Tag Archives: Characters

13.31: Learning to Listen as a Writer

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

“Write what you know” gets misapplied a lot. In this episode we’ll talk about how to know things by listening well. In particular, we’re looking at writing interesting characters by listening to real people.

We also talk about the more formal act of interviewing people¹, and how to deal with the attendant complexities.

Liner Notes:  Mary references her interviewing of rocket scientists and astronauts, which we just talked about last week. When this episode was recorded the JPL trip was still in our future, and was “will have been” extremely cool.

Comment Notes: The audio file wasn’t correctly linked until Tuesday. The irony of the our “how to listen” episode having exactly zero “listen” buttons is not lost on anyone.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and engineered by Alex Jackson. Their fine work was obscured from public view by the careless hands of Howard Tayler.

 

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Interview some people! Find someone you don’t know, and then interview them, with a goal of learning something new.

Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer To Retrain Your Brain, by Stephen J Dubner and Steven D Leavitt, narrated by Stephen J. Dubner

13.27: Characters as Foils

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice

A foil is a character who serves as a contrast to another character. The foil might be a sidekick, an antagonist, a romantic interest, or really any other character who gets enough focus for the contrast to be useful.

In this episode we talk about foils, offering examples, and our approaches for writing foils in our own work.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson, neither of whom serves as a foil to the other.

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Add a foil to a Shakespearean soliloquy. Alternatively, remove the foil from a famous comedy routine.

Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight Before NASA, by Amy Shira Teitel, narrated by Laurence Bouvard

Also, “Girl Hours,” a poem by Sofia Samatar

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