Redshirts. No sooner are they introduced than they are killed. The tension rises, there are beads of sweat on Kirk’s brow… now the audience knows the peril is real.

These stock, disposable characters exist in a story solely for the purpose of being disposed of – kidnapped or killed, etc, to push the protagonist into action or drive up the sense of tension without having real consequences for our heroes.

There are several kinds of disposable characters, falling into three main categories:

  1. Sacrificial lambs/’stuffed into the fridge’
  2. Cannon fodder
  3. Raise the stakes

Back from holiday, Megan leads a discussion on the concept of disposable characters in speculative fiction. Why are they problematic? Should we avoid using disposable characters at all costs or do they have their place? What steps can writers take to avoid these tropes? While Lucy almost audibly rolls her eyes at our mention of Star Trek, Charlotte relishes the opportunity to discuss the horror genre in more depth than she usually has a chance to.

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Texts and writers mentioned in this episode include: