The back story hurt occurs later in the work. It’s a moment when the hero reveals more of themselves to the audience, a time when the hero shows their vulnerability by letting the audience better see the hurt which exists inside their soul, a pain they have been carrying for quite some time.
In The Hunger Games we come to learn that despite all which our hero has done to harden her heart she is still a human being, still a simple girl, who was once upon a time greatly hurt by the absence of a father and the absence of male love in her life. She’s had to become strong for the sake of her family – especially for the sake of her sister – but it hasn’t come without a personal cost to Katniss. In Animal Farm we learn that animals were perpetually exploited for their value, sold for meat, and slain for feasts, raised to work and then worked until they died. They were never valued by man with any sort of compassionate respect, and for generation after generation, this has stung. Hamlet reminisces about the joys of youth as contrasted by the skull of his dead jester, Yorrick, illuminating how what once seemed fun and jovial is now really nothing more than a painful reflection on the nature of his own naïveté from years gone by. Hamlet comes to discover that his entire back story is a lie, a coddled illusion of protection and worthiness, neither of which he no longer has. (Like I said, if you are gonna go Shakespeare, you are going to go deep.)
Cinder-Smella is an orphan, Teddy (from Homeboyz) once lost a close friend to the violence of the streets, and Maureen (from Nerd Girls) has a history of embarrassing herself at school in highly comical ways which causes her to feel like a perpetual social outcast. All three harbor pain.
Good stories deepen character, raises the emotional stakes of the plot and better allow the audience into the inner world of the hero when they get to see the hurt from the past that the protagonist carries in their heart – despite the fact that the hero often tries NOT to give access to this part of their inner lives.
The back story hurt is the “I was hurt long ago, long before you even met me” type of moment for the audience. And it is so, so, so important. Why?
Because when you build relationships with people, when you build friendships, you start to learn things about folks that not everyone else gets to know.
As a result, you become more intimate.
Think about your own close friends. Do you not know something about them that many, many other people do not? And does this not make you feel closer to them in some way? More attached and more vested in their well-being.
More tomorrow on The Back Story Hurt…