SEASON 7: 

dimensional characters + worldbuilding

Flat characters spell disaster for our novels because they're boring. Nobody wants to read a story where the main character is exactly who they appear to be. So what do we do? We create characters with dimension. This season, Valerie explores what "dimensi on" means and how writers create it.

A fictional world is a key feature of all stories (not just fantasy and sci - fi) because it is literally the space in which the narrative takes place. As such, it enhances the storytelling in myriad ways including illum inating character and underpinning symbolism. This season, Melanie does a very deep dive into fictional worlds and how to create them.

This movie is all about the inner turmoil of Louis Wain. You may not recognize his name, but you’ll recognize his art (it’s worth Googling). If you have a pet cat, it’s because of Louis Wain. Communicating a character’s inner thoughts or mental state is a tricky thing for film to do. It can be tricky for novelists too because it often leads to long passages of exposition. But externalizing the internal can (and must) be done. Do you know how? If not, this episode will show you how.

This movie is so light and joyful that it’s easy to dismiss it as fluff, but nothing could be further from the truth. Pretty Woman is a masterclass in the fundamentals of storytelling. The plot isn’t fancy (it isn’t even original), but it’s rock solid and the presentation of the characters is spot on. Yes, we’re discussing character development and worldbuilding again, but the real beauty here is how well the filmmakers leaned into the fundamentals to tell a story for the ages.

Nanowrimo starts tomorrow and if you’re going to win, you’ve got to have a strategy. It’s no small task to write an entire draft of a novel in thirty days! Luckily, in this bonus episode Valerie is here with three proven strategies that to help you do just that. You don’t need to follow all three, just pick one that works and go for it. Good luck!

By popular request! So many of you have messaged Valerie about this movie, that she’s finally decided to tackle it head on. All the questions you’ve sent in boil down to one thing…you didn’t like the movie, but you can’t put your finger on why. In this bonus episode, Valerie shares her insights. Given the star-power attached to this project, her answer might surprise you.

Anyone writing historical fiction needs to pay particular attention to how they build the world for the reader/viewer. In this week’s episode, Melanie explains how to construct a fictional world around three main setting types. It’s fascinating stuff! And Valerie explores what happens when the most interesting character in the story is NOT the protagonist. Does it spell trouble for the narrative, or is there a way (and a reason) to pull it off?

It’s one thing to write a dramatic character, but what if you want to write a comedic one? Do the same storytelling principles apply, or not? And what about the setting? It’s yet another story set in New York so how did the writers distinguish it from the NYC we saw in FATAL ATTRACTION and CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? All this and much more in this week’s episode.

Ok, so basically, this movie is a bunch of action scenes strung together with expository dialogue. It’s heavy-handed with theme (dare we say didactic?) and is bizarre even by antiplot standards. But, it’s kind of an interesting film to study for worldbuilding all the same.

(Oh, and in this episode there’s an unintended cameo by Luca, Valerie’s yellow Labrador puppy. He clearly had opinions about Everything Everywhere All At Once that he needed to share.)

Hooboy, this movie gets better with age. Why? Because when we watch it through the lens of 2023 it has much more depth and nuance. Glenn Close’s character (Alex) is supposed to be the villain, but is she really? If you want to create a multi-dimensional antagonist who drives the plot and raises the stakes, you’ve got to listen to this episode.

This is an episode you’re going to want to bookmark because Melanie is offering up oodles of info about how to create a fictional world your readers will love. Yes, District 9 is science fiction, but the principles apply to all genres and all world types; contemporary, realistic, historical, fantasy…you name it. And Valerie continues her study of character development with a look at what can happen to your story when your reader empathizes more with the victim than the protagonist (hint: it’s not good).

Because the novel is so funny and easy to read, and because the film is a romcom, it’s easy to dismiss Bridget Jones’s Diary as a simple story that Helen Fielding simply dashed off on a weekend. But nothing could be further from the truth. Even though it’s a lighthearted story, Bridget is still a dimensional character and that’s why we love her.

Here’s an episode that will help you improve your line writing. Yes, Melanie is focusing on the poetic devices of metaphor, simile, and allegory, but they also apply to prose. So if you want to crank your writing up a notch, this one’s for you.

Very few movies make an adult afraid of what’s hiding under her bed, but this is one of them…and it isn’t even a horror movie. That’s the power of effective world-building! Even though this movie is set in NYC, it’s a version of the city that’s specific to the protagonist. How is the world of your story specific to your protagonist?

It’s a brand new season and that means brand new topics. For the next ten weeks, Valerie will study character development and Melanie will study world-building. These massive topics go hand-in-hand because every protagonist is a product of his/her environment. This is a season you don’t want to miss!

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