Your Hosts: Brandon, Victoria, Dan, and Howard
Small evils? Yes, please! This episode isn’t about writing the big villainy of world domination, but about focusing on the more relatable villainy of small evils—the little crimes, the minor antagonisms—which can be the key to connecting the reader to the book.
Liner Notes: The deadly nightshade incident Howard described is something he mentioned on Twitter as well. If you need a concrete example of a small evil and/or an external cost, there it is!
Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 16:36 — 12.2MB)
Base a villain on yourself
Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard
You had questions about fixing character problems. We had had answers! Here are the questions:
- How do you fix character voices when you find out that two of them are too similar?
- How can you tell if a character is, in fact, the problem?
- How do you maintain interest in a character who is largely inactive?
- How do you write interesting bad guys when your only POV characters are the good guys?
- How do you give meaningful challenges to a powerful character?
- How can you make a normal, everyday character interesting?
- How do you edit an existing manuscript to give characters interests which mesh with the plot?
Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 18:43 — 12.9MB)
Cheeto McFlair: Who are they, and why are they asking questions of the Writing Excuses team?
Myths and Monsters, narrated by Nicholas Day (currently available on Netflix)
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?
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.
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.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 17:13 — 11.9MB)
Write about a female gamer who is trying to right social injustices using her gaming skills.
Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard
What’s the difference between villains and antagonists? How is an obstacle character different from those other two? How are they alike? And most importantly, how can we use this information to write effective opposition to our heroes, protagonists, and main characters?
Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 18:20 — 12.6MB)
Your main character is facing one each: an obstruction, an antagonist, and a villain…
If there’s a crowd with good questions, it’s the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat attendees.
- Given the trend toward moral ambiguity, is there still a place for an unquestionably evil character?
- Should you publish a first book that isn’t in the style or genre that you’re ultimately interested in?
- Is it possible to write epic fantasy with a single POV?
- Of all of the myriad talents of the literary agents you work with, what’s the one that makes you stick with your agent?
- How do you maintain your writing chops when you’re buried in the research phase of a project?
- What are some issues a short story writer should be aware of when tackling a novel?
- How do you go about discovery writing characters?
- When you build a story, does the foreshadowing go in during the first pass, or in later edits?
Our sponsor, Audible, is giving away Legion: Skin Deep, by Brandon Sanderson between now and December 24th. Follow that link and get a free audio book!
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 19:08 — 13.1MB)
“Everywhere I look, everyone is covered with ketchup.”
Angelmaker, by Nick Harkaway, narrated by Daniel Weyman
The villain problem, as we define it here at the beginning of the ‘cast, is when the heroes are less proactive than the villain, when they spend most of the book doing little more than reacting to the cool things the villains do. It’s one reason that villains are often more interesting, more memorable, than the protagonists against whom they face off. The villain steals the show.
So we talk about how to offset this. There are lots of tools available — focusing on the hero’s passions, giving the protagonist an internal conflict independent of anything coming from the villain’s plotting, and building a solid acceptance of the “call to action” fairly early in the story.
Halfway through we arrive at the conclusion that the villain problem isn’t actually a problem with the villain. It’s a hero problem, and that’s probably the key piece you need to come up with a solution for your book.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 18:00 — 12.4MB)
Take a hero and give him a hobby, and something alive that he loves.
Imager, the first book of the Imager Portfolio, by L.E. Modesitt Jr, narrated by William Dufris