Category Archives: Theory and Technique

13.23: Internal Conflicts

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice

Internal conflicts, simply put, are problems your characters have with themselves. In this episode we address the ways in which writers can build stories and subplots around internal conflicts, and how we can tell when it’s not working.

Notes: the MICE quotient is Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event. Mary’s relationship axes are Role, Relationship, Status, and Competence.

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

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Use the Role, Relationship, Status, and Competence axes to define one of your characters. Then determine how each of these creates conflict with the one following it in the list.

An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon

13.22: Character Arcs

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

When Mary says we could do fifteen different episodes on character arcs, she’s being conservative. Notwithstanding, we set out to talk meaningfully about character arcs in one episode rather than in fifteen (or fifty.) We look at the shapes of these arcs, how they progress in our narratives, and the tools we use to get them to function properly in the context of our larger works.

Notes: Elizabeth Boyle‘s DREAM tool for plotting character change is easier to remember when written out. So here it is!

  • Denial
  • Resistance
  • Exploration
  • Acceptance
  • Manifestation

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

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Let’s apply DREAM to plotting a sideways character arc in which a character changes, but the change is neither triumphant nor tragic.

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.

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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

13.19: Backstories

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice

Character backstories: these are the tales that describe how the characters in your story became who they are by the time they arrive in the book. How much backstory needs to be written before you start in on the manuscript? How much needs to be in the manuscript itself? And how much backstory is too much?

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Write a flashbacks scene that reveals a key bit of a character’s backstory. Then reveal the same bit of backstory in a scene where the character describes the events to someone else.

Racing the Dark. by Alaya Dawn Johnson

13.18: Naturally Revealing Character Motivation

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

What motivates us? What really motivates us? Why? (Note: our motivations are probably not in service of some overarching plot.) How can we use this information to believably motivate characters?

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

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Take a character motivation and express it via free indirect speech. Now take something that has been expressed via free indirect speech and unpack it into the narrative.

The Ten Cent Plague, by David Hajdu, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki

13.17: What Writers Get Wrong, with Jamahl Crouch

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with Jamahl Crouch

Jamahl Crouch (Illusmm1 on Instagram) joined us at the GenCon Indy Writers Symposium to talk about what writers get wrong about street art. Jamahl is many things, and one of those is “street artist.”

Jamahl Crouch, pen on sketchbook, GenCon Indy 2017

We discuss the differences between graffiti and street art, where things like commissioned murals fit into the scene, and how the societal pressures (read: “it’s not legal to paint on this wall”) affect the form.

 

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Go watch The Get Down (available on Netflix)

Have a look at Jamal’s art on Instagram! Illusmm1