AMY²: Writing Rogues Chat Part One: Superman the Snore

Amy McLane here! Amy K. Nichols and I sat together for the Writing Rogues Panel at Comicon. Speaking on this panel was Sam Sykes, Scott Lynch, Patrick Rothfuss, Jim Butcher, Pierce Bown and Kevin Hearne.

Afterwards we had a little chat about it, and decided to post the transcript. And without further ado, here is…

Writing Rogues Chat, Part One: Superman the Snore

superman ticklish


Nichols:  hello!

McLane:  hello!

is there an echo in here?

Nichols:  Yes (yes)

McLane:  oh good


Good morning!

Nichols:  Good morning to you! Have you recovered from Con yet? I still feel like a zombie

McLane:  Barely.

Nichols:  Either this con was more epic than usual, or I’m getting old.

McLane:  We’re all still pretty wiped out. I think next year I will return to hiding in the writing hood of the con.

Nichols:  That’s a good plan. Can’t go wrong with the writing hood.

You’d be, like, Little Red of the Writing Hood.

McLane:  Yeah every time I wander out of the hood I get in trouble.

So the rogue panel!

Possibly my favorite panel of the con.

Nichols:  Mine, too!

McLane:  What a lineup of writers.

I could have listened to them talk shop all day.

Holy cow Pat Rothfuss.

I wanna eat that guy’s brain.

Nichols:  LOL!! No doubt. Guy’s a genius.

Wish I could take his writing classes.

McLane:  INDEED. Everyone else was great too!

Nichols:  The lineup was incredible. I wish I’d recorded it. I took notes, but they’re nothing compared to what was actually said.

McLane:  Finally someone explained to me why I find Superman so boring.

Nichols:  YES!

I’d never considered that before.

McLane:  I loved the idea that Superman appeals to little kids, because Superman’s question is “can he hit it hard enough”? Whereas the rogue’s question is “will he even show up?” and his appeal is saying that smartass thing you’d never dare to. Like when they take baseball bats to the copier in Office Space.

We all have felt that desire to smash a copier but we can’t.

We have to live within the rules of our world because we can’t afford the consequences. The rogue doesn’t care about the consequences.

Nichols:  Exactly. I’d never heard it defined so succinctly before: the rogue is morally transgressive and does the things we always dream of doing, which allows us to live vicariously through them

So many times I’ve wished to smash the copier…

McLane:  Which is why people love villains. Tumblr wants to marry Loki.

And BBC Sherlock is a rogue who faces off against Moriarty’s more chaotic rogue. Moriarty is a Joker-level rogue.

Nichols:  Going back to Superman, he appeals to the younger audience who might be dealing with issues like bullying and feelings of inadequacies, and Superman fills those desires by being invincible and unstoppable. Us older members of the population know we’re not invincible, but we’re more concerned with the rules and systems of the world and our place in it.

I kept thinking of Loki, too, and understanding why I love him so much.

McLane:  Exactly. And as I believe Sam Sykes pointed out, (might have been Scott Lynch, I didn’t note) when Superman shows up to save the day it’s like, “thanks.” You expect him to. It’s his function. When Han Solo shows up to save the day, it’s like “WOAH!” and there’s an awesome guitar riff.

Because you know Han Solo battled himself before he was able to set himself against the Empire

Nichols:  That was Sam, who was so excellent on this panel. He’s clearly thought a lot about this.

“A rogue has to fight against himself first.” – Sam Sykes

It’s interesting to think of Sherlock and Moriarty as two rogues. That’s a large part of their struggle, especially in the rooftop Reichenbach scene: you are me, etc.

From my notes: Rogues are driven by self-interest, have their own moral compass

They don’t know whose side they are on except their own.

McLane:  On a side note Sam made me bust a gut laughing when he started talking about Drizzt Do’Urden. Because when I was the same age as he described getting into Drizzt, my best friend Michael tried so hard to get me into those books and I just wasn’t having it. “No one understands him! He has a panther! All his friends are like, slightly less cool and when he’s not around they all stand around going “where’s Drizzt?”” I died.

Nichols:  LOL!!

McLane:  Anyway, back on track…

Yes Sherlock and Moriarty are foils of one another that’s why they have to lock horns until one of them is dead.

Nichols:   Comparing Loki vs. Thor and Sherlock vs. Moriarty, I find the latter so much more interesting. Like Superman, I find Thor very flat.

Now I see it’s for the same reason.

I think it was Sam who said when the hero is perfect, the villain becomes more interesting.

McLane:  Pretty, but flat. I almost feel bad for Hemsworth (I mean not really but) because his hero is totally overshadowed by the multilayered Loki. And I think Hemsworth is one of those actors that is better than you think he is but is easy to dismiss because of his golden boy looks. But Thor. Thppppt.

Nichols:  Totally agree!

McLane:  Yes which is why I think we instinctively look for ways to have our characters break boundaries.

McLane:  The panel made me realize that I really love writing rogues, that my favorite characters in my own world are always rogues. I’ve always been a Han Solo girl.

And when I find myself becoming bored by a character, the best thing to do is push them past the breaking point in some way. Make them go rogue.

Nichols:  The panel made me realize that I love them, too, but have never been really aware of them.

I gravitate toward them, but until didn’t understand why. Until now.

This part really struck me: every character has a center that acts as a compass, but creates conflict when the world tries to break that center.

McLane:  I realize too that I need to try writing rogues as viewpoint characters, that would be enormously fun for me. So much of writing a protagonist is struggling away from myself, like walking through two feet of snow. I’m quiet and observant and often cautious and those traits don’t make for the most exciting protagonist.

Nichols:  You need to write the character who smashes the copier with the baseball bat

McLane:  Yeah, from the INSIDE

McLane:  Back in my college days, friends and I had a terminology for it: Some people are instigators, some are accelerators.

Nichols:  Oooh, I like that!

Is a rogue an instigator or an accelerator?

McLane: BOTH

but always an instigator

Nichols:  I was hoping you’d say both.

McLane:  I think a core part of roguishness is curiosity.

what will happen if I push the shiny, candylike button? Let’s find out!!!

Nichols:  Loki the trickster

Nichols:  From listening to the panel, it was clear writing rogues is a lot of fun.

McLane:  Well that’s why I love Scott Lynch’s books so much, and his protagonist Locke.

It’s insanely entertaining to follow a character that is so audacious and dismissive of the rules of the world, that you never know what’s going to happen next, And that’s kind of the definition of a page-turner, no?

Nichols:  Yes, it is!

Continued in Part Two, The Lady Problem

And Part Three, Butcher’s Gold!