The Bob and Howard Show!

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

And we're back!

I spent the past hour listening to Brandon Sanderson. Random trivia--he writes on beanbag chairs. Ooh, and I think he might have remembered my name, which is super-cool. But I'm not sure because I interrupted him. (Damn it! Whenever I'm around famous authors I seem to lose all my social skills...)

Any mistakes in transcription are mine, not the speakers. Don't blame them! There are undoubtedly errors, and I apologize and kiss your feet asking forgiveness.

We're with Bob Defendi and Howard Taylor (shclock mercaenary)! Both have only had four hours of sleep, but are inebriated on caffeine. Ah...caffeine. I'm on the nightshift at the moment, so I'm used to being in bed by now. So I'm in the same place.

Topic: Interesting side characters.

HT: I suggested: Building interest in side characters through improvisational theater.

Inspired by a couple reasons: 1)Said-character: Ranger named Lucas not right in the head. He loves killing demons. Loves teaching small children to mortal. 2) A role-playing game. Starts in a jail where the last thing we remember was the tavern. We'd gotten real dwarven ale...three days ago. At some point and time, I cleric, was I set the out house on fire three days ago. The Jailer and him had a conversation "It had it coming!" Holy fire would not have worked on that outhouse if it had been pure!

BD: There was a bidet joke in there somweher too.

HT: Now it;'s coming back to me!

BD: And we were playing with an impressionistic twelve-year-old too.

HT: So we had to hide the poop jokes.

... he goes on to recommend the Rifftrax to Twilight.

Anyway, what I was going to suggest is what we get from you a couple of suggestions--in just barest forms--a side character from your novel. And we'll figure out what's wrong with them. Not what's wrong with them in the novel, but why you wouldn't want to meet them in real life.

Suggestions: Xenobiologist who has unknowingly picked up a parasite.

Poop jokes ensue.

Xenobiologist Meet: 70yrold circus performer.

More poop jokes. Laughter.

Setting: Central Park after Dark.

BD is the circus performer, HT is the xenobiologist.

BD: What you're doing there at the book is illegal.
HT: What city am I in?
BD: New York. Or that's where I am.
HT: Uh, what planet am I on?
BD: don't know what planet you're on...
HT: Oh yes, yes, central park, New York. I'm testing the water solluble quality of the soil behind this bush.
BD: Usually you do this with pants on.
HT: I do have my pants on, they're those things around my ankles.
BD: No, you're supposed to wear them up.
HT: Like you?
BD: Yes. But maybe a little lower.
.......stuff I missed...
BD: Well, I'm out of poop jokes.
BD: Nice boots.
HT: Yes they are. (Makes lightsaber voices) See, this is how I get back to my bus.
BD: I might have some work to do.
HT: Do you have creatures who need studying?
BD: Yes. And we follow them around and train them.
HT: Do you have bushes? Soluble bushes?
BD: Well, this time--
HT:The bush is very absorbant, but not very soluble. It doesn't dissolve in water.

Something about clowns and vegetables....? Can't hear for laughter.

HT: I was under the impressiont hat would dissolve them and then re-exrude them in a more soluble form.
BD: No, we just do it as a warning to the others.
HT: Clowns breed quickly, then?
BD: I've heard they're pretty quick...

HT: Should we pause to learn what we've learned about these horrible people. I have no idea what your grandfather did at the circus, but I hope he was better than Bob at it. So...I'm an alien, because that fascinated m.

BD: My grandfather and his mind went to WWI and WWII and only one of them came back.

HT: So what do you like to see in a good side character?
BD: Good dialogue.
HT: Well, we didn't have much of that.
BD: Well what do you like in a side character?
HT: Good dialogue.
BD: What's good dialogue?
HT: It's unexpected.
BD: Well, there was that.

HT: Improvisional theater is never no. It's never cutting people off. It's yes, AND. If you have a piece of dialogue and you say, 'no, you can't do that,' then you don't delete it. You take that piece of dialogue and you expand on it.

BD: Oh, you mean real characterization, not random crap. (Laughter) Orson Scott Card talks about how its more realistic to have people jump to conclusions without the full explanation.

HT: Talks about in late, out early. Prunes the dialogue from the front.

BD: It's easier to prune dialogue than art.

HT: Writers of graphic novels can re-write and re-write and re-write but webcomix don't have the luxury.

Introduces Jake Black of Writing excuses fame, BD's boyfriend. JB: "I called him a man-mountain of love ONE TIME five years ago in this very room and I can't live it down."

HT: Recommends more in-late-out-early.

BD: The problem with side characters is that there's so little you can do with them. I mean how much was Elf doing in the beginning?

HT: HAd to write it in early, then keep it around.

BD: You don't have time to make the character three dimensional. Make them two-dimensional. The problem is, the authors use the WRONG two dimensions. Side characters are unexpected and memorable. For example, BD is a side character in waitresses lives. They always remember him because he makes the waitresses pick his salad dressing for him because someone once prophesied the world would end if he picked his own salad dressing.

HT: I'll have ranch.

BD: I don't believe the world will end...but you never know.

HT: You are one of the most i nteresting side characters in my life.

Something about salad dressing and concealed weapons?

Q: How long does it take me to decide which side characters I'm going to focus on in a story?

HT: About three strips. If a side character does something interesting enough that it feels like it needs to be resolved, I feel like I've made a promise to his readers.

BD: Something about the kissing curse--(Read Schlock Merc )

HT: I can't fulfill it too soon. Minor arc-ties into a main arc.

JB: Where's the line in your view between a side character and a main character? Do you ever create chars with the intent of spinoff?

HT: Up until the point I hired a colorist, the idea of spinoff was one of those entertaining fantasies that I had no hope of fulfilling. But now I realized that the franchise still has a lot of legs on it. All of my minor characters are main characters in their own stories. If their story is driving the plot, they become the main character. That's what I love about my gig: I'm not leasing this from anywhere else. For the next five issues, I can say Spidermen isn't the main char, Mary Jane is! Because SM is boring. All he does is shoot webs and ret-con himself every six years.

BD: Game design--whether or not they have three dimensions. The extra dimension makes the difference. They're the main character in my head when I'm writing. Anyone who had a significant part in the plot, I know them in my head. Side Keepers are usually "Inn Keeper #7".

HT: There was the odd realization that my character in Bob's game, a barbarian keeps picking up pets. The day I realized Bob was plotting out plot arcs for my pets, I got a little disturbed. They were actual side characters with actual debt.

BD: Cat is a prophet prophecied to see all cat-kind. And he hates the dog.

Cat poop jokes ensue.

BD: Just because you put something in there for a reason doesn't mean it has to STAY in there for the same reason. The reason can change. Had a watchman who ranted about money. Everybody in my writing group loved him so much, he had to have a plot. Howard's cat was a morality test. Rescued the kitten from a hole in a rain storm. I wanted to see if he'd rescued it.

HT: It's a kitten? What would I do, kill it? There's no XP in killing kittens!

BD: Howard said to me after the game session, I thought this cat would mean for.

HT: Oh, crap. This is my fault.

BD: Got out an author board and came up a cat. He's the cat of darkness, going to save all-cat time.

HT: Okay, so we hd the obligatory Lolcats joke.

BD: Writing group...listen to them. A critique group said "she's the bad guy." No, BD said, "she's the main character." No, says the groupie--she's only programmed to BELIEVE she's a main character. Every time the writing group thought she was good, he tossed in hints to the bad, and every time they thought she was bad, he'd throw in hints she was good.

HT: Elephants can be taught to paint pornography. Go ahead. google that.

BD: Not on BYU's network!

HT: African elephants are nasty-tempered. They are not petting zoo or friendly animals. They will stomp you dead. I was talking about uplifting a species--moral gag after moral gag. The one thing everything agreed on was uplifting african elephants was a mistake. Intelligent = ten tons of bad temper that's smart enough to go shopping. But a bunch of people responded WANTING to see the elephants. No, I don't want to draw an elephant! The eye level...the size...the panels are so small! Went and whined to Sandra. The comic this summer was the elephant-kind masochism,--don't take that phrase out of context--elephants stomped the people in the logical combination. The head of great big robot also came out of HT's laziness.

Q: When do you know when you should assign a story task to a side char vs. a main char.

BD: When you're going to kill them. There's a follow-up--is it supposed to matter? If you're going to kill someone, there needs to be enough investment making them poignant. I have a problem with game design because I want a side plot/b plot in every adventure. But I can't control what they do. For example, can't make chars fall in love.

HT: And he just can't depend on it. Lucas is not going to tell a love story.

BD: Well, a love of killing. answer the question...I think it has to do with logic. I hated space above and beyond because you spent 10 mil training to shoot. He shoots better. Story it more satisfying? Sometimes, I find it really satisfying to have some cabby come and save the world. Some guy comes in and turns the light switch off and that just de-powers the bomb.

HT: Like Return of the Jedi. Lots of stuff got rendered irrelevent when Lando blew up the deathstar. I mean, the Emperor would have died anyway. We're feeling happy because Luke redeemed his father--which is really impossible when you think about the sheer amount of evil vadar has under his belt--when the real hero was Lando and that funny-faced guy.

BD: That's because the original sapped all the tension out of blowing the death star. It happened once before, so this time, you can leave it to the side character. Empire's Luke's story is really boring. See Eldest. Eragon = Star Wars. Eldest = Empire Strikes Back. But the thing that the script doctor did is he did all that exciting stuff when Han and Leia, and then he mirrored it with Luke. Han's cave w/ space slug. Luke's cave...see it borrows tension.

HT: You can get away with having the side character perform about any plot point as long as your plot structure supports it.

JB: You take a side char like Lando, and he has to fit in the parameters. He can't be a jedi. If you're creating your own world, it's okay, but in someone else's world, like Star Wars, you have to play by other's rules.

HT: For instance, limited char growth.

JB: References Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan.

BD: Yeah, I think there are going to be a lot of heads on the floor by the time he's done.

Those rules apply to the writer as well. Look at Ender's Shadow. BD likes it more than the original Ender's Game (HERESY!!!!) Since the ending couldn't be a surprise, the secret allows a different prospective because Bean has to do the emotional processing.

JB: Hey! I wrote stuff in the Ender universe! I got to play with Peter and Valentine! (He's been doing story consulting for the Ender comics, by-da-by)

Howard pimps Jake.

Q: How well do you need to know their backstory to write it effectively.

HT: If you don't need dialogue tags, you're good. If not, you don't have his voice yet and you may need to meet his dad. If the dialogue is interchangeable, then he's one dimensional, not two.

BD: Argument has to be coherent. Minor characters, side characters, if they have a quirk that's memorable, that's all they need.

HT: Like not ordering their own salad dressing.


  1. Lee Ann Setzer said...

    Glad you're back! Nice new look (or else my adjusted computer is now capable of showing it).

    "Inebriated" is not nearly a strong enough word to describe this panel!

  2. Luisa Perkins said...

    Holy cow: intense. I can't believe your fingers kept up. You are ninja transcriptionist.

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