Sunday, June 24, 2012

Episode 45- Writing Consistent Characters

In this episode, Alan and Dave discuss character motivations and decisions in the context of two poorly written recent movies.

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 Show notes:

Alan continues to work on the video game project plus juggling various other projects. Dave has completed the first draft of his latest YA book.

We discuss the problem of contemporary novelists padding their books and finding the balance between adequate development and tight plotting.

 Terry Goodkind will be self-publishing a book while still publishing with Tor. Is the "hybrid" model what the future will look like for many successful authors?

Many people connected to corporate/traditional publishing have recently been circulating the notion that it takes several thousand dollars to publish an ebook. Post by Michael Stackpole on this topic. What does it truly take to publish a book?

Listener Josh asks how much can a writer bend history or use debunked devices? Is it acceptable to simply add notes from the author? We'd like to hear from listeners on this subject. Comment here, email us, or message us on Facebook.

By the way, have you liked us on Facebook? Followed us on Twitter? 

Promo- Secondworld by Jeremy Robinson.

Writing consistent characters- motivations and decisions.

Alan was horrified by the story line of Prometheus.  Every thing the characters did made no sense.  (BTW- if something is falling on you, don't run along its length; run to the side.)

Why do studios spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make a movie visually stunning but not bother make sure the story makes sense?

The evidence that sets the Prometheus plot in motion does not make sense. This is a critical element in many action-adventure books in particular.

Alan's blog/rant about Prometheus.

David found his share of problems with the story line of Snow White and the Huntsman.

If you give a character tremendous power, and that character chooses not to use those powers to their full extent, you need to explain why.

If your character makes seemingly foolish decisions, either give a valid reason for those decisions, or establish that the character is a fool.

Why do moviegoers seem to have lower expectations in terms of storytelling than book readers do?

Dave's blog/rant about Snow White and the Huntsman.

What can writers learn from these movies?

Set higher expectations for ourselves.

Have a thorough understanding of the characters you create. What motivates him/her? In that way we can make sure decisions are consistent with personality.

Many thriller writers don't develop characters in depth, which gives them an easy "out" when their character doesn't act "in character."

Don't have your character act "out of character" in order to deal with a conflict; come up with creative ways for the character to deal with it. That's one of the challenges of good writing.

Dave discusses the way he "works backward" from his MacGuffin to make sure his protagonist, antagonist, and characters in the back-story are doing things that make sense.

An author must maintain relationships with people who will give honest critique about her/his work. We need someone to point out the flaws.

Episode 46 will be weird because it was partially recorded prior to this one, but Dave botched the interview segment and had to reschedule it.


  1. Greetings,

    Podcast #45 was excellent. You raised some great questions and really got me thinking.

    1. Why do studios keep putting out crap with zero narrative value? In the Roman Empire it was all about bread and circuses; today we have big screen explosions and way cool special effects. The average American movie goer is there for pure escapism - don't make him think or pay attention to details, right?

    2. Self-pub "startup" costs? Do it yourself (with the right freeware, generous friends who can edit and/or do graphic design) for under $400 easily.

    3. With regards to the "breaking point" of history vs. fiction I think most readers are delighted to suspend their disbelief as long as it makes for a great story. A simple notation in the Author's Notes is perfectly fine. Based on the nature of the book, a clever author might even be able to incorporate the "debunked" status into the narrative structure;
    PROTAG: "Is that what I think it is?"
    SHADOWY GOVT HANDLER: "Yep. We keep it under lock and key at all times."
    PROTAG: "But I thought it was proven to be a fake?"
    GOVT. HANDLER: "Yes. Yes, it was. Hurry up. We can't keep the President waiting."

    Looking forward to the next episode. Thanks!

  2. Chris, I agree with all your points. Re escapism, I think Alan will agree with me that a bad story prevents me from escaping into it. The errors distract me from the experience. Maybe the average viewer doesn't feel the same way?