AMY²: Writing Rogues Chat Part Three: Butcher’s Gold

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.

Part One, Superman the Snore!

Part Two, The Lady Problem!

And without further ado, here is…

Writing Rogues Chat, Part Three: Butcher’s Gold



McLane:  There’s two more things I want to touch on.

Nichols:  Go for it.

McLane:  For one, I thought that the idea that the unbreakable part of a rogue could be outside herself, could be another character altogether like Locke’s relationship with Jean. An anchor, if you will. Someone who keeps the rogue from going full Loki.

I thought it was a really interesting idea

The obvious thing to do would be a romantic relationship, but I think a friendship is much more interesting.

Nichols:  Ooh, that is interesting. Can you think of an example?

McLane:  Or a child who keeps the parent in check.

Nichols:  Love that idea!

Fireworks are going off in my brain now, LOL.

Nichols:  I’ve had this story idea percolating in my brain and your friendship comment just lit a fire under it. Thank you!

McLane:  Awesome! Write it!

Nichols:  So, does Leia keep Han from going full Loki?

McLane:  I would say Chewwie

Nichols:  OH!

mind blown

That’s fascinating. I’m going to be looking for this everywhere now.

McLane:  Me too.

Nichols:  This is really putting into perspective how much I’ve played it safe, writing from the straight man’s (for lack of better term) POV.

McLane:  It really makes you think. Well, we’ve been trained to see that viewpoint as the “default.” And it’s a little bit easier for us to break out of when we don’t exist as “default”.

It’s also why I shouldn’t get so irritated when someone praises a male writer for successfully writing a female character.

Because I’m like, yeah, women are only 50% of the population, way to stretch yourself there buddy. But if you look at it from the point of view of what media we have been trained to consume and how it is framed, a female viewpoint character is very much in the minority.

Nichols:  So true.

McLane:  Okay, I thought I had one more thing to mention but it’s two separate ideas I typed into one paragraph, lol. One idea that was brought up, I think maybe by Jim Butcher (??) was that the character doesn’t have to know what they want, but the writer does.

Nichols:  I think that was Butcher, yes.

I was scribbling notes like crazy while Butcher was talking!

McLane:  I found that really arresting. I think I’d been doing it subconsciously. I never thought about it. Now that I’m aware of it, I can do it with purpose and intention, which I think will improve my writing a lot

Nichols:  From my notes: the absolute core you need to know about a character is what they want, and who/what wants to take it away

McLane:  Also: Force a character to make a decision where there is a price in either direction.

Nichols:  “when there is no easy answer, and every choice has a price — that shows who they are and their personality”

McLane:  YES

Nichols:  BOOM. That’s gold right there.

Thank you, Jim Butcher.

McLane:  Yes, thank you Jim Butcher, for telling me how it works.

Nichols:  Like you said, I knew that, but I don’t know how conscious I’ve been about making those decisions.

For a long time I’ve wondered how to push my writing to the level of any of those writers on that panel, and as silly as it sounds, I think a lot of it is conscious decision making.

McLane:  Yes. Writers start out as readers, so we blindly grope towards 3 Act structures and the Black Moment because this is what we’ve read. This is how modern Western Literature is structured. And as we go on, we start to figure out that these things have names, that we should actively pursue these concepts.

Nichols:  Those authors clearly think deeply about what they’re doing. I realize I’m flying more by the seat of my subconscious. I want to be more mindful and purposeful, with these kinds of idea at the forefront.

McLane:  one million upvotes

That was one of my big conference take-aways. You want to play with the big boys, you need to THINK like the big boys.

Nichols:  Exactly!

And the great thing about fiction is we can smash the copier with the baseball bat without actually smashing the copier with the baseball bat!

McLane:  I love it.

Nichols:  Yay! Let’s go break some rules!