Creating Believable Characters

[0:00:00.5] TG: Hello and welcome to the Story Grid Podcast. This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better writer. I’m your host, Tim Grahl and I am a struggling writer trying to figure out how to tell a story that works. Joining me shortly is Shawn Coyne, he is the creator of Story Grid, the author of the book the Story Grid and an editor with over 25 years’ experience.

In this episode, we’re putting my book on hold a little bit as I am racing to finish it. I’m going to go ahead and finish it before I show anything else to Shawn. I’m already thinking ahead about what I’m going to need to do after the second draft is done and one of the things is thinking about the cast of characters in my book and how I should be thinking about them and how I can do a good job portraying them and creating them.

If you are writing a book that has characters in it, then I think you will enjoy this episode. Let’s jump in and get started.


[0:00:59.5] TG: So Shawn, I’m making good progress on the book. I’ve decided I’m just going to finish and show you the finished product. That’s what I’m working on. I feel like I’ll probably – I don’t want to box myself in too much, but at my current rate I should be done in about two weeks with a draft that I’ll be ready to show you.

In the meantime I’ve been thinking, it’s one of these I feel pretty confident about where I’m going in the story and so I’m already thinking about what I need to do. Honestly what I’ve been thinking about a lot is several weeks ago during one of the scenes, you just said in passing you’re really going to have to ground this world in reality. I’ve been thinking about the characters that are not the main players. I feel like, I’m trying to decide who the cast of characters is supposed to be and what role they’re supposed to play and trying to be very careful to not let this block me, like the whole emotional valiance thing, but I feel I’m rolling.

I wanted to think a little bit about the cast of characters around Jesse and who they are and also like, I don’t know, trying to think about doing the whole surprising thing, different ways I could twist things to make them not just cardboard cutouts that sort of thing. I’m not sure. I mean, as I say that, I realize it’s a giant subject that you could probably spend an entire masterclass talking about. I was just wanting to open it there of thinking about I was thinking specifically about Az’s friends, how much I should be fleshing them out.

I was thinking this might have as we go through one of the ways I know we’ll look at the draft is through the lens of the hero’s journey, but not just the moments but the archetypal characters as well. I just wanted to spend some time talking about. We talked about what makes a good villain a few weeks ago and I was thinking what makes good sidekicks, or what makes good mentors, not just the villains.

[0:03:19.5] SC: Sure. The thing about the cast of characters, there’s a couple of ways looking at it, but I think the one that that really is the most helpful is there are six archetypical figures that need to be in there in one form or another. They need to at least be had their presence known. A lot of them are obvious. The first two of course, are the hero and the adversary. The hero is going to be Jesse and the adversary is going to be Az. The thing about the hero and the adversary is that if you look at it – let me just move on from those two. Those are the two most obvious.

The second ones are, for lack of a better word, the two poles of order and they take in anthropomorphic form in characterization. You have the character that’s the wise king and the tyrant. The wise king is the mentor figure who understands the necessity for the social structure to be constantly refreshed by the new generation. The wise king would be somebody like Gandalf, or Obi-wan Kenobi. These are the figures who seem to have wisdom and navigate the world in such a way that they are capable of living in a world that is filled with danger and uncertainty and chaos, and also having a fundamental core of moral value that they rely upon to keep them sane.

The wise king is one of the archetypes within the order realm, and the other one is the tyrant. The tyrant is the one who believes that the world is basically irrevocably screwed up, and that there is no way we will ever be able to contend with the uncertainty of nature. The way they deal with that is they come up with a total worldview and they’re the totalitarians. They’re the ones who insist upon rules. As long as we follow these rules, and they believe that they are the ones who are the ultimate judge of what should be a rule and what shouldn’t be, as long as we follow their guidance, then everything will be okay.

In exchange, people attach to these figures because they promised a secure world, right? They wall in society with these rules and the people inside in order to be safe, they give up their freedoms. Those are the two archetypes in terms of order. Then there’s two archetypes in terms of chaos. There are the what I would say is the role of the person, or even institution that is filled with potential.

The potential of a particular environment is an archetype. Sometimes that archetype takes on a role, often feminine, sometimes male where they are this – it’s like Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz. Glinda the Good Witch is not someone who’s going to have her worldview – she’s not a violent, like I must defend my worldview. She’s there to help. She’s there as a force of nature that will intervene and create potential when necessary.

For example, in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and the Tin Man and the Lion and the Scarecrow are going through the poppy field, it’s a warm summer day and they get overwhelmed by the scent and the poppies and they’re going to fall asleep and never come out of that thing. What Glinda the Good Witch does is she causes a snow storm. She is the force of nature that it seems to be uncertain and yet, provides an opportunity of potential that can change things for the better. It’s a creational creative force. That’s on the good side of the chaotic world.

We don’t know, sometimes when there’s a drought, rain comes. We don’t know when, we don’t know why, but the rain comes and that’s a creative force that’s out of a chaotic universe that descends upon the earth that gives us sustenance. Now, there’s also the opposite of that which is the destructive force of nature which is also a random thing. There could be a storm, there could be lightning, whatever. If you don’t have that moment in the story where something like that happens, the reader can often feel there’s something a little bit off about the world here.

It’s a good thing to think about in terms of the cast, because you can get overwhelmed by the plotting and the story structure and all that stuff and then forget about, “Oh, well there are these two forces; the forces of nature, of creation and versus destruction.” Now is there something where I could do a Glinda the Good Witch event without having a Glinda the Good Witch, right?

For example, somebody’s starving to death, they come across a field of – and what’s-his-name did this in the road very well, Cormac McCarthy. Every now and then, the two, the father and the son on the road who were starving to death and are trying to outwit these zombies out to kill them, every now and then they stumble upon this cache of food, and that is representative of the creative force of nature. He puts that in the story and we go with it. We’re like, “Yeah, it’s possible that somebody had freeze-dried a bunch of stuff and left it in their cupboard underneath their floor and these father and son found it.” We go along with that perfectly.

On the other side, it’s possible that as they’re walking down the road, a big lightning storm comes and threatens their lives too. Those are the six. What you have are the forces of order, which is the tyrant and the wise king, the forces of chaos, which are the creative forces of nature and the destructive forces of nature, and then the two things navigating between those two worlds are the hero and the adversary. The hero is looking for truth and willing to sacrifice in order to gain wisdom. Once the hero gains that wisdom, he circles, or she circles back and shares the wisdom with her community.

Now the adversary is the antagonist. It’s the shadow figure of the hero. When you’re thinking about Az, it’s a good thing to think of him in terms of Jesse. What are Jesse’s worst impulses? Those are the impulses that should be personified in Az. Because if we’re looking at a story from the Jungian context, or the Freudian context, the psychoanalytical point of view is that each individual person on earth is a universe within themselves and there’s a very big competitive environment between many different kinds of subpersonalities. Those subpersonalities are the shadow figures, the angry figure.

Basically if you look at the Greek Gods, or the other Gods, the Roman Gods, all of those Gods are elements of personality that Freud and Jung would say, are all within us. When you’re thinking about your cast of characters, it’s often a good place to start by saying, “Okay, this core of my story is Jesse. What’s going on with Jesse? Okay, she’s got this crazy mother who has psychologically abandoned her in because she’s too distressed about the loss of her son. Then she also has this father figure who seems to be trying to cure the mother more than help the daughter. He’s obsessed with keeping the mother on an even keel. Then who do these other characters in the universe represent?” That will help you clarify each of their roles in a way that that can be more specific.

If you know that Marcus represents the tyrant and also has a very, very compelling point of view, which is hey, there’s a limited supply of food. It is my job that we get the most food for our faction. What you are doing is messing with the fundamental requirements of our society, Jesse. Shut up, win the threshing and let me take care of business. Because if you don’t, then mom and dad back in New York are going to starve just as all of your friends are. Get with the program, this is the way it works. Now I don’t necessarily want to be the one who’s in charge, but somebody has to take charge don’t they, Jesse? I’m the one in charge.

The tyrant has a very, very good speech to make, because it’s a very good argument, right? If we look at the world as a zero-sum game and we look at the world and say, “Look, we have only so many natural resources on the planet. We have so many trees, we have so much oil, we have so much titanium, we have so much lithium-ion batteries. We have to exploit those resources. They can be depleted. Therefore, there’s a limited amount for everyone. Now which side would you like to be on? The side that is able to have the most, or the least?” Those are really good arguments, if you look at the world in terms of a zero-sum game, that it’s being depleted, that we’re destroying the earth, it’s only a matter of time before it explodes so let’s all get while the getting’s good. That’s one point of view.

The other point of view is hey, it’s not a zero-sum environment. In fact, each one of us is capable of creation. Each one of us can use our brain to think of ways that can revitalize the resources, that can convert things into other things. It’s not a fixed thing and we can with our imaginations create things that will help everyone. It’s a creationist point of view, and that’s the wise king. The wise king is, “Hey, we’ve got to refresh. My ideas as the wise king, we’re good for a time period and now we got to probably refresh them.” Some people underneath have different ideas that can actually create something that’s better than it is now.

Those are the two poles of the ordered world and one of the things that could be lacking in the Jesse story and you definitely have the potential to pump up somebody’s role here, it could either be 61 or 83, right? You could return the woman from the numbered in a way that she serves the mentor role, which is the wise king role, or you could use 61 as that character. You probably want to use 61, because you’ve already developed him in a way, and then you could use 83 as whatever you want to do.

If you look at it this, way you’ve got those two; the wise king and the tyrant. Or you could say Randy, and Randy, where’s Randy on the spectrum? It seems as if Randy as in the wise king domain and then he moves into the tyrant domain in the ending pay off, which is interesting because he is also reflective of Jesse’s own internal personality. If you start thinking about these three domains, right, you’ve got the domain of chaos, the domain of order and then you start writing down which characters represent each, then you can start – when you get stuck and you go, “I don’t know what to do with this character, because it just seems like wallpaper.” Oh, well they’re in the domain of chaos. What they should do is probably something that the reader wouldn’t expect that was also consistent with what I’ve done before.

For example, you could have one of the guys who’s in the training pod with Jesse, you have Ernst and Alex, right? Okay, so one of those guys I would suspect is on the side of order and the other one’s a little bit chaotic. Whichever one you choose is which, the chaotic one could do something stupid. Maybe Alex accidentally pumps her with the wrong epinephrine, too much epinephrine, or not enough, or whatever. Or maybe Ernst forgets to code up something. That way, their actions fall within one of these two domains. They will be believable and it could be an active turning point for one of your scenes.

Now the tertiary sub-secondary characters, what I recommend is what Tolkien, J.R.R Tolkien does in his big epic fantasies is that he only gives people names, only really identifies them if it’s really necessary. For example in The Hobbit, a lot of the bad guys and the armies of people that the guys face are nameless beings, like the – what are they?

[0:17:40.8] TG: The orcs.

[0:17:41.7] SC: The orcs and then the other ones, were they dwarves or whatever? Maybe they weren’t dwarves, but when they go into that mountain and they’re the miners. What were they called again?

[0:17:51.4] TG: Yeah, I know. All the dwarves have been killed. Wasn’t it just more orc? I don’t know. It’s been a while. I could never even get through the book.

[0:18:01.7] SC: Oh, really. Okay. Well, it’s not necessarily the orcs, because the orcs are just these killing –

[0:18:08.9] TG: They’re the created beings, right? They create them. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[0:18:12.5] SC: They’re like come out of the ground. Anyway –

[0:18:14.8] TG: I don’t know. I felt those books were so boring. I just could not get through.

[0:18:20.5] SC: Oh, wow.

[0:18:22.0] TG: Yeah, I know. I’ve tried multiple times like, “Okay, I like fantasy. This is the fantasy novel. Finish the damn book.” I just gave up every time. Yeah, I know. It’s probably sacrilegious and what some ways.

[0:18:37.0] SC: Yeah, probably. We probably lost a couple thousand, most in research. My point with Tolkien is to like the gangs around Az, you could refer to them as the blockheaded one, because Jesse’s not even going to know their names really. Of course, I don’t necessarily think that you even have to worry about that so much. The feel, it does feel like each one of these – there’s groups of kids there in these scenes that you don’t necessarily – when they’re in the cafeteria, or they’re moving down the hall, it does feel they’re surrounded by other plebs, or whatever you end up calling these trainees.

Generally, I think if you start with those six primal archetypical figures and then you only want –Jesse is the only one navigating really between the two worlds. You can surprise people by having somebody be revealed to be part of one of the worlds and when we think that they’re the other like Randy, but you can only pull that trick once or twice, because everybody is usually consistently identified with their group, right?

[0:19:51.2] TG: What you’re saying is that every character in the book that is a named character, if we’re using that paradigm, falls into one of those four things; the wise king, the tyrant, so some version of order, and then creation or destruction, some version of chaos. When I think about that, I think about Harry Potter and how he had Hermione and Rory, Hermione, Ron. Yeah. Ron would be chaos and Hermione would be –

[0:20:28.4] SC: Order.

[0:20:29.1] TG: Order. Inside of his little threesome there, that he had both sides represented.

[0:20:36.2] SC: Exactly, exactly. Now just for fun, I’ll tell you why there is usually, like Harry Potter why did JK Rowling have Ron and Hermione? For that very reason. Also within your brain, your brain is divided into hemispheres and the right side of – the right hemisphere of your brain is very good at dealing with chaos, because what it does is it looks at the world in a grand global way and it’s very imagistic, it’s very – Now of course, somebody e-mailed me a week or so ago about my broad generalizations about neurology and the brain, and it’s a very good point.

I mean, the right side and the left side of the brain they all have elements of the other, so it’s a broad statement to say the right hemisphere is macro and the left hemisphere is micro. Generally speaking in terms of metaphor, I think it works. Hermione would be the epitome of the left hemisphere of Harry’s brain and Ron would be the right hemisphere of Harry’s brain, and Harry navigates between those two points of view.

Those two characters are actually representative of the internal universe of Harry. If you ever want to get meta about it and think about the character, so you’ve got Alex and Ernst, right? Ernst is the left side of Jesse’s brain and Alex is the right side of Jesse’s brain. That’s a really good thing to understand, because you know the roles that they will be consistently playing in the story. Now if Alex starts being really technical and micro-detailed like Ernst, that’s going to feel weird to the reader, because the reader doesn’t know any of this by the way. They don’t consciously think through all the things I’m talking about, but they do get a feeling that something’s off if you don’t hold down these global categories.

[0:22:39.9] TG: Yeah. Well, I think even thinking about it that way is feels helpful, because I feel so much of this is a game of narrowing down choices, because what gets overwhelming is thinking, “I can do anything,” right? The problem is if I’m – I was talking to somebody the other day and we’re talking about it from a business perspective. I was saying, if you say you can help anybody then nobody will know if you can help them. It’s like this weird thing. I feel like that with these decisions are like, “Okay, well they can be anybody.” Well, that’s not helpful. Now I don’t know what to do. Narrowing down like okay, one of them is going to be chaos, one of them is going to be order. Now it cuts in half the actions they can take.

[0:23:38.2] SC: That’s right. Limitations are the great gift for the artist. I was teaching at a conference over the weekend and that was my major point to begin was that if I were to say to you go write me a song and you said, “Well, what kind of song do you want?” Any song you want. You will be paralyzed with fear. If I said to you, go write me a ragtime song, you would go, “Oh, I know what to do. I’m going to go listen to Scott Joplin’s piano music, because he’s the guy who invented ragtime, and I’m going to learn what he did and then I’ll just be inspired by the way he’s playing and come up with something.” Now will your song be a great ragtime song? No, but I would suspect even an amateur would be able to get something in the ballpark. If I give you no limitation and I don’t ask you specifically for a very particular thing, you can go off the rails.

This is the process by what Story Grid does is that as you say, it narrows your choices, so that you can say for consistency, I know my character lives in the realm of chaos. It would be nice if my scenes had someone in the realm of order and someone in the realm of chaos in the scene with my protagonist. Or my protagonist is facing between one of those two choices. If you divide your cast into which realm, if you really had to stick them in a realm, which one would it be? Because we got to remember, this is a story about Jesse, this is a story about one figure and this figure is the only one who is really going to navigate between those two worlds in a way that’s effective that changes.

Even though there are characters who have great impact on the story, they don’t switch sides. Jesse is going to have to do some chaotic things, like she does at the very beginning of the story, right? She’s a force of chaos at the beginning of the story. She goes into people’s houses and steals credits while they’re asleep. That is a force of chaos. That’s a force of destruction, isn’t it, because she’s going and taking things from other people.

By the end of the story, you have to figure out will she be a force of destruction, or creation? Will she how what’s going to happen? Is she making a choice yet? Is there a thematic progression of her active life from the beginning of the story to the end of the story? Those are things to think about. When you’re looking at your cast of characters, it’s a nice way to go, “Oh, Hagrid.” I mean, how would you say, what is Hagrid? He’s chaos, right?

[0:26:34.6] TG: Oh, chaos. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[0:26:36.7] SC: Then I think about Dumbledore is order. Like, okay.

[0:26:41.5] TG: Yeah. He would be the wise king, order. I think about in the movie version of Lord of the Rings, because I haven’t read it, Sam was chaos. He was always causing trouble. I’m a little confused, because every example I can think of of chaos, whether it’s Ron Weasley, Sam, Sam Wise, I think of destruction, because they’re always so many times the story gets moved along because they did something stupid.

[0:27:15.3] SC: Well, not true, not true. Sam saves Frodo in the water. Sam stupidly cooks while they’re trying to hide and then the bad guys come get them, because he’s making sausages. That’s a force of chaos, he’s not thinking. Then later while Frodo falls into the water and he’s drowning because he can’t swim, or maybe it’s the opposite way. Anyway, I do know that Sam – yeah, go ahead.

[0:27:40.0] TG: I mean, I maintain that Sam is the true hero of that story. At the end, he’s the only one that can actually get up the mountain, but that’s a whole another discussion. I’m thinking though like, so you’ve said Glinda the Good Witch is chaos creation. What other examples would be chaos creative? I guess, what do you mean by creative? Because you mean creating something that helps the hero?

[0:28:12.4] SC: It’s potential, it’s potential. It’s knowing the creative force of nature is in things grow out of the ground, right? There’s animals in the forest. There are for example in the Revolutionary War, at the very beginning of the Revolutionary War, the British had – the army, the Continental Army dead to rights in Brooklyn, right? They were like, “Forget it. They’re dead.” Guess what happened? A fog came down. The Continental Army was able to cross the river and get the hell out of New York. It’s because of that fog which is a force of nature that is you can’t predict it, right? It just happened and that potential fog saved the birth of the United States.

That’s a very dramatic, incredible thing. If we say all the time that oh well, everything’s random and uncertain and we just can’t rely on anything, that’s true. Bad things happen because of uncertainty, but amazing things happen too. If that fog hadn’t come, there’s no United States. That’s no joke. I mean, they were really – they were in deep, deep trouble.

Then you have Washington and his men, they had the guts to be like, “You know what? We got to get out.” They didn’t sit there and go, “Well, forget it. We’re screwed. We’re going to get killed anyway.” Now they’re like, “You know what? Now’s the time. We’re all getting on the rafts and we’re all going across that river. If we get shot on the river, we get shot, but this is our only chance.” They seized the opportunity and the potential of the chaotic creative fog. Don’t make a Deus Ex Machina, meaning if somebody comes down –

[0:30:08.4] TG: Yeah, God. God comes down. Yeah.

[0:30:11.0] SC: That’s the brilliant moment for the protagonist is when they see the creative brilliance of the natural world of potential, they see that potential and they bring it forth. Washington creatively saw the potential of the fog and saved his army, which saved the United States.

[0:30:31.6] TG: You’re talking about – you’re not talking about characters though. You’re talking about –

[0:30:37.1] SC: People can represent that. Trying to think of a character that would be representative of that force, usually in the old classic novel, sometimes you would have an intellectually diminished character who just was a natural being who wasn’t all that intelligent. In some way, the novelist would use that character in a way that would represent the creative potential of the natural world, like someone who is not intellectually capable of doing something. Like Rain Man would be an example of the Dustin Hoffman character. The creative potential of his natural being was such that his brother tried to exploit it to make money, right?

Rain Man was not a character who was ever going to change in the story. It was the guy who was exploiting Rain Man that did change. Rain Man was on the world of chaotic creation and destruction, right? Because he was both. He would freak out and hurt people, or whatever when he got nervous. Rain Man would be an example of a character that would be a natural chaotic force that had destructive and creative forces with him.

[0:32:05.2] TG: Have you seen the movie Snatch?

[0:32:07.2] SC: Yes.

[0:32:07.8] TG: Would Brad Pitt be that in Snatch?

[0:32:10.2] SC: Probably. I don’t remember it so much, except that he – Yeah, it’s every now and then you’ll see in a –

[0:32:19.0] TG: Snatch is like in my top three favorite movies. In Snatch he’s this – he’s a gypsy who they talk into boxing and he’s supposed to take a dive. In Turkish, Jason Statham’s character is the hero of the story and Brad Pitt not taking a dive in a boxing match forces Jason Statham Turkish to change, right? It was a chaotic moment that moved the story forward that was exactly what the hero needed to move forward. Otherwise, he would have stayed the same. Is that what you’re talking about?

[0:33:02.1] SC: Yes. I mean, you can obviously, you can overdo this to the point where it almost becomes silly, but –

[0:33:09.9] TG: Well, it’s helpful though because when you say Glinda the Witch, I actually think of a discussion I heard about Gandalf, which was in The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf could randomly do whatever magic he needed, right? There’s all these orcs chasing the one hero, I forgot. I think it’s in the second movie and he runs out and the light comes out at the end of the staff and it just wipes everybody out. It’s like, “Dude, why haven’t you been doing that the whole time?” When I think of Glinda, it’s like okay, if she could randomly make it snow, so when magic is in play, I always get a little uncomfortable, because it’s frustrating. I hate when you’re watching a movie and all this crazy stuff is happening and you’re like, “What’s going on? What’s going on? What’s going on?” Then towards the end they’re like, “Oh, it’s aliens.” It’s like, “Okay, that doesn’t count because that’s the Deus –” what is it? I always forget –

[0:34:07.3] SC: Deus Ex Machina, yeah.

[0:34:09.2] TG: Yeah, where it’s like, “Okay, you couldn’t figure out how to tie your story together and aliens can be literally anything.” Anyway, I’m just trying to think of what are – because when I think of chaos, because I definitely fall on the side of order, chaos to me is almost always bad, because I don’t want it. I can see where chaos is traffic that’s making me late, or somebody that pulls out in front of me and hits me and now I’m sitting there, I can’t get where I need to be. Thinking of it in terms of its moving the story forward, to me most heroes in a story are not actively looking for random chaos, but looking at characters that create chaos that forced them to change. I don’t know, maybe I am getting too meta about this. Or, I was having a hard time picturing chaos that was like –

[0:35:03.9] SC: A good force.

[0:35:04.9] TG: – creative, creative force. Yeah.

[0:35:07.0] SC: Yeah. Well, I think the example about the fog from the Revolutionary War is a good one. The thing is that Gandalf and Linda the Good Witch are if you want to go Jungian about it, they are not doing magic. They are actually just the natural world personified. If you were to not have Gandalf as the figure in the story, his actions would be replaced by environmental events. The scene you’re talking about where he goes in the middle of the thing and he flashes and lightning starts, basically what they’re saying is that would be a natural rainstorm, or thunderstorm that cut off the army from pursuing the hero. Just as the fog cut off the British from destroying the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

Now the reason why we personify these things is that stories are generated by this meta creative force in our right – the right side of our brains. It’s also influenced by logical reasonable stuff, but it gets it all messed up. Instead of you seeing a flood in your dream, there’s someone who punches you with a pitcher of water, which doesn’t make any sense. I mean, if we really want to get into what primal storytelling is, it’s J.R.R Tolkien, it’s Beowulf, it’s Gilgamesh, it’s these epic fantasy narratives that substitute big environmental chaotic events with, and then they personify them in very strange characters in our dreams.

The orcs, I mean, orcs don’t make any sense. They’re these beings that are birthed out of the mud on the ground. It doesn’t make any sense. It does make sense if you think of it in terms of a nightmare dream-like state that we all experience in 30% of our daily life is sleeping. Thinking about your cast of characters in terms of these global forces is a great way of, “Oh, well Ernst wouldn’t do that, because he’s part of the order thing. He’s not going to act chaotically, but if the shit hits the fan, he might not give up doing his code for a couple of seconds, because he would rather die in the process of cleaning up some numbers than running away, right? Because he’s a very analytical force, so it would make sense if the big bad guys coming to kill everyone and Ernst is on the computer that he’s not going to get away from the computer. That he’s so aligned with the analytical obsessive-compulsive point of view that it’s more important to him to fix the code before he dies, than to run away and have the code be broken.”

Whereas Alex, is going to start screaming and punching the demon and using every possible chaotic move he can think of in order to defend himself. If you switch that in the other, it would read wrong to the reader, because they’re living in one where you’re putting the character in one world and you got to keep them in that world. The only one who can move between the two worlds is your protagonist. Your antagonist understands what your protagonist understands about the world, but they’ve got a different solution. Their solution is well, we need order to the nth degree.

I mean, your good thing about Az saving Jesse in the end is that he’s committed to the order of holding up the tyranny, which means the tyranny must win the threshing, which means when push comes to shove and he’s going to – one of them is going to die and he can protect somebody who can win the threshing who’s on his team, he will do that, right? That’s consistent with his choice of being a part of the ordered world.

While it could be surprising to the reader that he would sacrifice him for Jesse, psychologically it’s consistent with his character which means hate Jesse, she’s screwing up the order. If push comes to shove and I have to die to save her so that we can win, I’ll do that.


[0:39:46.1] TG: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Story Grid Podcast. For everything Story Grid related, check out storygrid.com. Make sure you pick up a copy of the book and sign up for the newsletter, so you don’t miss anything happening in the Story Grid universe. If you’d like to check out the show notes for this episode or any past episodes, all of that can be found at storygrid.com/podcast.

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The Book

Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.

First Time Writer

Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.


Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.