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Podcast notes:

We’re talking about casting your book, and how to keep them distinct from each other, big cast or small

Who needs to be in the story in order for the plot to move forward.

“Spear carriers” are scenery, they are background, they do not have any agency in furthering the plot on their own…we do not spend time on them

Supporting characters recur, have lines, and further the plot on their own…or HINDER the plot (even better?) — they AFFECT the plot

A great example of creating distinct characters with personality are in heist movies – the hitter/heavy, the face man, the hacker, the safe cracker, the distraction, etc.

One of the reasons why the brothers in Ocean’s 11 (the distractions) were so scene-stealing is because they were in conflict with EACH OTHER and not just bouncing up off the plot

Sometimes, just a couple of really good lines of dialogue can be enough to flesh a character out and make them a real person. It doesn’t always have to be a lot, it can be a little

Agent Colson in The Avengers is a great example of a good supporting character — the line asking if he’s still dating the cellist, how he reacts differently to each of the different Avengers. Even though his job is literally just to react to what’s happening, we still love him.

DO NOT let each side character represent a culture (like, this is the dwarf, this is the elf, etc.) — if you’re showing an alien culture, make sure you show more than one example of a person in that culture, show a range that way so that the culture becomes non-monolithic. AVOID TOKENISM by having more than one character from a culture that are very different from each other.

Writing Exercise:

Pick one of the dead-drop characters from the exercise two weeks ago, and turn them into a secondary character. Now take one of the characters with whom they interacted, and write the same scene again, but from this new character’s POV.

I’d never have noticed her if it hadn’t been for Gimlet.

It was a busy Tenth Day. The last two daylights of a tenday are always the busiest. “Amateur-hour” is what we call it in the tents, even though it’s far longer than just one hour, and ‘amateur’ is being kind to some of the nitwits that come to the market, scrambling to get their vegetables or their books or their trinkets. They yell and they push as the walkways fill up with bodies. The market fills with noise.

The noise means it’s busy. I don’t mind that. It’s the pushing, and it’s the stupid haggling that so many of them try, those that are from the south quarter especially.

Gimlet was haggling. He wanted his 6 grams of all-spice for 18 credits. I sell spices, did I mention that? The finest on Paladine. I’ve always sold them for 24. Every day, tenday in, tenday out. Four credits per gram. Six grams is 24 credits. Gimlet wanted them for 18. It was like a play that the two of us had settled into, this back and forth – him pressing for a deal, me standing firm. Something must have been up with him this Tenth Day, though, because he wasn’t backing down. He was getting more heated the longer the back and forth went on, to the point where I threw up my hands and turned to help someone else.

Gimlet grabbed me from across the counter and yanked me back towards him.

I immediately smacked his hand away, and he recoiled. In hindsight, I can imagine now that he was surprised at what he’d done, more so perhaps than me…but at the time I was hopping mad. I pointed right at his sweaty mug, and I laid into him big time. Told him something along the lines of ‘you do that again and I’ll never sell you another milligram of your precious all-spice’…

And that was when I saw her. She was in the throng of amateur hour, slipping through the walkway right behind Gimlet and his stupid red face, ghostly white and wide-eyed. She stood out so because she was so unnervingly focused on one point in the distance. She wasn’t looking at any of the tents or booths, she wasn’t shopping or sight-seeing. She was terrified. And clutching a small brown package to her chest.

I stopped what I was doing. Everything. Stopped chewing out Gimlet, stopped watching the other customers browsing or trying to catch my attention, and I only watched that terrified woman walking down the aisle outside my booth.

She was out of sight a moment later, and I murmured a quick apology to a bewildered Gimlet, and I stepped over the barrels I kept at my side entrance to keep the kids from running into the inside of my booth. My skirt caught on one of the rusty nails sticking from the top, which forced me to pause and unhook myself. Freed, I pressed myself into the throng of people, and I stood on my toes to see over everyone’s heads to try and find her. I’m not that tall, so I wasn’t having much luck.

But then I saw her.

She was down the aisle now several meters. Maybe two dozen or so. She was standing in front of an empty booth, one with a blue awning. She was holding the brown package to her chest.

The brown package was beeping.

My calves were starting to hurt from straining upward to see, and so I released them and dropped flat-footed again to the ground.

An explosion ripped through the marketplace.

The aid workers later in from the capital city told me I’m fortunate I was as short as I am. The taller people around me that didn’t need their tippy-toes to see over the crowd bore the brunt of the blast. Most of them had died instantly. I was…lucky.

I didn’t see the blast, all those who did are dead. But I know where it came from.

It came from the woman with the white face. I know it did.