By Writing Excuses | October 10, 2010 - 4:58 pm - Posted in Business, Characters, Q&A

You’re going to love this one. This fast-paced episode of Writing Excuses goes out to everybody who thinks Writing Excuses isn’t already fast-paced enough.

We’ve done Q&A episodes before, but this one is special. This time we applied our “shot clock” to each question we fielded, and set out to knock each one down within three minutes.

The Questions:

What’s the right way to kill a character?

Who are the authors who have influenced you the most, and why?

When do you quit your day-job?

Brandon, would killing you and partaking of your flesh grant the killer your powers?

What do you do when you discover you hate a character you’re writing?

How do you respond to accusations of having written Mary Sue characters?

What are some basic tools for ensuring that all characters in a story have different voices?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

Writing Prompt: Two critics who reviewed Dan Wells’ book and who had completely opposite reactions actually read two different books…

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This entry was posted on Sunday, October 10th, 2010 at 4:58 pm and is filed under Business, Characters, Q&A. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

23 Comments

  1. October 10, 2010 @ 6:18 pm


    I don’t remember what podcast it is in, but Howard’s story of how he chose to leave his day job is really cool and really quite inspiring.

    Great ‘cast guys.

    Posted by David
  2. October 10, 2010 @ 6:30 pm


    Great podcast, I did love this one. I laughed out loud more than once. Thanks.

    When do you quit your day-job? In my case my job keeps quitting me, I hate this economy.

    What are some basic tools for ensuring that all tools in a story have different voices? First I find a photo on the internet that matches my characters personality. Then I think of people I know. I pay close attention to their word choices when they use grammar and then match one to my character. When I write that characters parts I look at the photo and I become that character. It helps to be just a little schizophrenic.

    Posted by Oletta
  3. October 10, 2010 @ 7:03 pm


    That’s a fascinating comment about how to make your characters’ voices more distinctive (letting them follow their passions instead of trying to fit them into what you think they’d believe). It reminds me of Tracy Hickman’s outlining advice at LTUE a couple of years ago, where he said that writing an outline is like grasping a handful of marbles: if you hold on too tight or too loose, they’ll fall out, but if you create a general shape and let them fill it in, then it works.

    For me, I’ve found the best method is to create a solid backstory for each character and follow it out from there. I can’t discovery write my characters if I don’t know where in the story of their lives they already are, but once I do, I find that they often surprise me.

    Thanks guys. Great podcast.

    Posted by onelowerlight
  4. October 10, 2010 @ 9:42 pm


    Yeah, the exercise you suggested for characters’ voices is definitely my writing prompt this week. Thanks for the Q&A, this was a good episode!

    Posted by Matthew Whitehead
  5. October 10, 2010 @ 10:38 pm


    Right way to kill characters, not relatives? You nearly made me spray my juice onto the monitor.

    Another great podcast, not much more I can say.

    Well, aside from observing the interesting fact that “Mary Sue” stays the same, but I’ve heard Harry Stu, Gary Stu, Larry Stu and now Marty Stu….

    Posted by Rashkavar
  6. October 11, 2010 @ 5:49 am


    Very much enjoyed this one this morning… “Thanks the sphynx” LOL.
    I really really really hate mondays but at least this hatred is somewhat diminished by the fact that I can listen to a new writing excuses episode…

    Posted by Jonathan
  7. October 11, 2010 @ 6:12 am


    So. Howard follows God, Dan follows his wife, and Brandon follows the money. ;)

    Posted by Katya
  8. October 11, 2010 @ 11:18 am


    Nice pod cast, I certainly would not mind one or two more in this vein this season.

    Posted by Joseph
  9. October 11, 2010 @ 2:21 pm


    Best character death goes to George R R Martin for the Red Wedding in Storm of Swords. Definitely the right way to kill an important character.

    Posted by Redstar
  10. October 11, 2010 @ 8:48 pm


    I love this podcast, I’ve listen to most episodes, but I think I missed the last season, I’m a binge podcast listener so after listening to 3 seasons straight through I took a long break. This podcast and “I should be writing” are the only two podcasts I enjoy enough to subscribe too

    I like the advice you gave on keeping character voices distinct, It make me want to write more just to try out voices :D

    Posted by Keith Manning
  11. October 11, 2010 @ 10:54 pm


    Re-listened to the podcast today. I would disagree with the comment about the red shirts–I don’t think there’s ever a time, in good writing, to kill off a character solely for the sake of killing them. The only difference IMO between killing major and minor characters should be how much of their story we get in the narrative. For major characters, enough is explicit that we get the emotional payoff, but even for minor characters, I think we should get the sense that there’s something more behind it than a cool swamp monster.

    That might just be my own tastes in fiction, however. Now that I’ve grown up, I can’t stand mooks.

    Posted by onelowerlight
  12. October 12, 2010 @ 3:34 am


    @onelowerlight, I have to disagree, sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice an unimportant character to the swamp monster just to show that it is in deed a dangerous creature, then the reader knows what could happen when our hero has to confront it.

    @Katya, Hey that is a good observation! Personally I would faith on the money.

    Posted by Oletta
  13. October 12, 2010 @ 5:34 am


    @Oletta — Certainly it’s necessary to sacrifice characters to create a sense of danger and show off the capabilities of the bad guys; I’m just saying that there needs to be a deeper story, explicit or implicit, than “haha, you’re dead now–sucks to be you!”

    Posted by onelowerlight
  14. October 12, 2010 @ 6:09 am


    I would kill a red shirt every day if it meant more Writing Excuses per week. Perhaps we can work out some kind of deal… For every bloody red shirt I send you will make another episode. Sounds like a bargain to me.

    Posted by DH
  15. October 12, 2010 @ 6:40 am


    @DH: This is not the first time someone has offered to send me murder trophies in exchange for more frequent updates.

    It’s an attractive offer, but my walls are full…

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  16. October 12, 2010 @ 3:35 pm


    Thanks guys, not just for the info, but I always get a laugh from these. I particularly liked Howard’s suggestion about having something grossly unfair happen to a character to make us like them, and I am totally going to steal that. ^_^

    My brain goes TILT at the thought of any of you being associated with Mary Sues. I don’t think you guys could do one if you tried. Admittedly, I’m pretty old school about it: a true Mary Sue makes the reader want to gag. She takes Too Good To Be True to outrageous limits, becoming the center of the universe for every other character. She’s just so SPESHUL. And she has perfect waist length hair and emerald eyes.

    Here’s the Lord of the Rings Mary Sue Litmus test – my favorite is no. 87:
    http://lotrscrapbook.bookloaf.net/other/marysue.html

    Posted by Laurie
  17. October 12, 2010 @ 4:30 pm


    @Laurie: That “litmus” test is anything but. “Litmus” refers to a paper that changes color in an immediately noticeable way when dipped in a solution that contains whatever it is you’re testing for. BAM, you get a yes/no answer immediately.

    That LOTR thing, while funny, is more like a spectroscopic analysis.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  18. October 13, 2010 @ 9:41 am


    :-)

    Posted by Laurie
  19. October 13, 2010 @ 9:53 am


    What author/books does Brandon mention at about 3:50? Sorry, but I can’t quite catch it. Is that Sun Rider?

    Posted by Robyn
  20. October 13, 2010 @ 12:00 pm


    @Robyn: Melanie Rawn is the author. The link will get you what you need.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  21. October 13, 2010 @ 7:59 pm


    And another one bites the dust — a transcript!

    http://mbarker.livejournal.com/194643.html

    Posted by Mike Barker
  22. October 14, 2010 @ 2:56 pm


    It is always odd to hear you talk about Mary- Sues, since it means something quite different in the circles I travel in.

    Posted by Tovath
  23. October 16, 2010 @ 2:35 am


    @Howard: Well, looks like I got a bonus episode just for suggesting it… ;)

    Posted by DH