Tag Archives: Characters

14.37: Outlandish Impossibilities

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard

Some science fiction and fantasy stories arise from a premise which, under even just rudimentary examination, appear utterly ridiculous. And some of these stories are hugely successful. In this episode we talk about how we manage our worldbuilding when the goal is less about building a world which works, and more about getting the audience to buy in on something outlandish so we can get on with our story.

Liner Notes: “Went With The Wind” begins about two minutes into this full episode of the Carole Burnett Show

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

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Write an outlandish impossibility. First: find a three-year-old, and ask them to tell you a story. Now write that story. 

You Owe Me a Murder, by Eileen Cook

13.41: Fixing Character Problems, Part II

Your Hosts: Brandon, Amal, Mary, and Maurice

This is the second of our pair of episodes in which we talk about how we, your hosts, fix the problems we’ve identified with the characters in our work.

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

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Take a character in one of your stories and split them into two characters. Take two characters from another of your stories, and combine them into one.

The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander

13.35: Cliché vs. Archetype

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

Tropes, archetypes, and even cliches are tools in our toolboxes. There’s no avoiding them, but there are definitely ways to use them incorrectly. In this episode we’ll talk about how we shake off our fear of using tropes through understanding how they work.

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

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Set a timer for 30 minutes.

SET THAT TIMER. 

With your life-jacket securely fastened, you may now go to tvtropes.com  and follow a trope like “boy meets girl” down the rabbit hole. Follow links. Dive deeply. When the timer goes off, close the page immediately. If you need a palate-cleanser, try watching “You Just Don’t Get It, Do You?

About eight months after we recorded this episode, Brandon pulled The Apocalypse Guard back from the publisher. We’ll update this link with more recent information soon.

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