My Reflections on Writing Excuses 13.40 – Fixing Character Problems – Part 1

Ooo! Episode 13.40 looks interesting! I like this idea of having many teams answering the same questions, so I hope this works out. There’s been a lingering problem that Writing Excuses has had the last few seasons – the same answers to what amount to the same questions. At the end of the day, after a while, you find yourself in the same rut of questions about story as last season and the season before that. I think that was a big driver in past seasons to do the Master Class and the new teams this year.

But this year, we’re in a sort of twilight area – the new teams are great with energy, but their viewpoints are kinda…basic? And the same as what Brandon and Co. have been talking about with past seasons. Some of the episodes are really good where the new teams present great new ideas. But the basic stuff? Feels basic.

So, I’m really hoping that next week’s part 2 isn’t just “Part 1 as read by different people”. Really hoping the other presenters have some different ideas.

If not, maybe the format needs to be bigger presenter pool all at once, not multiple small teams? Don’t know.

On to the actual MEAT of the episode though!

On the first question about how to fix characters that feel boring, I think I’m in the “Dan Camp” of characters. As part of a craft read with my writing group of John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story, I’m learning that I like finding the ways in which the characters reflect the moral message and plot. Not that they are driven by plot, but in how those character values and conflict between those values are brought to the front by the plot. So hearing that Dan’s approach is to interrogate the plot and see why his characters are n’t shining in it makes a lot of sense to me right now.

In fact, I think all four of the presenters gave completely different approaches or thoughts on this concept – Dan’s connecting character to plot, Howard’s connection to character role/archetype, Mary’s internal and external attributes for POV vs. non-POV, and Brandon’s connection to pro-activity. Each are different approaches in how character can develop. That was cool to me.

The rest of the episode kind petered out from there to me – I haven’t yet read all of  Dan’s Serial Killer series (because of some personal triggers with children with mental/emotional disorders) and while I’m up to date on Schlock Mercenary, I guess I didn’t find Schlock’s character arc as impactful as others. I liked it, but it wasn’t as…jarring as others may have experienced it. Possibly that’s because I like my characters to grow – I’m much less interested in iconic characters as I’ve seen them represented, Even though I can understand why they are fun to watch/read, they are never the characters I loved.

The homework, while interesting, isn’t something that I think I’d find helpful yet in my stage of writing – mostly because I intuit character stuff too much right now. I need a more rigorous approach and this just feels like more throwing stuff at the wall to see what doesn’t stick, which is what I already do. So, I’ll bypass that one for now.

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