Season 13 Archives

13.1: Hero, Protagonist, Main Character

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard 2018 is our Year of Character, and we kick it off with a quick exploration of the differences between heroes, protagonists, and main characters. Beginning with addressing the question “wait, aren’t they all the same person?” Because that’s the elephant in the room. Or maybe it’s three elephants. Or … Continue reading 13.1: Hero, Protagonist, Main Character

Tell a story with three characters—hero, protagonist, and main character. Tell it three times, once for each of those in which they are the POV character.

Emerald Circus, by Jane Yolen

13.2: Writing Active Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice This week we welcome Amal El-Mohtar and Maurice Broaddus to the Writing Excuses cast for a discussion of active characters. We cover characters who move stories forward, who make decisions that influence plot-critical events, and whose actions draw the reader into the book. Liner Notes: you’ll be hearing … Continue reading 13.2: Writing Active Characters

Find a 1st-person poem, and write it in the 3rd person POV. Perhaps even rewrite it as a scene, or a story.

Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (from the anthology Starlit Wood, and appearing here courtesy of Uncanny Magazine)

13.3: What Writers Get Wrong, with Aliette de Bodard

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard This year’s third-week episodes will all follow a common theme: “what writers get wrong.” Each of these episodes will feature an expert guest who will help us understand what writers get wrong about something in which they have expertise. Aliette de Bodard will be co-hosting several of these week-three episodes, … Continue reading 13.3: What Writers Get Wrong, with Aliette de Bodard

List the subject matter experts in your life. Make checks next to their names this year as you speak with them about their expertise (it’s like a to-do list.)

The House of Shattered Wings (Book 1 of Dominion of The Fallen), by Aliette de Bodard

13.4: Protagonists Who Aren’t Sympathetic

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard This week we’re joined by Valynne Maetani, who’ll be one of our hosts all year. We’re discussing protagonists who, per writer intent, do not engender audience sympathy. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

Write a likable character, but write them in such a way that the reader does not want them to succeed.

13.5: Villain, Antagonist, Obstacle

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard What’s the difference between villains and antagonists? How is an obstacle character different from those other two? How are they alike? And most importantly, how can we use this information to write effective opposition to our heroes, protagonists, and main characters? Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan … Continue reading 13.5: Villain, Antagonist, Obstacle

Your main character is facing one each: an obstruction, an antagonist, and a villain…

Active Memory, by Dan Wells

13.6: External Conflicts for Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice An external conflict is a story driver that originates outside the protagonist. In this episode a large part of what we’ll focus on is person-vs-environment as opposed to person-vs-person. PvE rather than PvP, if you will. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson, both of whom understand … Continue reading 13.6: External Conflicts for Characters

“Break Things” – start the character’s story, and then have things begin going wrong. Don’t fix any of it. Just keep making things worse. 

“El is a Spaceship Melody,” by Maurice Broaddus 

13.8: Making Characters Distinctive

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard What do we do to make our characters distinctive? Often we categorize the distinctions as flaws or quirks, and in this discussion we use those as our starting points. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 

Who are the five people you know best? Make a list of their distinctions, as if they were characters in a story you’re writing.

Ink and Ashes, by Valynne E. Maetani

13.9: Quick Characterization

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard How do you go about defining a character for your readers when you don’t have many words to devote to the project? What are the tricks for quickly establishing someone’s individuality within your story? Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 

Consider the silhouette test, and then create a list of words that will let you apply it to your characters.

Brimstone, by Cherie Priest

13.10: Handling a Large Cast

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice What are our favorite techniques for managing large casts of characters, and how do our processes differ from when we’re writing small casts? What does “large” and “small” mean for us? Liner Notes: No, Howard was not in the room. Yes, despite his absence, he was wearing both trousers and … Continue reading 13.10: Handling a Large Cast

Talking Heads! Write a scene between a married couple who has met at a coffee shop unexpectedly—neither of them are supposed to be there. Don’t use dialog tags.

Steal the Stars, by Mac Rogers, narrated as an audioplay with a full cast

13.11: Writing Secondary Characters, with Charlaine Harris

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Charlaine Harris Charlaine Harris joined us in front of a live audience at the GenCon Writers Symposium to talk with us about secondary characters—why they’re so important, why they can be difficult to write well, and how she brings her secondary characters to life without … Continue reading 13.11: Writing Secondary Characters, with Charlaine Harris

Take something you’ve already written. Make your protagonist a secondary character, and make a secondary character your protagonist. Tell a new story with them in those roles.

Grave Sight, by Charlaine Harris, narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan

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

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

13.13: Character Voice

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard Character voice, the flow, order, and feel of words that is unique to a particular character, is extremely useful in defining characters for the reader. In this episode we discuss our tools for shaping character voices, and the ways in which we make sure each one unique. Liner Notes: … Continue reading 13.13: Character Voice

Rewrite an existing bit of text using three different POVs: An eighty-year old, a twelve-year-old, and someone from a foreign country.

Defy the Stars by Claudia Grey

13.14: Character Nuance

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice Let’s talk about characters who have conflict built right into them; characters whose attributes and attitudes might seem to contradict one another; characters who like, y’know… actual people. (And let’s talk about how to write them.)

Play with The Sorting Hat Chats, and sort yourself. There’s no quiz. You’ll have to do some reading in order to figure out how you fit in.

Buffalo Soldier, by Maurice Broaddus

13.15: What Writers Get Wrong, with Mike Stop Continues

Recorded live at WXR 2017. Your Hosts: Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard, with special guest Mike Stop Continues Mike has multiple areas of expertise, but for this episode he’s talking to us specifically about the things that writers get wrong about being a gay man. Credits: This episode was recorded live by Bert Grimm, and … Continue reading 13.15: What Writers Get Wrong, with Mike Stop Continues

Change the sexual identity of a character in a scene of yours.

Underworld, by Mike Stop Continues

13.16: Avoiding Flat Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard For our purposes, the term “flat character” refers to a character who lacks the depth required to maintain reader interest. In this episode we discuss how to avoid putting flat characters front-and-center in our writing, and how we go about fixing manuscripts that have flat character problems.

Take a flat character from media you’ve consumed and write a backstory to make them less flat.

Artemis, by Andy Weir