We talk a lot about “raising the stakes” in our writing. When we say “stakes,” we’re referring to the things that keep our characters involved in the conflict, rather than just walking away and doing something else. We dig into what this really means, and how everyone in the story must be driven by things that they have at stake.
Liner Notes: in this episode we refer to the three character-development “sliders” model set forth in WX 9.13.
Credits: This episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 18:44 — 13.0MB)
An object, a character, and a genre. Look to your left and that’s your object. Check your bookshelf, and the first book that catches your eye is your genre. The character? Your best friend.
Let’s adjust sliders again! This episode references our sliding scales for characters, and this time around we’ll be talking about how proactive a character is. We also talk about the verb “protag.” Because protagging is what protagonists should do, especially later in our stories.
Our goal is to be able to consciously adjust a character’s level of proactivity in order to similarly adjust how engaging that character is for our audience. We talk about the techniques we rely on, and some of our favorite stories in which we’ve seen these techniques employed.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 19:03 — 13.1MB)
Tie your protagonist up, and then have them protag their way forward in the story with nothing but dialog.
This podcast references episode 9.13 where we introduce a three-slider model for characters. In this episode we’re talking about how we adjust the reader’s perception of character competence, and why we might want to make the character more or less competent (or seem more or less competent.) We also talk about how competencies vary between domains, and how important it is for our characters to move between those domains.
Techniques discussed include showing failure, giving context, raising the stakes, and having competent antagonists.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 18:54 — 13.0MB)
Take a very minor side character and make them hyper-competent at something.
This podcast references episode 9.13 where we introduce a three-slider model for characters. Here we talk about character sympathy, or rather the sympathy that the reader will have for the character, and how we as writers go about adjusting that sympathy — moving the slider, if you will. We also talk about why we want to make that adjustment, whether we’re dealing with villains, side-characters, or protagonists.
Some of our tricks for moving the slider include changing the characters around them, controlling the distance between the reader and the character, showing character weaknesses, and using humor to mask the unsympathetic moments. We talk about how we’ve deployed these tools in our own work, and how we’ve seen it done well in the work of others.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 18:56 — 13.0MB)
Take something that you’ve written recently. Swap out all of the dialog with completely different words (you can keep articles and pronouns) but retain the meaning.
We talk about characters a lot, which is fitting since characters are what make things go in most of our favorite books. Brandon introduces a new model for examining characters in which three primary attributes – Competence, Proactivity, and Sympathy – are contrasted. We treat each one as if controlled by a fader or slider, like on a mixing console, and we look at what the relative positions of those sliders do to a character.
It’s only a model, obviously, and it’s not how we go about starting a character, but it has proven useful in troubleshooting characters who aren’t accomplishing the story purposes we want them to accomplish.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 20:05 — 13.8MB)
Come up with a race of creatures in which there is a sum which you’re not allowed to push past, and you have sliders on these people that control their attributes.