Writing Excuses 8.30: Writing Reluctant Characters

What’s a reluctant character? Well, it’s somebody who needs to be dragged along into the adventure, somebody who isn’t the sort of self-motivated, go-getter that we so often populate our books with. These characters feel a lot like real people — our world is full of folks like this. The trick lies in making these characters interesting to read.

We offer some examples from things we’ve read, some general structural tricks, and some of the tools we’ve used in our own work, including examples from Glamour in Glass, The Way of Kings, and The Hollow City.

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Create a character who is either weak or reluctant, determine why they are weak or reluctant, and then write the decision point.

Celebromancy, by Michael R. Underwood, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal, who gets to make a light-saber noise as part of the narration…

Writing Excuses 8.29: Out of Excuses Retreat Q&A #1

We recorded this episode in front of our live audience at the first-ever Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat. Here are the questions (you’ll have to listen for the answers):

  • To Dan: How did you go about selling your first trilogy in Germany before selling it in the US
  • To Howard: did you consider doing a separate storyline on Sunday strips? Why or why not?
  • Have you transitioned between outlining and discovery writing?
  • To Brandon: Why is John Scalzi your evil nemesis?
  • To Dan and Howard (and Mary): When you had full-time work, what did you do to “reset” when you came home from work, especially since your job used the same parts of your brain that writing does?

A Humble Suggestion for the Name of John Scalzi’s Next Band: Neil Gaiman’s Eagle Balls

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Someone is doing a puppetry move so extreme they end up hospitalized.

The Human Division, by John Scalzi, narrated by William Dufris. (We were told that Wil Wheaton would be narrating this, but according to Audible the narrator is William Dufris.)

Writing Excuses 8.28: Your First Contract

We haven’t talked much about contracts in the past. Why not? Well, we’re not lawyers and we’re not agents, so our experience with contracts has been as parties to them. But there are things we can still offer without delving into the baffling legalese.

So we offer them: we talk about how we approach contracts, how we value ourselves when entering into a contract negotiation, and what sorts of resources we have. We talk about some terminology, some of the clauses to review, and the incentives in front of the publisher and the author.

Note! Any advice you hear from us must be qualified based on your situation — your publisher, your agent, your market — and especially based on when you’re listening to this ‘cast. If it’s not 2013 right now, the odds are pretty good we’re wrong.

Audio Note: Yes, there’s a long lead-in there. Jordo will fix it eventually, I’m sure.

Profanym of the Week: “Schick a Brit.”

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Write, as part of whatever story you’re working on, a contract that is both horrible and magical.

Without a Summer, by Mary Robinette Kowal, narrated by Mary herself

Writing Excuses 8.27: Chapter Breakdowns

What determines our chapter breaks? How do we handle POV shifts, scene-sequel balance, and other considerations when we’re carving our stories into chapters?

Dan starts with a discussion of the POV considerations in Fragments and in Ruins (from the Partials series,) and Brandon contrasts that with some of the epic fantasy methods. We argue the respective merits and pitfalls of rapid switching and large blocks, and then we talk about how the chapters take shape during our outlines and initial drafts.

Episode Trivia: This was the first episode we recorded at the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat, and was the first time in a year that the four of us had been together to record. So rusty!

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Play

Outline a two-character plot arc, and then break it into chapters. Experiment with big blocks and little blocks of POV in this chapter-chopped outline, and consider how this will affect the arc.

Promise of Blood, by Brian McClellan, narrated by Christian Rodska