13.41: Fixing Character Problems, Part II

Your Hosts: Brandon, Amal, Mary, and Maurice

This is the second of our pair of episodes in which we talk about how we, your hosts, fix the problems we’ve identified with the characters in our work.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.


Take a character in one of your stories and split them into two characters. Take two characters from another of your stories, and combine them into one.

The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander

5 thoughts on “13.41: Fixing Character Problems, Part II”

  1. Great episode! I agree, making two episodes on this and asking everyone how they handle this was the way to go. Lots of little nuggets of gold in my sieve right now. :)

  2. Thank you for this particular podcasts. The last two stories I tried to do tanked, and listening to Maurice, I think they tanked for the exact reason he cited: not spending enough time beforehand getting to know the characters and the setting as a character

  3. Great episode. I do have a question. How do you reveal character motivations to the reader about a character who is dishonest or lacks self awareness of their own motivation, especially when the story is told from their point of view? An example may be of a kid who starts a club because they want to raise awareness about a particular issue or explore a topic for the fun of it, but they find that it was really their way of getting friends/not being lonely, or perhaps someone who always puts themselves into high risk situations states they’re doing so for the challenge/thrill, but it’s really because they are repressing other feelings. This seems like an easier task to do later in the narrative when a character can have that retrospect look back, but how can we establish compelling motivations for these characters from the beginning?

    1. I’m only an aspiring writer, so take this with a grain of salt, but I think you show the reasons early (the character being lonely in your first example, and whatever is causing those repressed feelings in the other) without telling the reader that these are the reasons for the behavior, with some subtle clues about their emotions (like body language, or emotions bursting in unexpected moments), but again, without explaining, and let the reader draw the connexions. Maybe later when/if the character understands themselves, you can make that causality more explicit, but otherwise, I think we should assume readers are smart. How does that sound?

  4. The Windy City foursome, Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice, took a second look at the problem of fixing broken characters. Stories stopping? Check your back work, check the sense of the character, check the blanks. Think about combining characters! Lean into the prose. Or maybe unravel a piece, and then knit it up again. Lots of details, read all about it in the transcript available now in the archives or over here:


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