Back Story and Agent Wyatt’s underwear

In my humble opinion, you can tell a lot about the main characters in a story by the details that permeate their lives. All the eccentricities, habits, mannerisms if you will, they come from their lifetimes of cumulative experiences. Of course, since characters in a book have no lives beyond what the writer fabricates for them, those experiences also need to be created in the form of back stories.

Back story is the life the character had up to the point that the reader is brought into the picture. The amount of back story required really depends on how much character development is required. In the case of a series, the back stories need to be extensive for recurring characters.

As an example, take Agent Wyatt’s underwear. Since I write suspenseful romance, Agent Wyatt invariably spends a lot of time exposing his skivvies (and sometimes more). This means that his underwear requires description.  A person’s underwear tells you certain thing’s about their character. In the case of Agent Wyatt, it’s very telling.

I imagine Agent Wyatt in Calvin Klein tank t-shirts (classy wife-beater, I guess) and matching boxer-briefs in shades of heather grey, charcoal, and black, period. His underwear is classic, expensive, and has nothing to do with Agent Wyatt’s preferences whatsoever. Why? It’s part of his back story.

Like a lot of men, Agent Wyatt has never been in charge of buying his own underwear. His mother made that decision for him when he was born and continued to be in charge of what he wore under his clothing until his girlfriend, Lexi, took over. From that point on, Lexi made the decision as to what she liked to see her man in and continued on where Agent Wyatt’s mother left off for the next fourteen years. After the divorce, Agent Wyatt didn’t give his underwear a second thought. He simply continued to wear what was left for him. He will do so until the poor things fall apart beyond usefulness. As is very evident in the dialogue, Agent Wyatt is much more interested in Bernice’s underwear than his own.

Bernice likes Agent Wyatt’s underwear just fine. They are not evolved enough in their relationship for her to pick up where Lexi left off. Her light-handedness when it comes to relationships is part of Bernice’s back story.

Meanwhile, for the readers who care, isn’t it nice to imagine Agent Wyatt in his undies? It makes me smile.

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