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Podcast notes:

Often in storytelling, the villain has already arrived at their moment of ‘power’ and it’s the protagonist who must rise to that level

How can you give a flawed character an arc overcoming those flaws without losing what made them interesting in the beginning of the story: 

When giving a character tragic character flaws…try only giving them ONE flaw and make them fine in other areas, Can help avoid them being ANNOYING. Example: House. He’s competent, but he’s a curmudgeon…interestingly, he never fully grows out of that curmudgeon-ness (crucial for a SERIES…which is different from a self-contained story)

Giving a flawed character someone who adores them FOR (or despite?) their flaws can go a very long way toward making sure that character stays likable even with their tragic flaw

Make sure that everything in a story is not about the main character – give your side characters their own agency, wants and desires. You can have your main character or POV character learn something they never knew about a supporting character

Even if you have an observational character (like in the Great Gatsby or Doctor Watson), you must still give that non-action protagonist something to do and some life away from the main character.

“Furies of Calderon” by Jim Butcher – excellent fantasy book, read by Kate Redding.

When your character has no life outside the plot, plot is driving your character, not vice-versa. You know for sure you have a problem when your character is being FORCED by the plot to do something that is not in their personality — best discovered with outside readers.

Always keep in mind ‘what does the character want?’

How do you divide character views from author views: have other characters call them on those views or at least RESPOND to those views, and/or have characters check themselves, and/or have another character model other behavior

With a whole culture that holds some sort of controversial value, you can undercut that value by showing characters of that culture undercutting those values – showing a more realistic hipocrisy.

How to write characters with different sex, gender, religion, etc. than your own as the author: USE SOURCES with those beliefs. Your job is to make that character’s argument as well as people would actually make about their identity. Look for ways they are like you as the author, and ways they are different. Use alpha readers that are from those cultures/groups! If it’s a now non-existent culture, use historical documents like letters, documents, artwork, etc.

Be very careful about using your narrative to undermine any particular group.

Tips and tricks for a sympathetic antagonist: give them a reasonable argument and point of view.

Writing exercise:

Sketch out the events before and after your dead-drop scene from last week and three weeks ago.

A university teacher on Mars was approached by a seedy man in her classroom and told her brother was in the custody of this man’s ‘organization.’ He’d be killed if she didn’t do as they say. She suspects that this man represents a terrorist organization in the Martian colony who want independence for Mars and are analogous to the IRA days in Ireland. She’s given a package she must deliver to the central marketplace in this area of the colony.

The shop lady from the market turns out to be an undercover police agent, and she comes-to on the scene of the bombing, recalling what had happened and what she had seen. She’s grilled for why she didn’t stop the woman, and she explains it wasn’t anyone they recognized, the woman with the package wasn’t on any of their wanted lists. The death toll is depressing, and our antagonist is beside herself with guilt at not having been able to stop the bombing. She’s injured, and so she’s put on leave to heal.