12. Character Development Tips, Chat with Science Fiction Writer, Madeleine McLaughlin
Beth Barany talks to Madeleine McLaughlin about Character Development Tips and they share a story concept you could try yourself.
ABOUT BETH BARANY
Beth Barany is an award-winning novelist, master neurolinguistic programming practitioner, and certified creativity coach for writers, including being a workshop leader & keynote speaker. Beth has published books in several genres including young adult fantasy, paranormal romance, and science fiction mystery.
Learn more about Beth Barany at these sites:
Sign up for the 30-minute Story Success Clinic here:
“I write to have an impact on readers, just like I was impacted and continue to be so as a reader.”
In this Story Success Clinic interview on the podcast, creativity coach and science fiction/fantasy novelist Beth Barany talks to science fiction novelist Madeleine McLaughlin about how to create individual traits to make characters unique, how to deal with the challenges of writing about creatures, and they share a story concept you could try yourself.
Content Warning – Talks of grief and loss.
ABOUT MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN
Madeleine McLaughlin is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. As a teenager she lived for science-fiction books, reading at least one a day. Now she writes multiple genres. She has also written horror. Her current manuscript is a middle-grade historical science-fiction.
ABOUT THE HOW TO WRITE THE FUTURE PODCAST
The How To Write The Future podcast is for science fiction and fantasy writers who want to write positive futures and successfully bring those stories out into the marketplace. Hosted by Beth Barany, science fiction novelist and creativity coach for writers.
Tips for fiction writers!
This podcast is for you if you have questions like:
- How do I create a believable world for my science fiction story?
- How do figure what’s not working if my story feels flat?
- How do I make my story more interesting and alive?
This podcast is for readers too if you’re at all curious about the future of humanity.
TRANSCRIPT for 12. Character Development Tips, Chat with Science Fiction Writer, Madeleine McLaughlin
Hey science fiction and fantasy authors, would you like to get more exposure for your books, and get some support to uncover story ideas, enhance story cohesion, and get some ideas for marketing?
Then sign up for my 30 minute Story Success Clinic.
Every 30-minute story success clinic is recorded and gets aired as an episode of the How To Write The Future podcast.
So sign up today. The link is in the show notes. And now let’s get on with the show.
BETH BARANY 00:44
Hi everyone. Welcome to our next episode of How to Write the Future. This is a podcast for science fiction and fantasy writers who want to create optimistic stories because when we vision what is possible, we help make it so.
I’m your host, Beth Barany. I am a science fiction and fantasy writer myself and a creativity coach, focusing on helping science fiction and fantasy authors with their stories.
Today I have a special guest with me for another Story Success Clinic. So I would like to welcome you Madeline, uh, and if you could, um, say your full name and a few words about who you are and what you write, and welcome.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 01:30
Okay. Uh, thank you. Um, my name is Madeline Ann McLaughlin and I write, uh, I write several genres, but the story I’m working on right now is science fiction, sort of historical science fiction for middle grade.
BETH BARANY 01:44
Wonderful. Oh, I love that combination. That intrigues me. So we’re here today because you, you pace your hand, you’re like, Yeah, I would love a Story Success Clinic interview, and you said that you were maybe having challenges with, or issues around alien human relations. Do you wanna talk about that? What your issues or concerns are?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 02:07
Uh, well, uh, I have, uh, I took a, uh, course and they said that, Uh, the, the aliens sort of have to sort of run things. They sort of decide what the problem is
BETH BARANY 02:20
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 02:21
fiction story, what the, what the challenge is. Do you know what I mean? It’s not based necessarily on humans, but the aliens cause the challenge
BETH BARANY 02:30
That’s typically, yeah, what we
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN0 2:32
a little problem with that.
BETH BARANY 02:35
Tell me more. What, what do you wish, you know, what was your instinct in terms of causing the problem inside your story?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 02:43
Well, uh, basically I want them, it’s middle grade, so I want them to have, uh, something against pets. Like, uh, they’re against dogs and cats. They think they’re dirty, and the, their plan is to kill all the pets on earth. It’s a very middle grade theme. And they’re also gonna keep, uh, humans as a soul pet. Like they’re gonna kill ’em and keep ’em in little cubes.
They’re gonna be soul pets. So that’s, that’s my problem. Um, but I, I think I, I, I just have a problem, uh, communicating for the aliens and a different personality for each one. Cuz they should have different personalities.
BETH BARANY 03:25
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 03:26
I’ve got my character for my main character and his friend, but I, I’m stuck on the alien.
BETH BARANY 03:33
Got it. I see. So really we’re talking about character development and world building for your whole alien culture. Who are they
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 03:43
has it, It has it. It’s leaning on the, how they’re gonna respond to the kid.
BETH BARANY 03:49
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 03:50
So it, that’s why I said alien human interactions.
BETH BARANY 03:53
Yes. Oh, I love it. Um, let’s clarify for all our listeners in case they don’t know. When you say middle grade, what age group is that?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 04:02
Eight to 12.
BETH BARANY 04:03
Eight to 12. Perfect. And these books are typically, they’re not picture books, which are generally for the younger groups, right? They, they’re pros, they’re, they’re filled with pros.
Maybe there’s images, but often there’s not.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 04:16
Uh, it’s pros and sometimes little drawings,
BETH BARANY 04:18
Little drawings. Got it. And,
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 04:20
But not lot of drawings.
BETH BARANY 04:22
okay. Um, okay. And so it sounds like your aliens are, um, well first off, why do the aliens come here?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 04:34
They sort of get lost and they crash.
BETH BARANY 04:37
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 04:38
They’re just lost, and he wants to stop them from, uh, going back to their planet and telling them about Earth
BETH BARANY 04:46
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 04:47
they’re gonna colonize it.
BETH BARANY 04:48
Got it. Okay. They crash land here and they’re like, Eh, we want it. This, this is our home now we’re gonna
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 04:54
All we have to do is get rid of the pets.
BETH BARANY 04:57
I see. Good. So you do have a big problem. The aliens wanna get rid of all the pets and of course your main character and his friend, and they wanna keep the animals, so that’s good.
You have a good conflict there. That’s good. And what, what do you know so far about these aliens? What do they look like? What do they sound like?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 05:17
They’re small, they’re shaped like eggs with a big sort of expanse on their head. They have skinny arms and they seem, they don’t seem to be wearing any clothes, but they don’t have any distinguishing marks really like, and they just have a little tone shirt on their head, like a little, little frail hair.
BETH BARANY 05:38
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 05:39
that’s, and they’re, they’re small. I don’t know if I mentioned that.
BETH BARANY 05:42
Yeah. So when you say small, like in relation to a shot, their child size. Okay. So they would be the, um, But there are they adults in their own world?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 05:52
adults. Yes. In their own world.
BETH BARANY 05:55
And how do they communicate to the kids?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 05:58
Oh, they have a translator.
BETH BARANY 06:00
Okay, so they’re using their, there’s some kind of voice. Do they have a face?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 06:04
Yeah, they have a face. They have a face, and it has yellow, red eyes, and a little mouth, Tiny.
BETH BARANY 06:10
Oh, okay. Are any other features, uh, about their face that would give a, an opportunity for something a little do you know, to distinguish one from the other? Nose, ears?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 06:24
Uh, I never really gave a thought to nose and ears to be honest. I sort of focused on the eyes, cuz they, the eyes glow when they, when they, uh, when their mood changes, you know.
BETH BARANY 06:36
Ah, that’s great.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 06:37
glowing creatures, you know? Um, so I never gave a thought to nose and ears and, and eyebrows and stuff. Uh, but, uh, you think I should.
BETH BARANY 06:47
Well, that would give them distinguishing marks, right? To allow the kids to distinguish them from each other. Um, and are whose point of view are you telling the story in
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 06:58
His name is Liam Chesney and he’s, he’s my main character.
BETH BARANY 07:02
And so he is, he is the guide. He’s the one having thoughts and feelings and descriptions about the aliens.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 07:10
BETH BARANY 07:11
Okay. Do you ever go into anybody else’s point of view when it comes to thoughts and, Okay, great. So, so that’s great. Liam. Liam is your, is our, as the reader, our guide through the story. So is he observant?
Is he the kind of person to notice what makes one alien different from the.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 07:32
Um, well, given the fact that he’s a child, I think he would notice things like that. Yeah. Because kids tend to notice. Well, at least nature on earth, you know, bugs on the bottom of leaves and stuff like that. So I would think he would notice. Uh, but he is sort of, uh, blown away by these little things showing up.
BETH BARANY 07:54
For sure. And what, before they show up, what are his hobbies?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 08:00
Um, he likes, uh, you know, fifties, it takes place in the fifties. So he likes all those fifties science fiction movies. And him and his friend Nathan Stuckey go to a lot of movies and they talk about futuristic ideas. And, uh, he’s entered a, um, a science fiction invention fair with this invention that can, uh, like catch light, raise, like, you know, light raise, bounce off you, and then go into space.
And this can go into space and gather them together. And then you can see history. But it’s sort of a, it’s a concept, but he, he hasn’t, he hasn’t got the technology in the fifties to, but it’s sort of a concept. They win on, on the concept. And in the first chapter, he loses to his arch rival Sandra. And, um, and then he, he, he loses on the drawings, but he wants to sort of make a, a.
Like build it so that they can see what it looks like and tell them for the whole rest of the semester, and then there’s gonna be another contest and then he wants to win that and he tries to enlist the aliens to help him.
BETH BARANY 09:10
Oh wow. So he’s got two problems. Um, the immediate problem is figuring out how to win in the science fair. Right.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 09:18
Yeah, that’s how it starts.
BETH BARANY 09:20
And then later on when the aliens arrive, his new problem of preventing them from what? Killing the animals
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 09:28
And keeping soul pets
BETH BARANY 09:30
and, and, and not
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 09:31
He thinks they’re good At first he thinks they’re really cool and everything, you
BETH BARANY 09:35
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 09:36
and, and then he finds out later that they’re
BETH BARANY 09:38
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 09:38
not so cool.
BETH BARANY 09:39
Yeah. Cuz they try to do, What do they try to do specifically?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 09:44
Well, He takes his dog for a walk and the dog runs into the woods where they are and they kill the dog. They blow it up.
BETH BARANY 09:53
Oh my goodness.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 09:54
the dog that like his father has died and that’s the dog his father gave him. So, uh, that’s sort of what turns him against the aliens.
BETH BARANY 10:03
Oh yeah. Huge. Oh my God. That’s tragic.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 10:07
It is, yes.
BETH BARANY 10:08
Oh my goodness. This is not a, a light story. This is definitely a not dark per se, but you’re dealing with some heavy themes here.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 10:18
BETH BARANY 10:19
That’s good. Uh, and I, I don’t know your audience since I don’t write middle grade, but, uh, it’s, this is all age appropriate. I mean, this, this is what kids wanna be reading these days.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 10:31
Oh, well, I mean, they read the Hunger Games, which is about killing a lot of people and some parents don’t like a lot of violence in middle grade, but, uh, kids in general, and of course it’s for boys. It’s a boys story. So boys kind of like stuff like that.
BETH BARANY 10:48
Okay. So coming back to the alien human relations, um, do you have any thoughts about how you might, uh, have Liam look at these aliens as individuals or does he, like, how does he sort it out? Is he confused? Does he name them in his head? Can he see distinguishing mark’s?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 11:12
He, uh, he’s just sort of blown away with the fact that they glow and the fact that they’re there. But no, I, I really haven’t given that too much consideration, but that’s a good idea. He can get into the individuals. He’s sort of, there’s one guy who always has the translator and he talks to him most of the time.
BETH BARANY 11:30
Okay. Uh, yeah. And he might even, that might be part of your story where he says, Well, what, how do you, if he’s talking to them, he can even ask them, How do you tell each other apart? How do, how do they do it? Um, Or is their concept of individuality completely different than ours?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 11:49
Oh, I see.
BETH BARANY 11:51
Yeah, so it could even be part of the challenge in dealing with them is that maybe they’re like a hive mind of some kind
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 12:00
Oh yeah, Yeah.
BETH BARANY 12:01
if they all look the same, or you could give them some distinguishing characteristics, one from the other.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 12:07
Well, one is a little taller than the other
BETH BARANY 12:09
Okay, that’s good. And you’ve got your translator and you’ve got your one who’s a little taller. Do they have, um, do they have legs?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 12:17
Uh, yes, they have.
BETH BARANY 12:19
And arms, are those all the same or do those
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 12:22
Um, the arms tend to be thin and, uh, they all have thin arms.
BETH BARANY 12:27
Okay. Um, but are they wearing any kind of, I don’t know what their feet and hands are, like, are those different? One from the other?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 12:36
Um, I actually never really mention them, so
BETH BARANY 12:39
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 12:40
it might be a good idea to sync that up too.
BETH BARANY 12:43
Yeah, explore that. Um, Because even like from a, I don’t know what an analogy would be for Liam, but in his experiences of his favorite movies, does he think about what makes one alien different than the other? Or in his own observations of nature? Like what makes one ant or bee different than the other?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 13:07
No, he doesn’t go there,
BETH BARANY 13:08
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 13:09
but he could
BETH BARANY 13:10
he could, he could, uh, Someone else could bring it up. Like he doesn’t have to be the originator of this. His best friend, his rival, a teacher, a parent, could also be the one who helps him figure this out.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 13:25
Yeah, mostly he’s taken up with grief because his father died. His father was his hero.
BETH BARANY 13:31
Yeah. So ultimately, is this story, is this a story about overcoming grief or handling grief or loss?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 13:40
It’s about learning that you can go on after great loss.
BETH BARANY 13:45
Yeah. Yeah. That theme is coming out in our
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 13:48
See, he, he lo he was very close to his dad, and when the dad died, he got so engulfed in grief that all his friends abandoned him except for Nathan. Because they couldn’t cope with it. They’re just kids. And so he, he’s trying to make it up now so he can be like popular again
BETH BARANY 14:05
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 14:06
by trying to be a hero.
BETH BARANY 14:07
Yeah. Ah, okay.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 14:09
that’s why he wants to win the contest.
And, uh, he learns at the end that he is a hero, but not in the way he thinks.
BETH BARANY 14:19
Nice. Yeah. That’s lovely. And does he have any realizations around grief or loss also by the end,
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 14:28
He just finally accepts that his father is gone and won’t be coming.
BETH BARANY 14:32
Okay. Does the mother play a role in the story? Uh,
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 14:36
she’s there, but mostly she’s grief stricken too and is, uh, struggling. Like she just got a job to support him. And this is in the fifties when it was hard for a woman to, uh, be the head of the household. And she’s struggling.
BETH BARANY 14:51
Okay. Yeah. And how old is Liam?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 14:55
BETH BARANY 14:56
Okay, so seventh grade technically.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 15:00
BETH BARANY 15:01
Okay. Yeah. Okay, got it. Good. So, It sounds like the story is already written.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 15:08
Uh, yeah, it’s, it’s done, but, uh, and I’m doing, uh, edits and all that. Um, but I’m, I’m having, like I say, I’m having problem with the alien human thing.
BETH BARANY 15:19
Yeah. And given that he’s 12 and that he’s recently gone through this loss and maybe lost his friends as well, except for Nathan. Um, what, what bonds him initially to the aliens?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 15:37
Um, he really just thinks they’re cool and then he asks them if they can help him with his school project so he can win the contest.
BETH BARANY 15:47
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 15:47
And, um, and then they blow up his dog. So he really has no bond, but he plans to get a revenge on the aliens, but, um, he’s not too clear on how to do it. You know, he’s taking like small steps, trying to fight a gorilla of gore, and trying to do this and that.
But I, I wanna change that a bit because, you know, he doesn’t want them to leave because then they’ll go to their planet and bring back more.
BETH BARANY 16:14
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 16:14
So I, I don’t know exactly what I want his plan to be.
BETH BARANY 16:19
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 16:20
That’s not clear to me yet
BETH BARANY 16:21
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 16:21
because he has to have a plan where Right. And the aliens, um, so they won’t come back.
BETH BARANY 16:29
Okay. Are we talking annihilation here? I mean, is that what he’s thinking?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 16:34
Um, so far, yes,
BETH BARANY 16:38
is that too extreme or are you
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 16:40
it might be.
BETH BARANY 16:40
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 16:41
might be, I’m thinking, uh, he, if he tries to convince the Air Force, cuz the Air Force is at the crash site to, uh, take the prisoner or something. But, uh, the Air Force, uh, guy wants to use them to get revenge on the Russians
BETH BARANY 16:57
Oh my gosh
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 16:57
killed his dad. You see, it’s, they sort of parallel each other.
BETH BARANY 17:01
Yep. Yep. Wow. And, and so it sounds like that, is that another point of view that you’re telling in the story? Is it only through Alien, uh, Liam’s conversation with the Air Force that he finds this out?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 17:15
Yeah, it’s only through conversation. I don’t get into the other guy’s head. I stay in Liam’s head cuz Liam’s 12. The Air Force guy is about 22.
BETH BARANY 17:25
Okay. An idea just came to me while, um, Yeah. So what would Liam think about, uh, enrolling more of the school kids besides just Nathan? Would he even his rival, would he think about enrolling the kids and doing some kind of scheme to, you know, capture or do something with the aliens to keep them on earth?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 17:48
Well, he tries to tell the, the kids about the first stuff off. They, they think it’s Sputnik that’s crashed, and so they go to the woods and it’s uh, some sort of weird craft. And, uh, they don’t know there’s aliens yet, and he tries to tell the kids and they all laugh at ’em and they tell ’em the Air Force won’t let anybody near there.
You won’t even down there. And then he tries to tell them about the aliens and they all laugh at that. So he’s, he’s got no friends left except for Nathan who has been there and has seen them.
BETH BARANY 18:18
but I’m thinking later on in the story, could he try and enroll the kids to. I don’t know, contain the aliens or destroy the, destroy the craft.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 18:29
Um, I had that in my mind. I sort of had a picture in my mind of, uh, kids running into the woods to defeat the aliens. And it, it would be very kid friendly and all, um, But I, I didn’t write it like that. I have him be a hero by, by destroying them and making sure they won’t come back by himself.
BETH BARANY 18:49
I see. Yeah. Um, yeah, I’m wondering how you could bring in the other kids, because it’s a different
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 18:56
I should bring in the other kids?
BETH BARANY 18:57
I do. Just because again, you were saying being a hero isn’t necessarily what he thinks it is. And in a lot of hero stories these days are very much ensemble stories. I mean there that is to say the motif of the sing solo hero saving the day is less popular with today’s youth than before that, that typically more group oriented and
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 19:25
the superhero movies.
BETH BARANY 19:27
Not just superhero, but other kids’ movies, even Hunger games, you know, I mean, she succeeds alone, but she also succeeds because of her friends.
Um, and like Harry Potter for example, you know, even though he’s the solo hero, he actually succeeds because of his friends.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 19:43
BETH BARANY 19:44
yeah. And it would also bring home that message of how being a hero is different than you think, you know? Um, Might wanna play with that. Um, sorry, my, I don’t read a lot of middle, middle grade.
I’ve read, I’ve read some, some of my fantasy stories I like are middle grade, like, um, I’m forgetting his name. Oy Fer. Uh,
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 20:08
I don’t know him.
BETH BARANY 20:09
it’s a, it’s a boy who’s about 12 or 13 who is like a, a villain slash hero. Um, an Irish author. Sorry, I cannot remember. Some, a listener will let us know.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 20:21
Okay, great, great, great.
BETH BARANY 20:23
Or, uh, Diane Dwayne’s, uh, series.
So you wanna be a wizard?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 20:28
BETH BARANY 20:28
Yeah, there’s always an ensemble there, even though there’s a main character also.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 20:32
Yeah. Personally, I’m tired of wizards.
BETH BARANY 20:36
Yeah, that’s a different, it’s a different motif. The So you wanna be A Wizard series is, um, very different than the Harry Potter series. Yeah. Um, okay. So do you have, um, so in terms of your own creative process, now that we’ve talked about some ideas, what do you do with these ideas?
Do you go back and start writing them brainstorming? How, how do you figure out if what we’ve. Come up with here today is, is gonna be useful to you.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 21:04
Well, uh, I think what I’ll do is, uh, take a piece of paper and divide it in half and put Liam, Aliens or Earthlings aliens and sort of try and, you know, give one, one character and maybe I can split the aliens into three or four and then, uh, see where I can make trouble between them.
BETH BARANY 21:23
Oh, excellent. Uh, and by trouble do you mean like coming up with specific scenes and moments where they’re gonna clash.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 21:32
BETH BARANY 21:33
Okay. And then in terms of adding in characteristics that we were brainstorming here today, how will you go about integrating those?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 21:42
Um, what I want to do, cuz I want to use the historical period, so I’m, I’m gonna have them, them sort of reacting based on their characteristics to the, to the period, like the hamburger joint, the malt shop.
BETH BARANY 21:59
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 22:00
And they’re gonna react to it from their point of view. Like, you know, if somebody hated a malt shop, they’d say, Oh, another malt shop.
BETH BARANY 22:06
Mm-hmm. . Yeah. And.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 22:08
it’ll, it’ll, I I also hope to give them, my readers a, an idea of this period of the time period.
BETH BARANY 22:15
Oh, that’s great. So those that would be humans reacting to the various aspects of the, of the setting.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 22:20
BETH BARANY 22:21
And how about the aliens reacting in diff, you know, individual aliens reacting to the setting also in these various ways to give them,
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 22:33
really come out of the woods.
BETH BARANY 22:34
Okay, so they stay in the
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 22:35
of contained there by the Air Force.
BETH BARANY 22:37
Oh they are. Okay. And they still manage to cause problem for Liam and his friends.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 22:42
BETH BARANY 22:43
Okay. Um, and you, do you need to, coming back to distinguishing the aliens, one from the other, from Liam’s perspective, do you still wanna pursue that?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 22:55
Uh, yeah. Yeah. First off, see, I haven’t really decided. I’ve written the whole thing and I’m editing, but I haven’t decided how many aliens to have. I’m thinking four is a good number,
BETH BARANY 23:07
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 23:07
Or maybe even just three.
BETH BARANY 23:08
Yeah, yeah. Definitely.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 23:11
four might be too much to add of a whole complete character. Uh, three might be good.
BETH BARANY 23:17
Yeah. Three. And does it even just to test this idea, what if there was just two? Would that be too few?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 23:26
Um, I don’t think it would be too few.
BETH BARANY 23:30
Okay. I just know from. You know, it’s easy to write a lot of characters, but then it, it loses power, right? We, we lose the ability to create strong conflict if we have
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 23:43
BETH BARANY 23:44
cooks in the kitchen.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 23:46
They might even do to have just one.
BETH BARANY 23:47
Yeah. What if it’s just one? Yeah. That might simplify your decisions as a storyteller. Yeah. And, um, and you could, um, I don’t know why you would want more than one in terms like how that would enhance the story or detract.
I don’t know. Like sometimes it’s in the editing. We, we find this out and does the, does the alien need to attempt to call home and there’s a communication failure there. Uh.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 24:21
no, when they, when they, uh, trashed what something called their energizing piece, uh, trashed and Liam took it so he has it in his house, but he doesn’t wanna let them know,
BETH BARANY 24:34
yeah. Okay. And how That’s interesting
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 24:37
so they can’t really do anything without their energizing piece.
BETH BARANY 24:40
Okay. So except they killed the dog,
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 24:46
Well, they have a little thing that blows stuff up
BETH BARANY 24:48
I see. So,
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 24:50
They put it on its head. They actually blow up its head.
BETH BARANY 24:52
That is so gross. Sorry,
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 24:54
is really gross
BETH BARANY 24:55
gonna have to put a little trigger warning
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 24:57
Kids sort of like grow stuff, don’t they?
BETH BARANY 24:59
That’s true. That’s, Yeah, they do. Uh, okay. So, Great. It sounds like you know what your next step is in terms of figuring some conflicts out. And we’ve refined, you’re gonna have maybe just one alien, so that will simplify.
Um, we don’t need to answer the question. What distinguishes one from the other now? Um, and maybe, when Liam sees the alien, um, You told me it’s shaped like an egg with arms and legs and some, some semblance of a face. Is there anything else that Liam thinks of when he meets the alien in terms of what it looks like or acts like?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 25:41
just that it glows. Like everything. Their craft glows, they glow their eyes change color when they, uh, when they get mad and happy and stuff.
BETH BARANY 25:51
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 25:52
he can’t tell if they’re mad, happy from their eyes. You know, he’s, they just change color and he can’t tell,
BETH BARANY 25:58
Okay, so from what to what? Can you tell me a little bit
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 26:02
like, like the red, the, the, the yellow will get more intense and start like, like a light and, and the red will become darker and stuff like that.
BETH BARANY 26:12
Ooh. Okay. Yeah. Get into the colors. I think that’s incredibly evocative. Um, cool. So as we start to, um, wrap up, is there any other questions or problems that you wanna brainstorm about your story?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 26:28
BETH BARANY 26:29
Okay, we made some headway today.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 26:32
Uh, yes. Yes, we did.
BETH BARANY 26:33
Good. Absolutely fun. So, uh, and we talked about your next step. Because this podcast is called How to Write the Future, and I’m very curious about how we as science fiction and fantasy writers can really change the world essentially with our stories and put a put, uh, positivity and positive outcomes into the world through our story.
I was wondering how that resonated with you and how you saw yourself as a science fiction fantasy writer. You know, do you see yourself as making a mark in the world with your stories? How do you see that?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 27:09
I don’t know if it’s the writer that makes the mark or the reader. You know, like when the guy wrote the story about mock the, the speed mock and then they named when they, when they were able to reach that speed, they named it mock, but I, he didn’t know he was doing that. I mean, it’s the reader that does that.
BETH BARANY 27:29
Oh, I love that. Yeah, so we, we don’t really know the impact we’re gonna have with our stories
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 27:34
BETH BARANY 27:35
but they do, or we hope that they do make an impact. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I would say I, for me, I write to have that impact on readers and just like I was impacted and continue to be so as a reader.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 27:49
Yeah, of course.
BETH BARANY 27:50
That’s wonderful. Is there anything that, um, you would like, Well, I would like readers and listeners to find out more about you if they would like, So where can they go to learn more about you?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 28:04
There’s, uh, Madeline m.ca, and Madeline is spelled m a d e l e i n e, and it’s all lowercase, and that’s a website which is not finished, but you can download a. A, uh, short, uh, a short book, and it’s not science fiction, but uh, it’s sort of a horror actually. But,
BETH BARANY 28:25
fun. Oh, that’s so fun. So would you call yourself a science fiction and horror writer?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 28:32
uh, among other things, because I, I try and cover a lot of genres, you know, or they just sort of come outta me,
BETH BARANY 28:38
Yeah. Oh, that’s wonderful. And do you have any advice to anybody out there starting out, wanting to write in? Starting to write stories?
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 28:47
Yeah, just, uh, I mean, just don’t worry if you get like, uh, blocked because when I started, you know, I have an idea and I’d struggle, struggle, struggle to have ideas, but just keep writing Like anything. Write a, pick out two names out of the well paper, that’s sort old fashion, but off the internet maybe, and just write about those names, sort of some little thing, a love thing or hate thing or whatever.
BETH BARANY 29:11
That’s wonderful. I love it.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 29:13
you know, keep doing it. Just keep doing it and it’ll come, The ideas will come. You won’t be able to stop them.
BETH BARANY 29:19
Oh, I love that. And I love how it’s also very character focused. So I put, you know, put two characters in a room who don’t know each other and boom. Start writing. What do they say? What do they do? Yeah, that’s great. That’s so great. Well, uh, Madeline, thank you so much for joining me today for our 30 minute Story Success Clinic.
I hope this is useful to you and to all the listeners. I was inspired. I think your story is fascinating, and please let us know when, when it comes out.
MADELEINE MCLAUGHLIN 29:50
Okay. Thank you very much.
OUTRO + AD
Write long and prosper.
Science fiction and fantasy sign up for your 30 minute Story Success Clinic and get more exposure for your books.
Loved this episode? Leave us a review and rating here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/2012061
or in your podcast home of choice.
ABOUT BETH BARANY
Beth Barany is an award-winning novelist, certified creativity coach for writers, and a workshop facilitator. In addition to her how-to books for writers, Beth has published books in several genres including young adult fantasy, paranormal romance, and science fiction mystery.
SHOW PRODUCTION BY Beth Barany
SHOW NOTES BY Kerry-Ann McDade
Connect with Beth Barany: https://twitter.com/BethBarany
EDITED WITH DESCRIPT: https://www.descript.com?lmref=_w1WCA
DISTRIBUTED BY BUZZSPROUT:
2022 BETH BARANY
For more “How To Write the Future” episodes, go here.
If you’d like to invite Beth onto your podcast, drop her a note here.