Tag Archives: Character

13.25: Our Journey With Character

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard

Brandon wanted to ask us how our perspectives on character have changed since the very beginning of our writing. It’s a difficult question to answer, and a very soulful sort of thing to answer in front of other people. So Brandon went first while the rest of us racked our brains.

What are you going to learn from this episode? Well… you might learn a bit about each of us, but it’s also possible that you’ll learn something about your own writing, and find yourself able to navigate the next few steps on your journey with character.

Note: The apology strips Howard mentioned begin with this strip. They are part of a story that begins here.

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

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Describe your journey with character to someone else.

My Lady Jane, by Brodie Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows

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

13.18: 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

13.10: 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 pants while he ventured into the wilds to obtain Maurice’s character sheet.

Credits: This episode was recorded by  Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson, both of whom have more points in “perception” than most people have points.

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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

11.49: Elemental Ensemble, with Michael Damien Thomas

Michael Damien Thomas, co-publisher and co-editor-in-chief of Uncanny Magazine, joined us for a discussion of the elemental genre that contains most of the stories we refer to as “heists.” It’s all about a well-rounded cast in which the group relationship is what’s pulling us forward.

Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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Look at professions with a front-person, and with behind-the-scenes staff. Create a story that focuses on the behind-the-scenes folks.

Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damien Thomas

Writing Excuses 9.3: Character Perception vs. Narrative Perception with Nancy Fulda

Nancy Fulda, who was a guest on the cast clear back in Season 2, joins us to talk about using the narrative to call out or offset character perceptions. Sometimes the POV character “knows” a thing which is not just incorrect, it is something the reader will recognize as incorrect, and if this isn’t written correctly the reader may get knocked out of the story by the concern that the author might have his or her information wrong.

For instance, one character might refer to a small-arm magazine as a “clip,” while other characters in the story, those more experienced with firearms, know that the word is “magazine.”

Mary talks about the historical fantasy novel she’s writing, set in Regency-era Antigua, and which steps squarely into issues of race. Nancy talks to us a bit about language drift, and about how our understanding about lots of things will change. Brandon then raises the question of using “author’s notes.”

Speaking Of Things The Characters Got Wrong: One of those episodes Nancy was in back in 2009? Yeah, we all got it wrong.

 

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Take something that you believe to be false, and write a character with the opposite belief.

Movement, by Nancy Fulda, narrated by Marguerite Kenner

Writing Excuses 8.49: Hard Social Science Fiction with Joel Shepherd

Joel Shepherd joined Brandon, Mary, and Howard before a live audience at GenCon Indy to talk about writing hard science fiction where the science in question is social science. He’s studied international relations, interned on Capitol Hill, and is working a PhD in the field. His books reflect this background.

If hard science fiction is an exploration of what is technically, physically possible given a set of circumstances, hard social science fiction is no different. Further than that, however, good research in the social sciences will allow an author to build complex and realistic plots, stories in which character motivations go much further than picking a side.

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Pick two people on the same side of a conflict, but give them completely different motivations for fighting on that side.

Crossover: Cassandra Kresnov Book 1, by Joel Sheperd, narrated by Dina Pearlman

Writing Excuses 7.38: Writing Love Scenes

Shanna Germain joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard in front of a live audience at GenCon Indy to talk about writing love scenes. They’re not easy to get right, and they can be even more difficult to talk about it in a way that leaves the Writing Excuses team’s “clean” rating intact.

We cover the ways in which the love scenes must support the story, and the importance of tension in setting those scenes up. Mary asks the question foremost in all our minds: how do you write a sex scene so that it’s not silly? Shanna fields it with aplomb, explaining how she lets the characters drive it, washing unintentional humor out of the scene.

We also talk about how difficult it can be for those writing the POV of the opposite sex to get the head-space details right, and how love scenes fit into the pacing of your work.

What You Missed: Prior to recording this episode, in an effort to get all the nervous giggles and snerky titters worked out of our live audience, Mary read a portion of a recently released Pathfinder novel in her “one-nine-hundred” voice. No, we did not record it. Some things are meant to be loved, then lost.

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Put your characters in a place they cannot escape, and keep them there.

Shanna plugged “One Hot Summer,” but the actual title is One Long Hot Summer. It is not currently available Audible, but it’s available on Amazon at the link above. There are lots of OTHER things on Audible for you to listen to, including four titles featuring Shanna Germain.