Tragic backstories?


Everyone loves a good tragic backstory, but it seems like everyone always uses the same ones. Do any of your characters have an interesting and unique tragic backstory?

My favorite is Kulgan’s from The Gray Ranger. I like his because everything he’s gone through is entirely self-inflicted. I start it off making him sound like he’s misunderstood and being persecuted by an evil religious organization, but the opposite is actually true. When the church said “this magic is evil, don’t use it!” they meant it, and they were right. Kulgan ignored them, used it anyway, and then only made things worse by killing his best friends to cover up his secret, dragging his wife into it, and then abandoning her despite her repeatedly saying she wanted to help him through it. The point of the story is to help him find his humanity again, but I try to get it across very clearly: he’s sympathetic, but still a pretty terrible person.


Dude sounds like an asshole. :joy:


He is. I enjoyed teaming him up with the most pretentious spoiled brat I could come up with, and her white knight totally-not-her-slave defender.


Lol that sounds like it might be funny


There’s only one way to find out! eyebrow waggle


Don’t think it is unique but I like it: it’s for a wip

Mine is pretty much that the mother choose to surpress and inprison one of her daughters in their basement because the people may be afraid of her (folklore) while she put the other to maintain a good reputation and dampen the whole idea that she had a second child. The second daughter loved her sister dearly so she has a lot of emotional troubles do to that she can’t express in fear of her mother who are power hungry (and rather unconventional). The imprisoned daughter is the first mc and she have had a lot of time to torment herself, to miss a mother that won’t give her a second glance, and hope that her sister one day will free her like she promised so many years ago. She’s constantly searching for anything that can keep her feeling alive. Her father isn a quiet character that loves his daughters but he doesn’t dare to cross his violent wife, so the first mc doesn’t see him alot.

I think maybe it is the mother’s backstory that intruige me the most since it put down the pieces to why she is like she is in this book. Without spoiling too much, it includes killing her sisters without getting caught (so she could inherit), saying no to the (powerful) man she loved in trade for his “weaker” brother so she can rule her House of power alone. Then getting children with him for him which caused the trouble above whitout any thoughts to actually give up her power unless she’s dead. Then… spoilers for the actual wip. She’s also neglecting her responsibilities to the people of her juristriction to contain a house war (there was seven houses, at the present 5) and keep her own alive so she is pressured for people in power as well as the peasants but when the first mc escape things explode.


My one character, Tyler, at first the story is that he ws abandoned by his mother for fear he had the White Sickness, or she did and she didn’t want to pass it on (deadly disease for Shapeshifters and only they can contract it, only 1/3 survive) but it turns out, someone buried his true memory and replaced it with that, the truth is that his mother (who eventually turns out to not be his mother) tried to kill his father (who is really his father) and was trying to kill Tyler next (turns out, his dad fell in love with and slept with another woman the Divine, Detchris, didn’t matter she was a goddess, or that they had been unhappy together for a long time, he cheated and she wanted both his father and him dead) his older brother, Surge (who is really his half brother) understood what was going on and ran away with Tyler, he stopped and knew he couldn’t take care of his brother, but he couldn’t just leave him so he put a spell on his baby brother, blocking his true memories and replacing them with false ones before leaving him in pack territory where he knew he would be found. He then spent his life trying to make sure his brother wouldn’t be found by drawing attention only to himself and also trying to fix the mess his parents had made while Tyler grows up believing he was abandoned and unwanted but at least in good hands, his true heritage and nature locked inside him, from everyone, and anyone who tries to dig past the false memories finds themselves in a lot of pain


I have a couple of different tragic backstories. Trying not to spoil too much.

One of my characters is royalty with many many siblings; her father (the king) passed away and her mother (the queen) never remarried. Someone killed the queen, and she was unable to name the next ruler before she died, so the queens’ right-hand man essentially told the room full of the queens’ children that the last man standing will rule and started a bloodbath. Not interested in the throne but also not wanting to die, she was able to escape with her twin brother and their retainers, but on the run, one of the retainers (who was also her lover) gets killed while the other sacrifices their life to make sure the twins survive but circumstances and story plot happens, and the twins end up fighting each other, and she ends up killing him. When she did, she was the last child to survive, and she became the next queen.
Her tragedy doesn’t end there. As the years pass a very influential man comes into power and uses manipulation, blackmail, mind control, torture and anything he could do to make people pledge loyalty to him. He somehow convinces all the people that she has a duty to marry this man. Without an option, she does what the people demanded of her and married him. This man - so obsessed with being in control and in power - then gets her pregnant, but almost discards the child when it was a boy since women have more weight when it comes to power than men. He gets her pregnant again, and she somehow knew it was a girl so she asked for help from another kingdom to save her child but the day the child was born, the king found out about the plot and arrested her, taking the child away. She spent many years hidden and imprisoned until she was found by an old friend who had been searching for her for all those years, and she was able to be in her daughter’s life but thought it better that the little girl never know she was her mother to protect her from the king. When her daughter was old enough, and she found a way, she took her daughter away from the king and gave her to the kingdom to protect, with the character acting as a helper to her daughter.


I find I like self-inflicted tragedies more than the typical “poor victim of everything” ones. Probably because I relate, what with my overpowering addiction to the taste of my own foot. But I also feel like “victim” backstories don’t offer as much room for character development. When the hero is the source of his own problems, it’s going to take some real thought and action on their part to set things right.

But anyway, here’s another…

I haven’t worked this one out all the way yet, but Falquin in my WIP, Magnus Knights, was born the son of either a local lord, rich merchant, or someone else very well off and influential. Falquin decided as a young child that that life was boring, and was enthralled by romanticized stories of thieves stealing from the rich and becoming rich themselves, so decided to give it a try and started stealing from his own family. His father eventually caught him but, because he wasn’t a total douche dad, wanted to forgive him and let it be water under the bridge. Falquin refused, so his father had no choice but to throw him out of the house, and told him not to come back until he straightened himself out. Falquin never did, and developed a seething hatred for anyone who was better off than him. He took to living on the streets, burlgaring food to survive, and eventually built up a retinue of orphans and street urchins who would sing his praises in exchange for food every day.

Yep, that’s our hero.


that’s a really good point. i think this video makes your same point pretty eloquently

My mc’s mother was a concubine of the emperor - really ambitious and idealistic and thought she could convince him to do things that suited those ideals. When she realized that wasn’t going to happen she started freeing slaves, trading secrets, but one of the other concubine’s caught her so she escaped with the mc (9yo). Turns out she was part of this religious fundamental group that wanted to use the mc to kill the emperor. but although the mc loved her, he was really lawful and turned her in and had the entire group and everybody in the city they were from burned to death. It is kind of like the post you made about good government vs the irresponsible rebel group.

I think it should always be their fault in a way.


Mine’s unique because few knew what my character was actually going through because I had managed to cloak the whole thing in a convincing simulation.

Only when my MC got out did the reality of things become clear. And for all of her misdeeds and crimes against both humanity and nature, she still feels like she’s missing something important.

But inside, she’s completely broken and alone. Full of anger, full of bitterness, regret, bouts of insanity, the list goes on.


I would even go so far as to say that “victim” backstories are often used as an excuse for misery porn, aka a Cinderella mentality, which itself often goes along with Mary Sue-ism. People like to project themselves onto their favorite characters, and having those characters be beaten down can give readers a sort of… I don’t know how to describe it… feeling of validation? Being a victim has a morbid sort of appeal to it, because everyone likes to feel sorry for themselves now and then, and having a real reason to feel sorry for themselves makes them feel like their misery is more legitimate somehow.

Then again, it’s almost midnight and I’m just finishing up a twelve hour work shift, so it’s entirely possible my brain is too fried to make any sort of sense. Purple monkey dishwasher!


This sounds hilarious and fabulous. I love idiot characters who keep making themselves more miserable.

I think the most tragic backstory I’ve ever made is for Frej in Frej Rising. He’s burned on a pyre during a Viking ritual for the Winter Solstice. A sacrifice to Hati and Skøll so they won’t eat the sun and the sky during Ragnarok.


The most tragic backstory out of my characters goes probably to Sean, but as he is in a printed book, I will go with my characters from Mosaik, where Joanne, Murphy and Jack could all three apply for that award, even though I do not go too deep into the back stories of Murphy and Jack - exactly to prevent misery porn. The story, after all, is about moving forward instead of dwelling on the past.

As a main character though the backstory of Joanne certainly plays into it a bit. She was the only child of rich parents, with whom she disagreed on everything and be it just for the sake of disagreeing. When she was shipped of to a boarding school she picked fights over and over again until she managed to get suspended from school forcing her parents to allow her to move to South Africa again. Here she went to a just plain normal school and got much better along with everyone who was not her parents, but she had no intention of picking any kind of scientific job. Out of spite with her dad she joined the US army and started a career as a soldier. Long story short, she ended up in Iraq and under an asshole of a commanding officer. She got injured on a suicide mission, ended in a military hospital, volunteered for experimentation, lost and arm and then decided to get back to everyone by accepting a certain offer … She got her revenge, killed said commanding officer, but ended up “dead” on official records and branded a terrorist. She has no intention to return to her old live though. At least not at the beginning of the story.


Oh my god, yours sounds like an absolute moron. Fantastic


I’m not sure if any of mine are original I burrow a lot from popular myth to inspire characters so there are a lot of parallels. But I’d like to think that I have at least one or two that I could present that stand out.


@AWFrasier @serabill I wrote him to mirror a drug addiction, in a kind of weird way. The black magic he’s using is slowly eating away at his humanity, and he knows it, but he’s addicted to it so he can’t stop. And of course he’s got no one to blame for his addiction but himself since he chose to go down that road.


In one of my short stories, two of the main characters were famous musicians. They had legions of fans and were immensely popular. But in the midst of their fame, they forgot how to feel anything. Their lives became a source of entertainment. They were no longer treated as humans; they were objects used as trophies. Their smiles were plastic and inwardly, they forgot how to feel any emotions. Adding to their hollow lives, was a tragic accident which only isolated them more. Fans turned their backs on them, their company does not find them profitable anymore. Worst of all, they forgot how to create music. The characters I envisioned were not bad people. They just sort of forgot what it meant to be a human.


What are the typical tragic backstories?

I have a 10 year old in the sequel to my book who was “given away” by her vampire dad, raised by a practicing mage who was later killed by an assassin, who adopted the child only to later be killed himself. When her vampire father tries to take her back, she kills him only to be attacked by her vampire mother who is “killed” by her latest guardian.


Iris was orphaned at 6 years old when her city was raided. She learned to pickpocket and steal to survive. She eventually met two young boys, Kilik, and Memphis, who looked after younger orphans. She grew close with them and eventually they formed a gang dedicated to protecting orphans who didn’t want to live free from adults. Some time passed when two young strangers, Lilith and Eliyah, wandered onto their turf and quickly formed a bond with the three of them. The five of them were later caught and sent to train to become knights. A few years after becoming knights, one of the Kilik died. Years went by and after a certain incident, Memphis snapped, killing his wife in front of his child and hid from the Four Nations. He eventually returned to lead an attack on the Eliyah and Lilith who had married. He slaughters them and the few members of Lilith’s branch. Iris has promised to prepare their children for the grueling path they must walk as well as preparing Memphis’s daughter to be her successor.