Cabin Tales Episodes 2 and 2.5: Character

Nasty People meet Nasty Ends (Episode 2)

A 50-minute episode about writing characters. With a spooky original story, “The Spot;” excerpts from DraculaThe Universe vs Alex Woods, and The Bad Beginning; interviews with Karen KrossingMonique Polak, and Tim Wynne-Jones; and a final story prompt, “Swimmer’s Graveyard.”

Read or download the full episode transcript here:

Cabin Tales Episode 002 Transcript Download

Episode Two Shownotes:

[0:00] Intro 

[3:10] Story: “The Spot” 

[14:35] Commentary: Introducing characters

[15:50] Excerpt from Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

[18:30] Copy the technique

[19:15] Introducing a character from an omniscient point of view

[20:10] Excerpt from The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

[22:15] Copy the technique

[23:00] First person narrators as characters

[23:50] Excerpt from The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

[25:20] Copy the technique

[26:30] Interviews: favourite villains and other characters

[27:05] Karen Krossing’s favourite characters

[28:40] Monique Polak’s favourite characters

[30:35] Tim Wynne-Jones’ favourite characters

[32:35] Interviews: empathizing with characters

[32:35] Karen Krossing on empathizing with monsters

[35:45] Monique Polak on empathizing with all characters

[36:45] Tim Wynne-Jones on taking his characters everywhere with him

[38:25] Advice for young writers on developing characters

[39:15] Tim Wynne-Jones on drafting to discover a character

[41:00] Monique Polak on stealing characters

[41:45] Karen Krossing on observing setting as a character

[42:20] Character Exercises to find plot

[43:45] Story Prompt: “The couple at Swimmer’s Graveyard”

You can find a mini-lesson on developing characters and a template on Catherine Austen’s blog.

[49:10] Thanks etc.

Author Interviews about Character (Episode 2.5)

Interviews with authors Caroline PignatJan CoatesRachel EugsterLori Weber, and Amanda West Lewis on their favourite fictional villains and protagonists, their deep connections to their characters, and recommended exercises for young writers who want to develop memorable fictional characters. 

Read the full transcript:

Episode 2.5 Show Notes

[0:00] Introduction

[1:15] Interviews on favourite villains and protagonists

[2:00] Caroline Pignat on Darth Vader and Gollum

[4:10] Jan Coates on Skellig, The Nest, and Kate DiCamillo

[6:45] Lori Weber on Heathcliffe, Remington, and favourite characters

[9:40] Rachel Eugster on Miss Slighcarp and beloved characters

[12:20] Amanda West Lewis on the Terrible Trivium 

[15:50] Commentary and interviews on empathy

Excerpt by Colum McCann from Letters to a Young Writer

[18:00] Caroline Pignat on crying through a scene

[18:45] Jan Coates on sitting down with her character

[19:50] Lori Weber on loving her characters

[20:30] Rachel Eugster on acting and writing 

[22:25] Amanda West Lewis on making historical characters feel real 

[24:50] Exercises for young writers

[25:15] Amanda West Lewis on making historical characters feel real 

[27:00] Rachel Eugster on plotting characters 

[28:30] Lori Weber on discovering a character as she writes

[31:15] Jan Coates on living with a character in her head

[32:20] Caroline Pignat on connecting with characters

[35:15] Write your own tale

[35:45] Interviews on humans vs monsters

[36:55] Caroline Pignat on deceptive appearances

[38:10] Jan Coates on recent real-life monsters

[38:40] Lori Weber on scary humans

[39:00] Rachel Eugster on noble monsters

[40:00] Amanda West Lewis on humans and monsters

[40:15] Karen Krossing on monstrous humans 

[40:25] Monique Polak on writing monsters from life 

[41:25] Tim Wynne-Jones on monsters, humans, and monster stories

[43:30] Story prompt: humane monsters and monstrous humans

[43:45] Thanks


Music: Music on the podcast is from “Stories of the Old Mansion” by Akashic Records, provided by Jamendo (Standard license for online use). 

Host: Catherine Austen writes books for children, short stories for adults, and reports for corporate clients. Visit her at

Art: The woman’s face is a cropped B&W version of an illustration by Paul Helleu from a 1913 collection of his work. The conversation image is a cropped version of a wood engraving by John Leech from Pictures of Life and Character Vol 1, 1866.

Guest Authors:

Jan Coates

Jan Coates grew up in Truro, Nova Scotia where her parents owned a bookshop and a music store. A teacher by trade, she’s been writing for young readers for close to 20 years, and she has published six picture books, six middle grade novels, and 18 levelled chapter books for emergent readers. Her first novel, A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk, was a finalist for the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Awards. She has two adult children and one of her goals is to life within an hour’s drive of her kids. She lives with her husband Don, and her dog Charlie, in Wolfville, NS. She loves bike riding, learning to illustrate, second-hand shopping, being outside and travelling. Read her blog: or find her on Twitter @JanCoates13.

Rachel Eugster

Rachel Eugster keeps her fingers in a whole rack of pies. She is the author of the picture book The Pocket Mommy (Tunda/Penguin Random House)*, and the Ingredients of a Balanced Diet series (Franklin Watts). Rachel is a theatre artist, singer, choral conductor, and co-founder and core artist of Bear & Co., an indie theatre company. In 2015, Rachel premiered in her original play Whose Æmilia? at the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Rachel is also an active member of Democrats Abroad, for whom she co-hosts The Blue Vote Café podcast with David Schellenberg. Visit here at

Karen Krossing

Karen Krossing wrote poetry and rants as a teen and dreamed of becoming a published writer. Now, she’s the author of seven award-winning novels for kids and teens, including Punch Like a GirlBog, and Cut the Lights, with two picture books on the way.

Karen encourages new writers through workshops for kids, teens, and adults. She lives in Toronto, and you can find her on Instagram and Twitter or at

Caroline Pignat is the two-time Governor Generalʼs Literary Award-winning author of novels, non-fiction, and poetry. At age 16, she wrote a short story that years later became Greener Grass, winner the 2009 Governor General’s Literary Award. The Gospel Truth, a novel in free verse poetry, won her a second Governor General’s Award in 2015. With over 20 years’ experience teaching in schools, workshops, and at conferences, Caroline loves helping young writers find and share their unique voices. Website:; Twitter: @CarolinePignat

Monique Polak is the Montreal-based author of 29 books for young people. She is a two-time winner of the Quebec Writers’ Federation Prize for Children’s and YA Literature. She has been teaching English and Humanities at Marianopolis College in Montreal for over 30 years. She is also a columnist for ICI-Radio Canada’s Plus on est de fous, plus on lit! As you can imagine, Monique operates at high speed to get all these things done. But she brakes whenever she hears (or smells) a good story. To learn more about Monique, visit her website at

Lori Weber is the author of eight young adult novels, including Yellow Mini, a novel in verse, and Deep Girls, a short-story collection; one historical middle grade novel, Lightning Lou; and one picture book, My Granny Loves Hockey. She has also published short fiction, poetry and non-fiction in several Canadian literary journals. She taught English in CEGEP for years and is recently retired. She lives in Dorval, Quebec, where she hopes to do more writing, taking inspiration from her cat, Bogey, and the beautiful Lac Saint Louis which is at her doorstep, and which she loves to photograph daily. Website:; #lacsaintlouis (Instagram)

Amanda Lewis

Amanda West Lewis has built a life filled with words on the page and on the stage, combining careers as a writer, theatre director and calligrapher. Her writing for children and youth ranges from historical YA fiction to craft books on the art of writing. Amanda holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, with a specialist certificate in writing picture books. She is also the Artistic Director and Founder of The Ottawa Children’s Theatre. She has dedicated her career to arts education for all ages. Website:;   Twitter: @AmandaWestLewis; Facebook:

Tim Wynne-Jones has written 35 books for adults and children of all sorts of ages. He has won the Governor General’s Award twice and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award twice, most recently for the thriller, Blink & Caution. He has twice won the Arthur Ellis Award of the Crime Writers of Canada, as well as the Edgar Award of the Mystery Writers of America. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. Tim was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2012. His latest novel, The Starlight Claim, came out in 2019. Website:; Blog:; Twitter: @tim_wj; Facebook:

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