Auditioning Characters – Experiments with the Writing Excuses Class

I’ve been a long-time fan of the Writing Excuses Podcast. I’ve listened to everything they’ve put up to date and was completely excited when I learned they were making this year into a sort of “writing class” format. If you haven’t listened to them and you are an author, aspiring author, writer, whatever-title-you-give-yourself then I highly recommend you check them out. Start with season 10 so you can join the class. I promise you won’t regret it.

The latest assignment for the class is to “audition characters” for your story and because this concept was entirely new to me I have been struggling to complete it.

Normally my stories start with a character and then the plot sort of sprouts out of them and their motivations, so I’m thinking I must have done the first exercise quite a bit differently from many other people. For the sake of this post (and all other subsequent posts dealing with this class) I’m going to go ahead and share portions of my “homework.”

Here’s the story idea we’re working with:

Ashton Bainbridge is a wildlife photographer who manages to catch something on film he never should have seen; a fight between a shockingly large dragon and a shadowed creature with fangs and an obvious lust for blood. As any sane person would do, Ashton flees the scene only to be targeted by the vampire once he gets back to civilization. But the vampire isn’t the only creature who’s caught Ashton’s scent; Percy Pru Alturas, socialite, night club owner, and dragon, isn’t ready to just watch Ashton die.

Part of a dying breed, Pru’s millennia-old mission has always been to protect and serve humankind. But the resurgence of vampires is a harbinger of something darker, something older than she is, and even Pru isn’t certain she can protect Ashton from what’s coming.

So you see I have the two main characters already set; Ashton Bainbridge and Pru Alturas. This is a mashing of an older novel concept about dragons that I have been sitting on for several years and a newer story idea about vampires — which is very weird for me because I think I’ve made it very clear I hate vampires.

Now then, I’m always one to go ahead and stretch my limitations, try new things and what have you so I’ve gone ahead and named Pru and Ashton as “Audition #1.”

Audition #2:

Tessa Pines is a veterinarian doing fairly well for herself on the professional front. She has her own practice, loyal patients – or at least loyal pet-owners, and a condo she can breathe in. She refuses to be bothered by the fact that her little sister is getting married for the third time and fully intends to endure the scrutiny of the family with dignity and aplomb. She likes being alone.

When several cattle and horses under her care begin mysteriously dying, Tessa finds herself scrambling for answers. With every death Tessa’s reputation is slowly tarnished and in a desperate attempt to find out what is going on, she goes on a personal stake-out at one of the ranches. But what she discovers is far more horrifying than any disease she might have imagined.

Obviously what she would discover is the whole vampire-dragon standoff thing, but you can see how the whole feel of the story would change with it. I like Tessa, even if she does feel a bit like a modern romance novel character there in the first paragraph.

Audition #3:

Doctor Isaac Jefferson is a thirty-something analyst working in JPAC (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.) His work takes him across the globe in search of military personnel who have gone missing but his most recent assignment to the Solomon Islands brings about an unexpected surprise.  

I stopped myself on this one because, quite frankly, I’d rather tackle JPAC in a less fantastical setting. (AKA – no vampires, no dragons, just good old fashion mystery.)

I have two others for this assignment but I’m not going to share them. One is a YA translation of the novel and I really, really, really have a hard time writing YA. But, hey, I wrote the audition anyway. The other is a 1920’s murder mystery based in Egypt. Both of which have promise but I find myself drawn more to the first two auditions.

In any case, this was an interesting exercise and I’m glad I took the time to do it. Tessa’s story actually sounds like it has a little more meat to it than Ashton’s but I haven’t quite decided yet. I’ll keep playing around with them before I make a concrete decision.

I do know that I love Isaac Jefferson and the whole JPAC scenario. I had the opportunity to visit CILHI on Hawaii once and remember being fascinated with what they do there. I’m setting him off to the side to simmer while I work on other things.

Thank you, Writing Excuses! This has been fun so far and I’m looking forward to what comes next.

One thought on “Auditioning Characters – Experiments with the Writing Excuses Class

  1. I don’t usually listen to podcasts, but this one sounds great. Your auditions look really interesting too, I’d like to see how you worked with Tessa because she’s different. I’ll have to give this a listen, thanks for sharing and the recommendation 😀

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