Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, James L. Sutter, Dan Wells, Cassandra Khaw, and Howard Tayler
So, you’re the hero of your own story, and the hero gets choices, and in many ways directs the story. In our discussion of interactive fiction and writing for games, the subject of “player characters” is essential. From the array of options given at character creation/selection, to the paths available for character development and the final chapters of that characters story, “player character” touches everything.
Credits: this episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 18:47 — 13.8MB)
Go through the character creation process in an RPG. Pay attention to which parts were fun, and what attracted you to the different classes, creature types, etc. Identify what makes each major character build unique and appealing.
Your Hosts: Brandon, Victoria, Dan, and Howard
Our listeners have asked about how we handle managing a large cast of characters. This is something we’ve all struggled with, and sometimes we’ve failed at it pretty spectacularly. In this episode we talk about how we turned our failures into learning, and what we do today to keep our ensembles in line and our stories on track.
Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 18:45 — 13.6MB)
Take something you’ve written, something with a cast of at least three characters, and change the point-of-view and/or main character.
Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Daniel Friend
Daniel Friend, who edits SF/F, has worked in election offices, has run for office, and has participated in campaigns. In this episode we talk about the ways elections can be worked into our stories.
Credits: This episode was recorded by Joseph Meacham, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 16:22 — 12.0MB)
Volunteer for a campaign!
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
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 22:57 — 15.9MB)
Write an outlandish impossibility. First: find a three-year-old, and ask them to tell you a story. Now write that story.
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.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 22:36 — 15.6MB)
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.
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.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 20:29 — 14.1MB)
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?“
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.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 20:46 — 14.3MB)
Interview some people! Find someone you don’t know, and then interview them, with a goal of learning something new.
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.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 18:52 — 13.0MB)
Add a foil to a Shakespearean soliloquy. Alternatively, remove the foil from a famous comedy routine.