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"What's past is prologue."
Antonio, The Tempest

Backstory is what happens to a character before they arrive on the present scene. All characters have one, but it may only be present for just one character, the entire cast, or the entire setting in which everything is taking place.

A good actor or writer has a strong sense of each character's backstory, as it gives the character texture and shadings and keeps them from being two-dimensional. It makes an excellent source for The Reveal; e.g., why The Rival resents The Hero so much, how the Fake Ultimate Hero got his reputation, why The Captain suffers from Past Experience Nightmares. Hopefully, these things are revealed when the information is both plot-relevant and likely to come up naturally.

In fact, a character's backstory can be so interesting and important that it's a wonder it's just a backstory instead of a part of a prologue or separate story; indeed, a particularly good backstory can form the backbone of a Prequel.

A good retcon may go back and explore a character's backstory. Some characters are given a Mysterious or Dark and Troubled Past as a backstory; these tend to be whatever the author wants, often retroactively growing, or changing.

Backstory (or lack thereof) often serves as Fanfic Fuel; many Fanfics exist to explore backstory (e.g., how Spock's parents got together). Others contradict it.

Specific kinds of backstory include Backstory Horror, Backstory of the Day, Flashback B-Plot, Happy Flashback, Prequel, Standard Cop Backstory, Start of Darkness, Troubled Backstory Flashback, and When It All Began.


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    Anime and Manga  
  • The Chibitalia stories in Hetalia: Axis Powers may count as a backstory for Italy.
    • Also possibly Germany, if the fanon theory that HRE = Germany is to be believed.
    • Then again, any story that was shown after the character was introduced and is set in a period when they were younger may count as a backstory.
  • Sket Dance, while a gag manga for the most part, features three separate backstory arcs for the main cast that are either sufficiently melodramatic (Bossun and Switch) or heartwarming (Himeko) that help flesh out their personalities and how they ended up becoming the people they are now.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist had quite a few chapters explaining Mustang and Hawkeye's backstories.
  • The Summer arc in AIR, which shows the beginning of the curse in the Jidaigeki.
  • Almost all of the characters of One Piece, especially the members of the Strawhat Crew.
    • In fact, a flashback featuring a character's (tragic) past is nearly always a dead giveaway that he/she will join the Strawhats by the end of the arc.
      • Oda used this to make us think two people might have join the crew; Vivi and Wiper. But, considering how lacking their pasts were compared to other Straw Hats, maybe it's not as much of a trick as you'd expect it to be.
      • Robin had joined the crew after the Alabasta arc, but her Dark and Troubled Past wasn't revealed until Enies Lobby, roughly three manga arcs later (five if you count the G8 filler arc in the anime and if you consider the Water 7 saga separate from Enies Lobby).
  • In the Getbackers manga, almost all the major characters, including villains, have complicated backstories peppered with angst and feuds. In every arc (except the minor filler types) there will be one or more flashbacks to explain new plot developments: Kazuki and Jyuubei as childhood friends, the story behind Ban's jagan, Makubex's abandonment, just to name a few
  • Several characters in Air Gear have their backstories explored extensively, namely both generations of Gravity Children, the Brain Chargers of Sleipnir, and Kaito.
  • The Mobile Suit Gundam Wing manga Episode Zero deals with the backstories of all the main characters that were originally meant to be in the anime. These stories explain many of the mysteries in the series - Duo's priest collar and Quatre's goggles being two examples - that are near essential to understanding the story as a whole.
  • Shonen anime such as Naruto or Bleach will often spend entire episodes - occasionally right in the middle of a major battle - delving into the backstory of a character as they gather their energy for a 'second wind' to get back into the fight. It most often takes place while they are (apparently) critically wounded... perhaps a nod to the old cliché of one's life passing before one's eyes.
  • In Pokémon: The Series, Jessie, James, and Meowth have the most elaborate (and sometimes sad) backstories of any character in the series. Often reaching to the point of becoming a Multiple-Choice Past scenario because said-backstories often contradict each other. While Pokémon: The Original Series would give individual backstory episodes for each Rocket member, the Pokémon Chronicles spin-off series has an episode fully dedicated to their first meeting and formation as a trio.
  • Cowboy Bebop is interesting in that everyone has elaborate backstories, but only Faye's is given any sort of complete explanation or chronology. You learn broad ideas, but never the whole picture: Spike was part of the Red Dragon Mafia, Jet was a police officer, Ein is a data dog (whatever that means) and Ed was in an orphanage after being abandoned by her father. The movie supposedly was intended to be a grand backstory for Spike, but the creators decided against it because it would probably never live up to the hype from the fans.
  • Berserk has such a long and complex backstory that it takes up twelve volumes of the manga and nearly the whole animated series. The backstory focuses mainly on Guts, but Griffith and Casca have their own pasts and motivations revealed, as well. Serpico and Farnese also receive their own backstory episodes in the manga.
  • In Chrono Crusade, most of the important characters have backstories that connect them to the pasts of the other characters, especially in the manga. Chrono's is particularly important in driving the plot forward—so, of course, he avoids telling the other characters about it until late in the series.
  • Fakir's backstory in Princess Tutu is a key plot point, partly because he turns out to be the descendant of the Big Bad and has inherited his powers.
  • Most characters in Yu-Gi-Oh!, even a lot of minor ones, get detailed backstories. This is especially true for the villains, and of course the main character, whose search for his unknown backstory forms the main plot.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi has a few chapters that go into Negi's backstory, explaining his motivations and where he got his goals. Later on it goes into Asuna's backstory, which happens to be massively important to the current plot, even more so than Negi's backstory. Remember that massive war that Negi's father was the hero of? Turns out Asuna was at the center of it.
  • An entire chapter of Death Note is devoted to Mikami's history, explaining why he embraced Kira so easily.
  • Yusuke, Kuwabara, Keiko, and Botan are about the only ones in YuYu Hakusho who don't get backstories...
  • The second Sound Stage of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha's first season revolves around Fate's life before the events of the series.
  • Case Closed have most of its backstories concentrated to the Red Herring Shirt Akemi. Although she's killed off very early in the series, she was first written as Ai Haibara's dead older sister, and then our former mole FBI agent is revealed to be her boyfriend when he's still in The Syndicate.
  • Not strictly a manga (it's actually a manhwa) Rebirth has a colossal backstory that spans a full seven volumes. The author started and planned on it only being two volumes, maximum of three... then he got carried away and it grew to seven. Apparently the fans nearly revolted.
  • In the original manga version of Fruits Basket just about every character that appears has a backstory and many of them are connected. For example, Kyo Sohma met Tohru Honda's mother Kyoko when he was little. They talked about many things, including Tohru, and Kyo makes a promise to protect Tohru without ever having met her. Later, Kyo sees Kyoko at the site of a crash when she is about to die and Kyoko reminds him of the promise, though Kyo mistakes what she says and believes that she blames him for her death.
  • The plot of Game×Rush essentially revolves around the Backstory, most of which is held back entirely until the second volume.
  • Much of PandoraHearts is trying to figure out the characters' backstories, in particular, how they all relate to the Tragedy of Sablier.
  • Ouran High School Host Club has a backstory for each of the hosts, often with a whole chapter devoted to one character's past. There's even a whole chapter dedicated to Haruhi's parents showing us how they met and fell in love. The anime has two entire episodes dedicated to flashbacks of how Kyouya and Tamaki met, and also how Hikaru and Kaoru met Tamaki and joined the Host Club.
  • Hajime no Ippo gives us episodes/chapters about how Kimura and Aoki as well as Takamura got into boxing. Sendo's backstory is also told by his grandma, but even more importantly, he gets his very own gaiden chapter which shows how the Naniwa Tomcat became the Naniwa Tiger. And yes, it is as badass as it sounds. There's also a flashback to Kamogawa's and Nekota's past, which involves Kamogawa beating a U.S. soldier in a boxing match.
  • Bleach. Almost every important character has been given some sort of flashback/backstory, and whenever one of the baddies ( or anyone for that matter, if Gin's recent death is anything to go by) is about to die, you can bet that there will be some form of a backstory.
  • In Code Geass, this is provided by the sound and picture episodes.
  • In March Comes in Like a Lion, Rei's backstory, which is largely explained in a multi-chapter story arc and small vignettes and flashbacks spread throughout, is an integral part of the plot, as it is the primary reason for many of his negative traits at the onset of the story proper. He is frequently plagued by thoughts of it, and it constantly comes back to haunt him, usually in the form of Kyoko and her visits.
  • Taken up to eleven in Shakugan no Shana which has a backstory for the characters in the backstory. Shana's remembering her past and three other characters are remembering their collective past in the backstory.
  • Everyone has one in Fairy Tail. Everyone.
    • And most are tragic.

    Comic Books  
  • Standard issue for heroes and villains, since everyone wants to know how X got her powers, why Y is called "the Red Rose," what happened between Group A and Group B to make them hate each other, and how it was that Everyone Went to School Together. One of the signs that a character is becoming popular or will get more screentime is when the writers give him a backstory.
  • Everyone who becomes a Ghost Rider has a detailed back story, and they're ALL subject to change.
  • For being such an obscure character until his movies, Blade had some history. Marvel did a pretty good job about taking from the movies without messing up his back story or character development in the comics he appeared in, until Marc Guggenheim ignored existing continuity and then rewrote past events to cover his mistakes. Blade's history was complex for an obscure character and Marc didn't want to write about him. Still could have done better for being paid.
  • In The Amazing Spider-Man, Mary Jane "MJ" Watson was the happy-go-lucky Veronica to Peter Parker's Archie...until she returned to the book in the early '80s after a few years' absence, and revealed at one point that she knew he was Spider-Man. In the following issue, MJ decided to confide in Peter, revealing her unknown back story. Turns out that she was laughing to hide the tears of her broken home.

    Fan Works  
  • "Heavy is the Head", the third installment of The Beast Of Gusu series, provides context to what happened between Lan Xichen and Nie Mingjue years before the events of “Unstoppable”, as well as the resolution to it.
  • Bird is based around the canon Asylum for parahumans. The place is important to the backstories (and, in some cases, the current stories) of many canon characters; Mimi, Elle, Sveta, Victoria, Doctor Yamada, and more... But is only actually seen breifly in Doctor Yamada's interlude. Bird is basically a retelling of Mimi and Elle's backstory with an alternate version of Taylor as the narrator.
  • The Bolt Chronicles:
    • "The Seven" is Bolt's pre-canon fanfic, tracking him from birth in a puppy mill to Penny's adoption of him from an animal shelter. Includes information about his parents, his puppy friendships, and his rescue to the animal shelter.
    • "The Survivor" is Mittens's pre-canon story, tracing her from shortly after birth (with her mother in an animal shelter) until she meets Bolt. Includes information on her abusive adopted family, her canine friendships, and her abandonment in a Manhattan alley.
    • The Director, (named "James" in this series after his voice actor), is the primary character in "The Pilot," the fic serving in part as his pre-canon story. It traces his career path from boyhood to the aftermath of the TV show's first episode.
  • Code Geass: Mao of the Deliverance takes the titular Ensemble Dark Horse who only premiered for three episodes in the original Code Geass and introduces an in-depth, Perspective Flipped personal history which actually forms an engaging storyline that is both plausible and woven into established Canon very well, explaining How We Got Here.
  • In one of the later chapters of The Dimension Hoppers part of the back stories for Kaitlin and possibly Gemma will be explained (once they are typed up)
  • Used frequently in A Growing Affection. Gouki and Kohaku get chapters focusing on their histories. Chapter 34 explains Iruka, Anko, and Yugao's shared past as members of Hizashi Hyuga's Genin squad (after Anko returned to the village).
  • In Harmless, several of the ghosts' backstories are touched on or expanded beyond what was in the show, showing how they ended up like they are in present day. Most qualify for Dark And Troubled Pasts.
    • The origins of the scar on Clockwork's eye and Pariah Dark's missing eye are explained: they are the result of sealing Ammit in the first place.
    • Just like Word of God for the show, Ember was based on a teenage girl who was stood up for a date and died in a fire she was too exhausted to notice. This is one of the reasons her relationship with Skulker is so rocky: she believes Love Hurts.
    • Sidney Poindexter, just like as mentioned in his first episode, came from a kid who bullied relentlessly during high school. He was eventually Driven to Suicide
    • The Lunch Lady actually met Poindexter while they were both alive.
    • Cujo was a guard dog for Axiom Labs that was put to sleep when they upgraded the security system and no longer needed him.
  • In Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, all the Fourze characters have interesting backstories not shown in the original series. For example, Yayoi (Coma Zodiarts) is actually a childhood friend to JK, who is suffering from something called 'that incident' that explains why he's a Knowledge Broker. Others include Jun Shigeno, who explains that she had a little brother and father who died when she was a little girl on her 8th birthday.
  • In The Mr Men Movie, Little Miss Whoops tells Little Miss Curious how she got her glasses.
  • Remnant and Runeterra: A Tale of Two Worlds: Pantheon, Ryze, and Shen share their backstories to hunters and huntresses.
  • In Soul Eater: Troubled Souls, some canon characters like Kirikou and Jacqueline get a backstory.
  • In The Tainted Grimoire, several were given.
    • Vaticus explains during a lull in his battle with Luso and Adelle what his motivations are and how he became the person he is at present.
    • We see bits and pieces of Sir Loin's life, including the development of his relationship with Adelle, during the chapter where he died.
    • Cheney explains to Tweigel his history with Freise before joining House Bowen and properly explains why he left House Bowen.
  • During the Tamers Forever Series, Takeru tries to gain the trust of the Tamers, by revealing to them the true origins of not only the Digital World, but Takato Matsuki himself.
  • A great deal of action hinges upon the back story of the world C'hou in With Strings Attached. The four are told the same story four or five different times, with new details emerging each time, until they finally know the original purpose of the Vasyn and what its return really means to the planet.
  • Part of Zuma's Fear is like this: It explains Zuma's past and the root of his fears: the death of his family. Or did they die?

  • The Star Wars prequel films had existed in brief notes just to get things together for the original movie. George Lucas wanted the original Star Wars to have the Episode IV title to resemble the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials, but only used "Part IV" in the opening expository crawl. A New Hope has a lot of imagery that is intended to make you think you're seeing something familiar, such as the first appearance of Obi-Wan.
  • The eponymous Mystery Team once held the respect of the entire town; now they're nothing but a joke.
  • The Man Who Saves the World's Infodump prologue reveals a backstory bigger than many movies' plots that completely fails to make sense, as apparently mankind has homogenized in the Galaxy Age, and the Earth got blown up once or twice, but that's okay because they've built a force field made out of human brains to protect it now.
  • In Turning Red, the opening of the film offers glimpses of Mei's backstory. Ming's backstory is expanded upon in the Novelization.

  • Since J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth stories (The Lord of the Rings, etc) span a world over thousands of years, and he wrote on it all his life, there is a lot of information on a variety of topics, history, and characters' lives. In fact, The Lord Of The Rings is more backstory with a novel than a novel with a backstory. Tolkien wrote the history of Middle-Earth as part of long running idea to create a British mythology that rivalled the far richer folklore such as Norse mythology. The novels themselves evolved out of this. His work went so far as to invent entire languages with their own character sets and long running genealogies detailing every major family, be they human, elf or otherwise.
  • Chapter 2 of Dragon Queen has Sajag telling Trava about his past. Apparently, he killed a man
  • Harry Potter:
    • The entire main plot of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is rooted in the incredibly twisted tragic backstory of Harry's parents, their friends, and the events that led to their death. The other plot threads are a) an Ironic Echo of the backstory plot, and b) metaphors for overcoming your personal demons of the past (i.e., another echo of the plot).
    • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince establishes in detail a lot of the back story of Lord Voldemort, the principal villain, as well as the school life of Snape and Harry's parents.
    • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows does the same with Dumbledore, including a dead sister, a mother accidentally killed by said sister, a father who died in Azkaban, and a teenaged homosexual relationship with Gellert Grindelwald, a Dark Wizard only slightly less evil than Big Bad Voldemort.
    • Don't forget about Snape, who got a flashback in the fifth book that shows James and Sirius being bullies and explaining one part of why Snape hates Harry, and a whole chapter in the last book dedicated to why Snape even protected Harry, which was because of Snape's unrequited love for Lily, which would be the other part of why he hates Harry.
    • One classmate of Harry's got a disproportionately large backstory: Dean Thomas. Rowling has written "I think Chris note  was slightly taken aback by the amount of information I had on this peripheral character."
    • Rowling is so prone to creating sprawling, involved character biographies in fact that she has made a habit of post-series backstory revelations. Probably the most notable of course, or at least most famous, was when she shocked much of the world shortly after the release of Deathly Hallows by revealing during a Q&A that Dumbledore had actually been a closeted gay man the whole time.
    • For a time, Rowling was revealing most of these extra details on her Flash-format official website, often as Easter Eggs accessible by poking around and playing with the items on her simulated "desk". And then the aptly-named interactive game / Expanded Universe site Pottermore was created as an official tie-in to the series, and Rowling had an even better place to expound on the canon, often at length, ranging from the creation of details on non-European wizarding culture and "wandlore", to yes, backstory on characters, like say Professor McGonagall, who is given everything from named family members to a prior love life and...well, basically an outline of her whole life's story up until the books. Almost none of this is so much as alluded to in the original books, because Harry and his friends have generally little reason to have interest in their teachers' pasts or in some cases even the pasts of their classmates, what with all the shenanigans going on all the time, and the original novels are told almost exclusively from Harry's POV. A lot of this backstory can seem interesting but not particularly plot relevant... though some have surprisingly huge implications.
  • Half the mystery in A Song of Ice and Fire is the backstory of the characters and Westeros itself.
  • Tristan's backstory in the Nightfall (Series) is revealed late in the first book. Prince Vladimir's backstory is so far a mystery, with a few hints dropped.
  • C. S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew is explicitly billed, in the text, as backstory to the rest of The Chronicles of Narnia books.
  • Both implicit and explicit in the Honor Harrington series, including the titular character. Generally, implicit in the "main" novels, explicit in the anthologies.
  • The "Horus Heresy" novels are the Backstory to the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
  • Kavi has a particularly unpleasant one in Hilari Bell's Farsala Trilogy.
  • Explored a lot with different characters in the Warrior Cats series. There's The Rise of Scourge, the "prequel" Super Editions, many novellas, and then a number of short stories in the field guides, such as the one about Barley's past. Even the main series has some of these moments.
  • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Chapters 3 and 4 are largely given over to the backstory of Willy Wonka's factory, specifically how it became — apparently — completely self-contained (as no workers are seen entering or exiting it) when Mr. Wonka became an in-universe Reclusive Artist to stop rivals from stealing his recipes. While Mr. Wonka's reputation is also discussed in these chapters, his personal backstory is never revealed. In the sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Mr. Wonka himself has to deliver a good deal of backstory about how he created a Fountain of Youth pill and its Rapid Aging counterpart.
  • Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell goes into depth about Cadance's backstory.
  • The Genesis of Jenny Everywhere is in itself an attempt (as yet unfinished) to create a back-story for the open-source heroine. Basically, before she became the Shifter and started wandering the multiverse looking for adventures, and perhaps was not quite as confident or charismatic a figure as her base personality type might suggest; here's she's just an ordinary girl with lots of dreams who discovers her true nature by accident, and is something of a misfit.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series: "The Mayors": High Priest Poly Verisof provides Mayor Hardin (and the audience) information on what happened in the past several years in the kingdom of Anacreon. Their ruler is King Lepold, who will become sixteen in February. For now, his uncle, the Prince Regent Wienis is in charge. The royal family enjoys hunting for sport, although the previous king died in a Hunting "Accident". Prince Regent Wienis has been raising the king ever since.
  • Prophecy Approved Companion: The first chapter is called "Backstory.exe".

    Live Action TV 
  • The second season episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Becoming, Part I," in which the audience sees how Buffy, Angel, Spike, and Drusilla "became" who they are today.
    • Buffy and Angel were both quite good at this—the Buffy episodes "Amends" and "Lie to Me" and the Angel episodes "Darla," "Dear Boy," "Orpheus"... heck, a LOT of Angel is backstory contributing to various season arcs (Darla in Season 2, Holtz in season 3, etc.) as well as one or two "one-shot" backstory episodes such as "Why We Fight," the mentions of Angel's past in Vegas in "The House Always Wins," and "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been." Well, a guy does accumulate a lot of backstory in 240+ years of living...
  • The Firefly episode "Out of Gas" examined how the crew of Serenity came together. Joss Whedon had planned much more detailed Backstories for certain enigmatic characters, to be revealed over time, but the series infamously ended too soon to get to them. Some of these have managed to come out in other formats, though:
  • Both Highlander: The Series and Forever Knight were full of backstory; flashbacks where the events recalled served to illustrate present events. Being veeery long-lived characters, both Duncan MacLeod and Nick Knight had plenty of backstory to film.
  • Much of the plot structure of Lost (for the first three seasons at least) has centered on revealing the characters' backstories while showing how these pasts inform the characters' actions on the island.
  • The Supernatural pilot episode starts off with the backstory of how their mother got killed. Something Wicked introduced Dean's massive guilt/martyr complex, and A Very Supernatural Christmas revealed how he got his amulet.
  • The House episode "Three Stories" depicted how House ended up with his limp.
    • In two pieces of much happier backstory, "Birthmarks" told us that it, in a reversal of expectations, was actually House being a nice guy to Wilson (i.e bailing him out of jail because Wilson was having issues and getting divorced from his first wife) that started off their friendship and "Adverse Events" revealed that House was... a college cheerleader.
    • EVERYONE on House has some sort of backstory, and the story is ALWAYS a sad one. No one is allowed to be happy on House. You can only wonder how so many doctors with tragic pasts ended up in the same hospital.
  • Heroes had the first season episode "Six Months Ago" mostly showing the past of Peter and Nathan Petrelli, Claire Bennet, Matt Parkman and how Sylar first used his power. Then, seven episodes later, Company Man mixed a story in present with flashbacks of the past of Noah Bennet. The first half of the second season has a story with Hiro in the past, which also serves as a back story for a present villain Adam Monroe, concluding with the episode "Four Months Ago", which also served the back story of Maya and Alejandro Herrera. And finally the season three episode "Villains" explains how Sylar became a killer and his complicated relationship with Elle, how Arthur Petrelli ended up paralyzed, and why Flint Gordon got caught by Primatech and his sister Meredith did not.
    • Hell, the second to last episode gave a fairly large amount of backstory on Noah.
  • Higher Ground gradually reveals at some point or another (sometimes in the form of an Episode In The Spotlight) what got each of the Cliffhangers sent to Mt. Horizon.
  • Jericho (2006) - Almost everybody has an interesting history that gets at least a little attention, from what Jake was doing for two years to the relationship between Johnston and Gail (turns out she was 'the other woman').
  • Mad Men would be a very different show without the backstory of Dick Whitman.
  • Kamen Rider has this in Kamen Rider Dragon Knight. Eubulon was sent to Ventara by his general, General Xaviax from their homeworld to make an invasion possible so that their homeworld will be repaired or rebuilt. However, the Eubulon became ill along the way in Ventara and then a family of Ventarans came into his aid and made him think otherwise. He created a group of warriors to protect Ventara from his general's plot and thus the war for Ventara came to be. The group defeated Xaviax but then lost their Advent Master Eubulon in the process. They have to take turns once every 12 years and then Xaviax came back and tricked the hero Adam who was in duty. This was where the plot kicked in and the majority of the Ventaran Kameen Riders were vented into the Advent Void and thus, one remaining Rider kept on fighting for his life, Kamen Rider Wing Knight Len thus starting Ep 1.
  • Star Trek is good for these.....
    • The Next Generation
      • Several episodes discuss Picard's time as captain of the Stargazer, his past with Dr. Crusher and her husband, and of course the fan favorite episode "Tapestry" discusses the young Picard back at the Academy.
      • One episode, describes and incident with Riker and his former CO, now an admiral. Another talks about his brave actions during a previous transporter accident that seems to have fast-tracked his career.
      • Several episodes dedicated to Worf's family, their disgrace, and Worf's childhood among humans.
    • Deep Space Nine
      • There are always passing references to former lives of the Dax character.
      • As the series went on, we learned how the Celestial prophets ensured the birth of Ben Sisko.
      • And of course, several references are made to the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, which has repercussions long into the show's run.
      • "Prodigal Daughter" has moments of this for Ezri, specifically in relation to her pre-joined life.
      • In between fantastical lies, pieces of Garak's true backstory are revealed throughout the series.
    • The Original Series
      • "The Conscience of the King" gives some insights into Kirk's childhood, describing a famine and related massacre that he witnessed at the age of thirteen. (It is unknown as yet whether this event has carried through to the new timeline.)
      • In "Obsession", the Enterprise returns to a planet that a young Lt. James T. Kirk conducted a survey on, sometime previous.
      • "The Menagerie", which was actually the first Trek pilot episode with heavy reediting, discussed Spock and the Enterprise under Captain Pike, the CO before Kirk took command.
      • "Space Seed" would serve as Backstory for The Wrath of Khan.
  • Babylon 5 had a vast back story. In the first season, events such as Earth's first contact with alien life, the Dilgar War that established Earth as a major power and the Earth-Minbari War that came within a hair's breadth of exterminating Humanity only to have the Minbari inexplicably surrender at the last moment. And that's just the Earth-related stuff: all the major alien races also had impressive back-stories, as did most of the characters.
  • Veronica Mars had a massive backstory that explained how Veronica, a formerly girly high-school student, became a hard-boiled sardonic detective. Apparently all it takes is: 1) having the Sheriff be your father; 2) have your best friend murdered under mysterious circumstances; 3) have your father disgraced by the rich locals after he fails to close the case; 4) lose face with your peers because you stand by him; 5) go to a party with your peers only to get roofied and raped. The result? A jaded, cynical 17-year-old girl with an appetite for getting to the truth—the perfect storytelling recipe for awesome.
  • The backstory of Harmon Rabb, Jr. in JAG, already explored in the Pilot Movie, explains just about everything about his career, personality and motivations.
  • Scandal: The episode "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" shows Olivia's time in the White House, her relationship with President Fitz, and the circumstances that led to her leaving.
  • The Torchwood episode "Fragments" flashes back to show how each of the current cast came to be part of Torchwood and the events that drove them to that point.

    Tabletop Games  
  • New World of Darkness has this as an option during character creation in the form of "Preludes." Which are essentially how the character you've made came to acquire/awaken/discover/what-have-you his or her powers. Vampires have Sires, Werewolves get their First Changes, Mages get their Awakenings, Changelings have Durances in Arcadia and so on.
  • In a bit of a Meta-entry, many players come up with elaborate backstories for their characters. It's a Stereotype of The Roleplayer.
  • Microscope: Players build events and scenes non-linearly, so a LOT of the game will be backstory. It's kind arbitrary; there is no single point in the timeline that is considered the "present." However some events and scenes are made specifically to elaborate on others that come later.
  • R. Talsorian games, including Cyberpunk and Mekton, have the Life Path, a randomly rolled backstory for your character.
  • Parodied in Toon's "Mektoon" setting with the Strife Path, which gives your character "interesting, dramatic, stupid personal problems".
  • Classic Traveller had a particularly vicious version of the above, in which your character could die before the game even started.

  • Subverted in Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's lack of a backstory is lampshaded by their inability to recall any event earlier than having been summoned the morning of the opening action. Stoppard is commenting on the undeveloped characterization that these characters have in Hamlet.

    Video Games  
  • This is a pretty common staple of Fighting Game characters. Some series have more detailed stories than others, but it's usually given to them in order to make them more charismatic. The most prominent examples would be Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, BlazBlue, the Soul Series, Virtua Fighter, Tekken and Dead or Alive.
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy goes to great lengths to give backstory on many of the more underdeveloped and obscure Final Fantasy characters (mainly The Warrior of Light, Garland, Chaos and Cid of the Lufaine). Almost to the point that you'll forget the origin stories given for them in their original games.
  • Halo has a surprisingly substantive backstory told through a multitude of novels, comics, Alternate Reality Games, guidebooks, online exclusives, live-action specials, and even an anime series. Hell, one book trilogy is even set over 100,000 years before the start of the games.
  • Portal has its own ARG website with the Aperture Science backstory and how GLaDOS came to be.
    • The sequel also had several areas dating back to the 60s and 70s to explorer Aperture's rise and fall as company, as well as the origin of GLaDOS, revealing that she was built as an attempt by terminally ill Aperture CEO Cave Johnson to achieve Immortality through Brain Uploading...and although Johnson seems to have died before the project was ready, he left instructions that his trusty secretary Caroline should be uploaded, against her will if necessary, in his place.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker establish the Start of Darkness of Big Boss, the Big Bad, showing his fall from a noble Badass Normal, through a quietly grieving Tragic Hero, into an Anti-Villain convinced that Utopia Justifies the Means. (his Utopia happens to be eternal World War.) However, pretty much every character in the Metal Gear series has a backstory more in-depth and complicated than most real people's - even if they're only on camera for fifteen minutes and are never mentioned again.
  • Darkstalkers started out simple but the sequel Night Warriors rewrote the character origins into surprisingly interesting back stories and Vampire Savior expanded it further, giving back stories to the different worlds the game takes place in.
  • Wing Commander has a fairly detailed backstory, told mostly in the manuals (including official game guides, and the Confederation Handbook for the movie) and novels, both novelizations of the games and new works within the setting.
  • BioWare uses player-party member dialogue to reveal backstory in Neverwinter Nights, Jade Empire, Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and probably more.
  • All the playable characters, including minor ones, in any Fire Emblem between Genealogy and Radiant Dawn have at least some backstory and/or personality, which in some games can be explored through "support conversations". Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn added base conversations that function similarly, but they're easier to get.
  • Each hero in Defense of the Ancients has some kind of backstory. Many of them are created by fans and put in the game.
  • Fallout has a rather extensive backstory as a result of taking place in an alternate history. The point of divergence seems to be somewhere between 1945 and 1961 (with the games' present being between 2161 and 2281), and is used to explain the presence of rayguns, robots, and other Zeerust. It also explains why the US flag is different, and clarifies the origin and goals of the Enclave. All told, it's probably most relevant to Fallout 2 and 3.
  • The Elder Scrolls series has some 4000+ years of incredibly detailed backstory before the first game in the main series, The Elder Scrolls: Arena, even takes place. Much of it can be learned by reading the many in-game books or conversing with NPCs which give bits and pieces of the world's history.

    Visual Novels  
  • In Kokoro Baka Monogatari, each of Tuu’s love interests have their own backstory that explains their major personality flaws and their relationships with each other.
  • Fate/stay night has a backstory that is a major plot point for the story, the protagonist's entire motivation for existing (at least in the beginning), in fact. Most of the routes have his backstory as a point of major inner conflict for him over his ideals and his reality.
    • This particular backstory was fleshed out in its entirety in Fate/Zero.
    • Most of the other major character also have very important backstories, in particular Sakura and Rin. These are also covered, largely, in Fate/Zero. The backstory of Archer, however, is not well explained.
  • Tsukihime freaking exists because of this. The backstory is unbelievably complex and well-written, with each route giving off a small amount of information about the past. The entire backstory can be put together (like a puzzle) only after playing all of the routes.
  • I Love You, Colonel Sanders!: As an official screenshot shows, the player character knew Mariam from when they were babies:
    Player: Ever since we were little babies playing together and you rescued me from that quicksand box, it's been clear to me that you're the most loving, caring person I know! You're going to do great.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry takes pride in following the same characters through the same days that have mutually contradictory events in its different story arcs, but with one exception, the characters' backstories from before the main storylines take place always remain constant. It's just that different events interact with the backstories in different ways that prompt characters to do different things. In fact part of the fun of the series is trying to see how much of their motives and backstories you can deduce from how their actions change.

  • A major part of Girl Genius is the slow unrolling of backstory. Much of the discussion in the various forums focuses on it, and the character moments are truly first-class. After the first volume, everything has been foreshadowed; there are no Ass Pulls. The central character, Agatha Heterodyne, has a backstory that is still not entirely revealed. The attack on Castle Heterodyne and the appearance of the mysterious The Other is, perhaps, on the verge of revelation as of this writing—nine and one-half volumes and about seven years into the series. A truly magnificent piece of through-plotting.
  • Pages and pages of Homestuck are completely dedicated to this. See the entirety of Act 5: Part One. All it does is discuss the Trolls and how they eventually created our universe.
    • A minor example, but some pages are also dedicated to Cal's existence, Doc Scratch's existence, and how all the characters came to the Earth from meteors.
    • Actually, the entire story can be considered a backstory to the Exiles, while also being a current series of events.
    • The Anachronic Order really blurs the line between story and backstory. Every so often the narrative shuffles the perspective point of 'the present' around, and settles only temporarily.
  • In Endstone — lots. Starting with the way Kyri's estranged husband tried to destroy the world.
  • Details of the Valkyrie backstory in Cwynhild's Loom are slowly revealed in the comic, and a brief written history is available on the website.
  • Seek and Rachael from Silver Bullet Nights are both veterans of a supernatural off-world war and served in the same unit.
  • In Skins, Vinnie and Rabbit were recruited from prison by Jordan when they were all still teenagers.
  • Smoke Fur And Stone has loads. Nearly every character has one and because it's a Crapsack World, they're normally tragic. Smiling Chuck lost his first lover in the war and it obviously scarred him deeply. Caliban grew up in the dreaded Deadfall mines.
  • Tower of God has a backstory for several people, even for some side-characters like Serena and Hoh. The only rather important characters who have no backstory so far are Rak, Yu Hansung, Lero-Ro, Quant, Hatz, and Shibisu.
  • In C Karrus characters have spoken of past events and there have been several flashbacks explaining either Tombstone's past in particular or the planet's recent events.
  • In El Goonish Shive, the Hammerchlorians storyline mostly deals with Susan's backstory (and by extension also Nanase's and that of Hyperspace Mallets).

    Web Original  
  • The Whateley Universe is powered by backstory. All but one of the major characters of Team Kimba (and some of the other main characters) had a full novel or novella covering how they got to the Super Hero School Whateley Academy for their freshman year. Since then, we've seen backstory on everyone from the headmistress (who seems to have enough backstory for her own series) and the Chief of Whateley Security to side characters and even some of the villains. Word of God has revealed that the Canon authors are working from a 400-page 'bible' of backstories and characters and stuff that hasn't even been seen yet in the published material.
  • In The Gungan Council, all characters have some sort of backstory given in their first biography. However, in roleplays such as "It's Not That I Keep Hanging On, I'm Never Letting Go," the backstory for characters is described in detail to explain character relationships never written out before.
  • Super Smash Brothers Life Itself Has this in the form of the Flashback section which explains how certain characters got to LI or Origins of major events that have occurred in the site.

    Western Animation  
  • On Kim Possible, Shego was a superhero, till she got fed up with that. Kim set up a website for odd jobs until a typo from someone in trouble started her on hero work.
  • Even though the rest of the series has been relatively disowned by the fandom, a single Star Trek: The Animated Series episode ("Yesteryear"), which explains Spock's backstory, is embraced. Curious.
    • No, what's embraced is how that story would've gone if adult Spock hadn't Time Travelled into it. It just happens that "Yesteryear" is the closest anyone has to that record.
    • In fact, because of that single episode, the entire series is officially canon. Fascinating.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, Dr. Doofenshmirtz has a backstory portion or something similar (That may have happened last week) for why he builds almost everyone of his -inators. Sometimes they're even animated.
  • K'nuckles has bouts of this in a couple of episodes in The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. These are always brief, and rarely have anything to do with the plot.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks had the first season episode "The Chipmunks Story", showing how Alvin, Simon, and Theodore were discovered by David Seville. The third season followed this up with, appropriately enough, "The Chipette Story", which explored the backstory of the Distaff Counterparts.
  • From Avatar: The Last Airbender, several characters' backstories are essential to understanding how they are in the present, particularly Zuko. Strangely, even though we see most of the main characters' backstories in the form of flashbacks, all we know about Iroh's backstory is vague statements by various characters who all know more than we do.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): Episodes give us back-stories to show us how Man-at-Arms became Teela's father, how Cringer first became Battle-Cat, how Orko first came to live at the Royal Palace, and how the Sorceress became the Sorceress.
    • In the 2002 series, we're given back-stories on the Sword of Power and King Greyskull, the same backstory for Orko as we saw in the 80s series (although he lost a wand this time instead of the original medallion), how Man-At-Arms became Teela's father (different to the 80s series) and how the Sorceress was able to become a mother in the first place.
    • "The Secret of the Swords" was the 80s set-up for the original SheRa series to give us the back-story on why Adam had a twin sister no-one had ever heard of.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" provides backstory to the "Mane Six", showing how each of them obtained their cutie marks.
    • And "Hearth's Warming Eve" tells the backstory of their kingdom, Equestria.
    • "Family Appreciation Day" has Granny Smith tell her backstory. It notably involves her attracting so many ponies to their farm that they found Ponyville.
  • In the Pound Puppies (2010) episode "The Call of The Squirrel Dog", the story of how helper squirrel Mr. Nut-Nut came to be part of the team was framed as a bedtime story for three puppies who, unfamiliar with his role, chased him around the lair.
  • The Bonkers episode "Fall Apart Bomb Squad" introduced Fall Apart, the clumsy bomb disarming rabbit, and provided the backstory on how he got into the police force (he was Bonkers's stunt double when he was a movie star).
  • In Thunder Cats 2011, the episode "Old Friends" delves into the past friendship between Old Soldier Panthro and Evil Former Friend Grune, while "Into the Astral Plane" explores the childhoods of Cheetara and Tygra, including how the former became a Cleric.
  • Parodied in the Family Guy episode "Road to Rupert", where Stewie gives his and Brian's dead camel a backstory.
  • A proper origin story in Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero is set as the penultimate season 1 episode.
  • Molly of Denali: The episode "Big Dreams and Blue Skies" explains why Layla wanted to become a pilot. She was always fascinated by the planes taking off and landing, and she knew she could become a pilot when she met Ellen Paneok, an Alaskan Native woman pilot.

    Real Life  
  • The Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941, largest exercise of the US Army to that date had an elaborate backstory drawn up whereby two fictional countries were "fighting" over the navigation of the Mississippi.
  • Mostly everyone who you have ever met and never met probably has a fairly interesting and complicated back-story to go with them.
  • Every competition show on TV (especially cooking challenges) insists on going into the back stories of the contestants. Their drug addictions, homelessness, sick kids. Has nothing to do with their winning or losing (hopefully), it just makes you glad if one guy wins and sad when another loses.


Video Example(s):


Newsreel of the Stars

In this news story, we learn how the Warners were created back in the 30s, but unfortunately were so zany that they were locked in the studio water tower and their existence was disavowed...until present time when they escaped.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / Backstory

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