I like to sometimes right a short story as part of my character backgrounds. Usually only a scene or two, like the first chapter of a novel or something similar. I find this really helps set the scene for the play to come, even if it’s something way back in the past, such as the following example, it lets me and my DM help lay some foundations for the character in question.
My earliest memory is from the age of five. There is nothing before that, just a deafening blindness.
It is not like most children’s earliest memories, lost in misty half remembering. It is vivid and almost physical. Fading shafts of late-evening sun pouring through the many arches along the balcony. The chill of the shadows under the bed where I lay quietly. The brush of soft footsteps approaching across the polished floor.
All of these memories began in this one single moment, as if someone had lit a lamp in darkness, or whipped away the drapes, rudely awakening a late sleeper.
The pastel designs of the marble mixed with the bright and still warm colour of a spreading pool of blood. Two bodies lay twisted and broken on the cold floor, faces frozen in death, gripped by masks of surprised pain. I don’t recall being scared, as perhaps a five-year-old girl should have been. I felt nothing for the dead bodies, not knowing, or being able to recall, who they were.
Soft shoed feet approached my hiding place. Suddenly the bed was lifted away, thrown against the wall, banishing the shadows and revealing me.
Shocked by the sudden noise and movement, I flinched and shrank into the corner. Fearful now, I looked up and saw a face masked by wrappings of dark cloth, only two shadowy eyes were visible.
I could not tell if it was a man or woman, but they examined me intensely for a number of seconds, as if pondering some great question. “Even for House Philarlan, I will not kill a young child,” they said in a low voice. The masked killer continued to stare at me thoughtfully, before continuing, “You have been orphaned today, but do not think harshly of me, you may learn, in time, that I am simply doing my duty.”
And then, twisting on one foot, the killer turned and ran towards the balcony and leaped onto the stone rail, settling there in a crouch, before slipping off and disappearing from view, dark cloak billowing behind.
Left with a feeling of sudden loss, which I couldn’t fathom, I stood up and walked to the bodies, avoiding the glistening pool of sticky blood. So these were my parents, and I was now an orphan? I bent down to look closely at them, yet I still had no memory of them alive.
I heard soft moaning from the open doorway. It appeared to be coming from the room opposite mine. Frightened I quickly ran and slammed shut the door to my room. I did not want to know who or what was making the noise, or whether they were alive or near death.
My eyes began to water. I felt nothing and instinctively wiped tears away with my sleeve. I was confused, not at all sure why I was crying. Overcome by a sudden exhaustion, I lay down, my back against the sturdy wooden door, and fell deeply asleep.
I awoke abruptly, it felt like the floor had moved under me. I looked about, realising that the door behind me was being forced open. I gathered my limbs to myself and tried to be as quiet as possible.
“Anyone in here?” a voice spoke softly from the open crack of doorway. Terrified, I did not answer.
The door pushed against me again, slightly harder. I let out an involuntary gasp, and clasped my hands over my mouth.
“Someone’s alive in here Oliith!” the voice from the door shouted. The door was then pushed fully open, being behind it I could not see who stood in the doorway. “I know there’s someone in here, come out, there is nothing to fear.”
I kept my hand still tightly held over my mouth, trying not to even breathe.
The door closed a little and a woman’s head peered around the edge, “Why hello, it’s a little girl, are you okay?”
It’s a fun technique and gets me practising my writing skills. Anyone do anything similar?