13.27: Characters as Foils

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice

A foil is a character who serves as a contrast to another character. The foil might be a sidekick, an antagonist, a romantic interest, or really any other character who gets enough focus for the contrast to be useful.

In this episode we talk about foils, offering examples, and our approaches for writing foils in our own work.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson, neither of whom serves as a foil to the other.


Add a foil to a Shakespearean soliloquy. Alternatively, remove the foil from a famous comedy routine.

Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight Before NASA, by Amy Shira Teitel, narrated by Laurence Bouvard

Also, “Girl Hours,” a poem by Sofia Samatar

5 thoughts on “13.27: Characters as Foils”

  1. It was interesting hearing Mary say that Morals is the most important axis in the Relationship Axes for a couple to be aligned on, because that’s kind of the opposite of what I did in my Paul Twister stories.

    Paul is essentially a Rogue. He’s a good person, but he has no compunctions against lying, cheating, stealing, or fighting dirty to stop the bad guys and accomplish something good. His love interest is a Paladin, with all the Lawful-ness that the term suggests to the mind, and their disagreement over ethics is their primary point of friction.

    Their relationship builds over time as she learns that there’s more to him than the simple mercenary thief and con man he presents himself as, that he’s genuinely working to build something she would recognize as a better world, and he starts to learn that his conniving sometimes has negative long-term consequences that could have been avoided by being more honest.

  2. And, blowing in from Chicago, we have Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice wrapping characters in foil? No, it’s not a cooking show. Instead, they’re talking about how characters are foils for each other, providing reflections and contrasts. The foursome explores using foils, groups of foils, and why foils stick together. They even consider the Kowal relationship axes, mind, money, morals, manners, monogamy, and the Marx Brothers. They do talk about cooking shows, and heist novels! Read all about it in the transcript available now in the archives and over here:


  3. Mary, which story is your heist? I did read your summaries on Goodreads and did a search on your blog, but I got overwhelmed. I’m writing a heist myself and would love to read yours. Also, would love to learn the research you did. (And I will be reading Lies of Locke Lamora.)

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