Category Archives: Theory and Technique

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.

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

Artemis, by Andy Weir

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 mastered by Andrew Jackson.

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

Underworld, by Mike Stop Continues

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.)

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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

13.13: 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: We talked about authorial voice in episode 12.10, and about 1st-person Voice in 12.2

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

Play

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

13.12: 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.

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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

13.11: 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 giving them a POV.

Play

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