding that follows, will contribute to her personality, beliefs and morals, story goals, and more. It’s important to understand those aftereffects and what they’ll mean for your character so you can write her in an authentic and consistent way that will resonate with readers.