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Recap: Pub Paths Episode 2

In this conversation, we discuss how to create a consistent brand that transcends genres and crafting characters that readers will root for. Despite some initial technical difficulties with Instagram, we manage to have an engaging discussion filled with writing tips and examples from popular books, movies, and music.


Alex believes that authors Taylor Swift and V.E. Schwab have successfully built genre-defying brands that keep their audience invested. She points out that while Swift's music style has evolved from country to pop to the indie-folk sound of her "folklore" and "evermore" albums, her lyrics consistently explore themes of relationships, heartbreak, and personal growth. Similarly, Schwab writes in various genres and for different age groups, but her books are always character-driven and explore complex themes.

To build a cross-genre brand, Alex suggests:

  1. Identify common threads in your writing (e.g., themes, character types, voice)

  2. Focus on a few key aspects that shine through in all your work

  3. Find readers who resonate with those themes and connect with them

I compare this approach to "skill stacking," where you combine your unique strengths to create something distinctly yours. I emphasize the importance of understanding your target audience and what they're looking for in a story.


I, a self-proclaimed "Matt Bird groupie," share his framework for creating characters that readers will care about and root for:

  1. Make the audience believe in the characters by giving them a "moment of humanity" early on (e.g., an out-of-character moment, a unique or oddball moment, or a universal yet specific moment)

  2. Make the audience care about the characters by revealing their vulnerabilities, hopes, and dreams

  3. Make the audience invest in the characters by making them active, resourceful, and driven by a goal

"We like to root for people who can make decisions. That's why we're drawn to princes, kings, princesses, and every political drama is about the president." - Sarah

I also suggest surrounding your character with people who lack their strengths to create contrast and highlight what makes them unique.

Alex adds that showing characters' inner thoughts and interactions with others can help readers understand their true values and motivations, even if their actions don't always align with them.


Throughout the conversation, we reference various books, movies, and TV shows that exemplify these techniques:

  • Taylor Swift's lyrics in her latest album

  • V.E. Schwab's "The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue"

  • Kaz Brekker from Leigh Bardugo's "Six of Crows"

  • Allison Saft's debut novel "Down Comes the Night"

  • The character arc in "The Lego Movie"

  • The importance of decision-making roles in political dramas

We also discuss examples from our own writing, such as Alex's focus on characters dealing with religious trauma and my hardworking protagonist in my upcoming novel, "Illusion of Stars."


  • Creating a consistent brand across genres involves identifying and focusing on the common threads in your writing

  • To make readers care about your characters, give them moments of humanity, reveal their vulnerabilities, and make them active and goal-oriented

  • Surround your characters with people who lack their strengths to create contrast and highlight their unique qualities

  • Study examples from popular media to learn techniques for crafting believable characters and building a strong brand

By following these tips and techniques, authors can create a strong, recognizable brand and characters that readers will love and root for, no matter the genre or age group they're writing for.

Wanna catch the full episode? Listen here.


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