Writing Excuses 9.13: Three Pronged Character Development

We talk about characters a lot, which is fitting since characters are what make things go in most of our favorite books. Brandon introduces a new model for examining characters in which three primary attributes – Competence, Proactivity, and Sympathy – are contrasted. We treat each one as if controlled by a fader or slider, like on a mixing console, and we look at what the relative positions of those sliders do to a character.

It’s only a model, obviously, and it’s not how we go about starting a character, but it has proven useful in troubleshooting characters who aren’t accomplishing the story purposes we want them to accomplish.

Play

Come up with a race of creatures in which there is a sum which you’re not allowed to push past, and you have sliders on these people that control their attributes.

The Killing Moon: Dreamblood, Book 1, by N.K. Jemisin, narrated by Sarah Zimmerman

Writing Excuses 9.12: Microcasting! Twice in a row!

Aaand we’re microcasting again! A Q&A episode by any other name would sound as neat. Also neat? Eric James Stone joins us again!

  • What writing rule do you break the most?
  • When you review your novel do you print it out and mark it up, or do you edit on the computer?
  • How long do you wait between finishing a novel and starting the editing process?
  • What is the number-one issue that you have to overcome each day in order to put words to paper?
  • How do you feel with the fear of screwing up when you’re writing the other?
  • When giving a book as a gift, how do you decide on a book to give?
  • Any advice for people wanting to write a grand, universal story for their fantasy novel?
  • Is there a place you go to be inspired to write?
  • Do you ever have trouble writing characters out of the story (you know, by killing them)?
  • How do you strike the balance between too little description and too much?

A Note Regarding The Audio: Brandon’s microphone died just before we started, and we didn’t catch it, so if he sounds echoey it’s because we had to get his track from the other three microphones in the room.

 

 

 

Play

The word “sesquipedalian” means 18 inches long, and is usually only used to describe words that are too long. Find a way to work it into a scene so that it fits.

Between Two Thorns: The Split Worlds Series Book 1, by Emma Newman, narrated by the author

Writing Excuses 9.11: Microcasting

Microcasting! It’s what we call our Q&A episodes, because they’re like multiple mini-casts. Eric James Stone joins us to help out. Here are the questions we field:

  • Should a pantser rewrite their book once they know the whole story?
  • What do you find most useful from an editor?
  • Story creation is cool, but can Writing Excuses talk more about sentence-level work?
  • What advice do you have for pitching to agents and editors?
  • What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
  • How do you encourage a writer-friend who is down on their work?

Give episode 9.11 a listen for our answers.

Play

Something magical is preventing your friend from pursuing their dreams, but you don’t know what it is…

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker, by Kevin Mitnick and William L. Simon, narrated by Ray Porter

Writing Excuses 9.10: Engaging Characters

Nancy Fulda joins us for a discussion of engaging characters. We begin by explaining how engaging characters don’t need to be sympathetic, but certainly can be, and then we head into why we find particular characters engaging. We also talk about how this plays into the villain problem, where the villain is more interesting than the hero is.

Play

Put a character in a difficult situation, and then throw away your first three ideas for how they’re going to get out of that situation.

Star Wars: Heir to the Empire, by Timothy Zahn, narrated by Marc Thompson. Note also the free excerpt of the “Behind the Scenes” recording, featuring Timothy Zahn and his editor, Betsy Mitchell.

Writing Excuses 9.9: What to do When Truth is Stranger than Fiction

Nancy Fulda is back this week to talk with us about the truth, and what do to when it’s stranger than fiction. Sometimes real people’s names are just too cool, and if you were to put them in a book nobody would believe it. Sometimes actual, historical events are so ridiculous there’s no way you can get away with putting them in a story that you expect people to take seriously. And sometimes real science is just not going to be believed by your readers.

So how do you get away with using these things, with writing your stories in true places? Sometimes all it takes is the hanging of the right lantern, but in many cases you must go to great lengths to re-educate the reader without breaking the fourth wall or otherwise knocking them out of the story.

Play

Run your character through a double-funnel extruder and see what’s at the end.

Chimes at Midnight: An October Daye Novel, by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal