By Writing Excuses | December 7, 2008 - 9:22 pm - Posted in Characters, Genre, Guest, Season 2, Writing Prompt

This week (and for the following two weeks) the Writing Excuses crew is joined by author Dave Wolverton, who also writes under the name David Farland. This week’s topic? ROMANCE. What can four adult males possibly have to say about the subject? The answer: We tell you absolutely everything we know in just sixteen minutes and fifty-one seconds. And there was time left over in there to stick in an advertisement.

This week’s Writing Excuses is brought to you by Rokit Fuel. That ad Howard recorded was powered in part by two bags of the stuff. They sent us samples, and we plowed through them like a tornado through a trailer park.

 

Writing Prompt: And now, the Writing Prompt: Your character walks into a room and sees three people whom he or she could end up with. You don't know which one it will be. Keep the reader guessing (and interested!)

This entry was posted on Sunday, December 7th, 2008 at 9:22 pm and is filed under Characters, Genre, Guest, Season 2, Writing Prompt. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

65 Comments

  1. December 8, 2008 @ 12:47 am


    …I’m having some problems with the audio quality on this one — periodically, it sounds like it’s skipping a few moments or even fast-forwarding through a few pieces of dialogue. I tried re-downloading, but it didn’t fix all of them. Anyone else having this sort of problem, or is it just me?

    I heard this happen at 9:33, possibly around 12:40ish, and at 15:10.

    Posted by R3u
  2. December 8, 2008 @ 1:10 am


    Uh oh, here I was about to be all excited that it was up before I had to leave for work, and I hear that there are problems.
    I will report back later.

    Posted by WEKM
  3. December 8, 2008 @ 1:46 am


    R3u: Not just you. I had similar problems in about the same areas, from what I remember.

    Good podcast as always though. Congratulations on being able to extrapolate that into 15 minutes of actual discussion. I would’ve just been all, “uhh, strong characters, durrr?” and that would’ve been the end of it.

    Course, I’ve never really written romance, maybe that’s why.

    Come to think of it, I’m going to have to start writing a bit more of it pretty soon for a couple of the characters in my book. You guys really do have uncanny timing.

    Posted by Raethe
  4. December 8, 2008 @ 1:58 am


    There will not be a re-upload of this episode, there were glitches in the recording that’s on the master and there’s nothing (outside of re-recording) that can be done to fix it.

    These things happen folks.

    Posted by admin
  5. December 8, 2008 @ 9:13 am


    The skips you’re hearing are where we edited out weird noises. You’re not really missing any actual dialogue.

    Posted by Dan Wells
  6. December 8, 2008 @ 10:50 am


    Nice Podcast; I’m sorry the audio has a few jitters. Would anyone like to comment on romances that aren’t the a stereotypical boy meets girl? I’m particularly interested in hearing about how Brandon is dealing with some of the rather atypical romances that Robert Jordan set up for him.

    Posted by John Miller
  7. December 8, 2008 @ 11:12 am


    I would suppose good advise for this is the same for writing in other genres…actually read a romance book. While my inner captain destructo would rather pull out my fingernails, reading someone like Nicolas Sparks good way to see how to do character relationships in different ways. Of course now that I’ve said that, I may actually have to borrow one of my sister’s books if I ever bother to write character roightmance into my stories.

    Posted by Jake
  8. December 8, 2008 @ 11:13 am


    romance*

    Posted by Jake
  9. December 8, 2008 @ 11:51 am


    I would really like to hear from our listeners on this one: what are some ways of thinking and acting that one gender might not realize about the other? In the podcast we said the women tend to plan and fantasize more than men realize, while men tend to get intimidated by women far more than women realize. What else can you add that might help the rest of us write a better love story?

    Posted by Dan Wells
  10. December 8, 2008 @ 1:50 pm


    I can only speak for myself on this one.. You are right, women do tend to plan and fantasize about the relationship. I think when you’re trying to write about a romance, it really is about the little details. In the fantasy book I am working on, I have two main characters who are going to become romantically involved, but it is part of the story, not the central plot. I plan on adding a lot of little bits and pieces here and there that will lead up to the big reveal of the relationship – reveal to them that is.

    The types of details that I think would be important would be the 5 senses. In a relationship or budding romance, these things are noticed by both parties. Or maybe they wouldn’t be and that’s part of the suspense.

    Sight: Appearences
    Scent: her perfume, his scent (woodsy? cologne? etc..)
    Hearing: what do they sound like? does she hear churchbells? does he hear ball/chain? ;)
    Touch: this one is important. Touch symbolizes the intimacy of a relationship. Does she touch his arm when she talks to him? Does he push the hair from her face?
    Taste: To me, this one can mean a few things.. Scent and taste can go together. Or maybe there’s a special meal that reminds one of the other.

    Women are also emotional, as I’m sure you all know. In many of my experiences, when emotions and love are concerned, women can sometimes lose themselves in the relationship. If the guy was to do something hurtful or mean, it could really crush her. Maybe she shrinks away if he raises his voice. Maybe her Irish temper gets the better of her and she finally fights back (ok, maybe that’s just me). Women can also be vindictive. We do have excellent long term memory, and when used correctly in a story, it could really be used to cause drama and tension.

    Hope that helps some.. By the way, I love you guys and your podcast. I listen faithfully every week!

    Posted by Kelly in PHX
  11. December 8, 2008 @ 1:55 pm


    I can’t believe I’m going to attempt to weigh in on this one. I can fit all I know about woman and romance into my small finger. Ok, here goes.

    There is such a delicate and fragile balance that has to occur between a man and a woman in order for a relationship to start, that is almost a miracle that any of us even get together in the first place. Either men are too confident or not confident enough, too pushy or not assertive enough, too clingy or not emotionally connected to the woman. And on the other end of the spectrum, women can be too subtle or too flirty, play too hard to get or too easy to be caught, too high maintenance…the list for both genders can go on and on and on and on and on….you get my point.

    I don’t think I answered the question specifically, but one thing that I have noticed is that women usually give off signals that are sooooooo subtle that even high power telescopes can’t notice, but if you ask another woman, they will all say that the girl is flirting so hard she looks pathetic. On the same hand, men are usually too stupid to notice an obvious flirt if they saw one, and just the opposite, tend to interpret a simple act of kindness as an invitation to a make-out session.

    Posted by M
  12. December 8, 2008 @ 2:01 pm


    M, that is a great perspective! And I’ve seen that regarding keeping the balances, too.. Women often get frustrated at the guy not picking up on the right signals, I’m sure you guys do, too.

    Here’s another tidbit. I read once that one of the major conflicts in a relationship is that each partner tends to treat the other how they themselves wish to be treated, and not necessarily how the other person wants to be treated.

    Posted by Kelly in PHX
  13. December 8, 2008 @ 3:43 pm


    I never write have any real romantic interests in my stories. It’s not a priority, so it doesn’t get put in.

    Posted by Jame
  14. December 8, 2008 @ 5:43 pm


    One thing that I picked up after being married for a while is that things that are important to women aren’t necessarily important to men, and vice versa, even if the thing isn’t gender specific. For example, suppose one partner is a neat-freak, and the other isn’t. Maybe not a slob, but picking socks off the living room floor is not a priority. If the man is the neat-freak, his partner’s lack of attention to detail signals a mental deficiency–she isn’t thinking carefully enough to see that there’s a logical breach in neatness. If the woman is the neat-freak, however, her partner’s failing is emotional–he doesn’t love her enough to pick his socks up off the floor.

    Women also have a greater tendency, I think, to ascribe motive where there was none. As hard as it is to believe to you, ladies, the fact that he left the dishes undone or the cabinet doors open was not an overt statement about his thoughts on your relationship. There are whole segments of his brain in which you do not appear, and most household chores probably fit into that category.

    Actually, that all comes into what an older friend of mine called “the waffle brain” vs “the spaghetti brain.” And you can take this to the bank.

    Men compartmentalize. The different roles that they play in society, the different tasks they perform day to day, are completely separated from eachother in their minds. Work has nothing to do with home, which has nothing to do with church, which has nothing to do with golfing…etc. He doesn’t talk about or even connect the people that he meets in one sector of his life with those from another unless they are involved in both. Just like waffles have neatly divided squares that hold their own scraping of butter and their own drop of syrup. It allows men to REALLY focus on whatever they’re doing.

    Women have no compartments. There are no walls, no barriers, and more, there are an infinite number of ways to get from A to D. Which may or may not involve hitting B or C along the way. Just like in a bowl of spaghetti, where every noodle intersects every other noodle at some point, every role that she plays or thing that she does is brimming with potential consequenses for every other aspect of her life. It allows women to do a thousand things at once, and to get them all done.

    This is also why women give signals that men completely miss: for a woman, a hint about the movie that just came out might be fraught with associations. For a man, it’s just a movie. Why was it supposed to mean something else?

    As to when I write men (being for me the opposite gender), I try to shorten the sentences and make the speech more direct, usually with less inuendo. Depending on the individual, of course. Individual characterization can trump gender rules of thumb any day.

    Posted by Jen
  15. December 8, 2008 @ 6:02 pm


    On the point of senses.

    I have noticed that women tend to focus more on some senses than they do on others. Smell is one that women tend to put more importance on than men.

    (Generally speaking of course)

    I’ve also noticed that several Authors have their Male character(s) be confused about the relationship/women, while the Female characters tend to be angry and/or desperate about the whole situation.

    Posted by Ben
  16. December 8, 2008 @ 10:21 pm


    Okay, well I’m a woman. But I don’t think my perspective will be useful to this conversation because it’s obviously focused on heterosexual relationships and the female perspective. And I have dated women – not men.

    And that’s different in terms of characterization. In a million interesting ways that I can think of. But no one even seemed to realize how absent gay and lesbian relationships were in this podcast. And it’s not just WE that’s to blame here, obviously, no one meant any harm, and I haven’t run into well balanced discussions of this topic anywhere else. It’s an everyone everywhere problem.

    No one ever talks about how to characterize gay and lesbian relationships. Part of the reason for this seems to be that whenever there is a gay or lesbian character the point of their character is to be… gay.

    Let’s put it this way: When someone asks me what I did this weekend and I say “I went and saw Twilight with my wife,” everyone thinks I’m talking about sex or trying to make a point about what a big lesbian I am. When some dude says “I went and saw Twilight with my wife” everyone thinks about how nice that dude is to go see a romantic movie with his wife.

    I like to include gay and lesbian characters in my stories because (a) they are completely absent from speculative fiction with some minor and often horrific exceptions – particularly in the protagonist role, and this is something I would like to correct, and (b) because it mirrors the real world.

    This should have been discussed. At least mentioned.

    Maybe a podcast on minorities and their representation in spec fic writing would be a good idea…. but I don’t think these topics should isolated from everything else we talk about. We should be able to talk about writing romance without just talking about how it’s different to write a guy v. girl perspective in a hetero love story.

    Posted by Eliyanna
  17. December 9, 2008 @ 12:43 am


    Eliyanna, forgive me if I misrepresent. Being straight myself I can only explain this from my own perspective and experience.

    Having worked with a variety of lesbians and seeing their dating choices, don’t you think that each partner does slip into an identifiable role? Butch or fem? With few exceptions, I can identify which is which in a relationship given enough time.

    For example, my best friend just ended her 15 year relationship. My friend is the biological mother of a 2-year old boy (via donor). Her partner met a younger woman who has no children. Her partner has stated that she still wishes to be in the boy’s life, but doesn’t really interact with him when they are together.

    Without going into too much more gritty detail, I’d say that the partner has hit just about every classical step as a guy going through a mid-life crisis. And equally true is that my friend is acting much like under-supported, overwhelmed newly-single mother.

    I guess I don’t see being straight or gay as being the defining point in a character. If it is, you run the risk of making the characters too stereotypical. The context of your story and the conflict involved will determine how important sexual orientation is.

    So write a girl meets girl, girl looses girl, girl wins girl again story. Write what you know. That is all these guys are trying to talk about.

    Posted by Karl
  18. December 9, 2008 @ 1:26 am


    Eliyanna: I’d be interested to hear what you have to say about characterizing a lesbian relationship in writing. I don’t think that lesbian relationships are somehow excluded from the discussion. You were talking about characterization being different in a girl-meets-girl story than a girl-meets-guy story, and I think that talking about that would be just as interesting and relevant as anything else that’s come up so far. I think the only reason it hasn’t is that most people seem to be contributing from their own experience. *shrug*

    Posted by Raethe
  19. December 9, 2008 @ 6:45 am


    Going back to the senses…

    Ben, I think that you’re correct.. Some senses tend to play a bigger role than others. The biggest one, I think, is touch. A woman will put a lot of priority on whether or not the man has touched her.. Picture the squeals: “He touched my hand!!” Touch symbolizes a connection.

    Now, whether that connection is there from the male point of view is a whole different issue. I would venture to say that some are and some aren’t. The “oops, I bumped your arm” may really have been an accident, but she will read it into it to find the meaning. Was it intentional? Was it an accident? Was he trying to be cute? Is he shy?

    Posted by Kelly in PHX
  20. December 9, 2008 @ 9:25 am


    […] (come back!), especially literature, Death by Cliché, Episode 3 is now available. Also, there is a new episode of Writing Excuses online. Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized, Auctions, Random Linkage, […]

  21. December 9, 2008 @ 9:29 am


    Eliyanna:
    I thought about same-sex relationships when we recorded, but I didn’t bring it up because, as I’m sure you can appreciate, four heterosexual Mormon guys have literally nothing valuable to say about same-sex relationships. My gut instinct is that the people involved are the same as everyone else–a girl will tend to think the same way about love and romance whether she’s dating a guy or another girl. The relationship itself, on the other hand, I imagine to be very different because it includes two of one mindset instead of one of each. Maybe this isn’t true, though; that’s why we’re lucky to have you in our forum to help us out :)

    If I were to say anything on the subject, though, it would be to repeat what you’ve already said: most gay and lesbian characters in the media exist primarily to be gay and lesbian. This is essentially the “token black guy” syndrome from seventies and eighties TV, and unfortunately we still haven’t fully moved beyond that, either, although in general most blacks are now represented as full characters rather than one-dimensional caricatures. A great example is the character 13 from House, who is bisexual, and who is the least-developed character on the show; yes, she has a couple of other quirks, but the writers obviously don’t know what to do with her. I can sympathize with this kind of half-baked representation because last season House had a Mormon character who was also ridiculously one-dimensional. It’s grating, and it’s unrealistic.

    So, my advice is this: let your characters be characters. Give them a full set of loves and hates and wants and needs and quirks, and don’t let them be locked into a single trait that defines their every word and action. This goes for every character in every genre: the gruff, axe-wielding dwarf is just as overdone and annoying as the sassy gay best friend. Make your characters fully-rounded, not stereotypes.

    Posted by Dan Wells
  22. December 9, 2008 @ 9:35 am


    The omission of homosexual romance-writing was not deliberate. It’s a blind-spot for all three of us (four, including Dave), and if we had mentioned it we would have immediately can-of-worms’ed it because as you pointed out it requires its own treatment. Still, the omission was only apparent to me after listening to the podcast three days after recording it.

    Homosexual romance works in much the same way as heterosexual romance, but it works completely differently for readers whose orientation is different. As Eliyanna pointed out when talking about going to see a movie with her wife, the subtext inserted by the straight listener or reader is going to far overpower the context delivered by the writer.

    In short, it is very risky to write about, because it can derail an otherwise on-the-rails story. Especially if done accurately. Homosexuality is widely misunderstood, so writers can either write to the clichés, or write true, and neither is going to work for a wide genre-fiction audience.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  23. December 9, 2008 @ 9:36 am


    Now I’m playing cross-post tag with Dan.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  24. December 9, 2008 @ 10:24 am


    There is actual a decent amount of speculative fiction which deals with homosexuality. My favorite is Magic’s Pawn, Magic’s Promise, and Magic’s Price by Mercedes Lackey.

    Jacqueline Carey’s take on sexuality in general is different from anything else I’ve read and is really interesting. She’s also flat out an amazing writer, so its worth checking out.

    Posted by Peter
  25. December 9, 2008 @ 12:53 pm


    This podcast was timely for me. Thanks guys. :)

    Posted by John Brown
  26. December 9, 2008 @ 1:48 pm


    […] stories were all love stories of one kind or another. I love good love stories. And so when the Writing Excuses team podcasted about this topic with Dave Wolverton, I was excited to hear what they had to say. Of course, they didn’t dissappoint. However, I […]

  27. December 9, 2008 @ 9:07 pm


    Peter, thanks for the suggestions. I’ll check those out. And thank you to Dan and Howard. Reading back I think I was being a little too short. I completely understand your hesitance. I’m just frustrated.

    I am really struggling with how to write gay and lesbian romance within my stories without the story becoming about that. And I don’t think that you can be sexuality-blind about these things. Just like you can’t write a character of a particular religious minority group or ethnic minority group and forget about incorporating that life experience into the character. Doesn’t work.

    So, (to man up to Raethe’s challenge) here are a few preliminary thoughts on how to approach gay and lesbian characters and their romances. Like the question Dan raised in the podcast about how to get the female perspective in a hetero romance, a lot of it comes down to thinking through the gendered socializations and how they present and interact with each other.

    Are woman really more sensitive? Do they use senses more? Do they overthink? Are men really confused, intimidated, and reactive? Can we get away with breaking these rules? Etc.

    Flash to gay and lesbian relationships. Okay, so now you have two women or two men. Karl points out that this sometimes takes the form of the butch/fem dichotomy – which is a fascinating thing to play with. It’s probably more associated with lesbian relationships. It can be taken a few ways. Just the way things are a natural product of the way some lesbians are (more butch or more fem) OR as gay and lesbian couples trying to replicate the male/female heterosexual relationship because they feel like they should do that. To be honest, this is something I see much more in older generations.

    The other approach is just taking women and men as they are “normally” socialized and thinking about how they would interact. You get all sorts of fun things to play with here and some of them (as I know from experience) are downright terrifying. “Let’s talk about our feelings.” “Is that my sweater??” :) You know how girls are good at mind games? Try two of them! And with two guys you can get the opposite blunt extreme. There’s an old joke in the LGBT community: Q: What does a lesbian bring to the second date? A: A U-Haul. Q: What does a gay man bring to the second date? A: What second date? This is a stereotype, but let me tell you it gets laughs when I’m at the bar with friends, because it’s an identifiable aspect of the culture.

    If writing in our contemporary world, it’s impossible to ignore the setting’s impact on the relationship and the extreme cultural pressure the romance exists in. Think Romeo and Juliet. Or West Side Story. It can’t help but intensify the love story, give it conflict and add a cost. Of course that’s exactly where the danger lies. The social issues are impossible to ignore and they take over.

    We always have the option of erasing that social pressure by creating a world where it’s normalized or treated differently. Or using sexuality and gender as a speculative element which gets us into the world of “feminist speculative fiction.” CAN OF WORMS. :)

    One final thought (for now), about a science fiction book I like that did a great job at playing with gender and sexuality and romance as part of the science fiction element is Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood. That book (it’s actually 3 novellas (***slight spoilers here***) takes place in a post-apocalyptic future Earth where an alien species has collected what’s left of humanity. Turns out their species has three sexes: male, female, and a neuter. Reproduction occurs when males and females combine with the neuter who mixes their DNA. The neuter is compelled to seek out other species for biodiversity. Really well done and a fascinating take on romance. Romance is compelled (or at least strongly encouraged) bio-chemically. It doesn’t have gay and lesbian characters, but it’s about a challenge to the hetero-normative way of life. By aliens. And it won a Hugo and a Nebula. So it’s very good.

    Ok, I’m more than little convinced this was rambling and hard to understand. But I’m posting anyway!

    Posted by Eliyanna
  28. December 9, 2008 @ 10:08 pm


    Eliyanna, rambling aside, you make some valid points and are not hard to understand. If these things are important to you, then perhaps yours is the voice to tell these tales.

    Actually, Sci-Fi and fantasy are areas of literature where authors could explore female characters that go against cultural norms. This was true for authors in the 60s and 70s. Mainstream culture could dismiss genre literature, but we now know from this end of history the powerful effect speculative fiction (anyone chatting on their Star Trek style flip phone over Arthur C. Clark’s geosynchronous satellites?). Unfortunately I’m not an expert on this so I can’t offer any names. The only author I can think of is Margaret Atwood.

    Posted by Karl
  29. December 10, 2008 @ 7:34 am


    Eliyanna, what about creating a world where the sexes are completely divided? Women stay with Women, Men with Men? The hetero relationship could be the scandal that rocks a nation?

    Posted by Kelly in PHX
  30. December 10, 2008 @ 12:56 pm


    I must say…I understand the desire for advertising, but this one just wasn’t topical like the others have been. Howard tried to make it relate to writing, but it didn’t work well and I didn’t care. The only think keeping me from fast-forwarding was that I didn’t know how long he would keep talking about the stuff. Also, the commercial seemed longer than normal.

    As Karen said in the feedback she gave to Brandon a while back, if the advertisements are about things writers or at least readers will care about, they’re not unwelcome and they can be effective. Ads like this one are obtrusive and boring.

    Posted by Peter Ahlstrom
  31. December 10, 2008 @ 1:29 pm


    I personally didn’t care if it wasn’t an ad catered towards writing. I imagine this podcast doesn’t pay for itself, so bring on the advertising. I don’t think a 20 or 30 second commercial is asking too much. Just think about commercials during primetime TV. 5 minutes worth and I just mute the whole time. If you don’t like the ad, I say mute the podcast…not gonna hurt ya.

    Posted by M
  32. December 10, 2008 @ 2:39 pm


    how to write gay and lesbian romance within my stories without the story becoming about that.

    Eliyanna, I’m not sure I understand this question. How can a romance between two men or women NOT be about their relationship? But maybe you mean it being about the acceptance in society of homosexual relationships. It seems to me you have a choice.

    1) If you use social disapproval of homosexual relationships as THE obstacle or conflict in the plot along with all the tropes about coming out of the closet etc, then it WILL be about acceptance. And equality and all that jazz. Because the main conflict shapes everything in the story. Of course, social disapproval has ALWAYS been a very fertile source of story problems. But it doesn’t have to be.

    2) IF you avoid using that as a major obstacle, or anything but a side note, then it becomes about whatever conflict takes center stage. It all is driven by the conflicts and complications you decide to focus on.

    3) Now you may still write it without the acceptance issue and for some readers (those who fall on the disapproval side) it will STILL be about acceptance. But you can’t control that. Nor would you be writing, I’d think, for that audience.

    So my advice is to think about the main problem. What is the key thing that would keep these two people apart? I would imagine all of the issues that key heterosexual couples apart would apply.

    Posted by John Brown
  33. December 10, 2008 @ 3:06 pm


    This week’s ad came from a generous small business owner who won the Whitney Award auction we mentioned a month or so ago. The auction sold for a lot, and then he almost tripled that amount with an extra donation to the Whitney Awards, so we thought he was well deserving of some air time. Plus, the cereal is actually very good, so we had no qualms about advertising it.

    Posted by Dan Wells
  34. December 10, 2008 @ 5:29 pm


    @M To clarify, I’d like to be able to write stories where the characters just happen to be gay without the story being read as “a gay story.” This is sort of a side issue from the topic of this podcast, but that’s what I meant by that.

    Posted by eliyanna
  35. December 10, 2008 @ 7:43 pm


    eliyanna, ah, I see. It’s still all in the conflicts, I think. But you’ll also have to manage pov. Because, like it or not, when you make the main pov some minority, then it’s hard not to categorize it that way–Jewish, Hopi, Neo-nazi, etc.–because we’re so much in the pov’s world view and we will go for the common issues. Although I don’t think it’s impossible. Just as long as we keep focused on main story issues other than ones that are particular to that group. But it would be easier if the gay character is not the main character.

    For example, if you’re doing a thriller and the pov character is a straight cop and the partner is gay, then it’s just a cop story as long as the key conflicts and story problems are about something other than gay issues. You could have conflicts and a lot of fun between the partners or situations because of the gay/straight pairing. You could have side plots about it. But as long as the main thing is about the mystery or murder and issues not particular to gays, then I don’t think many would read it as anything but a cop story.

    I remember the movie WILD GEESE. It’s a bunch of mercenaries, one happens to be gay. I don’t want to argue how that dude was depicted, but I don’t know how anyone could construe it as a gay story. It was a mercenary story because that’s what the story problem and conflicts were all about.

    But if you want to look at an example of a main character, look at the Will Smith movies. Race is not an issue. THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, I AM LEGEND, HITCH–none of these deal with Black issues. Which is why I never once considered them “Black stories.”

    Posted by John Brown
  36. December 10, 2008 @ 8:10 pm


    Eliyanna, as unfortunate as it may be, to have the character’s homosexuality be a part of the book without distracting from the rest of the book it can only be hinted or, as John said, moved to a side character. The reason being that as soon as you start to blatantly say a character is gay, the reader–whatever sexuality they are–starts to look for some of tell tales in the form of stereotypes that suport the charater’s sexuality.

    Posted by Jame
  37. December 10, 2008 @ 8:23 pm


    @Eliyanna

    I think you were mistaken. I was not talking to you, I was talking to Peter Ahlstrom, who left a remark above about the sports food ad or commercial that was on the podcast. I was not talking about your issue with the podcast. Hope that clarifies things.

    Posted by M
  38. December 10, 2008 @ 10:14 pm


    @Eliyanna

    I don’t know if this will help or not, but reading your posts reminded me of a conversation I had with a gay friend about the movies “As Good As It Gets” and “In & Out.” We’d both seen these movies, and we both had the same feelings about the portrayal of the gay characters in each movie. We were moved by Greg Kinear’s performance / character in “As Good As It Gets” because his character was a human being, who happened to be gay, rather than a “gay character.” In contrast, we were both put off by Kevin Klein’s character in “In & Out” because he was a gay character, not a human being who is gay. Throughout that movie, the other people are saying / thinking “of course he’s gay, he wears bow ties, likes Streisand, and won’t get married to his long time fiance’.” I guess in simple terms, one was a “real person” the other a cookie-cutter stereotype. In story telling, the actions, relationships of characters will be and feel more believable (regardless of gender involved) when the characters are fleshed out human beings first; whereas, stories with characters who have “gay traits” won’t feel real or believable, and the story will suffer for it.

    Posted by Jon W.
  39. December 10, 2008 @ 10:28 pm


    Thank you everyone for all the thoughtful comments. I didn’t mean to derail this thread completely off-topic, but I really appreciate all the ideas. (and M, yes, sorry that was a typo. I meant to respond to John Brown).

    Posted by Eliyanna
  40. December 11, 2008 @ 3:33 am


    Actually, on the subject of the sponsor, this is actually the first time I have actually bought the item being advertised, (Death By Cliche doesn’t count, it was free) and I am actually glad to have heard about it.
    I drive for a living and usually end up eating a lot of junk. It was nice to try something new that is actually not bad for you that helps with your energy level. I haven’t tried it to get me over writers block, but it sure is darn tasty.

    Posted by WEKM
  41. December 11, 2008 @ 4:07 am


    With a budding romance in my current WIP, this Podcast was very helpful. I plan on doing some major hinting/conflicting with it, but ultimately it will be a red herring. That brings a question:

    How much red herring can a Romance story take and still have the emotional “payout” for the reader?

    Eliyanna : For a great protrayal of a lesbian romance that isn’t a token thing, read David B. Coe’s “Winds of the Forelands” series. It’s really a great read with awsome characterisations.

    Posted by Mark Wise
  42. December 11, 2008 @ 8:47 am


    I was thinking just yesterday that we ought to do a whole podcast on red herrings.

    Posted by Dan Wells
  43. December 11, 2008 @ 10:22 am


    You gentlemen are a delight – as always!

    I didn’t mind the advertisement in the slightest – the cereal sounded tasty and it was done with fun and humour.

    As for the love stories – don’t throw in conflict just to be conflict; misunderstanding can be especially dangerous. After all, there must be something that brings the characters together – I get annoyed by so called “love” stories where the characters barely seem able to get along, aren’t ever honest with each other, don’t trust each other in the slightest, don’t seem to just enjoy each other’s company… Why, then, am I supposed to care? The characters should be happier together than apart.

    Two of the best love stories ever: “Pride and Prejudice” and “Persuasion”… :)

    Posted by LRK
  44. December 11, 2008 @ 10:25 am


    Oh, and more recent and more genre-related: the love story between Delenn and Sheridan in Babylon 5 – it is simply beautiful.

    Posted by LRK
  45. December 11, 2008 @ 9:53 pm


    “I get annoyed by so called “love” stories where the characters barely seem able to get along, aren’t ever honest with each other, don’t trust each other in the slightest, don’t seem to just enjoy each other’s company… Why, then, am I supposed to care? “

    Um… but that sounds like some of my prior relationships. Aren’t I supposed to writing about what I know?!?

    Besies, if you remove all conflict you remove all story. Boy meets [insert object of desire]. The end.

    Posted by Karl
  46. December 12, 2008 @ 6:54 am


    [i]“I get annoyed by so called “love” stories where the characters barely seem able to get along, aren’t ever honest with each other, don’t trust each other in the slightest, don’t seem to just enjoy each other’s company… Why, then, am I supposed to care?” [/i]

    I think Karl answered this right.. Maybe this is cause I’m female and have the tendencies to read into things, but I think that when you have these sort of tensions, you also have underlying conflicts.. “I’m falling in love with ___, but…” or both characters really do like each other, but mask those feelings for whatever reason.. It could be protecting the other, shyness, self-worth, etc.. Sometimes when two people really do like/love each other, and they don’t know how to deal with those feelings, or the feelings are completely unexpected, they can react in ways that are not normal or predictable. What becomes important is how they overcome those conflicts and resolve the issues standing in their way.. To a female reader (maybe just me), it can be quite satisfying when two characters [i]finally[/i] get together after all they went through getting to that point..

    Posted by Kelly in PHX
  47. December 12, 2008 @ 6:55 am


    hmm, guess I don’t know how to make things italicized on this board.. Just pretend that looks right :)

    Posted by Kelly in PHX
  48. December 12, 2008 @ 8:42 am


    Use not [brackets].

    No really! It does work!!

    Posted by Karl
  49. December 12, 2008 @ 8:44 am


    Okay, don’t put words in between “”. As they tend to disappear from sight.

    Posted by Karl
  50. December 12, 2008 @ 8:46 am


    Okay, let’s try it this way: pput them between the greater than and less than symbols.

    Apparently you can’t even depict them as characters without them reading as code.

    Posted by Karl
  51. December 12, 2008 @ 9:46 am


    I think LRK does have a point, though, in terms of love stories that have lots of obstacles that are not properly overcome. If your characters hate each other throughout the story and then decide they love each other in time for the closing kiss–without having actually resolved any of the issues that caused them to hate each other–then it is not a very good romance. It might be a good tragedy, depending on how you handle it, but that’s different.

    Posted by Dan Wells
  52. December 12, 2008 @ 11:02 am


    test

    Do the characters actually hate each other? or only believe they do because they don’t want to face what they really feel? Perhaps this is what you mean when you sayd that they should overcome the obstacles properly?

    Ok, so I love a good romance within a fantasy story…

    Posted by Kelly in PHX
  53. December 12, 2008 @ 11:02 am


    Thanks, Karl! I got it to work!

    Posted by Kelly in PHX
  54. December 12, 2008 @ 12:51 pm


    I’m kind of on the fence on this one. I see both sides of the argument. I get that there are relationships like that and there might be legitimate reasons why… but as LRK said, if I’m reading about two people who seem to (or actually) hate each other, I’m going to spend the whole time wondering why they don’t just go their seperate ways, instead of wanting them to get together.

    Posted by Raethe
  55. December 12, 2008 @ 1:58 pm


    No, of course I don”t mean there should be no conflict – I believe I said “there must be something that brings the characters together ” and “The characters should be happier together than apart.” Merely meaning if you concentrate too hard on the things that are keeping the characters apart, then there is very little love involved at all. I did give “Pride and Prejudice” as an example of a story I loved, you know – and Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet don’t exactly hit it off at once – but on the other hand Mr Darcy is probably the only person who can appreciate Lizzie’s wit and inteelligence – in a way they do understand each other and there grows to be a mutual respect. If I’m not making myself clear, I’m sorry for expressing myself so badly…

    And it’s not merely “hate” – the story I was particularly thinking about, they didn’t hate each other, in fact I, the reader, was supposed to believe they were passionately in love with each other – but there was nothing in their interaction to convince me of their being fond of each other. At all.

    Posted by LRK
  56. December 12, 2008 @ 3:42 pm


    I think it comes down to this: don’t write a love interest for the sole purpose of being a love interest, and also don’t put two characters together for the sole purpose of having romance in the story. They each need to be fully rounded individual characters, and they also need to be a good match, not just a convenient one. (I mean convenient in terms of building a story, not in terms of actually getting together – because as everyone already said, where’s the story in that?) It seems like this falls under the heading of making sure that the characters are driving the story instead of the other way around.

    Posted by Ruthann
  57. December 13, 2008 @ 1:00 pm


    Well, after following these comments the past week I can say with confidence that I have no interest in writing romance.

    Posted by Jake
  58. December 13, 2008 @ 3:05 pm


    Jake, I can understand your frustration..

    I was thinking more on this and I don’t think there’s a way to not write a romance of sorts into the book. Go with me on this for a sec :)

    I think that in every book, there are passions.. Something that your drives your character, motivates them, makes them want to be better than they ever thought they could. In a romance novel, its the love interest. In a fantasy novel, it might be a love interest or a sense of nobility. In a horror novel, the passion might be the need to kill, to possess, to inflict horror, to inflict pain..etc… (obviously, in the sense of horror, being a better person in their eyes would not be the same as being a better person in our eyes, but they don’t know that!)

    The point is that what ever your character’s passion is, it has to be written well. In the case of a romantic element, it has to be done particularly well because the other character needs to be just as credible as your main character.

    I wouldn’t want someone to read this whole thread and lose an element that might enhance the story they are working with. Write your character’s passion well, and you’ll have gotten what you needed to out of this whole thread :)

    Posted by Kelly in PHX
  59. December 13, 2008 @ 7:17 pm


    I’m with Jake. I am taking a machine gun to everyone in my story and then I am just going to write some nice zombie schlock.
    The only love in it will be that for BRAAAAAAAAINS.

    Posted by WEKM
  60. December 14, 2008 @ 11:41 am


    Sounds like Jake is using my philosophy. If it isn’t in character, then don’t put it in.

    Posted by Jame
  61. December 14, 2008 @ 2:37 pm


    In terms of romance like “Romance period” then no Kelly there isn’t a way to not include basic human thoughts and desires and still tell a compelling story. What I was saying is that my particular story (or at least the POV characters) have no room for love. It goes against both their culture and personal goals.

    Posted by Jake
  62. December 15, 2008 @ 9:37 am


    How interesting! Against the culture? To a romantic sap like myself, that is such a foreign idea that I’d have to read it just to see how it is explained!

    Posted by Kelly in PHX
  63. December 24, 2008 @ 6:45 pm


    More or less a transcript (I left out some of the “you knows”)

    http://mbarker.livejournal.com/96426.html

    Posted by Mike Barker
  64. January 3, 2009 @ 12:49 am


    Hello,

    I hope I’m not reviving this episode too long after its death, but I only recently decided to put my reading addiction to good use and started listening to the writing excuses podcasts last night. I just have a little bit to add from another female perspective.

    First off, I would say that M has it right, but that it works the other way around as as well.

    “Either [women] are too confident or not confident enough, too pushy or not assertive enough, too clingy or not emotionally connected to the [man]…” and men can either be too cool or try to hard, be so obvious that it comes across as creepy or seem uninterested. And we really don’t want to see either creepy or uninterested.

    I think a lot of women, even the more confident, really fear rejection. We may be terrifying, but we’re also afraid! Which may be why so many of us over-analyze the touch that might have just been an accidental bump but I’m really not sure it could have meant he likes me but maybe not I just don’t know! And there is much gnashing of teeth. (This is why other female friends are important – to bolster our self-confidence and give a second ‘outsider’ analysis to keep us from losing our minds.) Okay, so that’s how it was in high school. As adults we tend to at least try to act a little more mature about it, though the thoughts and insecurities don’t change. Of course I think this sort of goes for any relationship. After a job interview, you’re going to wonder about how it went, and what the boss’s reactions mean. It’s just that much harder in the beginning of a romantic relationship partly because it is so much more personal, but also because you’re trying harder to be liked for a longer period of time.

    I have to stop, because my train of thought has long ago derailed and my writing will follow if I let it. These are great podcasts, guys! Not only interesting, but highly entertaining. I’m looking forward to more.

    Posted by Arya
  65. March 31, 2009 @ 9:05 pm


    Here’s a question for the Podcasters and the audience.
    My female protagonist falls into the ‘Warrior Woman’ archetype, tall, strong, martially capable and mind-numbingly beautiful. Usually sure of herself, enjoys men but doesn’t fall for them, and almost always go for the strong, stupid, and easily manipulated with sex type of man.
    Now… how do you justify her falling head-over-heals for her short and geeky, but honorable, chem partner?

    Posted by Charles