Characterization Through The Christmas Story – Backstory

by | Nov 29, 2009 | Writing Tips | 0 comments

Throughout the month of November, I’ve featured authors who answered two questions:

Who are your favorite characters you’ve ever written?

What is the behind-the-scenes story of those characters?

Over the next few days and in preparation for some new answers from guest-authors, I’m going to take those answers and sum them up by looking at The Christmas story from the Bible.

Backstory – (

  1. The experiences of a character or the circumstances of an event that occur before the action or narrative of a literary, cinematic, or dramatic work: At rehearsal, the actors developed backstories for their characters.
  2. A prequel.

All characters in any given book have a history, or events that occurred in their lives before page one. Having a thorough knowledge of the character’s backstory helps authors create a more three-dimensional, therefore believable, character. Their pasts guide their emotional responses, their decisions, and have infinite value on their responses to change as the story progresses.

So, what is the backstory of The Christmas Story? Well, we have to wander back thousands of years where a sneaky snake met a woman in a garden and twisted God’s words into a scheme that led to the fall of humankind. But even then, in Genesis chapt 3, God promises a Rescuer. In verse 15, God tells the serpent,

 “And I will put enmity
       between you and the woman,
       and between your offspring  and hers;
       he will crush  your head,
       and you will strike his heel.”

As each book of the Bible progresses, we read story after story of man’s fall and God’s rescue, always pointing to a great Rescuer – one who would return us to our ‘rightness’ with God; one who would annihilate our sins; one who would perfectly obey where Adam failed.

As any young Jewess, Mary heard these stories her entire life and along with her fellow Jews, looked forward to the day when Messiah would set the chaos back into order.

The buildup to this ‘Coming King’ had been foretold for centuries, whispered and announced generation to generation, from Adam to this young woman and her betrothed. He would be a reigning king, a warrior, a suffering servant, the lamb, the lion – Who will be able to stand up to his coming?

Into this story, comes our heroine – Mary, a young woman of virtue, and this backstory shapes the person she is and the decisions she will make. Into this story steps one of our heroes, Joseph, a man of honor, both from the line of King David and both integral pieces of God’s story about The Rescuer.

Bible tip for the day:

For we know that all things work together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”    – Romans 8:28

God uses all of our backstories for His ultimate glory. If we are His, he takes our mistakes and triumphs to mold us more and more into His image.

Writing Quote for the day:

“The best way to send information is to wrap it up in a person.” (pretty appropriate for Christmas – don’t you think 😉
Robert Oppenheimer


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