Category Archives: Q&A

13.34: Q&A on Character Arcs

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard

You had questions. We came up with answers. The questions are below:

  • How do you fulfill promises about character arcs without being cliché? How do you subvert character tropes without betraying the reader?
  • Do you need to complete each character arc in a single story featuring multiple characters?
  • What separates an iconic character from a caricature?
  • Have you ever had an iconic character necessarily become a character in need of an arc?
  • How do you continue a character’s story after they’ve completed their original arc?
  • How much does a character need to change in their arc?
Play

Trace the skyline of a mountain.  Treat that line, with its ups and downs, as the narrative curve for a character arc.

Fat Angie, by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo, narrated by Angela Dawe

13.21: Q&A on Character Depth and Motivation

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard

Our listeners submitted some great questions!

  • How do you fairly and even-handedly write a deeply compelling character you deeply dislike?
  • What’s the best way to discuss a character’s underlying motivations without expressly stating them in narrative or dialog?
  • How well should characters understand their own motivations?
  • How do you make non-violent characters interesting?
  • Can there be too much depth to a character?
  • How do you balance character depth across multiple attributes?
  • How do you make a character motivation seem deep when most people’s motivations are actually pretty shallow?
  • Do you create standard dossiers for your characters?
  • Does your story have to have a villain?
  • How do you know whether or not a character’s voice is working?
  • Do you track words or phrases that are unique to a particular character’s voice?

Liner Notes: Brandon mentioned Howard’s “Tyrannopotomus Rex” doodle as part of the writing prompt. Here it is, should you need visual reference.

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

Play

Write a story about Howard’s “Tyrannopotumus Rex.” (Yes, it can be a story about how that’s not what a real tyrannopotomus rex looks like.)

Pitch Dark, by Courtney Alameda

13.12: Q&A on Heroes, Villains, and Main Characters

Your Cast: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, Howard

You had questions about heroes, villains, and main characters. We have answers! Here are the questions:

  • How do you make planned power increases not seem like an ass-pull¹?
  • What do you do when your villain is more interesting/engaging than your hero?
  • How do you know when a character is unnecessary and needs to be removed from the story, or killed off in the story?
  • What tricks do you use when you want the reader to mistakenly believe a character is a hero, rather than a villain?
  • Which is more fun for you: creating a villain, or creating a hero?
  • How many side characters can you reasonably juggle in a novel?
  • What are the drawbacks to making your villain a POV character?
  • If your villain doesn’t show up until late in the story, how do you make their eventual appearance seem justified?
  • How do you get readers to like a character who is a jerk?

Liner Footnotes
¹ We hadn’t seen “ass-pull,” the a nouning² of the idiom “pull it out of your ass³” as a noun before.
² Bill Watterson gave us the verb form of the word “noun” indirectly in the final panel of this strip.VerbingWeirdsLanguage
³ For those unfamiliar with the extraction-from-orifice idiom, it means “make it up on the spot,” with a negative connotation, suggesting that the reader can TELL that this was invented in a hurry.

Play

Write about a female gamer who is trying to right social injustices using her gaming skills.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes, by Jason Fagone, narrated by Cassandra Campbell

12.48: Q&A on Novels and Series, with Brian McClellan

Brian McClellan joined us to field questions about writing novels and series. Here are the questions:

  • How do you write an ending that is open for sequels, but isn’t a cliffhanger?
  • Is it a good idea to take a large novel, and release it instead as serial novellas?
  • Can you debut with a series, or should you establish yourself with standalone novels first?
  • How do you keep readers coming back for each new novel when there’s a long time between them?
  • Should you have more than just one book done before querying agents?
  • What do you do if your novel turns out to be too short to be a novel?
  • Is it possible to write a series as a discovery writer?
  • How do you foreshadow big things that are a long way out?
Play

Take two books or movies, suggested from friends. Those are parts 1 and 3 of a series. Now figure out how part 2 works.

Hungry Ghosts, by Stephen Blackmoore

12.39: Q&A on Short(er) Fiction

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard

Our listeners sent us  some questions about writing shorter fiction. Here are the questions:

  • How do you market short stories today?
  • Has ebook self-publishing made novellas more viable?
  • How do you structure a short story?
  • How short is too short?
  • Is publishing sections of a novel a viable way to get traction for that novel?
  • What should I look for in the semi-pro market if professional publications have rejected my work?
  • What aspects are crucial in novels, but which don’t belong in short fiction.

 

Publication “reputation” references: Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write, Writer Beware

Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson

Play

Go buy a short story collection that has a variety of authors in it, and read it.

“Mind over Matter” by Howard Tayler (from Called to Battle, Volume 2  from Privateer Press.)

12.26: Q&A on Outlining and Discovery Writing

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard

Our listeners had questions about outlining and discovery writing. Here are a few of the very best:

  • Do you outline scenes? How?
  • How do you know when to STOP outlining something?
  • How much do you have to know about your character and/or world before you start writing?
  • What do you to to diagnose and fix a structural problem with a discovery-written draft?
  • What do you do to ‘get into’ an outline that you’re struggling with.
  • Are each of your projects similar in terms of procedure?
  • What are some major indicators that a piece needs more structural work?

Soundbite moment: DAN: “I had to learn the difference between a story, and a bunch of stuff that happens.”

Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered via great mastery by Alex Jackson

 

Play

Find another writer. You each write a quick outline for a story, print it, then cut your outline into strips. Now, trade piles of strips. Your missions? Re-assemble the other writer’s outline.

Contracted Defense, by Piper J. Drake