Tag Archives: Characters

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

13.14: 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

13.12: 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.

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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

13.6: 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 that environmental noise is a key external conflict driving their narratives.

 

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“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 

13.2: 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 from Amal and Maurice during the second week of each month of 2018. And if Maurice sounds familiar, he joined us at GenCon for episode 7.40 back in 2012.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson, and despite the fact that both  Andrew and Alex are very active characters we never give them any dialog.

 

Play

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)