Tag Archives: Characters

17.32: Everything is About Conflict

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler

Everything is about conflict? Really? Well, yes. Maybe not in the action-movie sense, but conflict is everywhere, even among people whose goals, objectives, and methodologies are in alignment. This, of course, means that it exists among your cast of characters, and it will inform the way the talk to one another.

Liner Notes: We mentioned this famous Monty Python sketch about wanting to have an argument.

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

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Write a scene in which two characters try to decide whether or not to commit a crime. One has done crimes before. One has not. Halfway through, reverse their positions on the matter.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (currently requires a subscription to Paramount+.)

17.31: Everyone Has an Agenda

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler

We’ve mentioned “area of intention” earlier in this dialog master class, but now the concept gets the spotlight. If all of your characters have their own agendas, their own areas of intention, then the dialog between them should reflect that.

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

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Identify the characters’ areas of intent. Remove all lines of dialog that don’t support that intent.

17.30: Know Your Characters

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler

How well do you know your characters? Sure, you might know their age, nationality, and perhaps wardrobe, but how well do you know their internal characteristics? Do you know them well enough that you can write dialog that sounds like them? In this episode we discuss how you might approach this problem.

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

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Write monologues in which your characters tell you about themselves.

17.26: Hanging Separately

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

Our episode title comes to us across two and a half centuries:
“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” —Benjamin Franklin
We’ve already established that you’re planning to write an ensemble. This isn’t an episode about the pros and cons of ensembles. No, we’re here to talk about how an ensemble story can go wrong, leaving the characters to hang separately rather than hanging together.

Liner Notes: It happened again! We referenced the Ty Franck/Daniel Abraham episode, which we recorded at GenCon Indy several years ago, and again we can’t find a link to it.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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Pick an ensemble story that failed for you. Find its failure mode, and write down the ways in which you’d fix it.

The Expanse (TV series, Amazon Prime)

17.25: Archetypes, Ensembles, and Expectations

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

We’ve talked about making every member of the ensemble meaningful. In this episode we’re discussing who, in archetype terms, everybody is. How can archetypes help us get started, how can they help us set reader expectations, and what are the archetype-related pitfalls we need to avoid? And finally, is ‘archetype’ even the correct term here?

Liner Notes: Here’s the “Black Superheroes with Electrical Powers” article.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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Identify the archetypes of each character in your work-in-progress. Change that archetype or give them a sub-archetype, to try to branch out and create rounder, unexpected characters.

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

17.23: Are We Stronger Together?

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

Sometimes we have to look at our ensemble of characters and ask ourselves what kind of story we’re trying to tell? If the story works with a single protagonist and one POV, maybe this isn’t an ensemble story after all. If, however, the plot requires a team effort from the heroes, then we need to make sure the necessary team members make it onto the page.

Liner Notes: The “I’m the tin dog” moment is from Doctor Who, S2 E3, “School Reunion.” Mickey is speaking. Howard couldn’t remember Mickey’s name because sometimes Howard is the tin dog.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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Create a “connection” map for your characters that establishes what all the characters’ relationships are. Include at least one challenge in their relationship, and one way the relationship enhances each character.

17.22: Establishing the Ensemble

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

Every character in your ensemble needs to matter to the team, or they probably don’t belong in the ensemble. Zoraida Cordova leads us into this discussion of how we build our ensembles, how we introduce the characters, and how we ensure that all of them are important to the group.

Liner Notes: The article about Superman’s very first line of dialog is here.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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Pick an ensemble work that you like. Identify each member of the ensemble and why they are important, and what they bring to the story.

Ghost Station, by Dan Wells

17.21: Casting Your Story With Character Voice

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

Every member of your ensemble has a reason to be there, but they also have their own voice. Zoraida Cordova joins us for a discussion of how we make our ensemble characters distinct from one another.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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First: have each of your ensemble characters describe themselves. Second: have each of your ensemble characters describe each of the others.

Shafter’s Shifters & the Chassis of Chance (advance reader copy), by Howard Tayler, via the $5 tier of the Schlock Mercenary Patreon