13.47: Q&A on Fixing Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard

You had questions about fixing character problems. We had had answers! Here are the questions:

  • How do you fix character voices when you find out that two of them are too similar?
  • How can you tell if a character is, in fact, the problem?
  • How do you maintain interest in a character who is largely inactive?
  • How do you write interesting bad guys when your only POV characters are the good guys?
  • How do you give meaningful challenges to a powerful character?
  • How can you make a normal, everyday character interesting?
  • How do you edit an existing manuscript to give characters interests which mesh with the plot?

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson.


Cheeto McFlair: Who are they, and why are they asking questions of the Writing Excuses team?

Myths and Monsters, narrated by Nicholas Day (currently available on Netflix)

5 thoughts on “13.47: Q&A on Fixing Characters”

  1. Have a question that focuses on the last question of the episode about rewriting / editing draft once it hits you that you are missing things that should have been put earlier.
    How often does this happen to you?
    Tactics to avoid this before you write?
    How much of ‘plan’ should you have without stifling the organic moving of the characters and plot?

    1. The following answers are specific to my own writing, but they might apply more widely. Enumerated:
      1) How often does this happen to you?
      Often. Sometimes two or three times per chapter. It tends to happen less as I reach the end of the work in question, because I’ve been refining the narrative requirements as I approach the end, but even endings will throw flags that require me to go back and tweak middles and even beginnings.
      2) Tactics to avoid this before you write?
      It’s a sliding scale. The tighter your outline, the less it happens. Note, however, that you may cross a point of diminishing returns in which writing your outline is basically discovery writing your novel but leaving out the dialog. That said, treating the process of writing an outline as if you’re discovery writing is a great way to relax into becoming an outliner.
      3) How much of ‘plan’ should you have without stifling the organic moving of the characters and plot?
      Plan enough so that you’re confident enough to start writing. Plan WELL enough that the organic movements are part of the plan. That second bit is kinda tricky.

  2. Hitchcock’s Rear Window is a great example of a character who doesn’t leave the house. He’s essentially “watching a movie” of the events across the street, but cannot do anything about it.

  3. The beehive foursome, Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard, buzzed up a storm in answer to your questions about fixing characters! Separating characters or killing them, identifying the problem character, making boring characters interesting, maknig the bad guys interesting, pulling Superman’s cape, making everyday characters interesting… adding a dash of interest to a half-written plot? All that, and more. Read about it in the transcript, available now in the archives and over here:


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