Tag Archives: Characters

11.Bonus-01: Characterization and Differentiation, with Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb joined us at GenCon Indy for a discussion of characterization and differentiation. And by “discussion,” what we really mean is “we ask Robin all the questions.” We learn about Robin’s process for creating characters, wrapping stories around them, and making these characters distinctly different from each other.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Joel Burnham, and mastered by Alex Jackson, and was made possible by the generous support of the GenCon Indy Writer’s Symposium, and the Writing Excuses patrons at Patreon.


Pull some of your favorite books down, examine the dialog itself, without tags, and determine what tricks the writer has used to differentiate the character voices.

Hex, by Thomas Olde Huevelt

11.41: The Editor’s Wish List, with Navah Wolfe

Navah Wolfe, an editor at Saga Press, joined us to talk about the manuscripts she would really like to see. Ordinarily we don’t encourage people to write to the market, but Navah asked specifically for the opportunity to tell our listeners what she’s looking for. As it happens, tracking Navah’s wish list as you write is unlikely to send you haring after the latest trend—you’re far more likely to develop some new writing skills that will make your work more enjoyable, more fulfilling, and ultimately easier to sell.

Spoiler Warning: In three weeks we’ll be doing a Project in Depth on Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal. If you want to get the most out of that episode, you have three weeks to acquire and read the book.

Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.



Write two different “this meets that” pitches, once with a focus on the emotional heart, and once with a focus on set dressing.

The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, edited by Navah Wolfe (available October 18th, 2016. No audio version available yet.)

11.40: Elemental Drama

The word “drama” gets thrown around a lot. What do we mean when we use “drama” as an elemental genre? For us, Elemental Drama focuses on one character’s transformation, and how that transformation affects everyone around them.

This is a narrow definition of the word, but it’s a very useful way to look at books where the character journey is what has us turning pages. We talk about the tools we use to write these stories, and what kinds of things might trip us up.

Credits: this episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Let’s foreshadow the failure state: look at something you’ve recently written, and then go back and insert a character who represents the failure state that your protagonist must avoid.

Ink and Ashes, by  Valynne E. Maetani

11.37: Casting Your Book, with Gama Martinez

Live from Phoenix Comic Con, Gama Martinez joins us for a discussion of casting your book. This is the process by which you create a cast of characters for your story ahead of creating the story itself, allowing you to stay ahead of your default decisions for who will step into the scene next.

Credits: this episode was recorded live at Phoenix Comic Con by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Cast your book! The instructions are here, and you’ll follow them by filling out something that looks like this casting sheet. The sheet is read-only, but you can copy it or print it or whatever you need to do in order to create one of your own.


Child of the Wilde, by Gama Martinez

11.36: The Elemental Relationship

In elemental relationship stories the primary page-turning driver is the relationship between two or three characters ¹. In this episode we discuss ways in which we can write character relationships—parent/child, buddy-cop, romance, and more—to be compelling.

Credits: this episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson

¹We’re differentiating “Relationship” from “Ensemble” because in our elemental genre model the elemental ensemble story is quite a bit different from the elemental relationship.


Grab a romantic comedy of some kind. Watch it, and take notes of the things that define their relationship, and how it progresses.

11.25: Elemental Mystery is Everywhere

Per our Elemental Genre theme, this week we further explore elemental mystery. Elemental mystery can be found in any work in which our curiosity is what keeps us turning pages. The type of satisfaction we feel at the reveal may also reveal the elemental genre in which the element of mystery has been embedded.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 



Put a mystery into whatever it is you’re working on. Look at what your character knows they need, and then remove that knowledge. Force the character to figure out WHAT they need.

Thud, by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs