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Writing Excuses

English, Education, 19 seasons, 864 episodes, 2 days, 13 hours, 11 minutes
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Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Daniel Wells discuss writing techniques in a fast-paced, 15-minute format.
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18.36: The Soggy Middle Pays the Rent (or, "Stand Alone With Series Potential")

How do you write the middle of a book? How do you end your book? How do you know what to write next? This week, our hosts —who all work as a writers and publishers (and are sometimes teachers and puppeteers and many other things)— talk through how they have written the middle of their books. The middle is where most of the story takes place. How do you keep track of your characters and plot? How do you bring it toward an end, and stick the landing? Well, we’ve got some ideas. And some advice to help you write the middle of your novel. Or short story. Or play. Or really… anything. Homework: Identify the point of the middle where you are delaying because you feel like your character needs to "earn" the cool thing. Where can you cut and where can you turn it into an escalation?Also! Make sure to catch up on Schlock Mercenary if you haven’t already. Our next 3 episodes will dive into the details, and include some spoilers. Thing of the Week: The October Daye Series by Seanan McGuireLiner Notes: Mass Effect 2Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.Join Our Writing Community! PatreonInstagramYouTubeFacebookTwitterSign up for our newsletter: https://writingexcuses.comOur Sponsors:* Check out HelloFresh: http://hellofresh.comAdvertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
9/3/202326 minutes, 30 seconds
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18.31: Getting Personal: Mining Your Life for Themes

In our final episode diving into how and why Dan wrote “Dark One: Forgotten,” talk about how you can take something personal and mine it for fiction. We also tackle the complicated question—Why should you be the one to tell your story?  We think about the personal touches that you can add to your writing, and how people can hear when your story is personal. Homework:2 things! 1. Have you watched Criminal Minds? If you haven’t, you should! Next week, we have a special guest—Kirsten Vangsness who plays Penelope Garcia! Explore her other stuff (like her web series and podcast), and get ready for an INCREDIBLE conversation with her. 2. What's the thing in your real life that you keep thinking about when you aren't writing? Can you give that feeling or theme to a character? ALSO, prepare for our next Deep Dive, by reading through Howard Tayler's Schlock Mercenary. And feel free to re-listen to our interview with Howard earlier this year, Thing of the Week:Everything Everywhere all at Once Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.Join Our Writing Community! PatreonInstagramYouTubeFacebookTwitterSign up for our newsletter: https://writingexcuses.comAdvertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
7/30/202324 minutes, 10 seconds
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18.29: Collaboration And Partnership

What are the best practices for collaboration? How do you write in an established intellectual property (IP)? How do you write a new story in an established world? We dive into working with an individual or a group. We hear stories from our hosts about how they have navigated creative endeavors with different types of collaboration.Homework:Grab something on your TBR (to be read) pile and pick a random paragraph from it. Use that as the opening for a short story.Also prepare for our upcoming Deep Dive (starting in two episodes), by reading through Howard Tayler's Schlock Mercenary.Thing of the Week:The Original by Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette KowalMentioned Links:Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.Join Our Writing Community! PatreonInstagramYouTubeFacebookTwitterSign up for our newsletter: https://writingexcuses.comAdvertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands
7/16/202330 minutes, 47 seconds
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18.18: Launching an Author Newsletter

It's 2023 and people still use email newsletters. For some reason they're more important than ever, so let's talk about building one.
4/30/202324 minutes, 11 seconds
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18.17: Build Your Author Brand, 2023 Edition

An exploration of author branding and the social media tools we use. "Figure out who you are, and then do it on purpose" - Dolly Parton.
4/23/202326 minutes, 38 seconds
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18.16: Deep Dive: Publishing is Hard, by DongWon Song

Publishing is hard. Also, Publishing is Hard is a newsletter from DongWon Song. In this episode we grill them about it.
4/16/202322 minutes, 32 seconds
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18.15: Building a Mystery, Now With More Tools

Back in February, with Episode 18.8, we began exploring the process of writing a mystery story. That episode led us into a series of six episodes about tension, and the tools we use to create and manage it. And now, with this episode (and a toolbox full of tension) we're ready (we hope!) to revisit the creation of mystery stories. Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
4/9/202321 minutes, 42 seconds
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18.14: Heavy Lifting with Microtension

Let's take all our tension tools and apply them in tiny ways. A big application of tension might be an argument between two characters about a course of plot-important action. Microtension might be those characters arguing about how long to boil eggs. In this episode we'll explore some favorite applications of microtension, and the ways in which it can be layered to ramp up the larger, plot-focused tension. Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
4/2/202317 minutes, 14 seconds
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18.13: Finding the Core Conflict

In our ongoing exploration of tension, the time has come to examine conflict. It can be shaped and delivered in numerous ways, but you have to know the core conflict before you can make anybody feel tense about it. Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
3/26/202319 minutes, 31 seconds
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18.12: The Long Shadow of Unanswered Questions

Our continuing exploration of tension has taken us to a favorite technique: unanswered questions. Sure, this obviously applies to mysteries, but consider the question posed in romances: “will they get together?” In its simplest form, the unanswered question that forces a page-turn is "what happens on the next page?" In this episode we explore how to use unanswered questions to drive tension, and how to avoid some common pitfalls. Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
3/19/202321 minutes, 2 seconds
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18.11: Turning Up the Contrast With Juxtaposition

Our deconstruction and categorization of tension continues this week with an exploration of Juxtaposition, which is a contrast between two elements that supplies tension by allowing the reader to insert themselves. Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
3/12/202320 minutes, 49 seconds
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18.10: Anticipation is More Than Just Making Us Wait

Last week we talked about tension, and promised that we'd be breaking it down into more pieces. This week we're discussing one of those pieces: Anticipation. We sub-divided it as follows: Surprise Suspense Humor Promises We talk about how to create anticipatory tension well, where the pitfalls are, and how this fits into the creation of our stories. Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
3/5/202318 minutes, 15 seconds
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18.09: Unpacking the Tension

For the next several episodes we'll be talking about tension. That may seem like a lot of time to spend on just one word, but as we unpack the word 'tension' in this episode you'll see that there is plenty of material to work with.
2/26/202320 minutes, 40 seconds
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18.08: Building a Mystery

After last week's deep dive into The Spare Man we're ready to talk more generally about mysteries, and the tools we use to write them. Obviously we can't cover all of that in just one episode, but don't worry. In upcoming episodes we'll explore more of these tools in detail. Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
2/19/202323 minutes, 11 seconds
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18.07: Deep Dive into THE SPARE MAN

Spoiler Alert! This week is our deep dive into Mary Robinette Kowal's The Spare Man. It's a sci-fi mystery novel often described as "The Thin Man in space." Deep dive episodes are necessarily full of spoilers because we ask all kinds of how and why questions specific to the writing of the work in question. If you haven't yet read The Spare Man, you might consider doing that before listening to this episode. We're not the boss of you, but we believe you'll get more out of this episode and the novel if you read the novel first. Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
2/12/202332 minutes, 16 seconds
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18.06: An Interview With Howard Tayler

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler In this episode we interview Howard Tayler, one of the founding members of the podcast, and the creator of Schlock Mercenary. The first question: how did this twenty-year ride change you? And a later question: what comes next? Liner Notes: We'll eventually do a deep dive on the final three books of the Schlock Mercenary saga. You can read for free starting here. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
2/5/202320 minutes, 1 second
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18.05: An Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler In this episode Howard Tayler conducts our interview with Mary Robinette Kowal, leading with a wide-open question: "Where did you even?" Mary Robinette talks to us about how she came to the world of writing, and some of the amazing things she picked up along the way. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
1/29/202321 minutes, 43 seconds
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18.04: An Interview With Dan Wells

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler In this episode Erin Roberts very enthusiastically launches our interview with "OG" Dan Wells with a delightfully difficult question, paraphrased thusly: "is there advice you gave back in the early days that you still stand by today?" There are lots of other questions, including one about bacon! Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
1/22/202321 minutes, 46 seconds
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18.03: An Interview With Erin Roberts

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler As we announced in the first episode of the year (and in this press release),  DongWon Song and Erin Roberts are joining us as permanent cast members. Today we're conducting an interview with Erin Roberts. She is newer to career writing than any of the rest of us, but her contributions to Writing Excuses have already been invaluable.  In this episode we'll learn a bit more about why, and about what Erin will bring to the program going forward. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
1/15/202317 minutes, 51 seconds
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18.02: An Interview with DongWon Song

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler As we announced in last week's episode (and in this press release),  DongWon Song and Erin Roberts are joining us as permanent cast members. In this episode we conduct an interview with DongWon Song, plumbing a few depths, and learning a bit more about what they can teach all of us. Liner Notes: DongWon Song's newsletter, Publishing is Hard, can be found at publishingishard.com. It's free, but paid subscriptions are available. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
1/8/202323 minutes, 35 seconds
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18.01: Twenty Twenty-Three, By Way of Introduction

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler We begin 2023 with some big changes, and in this episode we'll discuss those, starting with some changes to the core cast. DongWon Song and Erin Roberts are joining us as permanent cast members, and Brandon Sanderson is stepping aside with "emeritus" status. But the episode isn't just announcements. We each talk about where we are career-wise, what we're working on, and what we're excited to bring to the podcast this year. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson  
1/1/202324 minutes, 21 seconds
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17.52: The WXR 2022 Q&A

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Mary Robinette, and Howard This Q&A session was recorded before a live audience aboard ship at WXR 2022, Here are some paraphrasings of the questions our attendees asked: How do you make your world feel big without infodumping? How do you balance a sense of progress with an unreliable narrator? How can I make two magic systems work in the same setting when one is underpowered, and the protagonist uses the weaker one? Have you ever based characters on yourself, or on people you know? What does the process of book adaptation look like Do you have any good convention recommendations? What are some methods for determining how much scientific detail you go into? How do you interact with an audience in order to grow it? Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
12/25/202230 minutes, 16 seconds
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17.51: Feel The Burn

Your Hosts: Dongwon Song, Piper J. Drake, Peng Shepherd, Marshall Carr, Jr., and Erin Roberts Let's talk about burnout. It's been a long few years (with some of those years feeling like decades) so this may seem timely, but burnout can happen during otherwise ordinary times. Ignoring it or simply trying to "burn smarter, not harder" can have serious repercussions. In this episode we talk about why we burn out, how we recognize it, how we deal with it, and how we (eventually) recover from it. Credits: This episode was recorded by Matthew Drake, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
12/18/202219 minutes, 7 seconds
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17.50: Consistency, Inconsistency, and the Crushing Weight of Expectations

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Dongwon Song, and Dan Wells Thanks to some last-minute schedule changes, we almost didn't have an episode for today. Only three cast members were able to make it to the session, and none of those three had the syllabus. But we forged ahead anyway, and recorded an episode about why we felt it was important to record an episode. That may sound like one too many layers of meta, but just wait until we add the layers in which this actually applies to writing! Liner Notes: Dongwon's newsletter is called "Publishing is Hard." Dan's newsletter doesn't have a name, but can be signed up for here. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
12/11/202222 minutes, 6 seconds
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17.49: Bodies Are Magical

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, C.L. Polk, Fran Wilde, and Howard Tayler  Let's put a stake in the ground here: disabilities do not grant magical powers. And yet that exact trope can be found in multiple genres, across multiple mediums. In this episode we talk about why this happens, and how we might better portray the magical awesomeness found in our bodies. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
12/4/202220 minutes, 11 seconds
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17.48: Bodies, Why? (Part III)

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, C.L. Polk, Fran Wilde, and Howard Tayler  Let's talk about pain. It hurts, yes, but we all experience it, so writing about it can be a great point of connection between the writer and the reader. Also, writing about it can hurt. Liner Notes: We referenced  "No, I'm Fine," by Howard Tayler, and "The Visions Take Their Toll: Disability and the Cost of Magic," by Dominic Parisien Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
11/27/202226 minutes, 4 seconds
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17.47: The Linguistics of Disability

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, C.L. Polk, Fran Wilde, and Howard Tayler  This is the "talking about how to talk about" talk. We begin by reviewing the difference between the medical model and the social model of disability. Liner Notes: This TikTok provides a nice explanation of the medical and social models of disability. There's also this essay, "The Linguistics of Disability" over at Fireside Fiction. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
11/20/202220 minutes, 12 seconds
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17.46: Monstrous Awakening

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, C.L. Polk, Fran Wilde, and Howard Tayler  Okay, before we start, you have homework: Please take a few minutes to read this essay by Fran Wilde entitled "You Wake Up Monstrous." That will give you context for our discussion, which is about how body horror and other monstrous-ness is a tool we should be employing with great care. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
11/13/202218 minutes, 41 seconds
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17.45: Bodies, Tech, and Character

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, C.L. Polk, Fran Wilde, and Howard Tayler  Let's talk about technological body-modification! It's a common element in science fiction, but it's also an increasingly important part of the world we're living in right now. Liner Notes: In this episode we referenced "Happenstance," and Amy Purdy's quickstep from Dancing With The Stars. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
11/6/202221 minutes, 2 seconds
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17.44: Bodies, Why? (Part II: Working Through Disability)

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Fran Wilde, C.L. Polk, and Howard Tayler Let's talk for a bit about writing while disabled. This can mean anything from scheduling your craft around doctor's appointments, to learning to operate on a limited budget as defined by your body. You might be asking "I'm not disabled, so how does this pertain to me?" Well... you're not disabled currently. Eventually, as we age, we all experience disability. Liner Notes: Howard tweeted about his experience at the hand clinic. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/30/202227 minutes, 9 seconds
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17.43: Bodies. Why? (Depicting Disability)

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette and Howard Tayler, with special guests Fran Wilde, C.L. Polk, and William Alexander Whether or not you're writing from your own experience, depicting disability in fiction is fraught. In this episode we'll talk about some of the dos and don'ts in order to provide you with guidelines for disability depiction. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson  
10/23/202222 minutes, 2 seconds
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17.42: Eight Embodied Episodes About Disability

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette and Howard Tayler, with special guests Fran Wilde, C.L. Polk, and William Alexander For the next eight episodes we'll be talking about bodies, and how they don't all work the same way, and how this can be applied to our writing. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/16/202223 minutes, 8 seconds
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17.41: Picture Books are Books Too, with Special Guest Seth Fishman

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, and Howard Tayler, with special guest Seth Fishman Seth Fishman, author of seven picture books (as well as lots of longer-form stuff), joins us to talk about writing picture books, including some of the business and publication aspects. No-Context Pull Quote: "Your art is so bad we're going to hire someone to draw badly for you." Credits: This episode was recorded live by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/9/202218 minutes, 35 seconds
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17.40: Questions & Answers About Structure, with Special Guest Peng Shepherd

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, and Howard Tayler, with special guest Peng Shepherd Peng Shepherd joined us aboard Liberty of the Seas for WXR 2022, and returned with us to the topic of story structures. In this episode we answer questions from our live audience. The questions include: How do you make sure you've got the right number of plot threads? How do you spread the structure of a given plot line across multiple books? How do you avoiding having subplots distract readers from the main plot? What are some strategies you can use to better align character goals with the overall problem of the story? Are there clear dos and don'ts with regard to story structure? How do you prepare or color-code bits for running a role-playing game? More broadly: what organizational tools do you use for story structure? For the answers, you'll have to give the episode a listen... Credits: This episode was recorded live by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/2/202224 minutes, 28 seconds
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17.39: Writing Bodies and Intimacy, with K.M. Szpara

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Dongwon Song, Piper J. Drake,  & Howard Tayler, with special guest K. M. Szpara CONTENT WARNING: this episode is about adult acts and adult bodies, and we won't be using euphemisms.  K.M. Szpara joined us at WXR 2022 for this discussion of writing bodies and intimacy, with a particular focus on which kinds of words to use for things. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr. before a live audience aboard Liberty of the Seas. It was mastered by Alex Jackson.  
9/25/202219 minutes, 18 seconds
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17.38: Oh No I Lost The Thread

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, C.L. Polk, Marshall Carr, Jr., and Mary Robinette Kowal Oh no! You've put the project down for long enough that you've lost your place in it! Whatever will you do? For starters, you can listen to this episode. We've been there, and one of us is there right now. We talk about the different problems you're likely facing, and how to overcome them in order to find the thread and get moving again. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
9/18/202219 minutes, 6 seconds
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17.37: Science and Fiction—It’s Not Just Science Fiction

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Cady Coleman The fictional side of science and the scientific side of fiction are part of the discipline of science communication, often called SciComm. In this episode Cady Coleman joins us to talk about how science fiction fits into the field of SciComm, and how the stories we tell can affect the people who read them. Credits: This episode was recorded before a live audience by Rob Kowal, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
9/11/202219 minutes, 20 seconds
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17.36: Space for Everyone

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Cady Coleman Chemist, USAF Colonel, and NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman joins us to talk about actual travel to actual space, and how that's a thing which is increasingly available to people who are not in the employ of government space agencies. Also, we discuss how the demographics of space travelers are changing, and how this is creating safer space travel for everyone. Credits: This episode was recorded before a live audience by Rob Kowal, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
9/4/202219 minutes, 49 seconds
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17.35: Nuances of Dialog

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler We wrap up our eight-episode dialog master class with a discussion of nuance, which is difficult to describe in a blurb because it's... well, nuanced. That may sound a bit recursive, but our discussion dives deep into the meta. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
8/28/202219 minutes, 30 seconds
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17.34: Developing Subtext

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler We begin this episode with a quick exploration of the terminology, and what we mean when we say "text," "context," and "subtext." Subtext exists between text and context. It's the information which isn't actually in the text, but which we are able to divine based on the context. And in this episode we talk about how to use context and text to provide subtext to the reader. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
8/21/202219 minutes, 23 seconds
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17.33: Building Tension

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler Tension! In this episode we discuss the ways dialog can build and/or maintain tension, especially when placed in context with the rest of the scene. Liner Notes: A great article about tension for those who (like Howard) may need a solid working definition -Toward a general psychological model of tension and suspense Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
8/14/202218 minutes, 43 seconds
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17.32: Everything is About Conflict

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler Everything is about conflict? Really? Well, yes. Maybe not in the action-movie sense, but conflict is everywhere, even among people whose goals, objectives, and methodologies are in alignment. This, of course, means that it exists among your cast of characters, and it will inform the way the talk to one another. Liner Notes: We mentioned this famous Monty Python sketch about wanting to have an argument. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
8/7/202217 minutes, 40 seconds
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17.31: Everyone Has an Agenda

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler We've mentioned "area of intention" earlier in this dialog master class, but now the concept gets the spotlight. If all of your characters have their own agendas, their own areas of intention, then the dialog between them should reflect that. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
7/31/202220 minutes, 19 seconds
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17.30: Know Your Characters

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler How well do you know your characters? Sure, you might know their age, nationality, and perhaps wardrobe, but how well do you know their internal characteristics? Do you know them well enough that you can write dialog that sounds like them? In this episode we discuss how you might approach this problem. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
7/24/202219 minutes, 46 seconds
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17.29: The Job of Dialogue

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler We're back with Maurice Broaddus for the second in our eight-episode mini-master-class on writing dialogue. This time around we're addressing the question of dialogue's "job." What's it for? Why is this particular bit of dialogue in this scene, this chapter, this book? Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
7/17/202220 minutes, 6 seconds
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17.28: Keys to Writing Dialog

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler Writer, teacher, and community organizer Maurice Broaddus joins us for an eight-episode mini-master-class on writing dialogue. In this episode he walks us through his three keys: pay attention to how people speak, write in a way that evokes how they speak, and write dialogue that makes individual characters distinctive. Liner Notes: We mention Descript transcription software in this episode. Here's a link! Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
7/10/202218 minutes
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17.27: Ensembles Behind the Scenes

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida Cordova, Kaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler In this, our final "ensemble masterclass" episode, we discuss the nuts-and-bolts, the tips and tricks, the tools of the trade. In short, we talk very specifically about how we do it. Color-coded sticky notes, index cards, spreadsheets, and more... Liner Notes: Howard's guest story for Dave Kellet's DRIVE compendium is now running online! It's called "History and Haberdashery." Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
7/3/202219 minutes, 55 seconds
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17.26: Hanging Separately

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida Cordova, Kaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler Our episode title comes to us across two and a half centuries: "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." —Benjamin Franklin We've already established that you're planning to write an ensemble. This isn't an episode about the pros and cons of ensembles. No, we're here to talk about how an ensemble story can go wrong, leaving the characters to hang separately rather than hanging together. Liner Notes: It happened again! We referenced the Ty Franck/Daniel Abraham episode, which we recorded at GenCon Indy several years ago, and again we can't find a link to it. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
6/26/202218 minutes, 36 seconds
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17.25: Archetypes, Ensembles, and Expectations

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida Cordova, Kaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler We've talked about making every member of the ensemble meaningful. In this episode we're discussing who, in archetype terms, everybody is. How can archetypes help us get started, how can they help us set reader expectations, and what are the archetype-related pitfalls we need to avoid? And finally, is 'archetype' even the correct term here? Liner Notes: Here's the "Black Superheroes with Electrical Powers" article. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
6/19/202220 minutes, 14 seconds
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17.24: Ensembles and Genre

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida Cordova, Kaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler This week we're talking about how our genre choice influences the structure of our ensemble. How is a heist ensemble different from a superhero team? What happens when the superheroes need to do a heist? Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
6/12/202217 minutes, 9 seconds
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17.23: Are We Stronger Together?

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida Cordova, Kaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler Sometimes we have to look at our ensemble of characters and ask ourselves what kind of story we're trying to tell? If the story works with a single protagonist and one POV, maybe this isn't an ensemble story after all. If, however, the plot requires a team effort from the heroes, then we need to make sure the necessary team members make it onto the page. Liner Notes: The "I'm the tin dog" moment is from Doctor Who, S2 E3, "School Reunion." Mickey is speaking. Howard couldn't remember Mickey's name because sometimes Howard is the tin dog. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
6/5/202221 minutes, 26 seconds
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17.22: Establishing the Ensemble

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida Cordova, Kaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler Every character in your ensemble needs to matter to the team, or they probably don't belong in the ensemble. Zoraida Cordova leads us into this discussion of how we build our ensembles, how we introduce the characters, and how we ensure that all of them are important to the group. Liner Notes: The article about Superman's very first line of dialog is here. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
5/29/202217 minutes, 39 seconds
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17.21: Casting Your Story With Character Voice

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida Cordova, Kaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler Every member of your ensemble has a reason to be there, but they also have their own voice. Zoraida Cordova joins us for a discussion of how we make our ensemble characters distinct from one another. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
5/22/202221 minutes, 26 seconds
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17.20: Basics of Ensemble Characterization

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida Cordova, Kaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler What's the difference between an ensemble story, and a story the has a lot of characters in it? Zoraida Cordova joins us for this episode, kicking off an eight-episode mini-master-class about ensembles. In this episode we discuss what makes ensembles work, and how we distinguish the "pro-protagonist" from the "co-protagonist" as we create character arcs. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.
5/15/202215 minutes, 58 seconds
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17.19: Working in a Collaborative Environment

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, and Megan Lloyd Megan Lloyd returns to the podcast to talk us through the process of creating something in a collaborative environment, whether it's a pair of authors working together, or a dozen people working to write, storyboard, and animate a television series. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
5/8/202217 minutes, 7 seconds
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17.18: How to be Funny, with Jody Lynn Nye

Your Hosts: Dan Wells and Brandon Sanderson, with special guest Jody Lynn Nye So, you've decided you want something to be funny. How do you go about making that happen? Jody Lynn Nye joined Dan and Brandon at LTUE, and pitched this topic to them. And yes, it's much more than just "delivery, delivery, delivery." Liner Notes: "It's always more funny when Howard's not here." —Brandon Sanderson at LTUE 2022 (posted here for posterity) Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.  
5/1/202217 minutes, 45 seconds
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17.17: Writing in the Public Domain

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, and Gama Martinez Did you know that there are some famous intellectual properties which have entered the public domain, and which you can therefore use to create your own stories? It's true! Gama Martinez (whose God of Neverland novel features Peter Pan) joined Dan and Brandon at LTUE to talk about how cool this is, and (more importantly) what kinds of things authors need to do in order to make sure they're only using the public domain bits of the properties in question. Liner Notes: Need a list of things that entered the public domain in 2022? Here you go! Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
4/24/202213 minutes, 21 seconds
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17.16: Miscellaneous Structures

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler Thus far we've attempted to organize our discussion of sub-, micro-, and other alternative structures  with specific categories, but this domain is a lot larger than that. This final episode with our guest host Peng Shepherd has been titled "Miscellaneous Structures" because, y'know, sometimes the last bucket in your row of carefully, taxonomically-labeled buckets needs to be "miscellaneous." Liner Notes: Howard mentions "LTUE" during the episode. Hey, guess what! The next few episodes following this one were (will have been?) recorded at LTUE! Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
4/17/202218 minutes, 43 seconds
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17.15: Storytelling in the Footnotes

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler You probably already know what footnotes are¹, but have you ever seen a story told through the footnotes²?  It's similar to the story-within-a-story structure, but there's more to it than that. In this episode our guest host Peng Shepherd explores footnote storytelling³ with us. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson ——— ¹ This is an example of a footnote. ² This is not an example of footnote storytelling. ³ With the addition of a third footnote, maaaybe there's a beginning, middle, and end, and therefore a story?
4/10/202221 minutes, 19 seconds
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17.14: Structuring for Disordered or Order-less Reading Order

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler Guest host Peng Shepherd leads our discussion of "order-less reading order" (after we get past the business of "having too much fun with the episode title"). But what do we even mean by "order-less" or "disordered?" At one level, we mean you can just pick up the story anywhere and start reading. Kind of like TV series prior to the advent of the fully serial series. But kind of unlike it, because how does this work within just one book? Liner Notes: For good examples of non-order-dependent stories, consider schlockmercenary.com, The Lady Astronaut universe, DISCWORLD, Seventy Maxims (annotated), Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
4/3/202221 minutes, 18 seconds
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17.13: Structuring Around a Thing

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler Our exploration of sub- and micro-structures continues with guest host Peng Shepherd. This week we're talking about how a story can be structured around a "thing." The simplest explanatory example would be structuring around a map, which is where we start the episode... kind of like how The Lord of the Rings starts in The Shire. This episode does not end with even one of us climbing a volcano. Liner Notes:  Tower of Babel, by Josiah Bancroft The Storyteller's Tarot Spread Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
3/27/202219 minutes, 33 seconds
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17.12: Structuring a Story Within a Story

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler One common structure—both macro and micro—is the "story within a story," or "framing story" structure, and yet somehow we've never really explored it on Writing Excuses. Guest host Peng Shepherd is here to help us set things right. Liner Notes: Here are some examples of story-within-a-story structure... Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons Neverending Story, by Michael Ende One Thousand and One Nights Sun the Moon and the Stars, by Stephen Brust Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
3/20/202220 minutes, 43 seconds
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17.11: Structuring with Multiple Timelines

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler Guest host Peng Shepherd continues to lead our exploration of sub- and micro-structures by taking us into the scaffolding of in media res, flashbacks, and other tools for structuring a story by telling it out of chronological order. We also cover how to do this without breaking the flow of the story. Liner Notes: The "trousers of time" book Howard referenced was Jingo, by Terry Pratchett. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
3/13/202219 minutes, 54 seconds
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17.10: Structuring with Multiple POVs

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler In our second micro-structure episode, Peng Shepherd leads us into an exploration of the ways in which the use of multiple point-of-view characters can create a framework within the larger framework of the story. Liner Notes: In one example we contrasted the single POV Killing Floor, by Lee Childs with its multiple-POV TV adaptation in season 1 of Reacher. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
3/6/202218 minutes, 12 seconds
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17.9: Let’s Talk About Structure

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler We're beginning another eight-episode deep-dive series, and this time it's a fresh approach to story structure, led by our guest host Peng Shepherd. Join us as we zoom right through the overarching frameworks defined via things like the Hero's Journey, Freytag’s Triangle, Save The Cat, and Seven Point Story Structure  to look at the microstructures  which both define and obscure these general narrative shapes. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
2/27/202217 minutes, 48 seconds
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17.8: The Alchemy of Creativity

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd How do you translate things from the spark of inspiration into a work that someone else can consume? Like, instead of turning a movie into a book, you're trying to create a book out of the movie in your head. And what if your "spark" isn't a movie in your head, but instead a suite of emotions? In this episode we discuss how we do it. That might not answer the question for you, but hopefully it's a good start. Alchemy is pretty magical, after all. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
2/20/202220 minutes, 15 seconds
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17.7: Dissecting Influence

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd What are your influences? What pieces of art, music, literature, or other media have inspired you? In this episode we'll talk about making that inspiration deliberate, and consciously learning from our influences. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
2/13/202219 minutes, 39 seconds
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17.6: Hitting Reset Without Getting Hit Back

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd Oh no! You're in the middle of a thing (a novel, a series, a career) and you suddenly realize that the expectations you set early on are not the expectations you'll be meeting. What do you do now? , We're talking about how go about resetting audience expectations, whether mid-story, mid-series, or mid-career, including some strategies for communicating “everything is changing now, forget what you know” without making the audience feel like they've been betrayed. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
2/6/202221 minutes, 1 second
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17.5: The Promise of the Brand

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd Your brand—your name, the cover art for your book, and even the typeface for the title—set expectations for the book's contents. That advice about not judging a book by its cover? It's lovely in theory, but in practice, that's just not how it works. In this episode we'll talk about how your brand gets defined, and how you can work with those elements to correctly set expectations regarding your work. Liner Notes: We've done several episodes about branding. 14.34 is particularly good. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
1/30/202223 minutes, 55 seconds
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17.4: The Gun on the Mantel is Actually a Fish

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd In the previous episode we discussed how to ensure that your surprise feels inevitable. In this episode we're covering how to make inevitability feel surprising. The title is a nod to the concept of the "red herring," which is arguably the most useful tool for setting up a good surprise. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
1/23/202220 minutes, 53 seconds
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17.3: Chekov’s Surprising Yet Inevitable Inverted Gun

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd This week we're talking about giving inevitability to our intended surprise, and we open with a discussion of Chekov's Gun, which, as a writing rule, is mostly used in inversion. Next week we'll focus on making inevitable things surprising. Liner Notes: Art and Editing of Suicide Squad (YouTube)  Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
1/16/202220 minutes, 9 seconds
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17.2: It Was a Promise of Three Parts

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd The title of this episode comes to us from the first paragraph of The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss—a novel which delights us with turns of phrase and evocative prose from beginning to end. We're continuing our exploration of "promises as a structure" by looking at the promises made by the prose of your first line, first paragraph, and first page. What does your first line say about the rest of your book? Did you mean for it to say that? Is your first line writing checks that your later chapters can actually cash? Liner Notes: We did an eight-episode master class on first lines, pages, and paragraphs with DongWon Song. It begins with 16.27. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
1/9/202220 minutes, 32 seconds
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17.1: Genre and Media are Promises

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd The genre of your story is making promises to the reader, and the medium upon which your story is told makes promises too. In this episode we talk about the expectations set by various mediums and genres, and how we can leverage those to ensure that we deliver a satisfying story. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: The entirety of Season 11, The Elemental Genres, is a deep-dive on this stuff.
1/2/202219 minutes, 7 seconds
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16.52: Structure is a Promise

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd The structure you're using for your story isn't just helping you organize your plotting. It's telling the audience what's going to happen. Story structures make promises to audiences, and these audience expectations are, in large measure, outside of our control. In this episode we talk about the expectations set by various story structures, and how we can make sure we use our structures to satisfy our audiences. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: We've done episodes on the M.I.C.E. Quotient, Seven Point Story Structure, The Hollywood Formula, and many, many more of the structures mentioned in this episode. We haven't done any on Kishōtenketsu, but we probably should!
12/26/202120 minutes, 1 second
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16.51: Promises are a Structure

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd Our next 8-episode intensive is all about promises and expectations. Our guest hosts are Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd. They're joining us to talk about how the promises we make to our audiences, and the expectations they bring with them, are a structural format. In this episode we introduce the topic, and talk about some apex examples of success and failure in this area. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: Here's the story of The Tropicana Packaging Redesign Failure
12/19/202121 minutes, 21 seconds
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16.50: Worldbuilding Finale: Making Deliberate Choices

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler Here at the end of our 8-episode intensive series on Worldbuilding we discuss stepping away from the defaults, the clichés, and the tropes, and choosing every element deliberately. There's nothing inherently wrong with the tropes. We're just suggesting that they be included only after deciding we actually want them. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
12/12/202118 minutes, 45 seconds
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16.49: Magic and Technology: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler Magic and technology are tools that we, as writers, use to tell interesting stories, and they're very, very similar tools. In this episode we'll examine some ways in which both magical and technological elements can be used in our stories. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
12/5/202120 minutes, 50 seconds
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16.48: Believable Worlds Part 2: Creating Texture

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler As we do our worldbuilding with similarity, specificity, and selective depth (per the previous episode), we should take care to apply these things throughout our stories. In this episode we discuss how these elements we've world-built can become "textures." Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
11/28/202118 minutes, 7 seconds
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16.47: Believable Worlds Part 1: The Illusion of Real

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler Writers are illusionists, and worldbuilding requires no small mastery of that particular magic. In this episode we'll explore the creation of believable illusions through the techniques of similarity, specificity, and selective depth. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
11/21/202119 minutes
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16.46: World and Plot: The Only Constant is Change

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler In our world, the ostensibly "real" one (simulation theory notwithstanding), stuff is changing all the time. Why, then, do we see so many fantasy worlds whose once-upon-a-times seem timeless? A more important question: how might we, as writers cognizant of the ubiquity of change, work that understanding into our writing? Can we make our fictional worlds more believable while retaining the elements of those worlds which first attracted us to them? Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: The book series Howard couldn't remember the name of? The HELLICONIA trilogy, by Brian W. Aldiss. Mary Robinette mentioned WX 14.30: Eating Your Way to Better Worldbuilding, which may make you hungry.
11/14/202121 minutes, 49 seconds
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16.45: World and Character Part 2: Moral Frame

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler Let's follow up on character biases with an exploration of moral frame. When we say someone is "morally gray" or "morally ambiguous," what we're really talking about is the way they fit into the moral frame defined by society. In this episode we talk about that frame, and how we can apply it, through our characters, to our worldbuilding. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
11/7/202118 minutes, 30 seconds
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16.44: World and Character Part 1: All Your Characters Are Biased

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler The world of your book is most often shown to us through the eyes of the characters who live in that world. In this episode we discuss the fact that those characters have biases which will distort the reader's perception of the world. Knowing this, we can use it to our advantage. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/31/202117 minutes, 12 seconds
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16.43: The Narrative Holy Trinity of World, Character, and Plot, with Fonda Lee

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler We're beginning another master class, another deep dive series of episodes, and this time around we'll be led into the realms of good worldbuilding by Fonda Lee. In this episode Fonda talks about her process, which includes plotting and character creation along with the worldbuilding. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/24/202120 minutes, 56 seconds
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16.42: M.I.C.E. Quotient, After the Fact

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. Polk, Charlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal Our eighth and final M.I.C.E. Quotient discussion will explore using M.I.C.E. as a diagnostic tool. So... your manuscript is done, but something isn't working. How do you figure out where the problem is? If the ending isn't satisfying, M.I.C.E. can tell you whether the ending itself is actually at fault, and in this episode we'll show you how. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/17/202117 minutes, 49 seconds
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16.41: Middles and Conflicts with M.I.C.E. Structure

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. Polk, Charlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal With the M.I.C.E. elements (Milieu, Inquiry, Character, and Event) explained, and the concept of nesting, or braiding the M.I.C.E. threads, we're ready to dive into that most difficult part of the story: the middle. Enough of us dread (or at least struggle with) middle-of-story writing that the promise of a structural tool to make it easier is kind of glorious. Our seventh  installment in M.I.C.E. Quotient discussions talks about how to use M.I.C.E. elements to inform try-fail cycles, ask/answer sequences, and conflicts in general. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/10/202121 minutes, 41 seconds
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16.40: Nesting Threads in the M.I.C.E. Quotient

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. Polk, Charlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal Now that we've drilled down into each of the M.I.C.E. elements (Milieu, Inquiry, Character, and Event) it's time to explore nesting them. This sixth installment in our M.I.C.E. Quotient series focuses on the "FILO" (first-in, last-out) or "nested parentheses" method for symmetrically creating a story using M.I.C.E. elements. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/3/202119 minutes, 24 seconds
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16.39: Deep Dive into “Event”

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. Polk, Charlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal Our fifth M.I.C.E. Quotient episode focuses on the “Event” element, and explores how to use disruption of the status quo as the driving element for story. From plumbing problems to alien invasions, event stories are often structured by telling how difficult it is to return to normal, whether you're getting the aliens off the planet, or the water back into the pipes. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/26/202120 minutes, 3 seconds
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16.38: Deep Dive into “Character”

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. Polk, Charlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal Our fourth M.I.C.E. Quotient episode explores the “Character” element, and how these angsty, navel-gazing voyages of self-examination can serve either as complete stories or as elements in other stories. Also, we talk about how to do this in ways that don't result in readers complaining about "navel-gazing" or "angsty." Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/19/202119 minutes, 12 seconds
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16.37: Deep Dive Into “Inquiry”

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. Polk, Charlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal Our third M.I.C.E. Quotient episode asks about the "Inquiry" element, and the ways in which we can use this element to structure our stories—whether we're writing murder mysteries, thrillers, or anything else in which the turning of pages asks and eventually answers questions. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/12/202122 minutes, 1 second
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16.36: Deep Dive into “Milieu”

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. Polk, Charlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal The M.I.C.E. Quotient is an organizational tool which categorizes story elements as Milieu, Inquiry, Character, or Event. In this second  episode we cover "Milieu," and how stories can be driven by a sense of place. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/5/202120 minutes, 25 seconds
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16.35: What is the M.I.C.E. Quotient?

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. Polk, Charlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal The next eight episodes are a deep dive into the M.I.C.E. Quotient, so we'll begin with a definition. M.I.C.E. is an organizational tool which categorizes story elements as Milieu, Inquiry, Character, or Event. It helps authors know which elements are in play, and how to work with these elements effectively. Obviously there's a lot more to M.I.C.E. than that, and in this episode we'll lay it out in a way that makes the subsequent seven M.I.C.E.-related episodes much easier to navigate. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
8/29/202122 minutes, 11 seconds
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16.34: Novels Are Layer Cakes

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler Novels deliver a lot of information, and it's helpful to consider that delivery in terms of layers. Novels are layer cakes, and we're not talking about a three-layer birthday cake. We're talking about a dobosh torte, or a mille crepe cake. And if we've made you hungry for stratified pastry, that's okay, because we made ourselves hungry, too. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
8/22/202120 minutes, 21 seconds
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16.33: Tell, Don’t Show

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler Few pieces of writing advice get repeated as much as that old saw "show, don't tell." We're here to show tell you that it's not only not universally applicable, much of the time it's wrong¹. Tell, don't show, especially in the early pages of the book when so very, very much information needs to be delivered² quickly. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson ¹ Fun fact: this advice comes to us from silent film, when it made great artistic sense to put things on screen rather than on title cards. ² If you need new terminology, Dan uses "demonstration vs. description." 
8/15/202118 minutes, 36 seconds
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16.32: First Page Fundamentals—THE KILLING FLOOR, by Lee Childs

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler In this episode we explore the first page of The Killing Floor, by Lee Childs, with the goal of learning how to build  good first pages for own own work. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: here is the 1st paragraph of The Killing Floor, for reference. I was arrested in Eno's diner. At twelve o'clock. I was eating eggs and drinking coffee. A late breakfast, not lunch. I was wet and tired after a long walk in heavy rain. All the way from the highway to the edge of town. The diner was small, but bright and clean. Brand-new, built to resemble a converted railroad car. Narrow, with a long lunch counter on one side and a kitchen bumped out back. Booths lining the opposite wall. A doorway where the center booth would be. I was in a booth, at a window, reading somebody’s abandoned newspaper about the campaign for a president I didn’t vote for last time and wasn’t going to vote for this time. Outside, the rain had stopped but the glass was still pebbled with bright drops. I saw the police cruisers pull into the gravel lot. They were moving fast and crunched to a stop. Light bars flashing and popping. Red and blue light in the raindrops on my window. Doors burst open, policemen jumped out. Two from each car, weapons ready. Two revolvers, two shotguns. This was heavy stuff. One revolver and one shotgun ran to the back. One of each rushed the door.
8/8/202121 minutes, 10 seconds
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16.31: First Page Fundamentals—MOBY DICK

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler In this episode we explore the first page of Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, with the goal of learning how to build  good first pages for own own work. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: here is the 1st paragraph of Moby Dick, for reference. Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time tozz get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.    
8/1/202120 minutes, 47 seconds
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16.30: First Page Fundamentals—THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler In this episode we explore the first page of The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson, with the goal of learning how to build  good first pages for own own work. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: here is the 1st paragraph of The Haunting of Hill House, for reference. No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against the hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
7/25/202121 minutes, 55 seconds
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16.29: Building Trust

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler How do we build trust with our readers? What does that even mean? In this episode we discuss ways in which we let our readers know what they can expect from the book they're holding, and how we set about getting the to trust us do deliver on those expectations. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
7/18/202117 minutes, 2 seconds
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16.28: Common First-Page Mistakes

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler Let's have a frank, and possibly painful discussion about the ways in which the first page can go wrong. It may seem like hackneyed writing advice, but rules like "don't start with the main character waking up" are rules for a reason.  In this episode we'll talk about those reasons, and why it's so unlikely for books which break them to succeed with readers. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
7/11/202118 minutes, 14 seconds
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16.27: Nobody Wants to Read a Book

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler Our controversial episode title comes to us via John Schwarzwelder, and it points up nicely the importance of today's topic, which is first lines, first pages, and how we set about convincing people (who may or may not want to read a book) to read OUR book. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
7/4/202118 minutes, 35 seconds
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16.26: Working With Teams

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Cassandra Khaw, Dan Wells, James L. Sutter, and Howard Tayler Our series of game writing episodes draws to a close with a discussion about working with teams. This last skill set, these ways in which you learn to excel at collaborative projects, is often far more important than any of your other skills. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
6/27/202121 minutes, 55 seconds
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16.25: Breaking Into Game Writing

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Cassandra Khaw, Dan Wells, James L. Sutter, and Howard Tayler So, after all this talk about designing games and writing for games, it's time to address the big question: how does one go about getting a game-design/game-writing job? It's a competitive field, and there are no easy answers, but we do have some hard answers for you. And some homework... Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
6/20/202127 minutes, 59 seconds
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16.24: Worldbuilding for Games

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Cassandra Khaw, Dan Wells, James L. Sutter, and Howard Tayler Worldbuilding is one of our favorite topics, and it's a domain in which game design and novel writing share a lot of territory. In this episode we talk about how much we love it, and how much we enjoy letting other people love it enough to do the heavy lifting for us. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
6/13/202121 minutes, 10 seconds
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BONUS EPISODE! 2021 WXR Early-Bird Announcement

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dongwon, and Dan What's this bonus episode thing? Well, for starters IT'S URGENT, because as of this writing you have just ten more days to get the promised pricing for WXR at sea in 2021. What ELSE is it? Well, this bonus episode describes the difference between workshops, retreats, and master classes. If you've attended WXR in the past, this episode will highlight what's different this time around.  
6/10/202120 minutes, 39 seconds
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16.23: Rules and Mechanics

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Cassandra Khaw, Dan Wells, James L. Sutter, and Howard Tayler Let's talk about how players interact with the mechanics of the game, and what kinds of requirements those might put on the writers. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
6/6/202120 minutes, 49 seconds
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16.22: Scenes and Set Pieces

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Cassandra Khaw, Dan Wells, James L. Sutter, and Howard Tayler Let's have a discussion about scenes and set pieces, and let's lead with this: prose writers often create longer pieces using scenes as building blocks, and in this thing writing for game design is very, very similar. Scenes and set pieces are some of the most critical components in game design, and each of them must deliver several different things to the players in order to work well. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
5/30/202125 minutes, 11 seconds
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16.21: Player Characters

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, James L. Sutter, Dan Wells, Cassandra Khaw, and Howard Tayler So, you're the hero of your own story, and the hero gets choices, and in many ways directs the story. In our discussion of interactive fiction and writing for games, the subject of "player characters" is essential. From the array of options given at character creation/selection, to the paths available for character development and the final chapters of that characters story, "player character" touches everything. Credits: this episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
5/23/202118 minutes, 47 seconds
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16.20: Branching Narratives

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, James L. Sutter, Dan Wells, Cassandra Khaw, and Howard Tayler How do you give players meaningful choices while still keeping the story within a reasonable set of boundaries? In this episode James and Cassandra lead us in a discussion of branching narratives, and the ways in which we as writers can create them. Credits: this episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: Dan mentioned this collection of "Choose your own adventure" plot maps. Howard illustrated the concept of "narrative bumper pool" in Tracy Hickman's X-TREME DUNGEON MASTERY Narrative Bumper Pool from X-TREME DUNGEON MASTERY, used with permission
5/16/202119 minutes, 50 seconds
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16.19: Intro to Roleplaying Games

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, James L. Sutter, Dan Wells, Cassandra Khaw, and Howard Tayler For the next eight episodes we'll be talking about roleplaying games, and how that medium relates to writers, writing, career opportunities, and more. We're led by James L. Sutter and Cassandra Khaw on this particular quest. In this episode we lay some groundwork, define a few terms, and hopefully get you excited about looking at games in new and useful ways. Credits: this episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson
5/9/202127 minutes, 16 seconds
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16.18: Poetry and the Fantastic

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard For the last seven episodes we've explored language, meaning, and their overlap with that thing we mean when we use language to say "poetry." In this episode we step back to some origins, including, at a meta-level, the origins of this podcast as a writer-focused exploration of genre fiction—the speculative, the horrific, the science-y, and the fantastic. Because there is an overlap between language and meaning, and there are myriad overlaps among the genres we love, and as we step back we see poetry striding these spaces, its path in part defining and in part defying the various borders. Poetry, scouting the fraught borders between the kingdoms of Meaning and Language. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
5/2/202124 minutes, 56 seconds
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16.17: The Time To Rhyme

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard Rhyming is powerful. It can signal a form, or telegraph whimsy. It can be predictable, surprising, and sometimes both. It may also be seen as childish. When, then, is it time to rhyme? Will rhyming "internally" fit? As opposed to a line-ending bit. For answers, just listen. But rhymes will be missin' Especially where they'd deliver a predictably naughty word at the end of, say, a limerick, because in this context, that would definitely be seen as childish. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
4/25/202124 minutes, 20 seconds
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16.16: Poetic Structure: Part II

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard How does a poem happen? Absent an external structure, what makes a thing a poem? The key word in that question may be "external," because ultimately the poem on the page will be the implicit definition of its own structure—even if it borrows a "non-poetic" structure from another form. Structure is as structure does. "Unstructured" is just a way to say "I am unfamiliar with this structure," or maybe "I don't believe that this structure is fit for poetry." And that might be a thing you are currently saying.  After all, "blog post describing a podcast episode" is definitely a structure. Does the embracing of that structure make this thing into a poem? If this thing is a poem, how did that happen? Liner Notes: "Girl Hours" by Sofia Samatar (via Stone Telling magazine), "The Hill We Climb," by Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman (YouTube from the Biden/Harris Inauguration) Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
4/18/202127 minutes, 55 seconds
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16.15: Poetic Structure, Part I

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard Rigorous structure in poetic form is commonly pointed at when we declare Poems have meters and rhymes, as the norm. Yet words without patterns can roar like a storm So why pay attention, why study with care Rigorous structure in poetic form? Just set it aside, surrender the gorm (means "alertness", a quite-handy rhyme I put there) Poems have meters and rhymes as the norm. Let some of it go, perhaps. Let it transform beyond all the rhyming. Deny, if you dare: Rigorous structure in poetic form Okay, you can maybe keep some of it warm Those toasty iambics by which you might swear: Poems have meters and rhymes as the norm. This episode text I wrote: does it inform? Will all be confused when this couplet doth air? "Rigorous structure in poetic form: Poems have meters and rhymes as the norm." Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson. The villanelle above was the first—and hopefully last—ever composed by Howard Tayler. Yes, the Writing Excuses tagline is a haiku. No, Howard did not know that when he wrote it in 2008.
4/11/202118 minutes, 14 seconds
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16.14: Poetic Language

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard We might begin with description. Or we might begin by deconstructing the act of describing. Wait. No, not there. Let's jump in AFTER the deconstruction. Let's leap beyond a statement of topic, let's hurdle clear of mundane declarations of the audio file's length, and together plunge headlong into metaphor, the icy water perhaps calling to mind Archimedes, as we describe our episode (or any other thing) not in terms of its intrinsic attributes, but by taking account of what it has displaced into the spaces it doesn't occupy. How long does the displacement remain? How might one apply paint to the emptiness after the thing has left? What color is silence that follows the end of the episode? (An end which follows twenty minutes and thirty-three seconds in which the four of us discuss the kinds of words we imagine when we say "poetic language.") Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson
4/4/202120 minutes, 34 seconds
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16.13: Day Brain vs. Night Brain

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard Patterns in the way we're speaking may betray which 'brain' we're using; often bound by what's familiar, sometimes loosed for free-er choosing. Writing like the day-brain's thinking Singing while the night-brain's winking All the cadence going funky (golden-mantled howler monkey) Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson. XKCD #1412, by Randall Munroe, was referenced during this episode. As was the Greater Cleveland Film Commission.
3/28/202119 minutes, 30 seconds
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16.12 : Singing Versus Speaking

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard Can you hear your writing sing, being intoned instead of read? With the dialogs as tunes whose tags say "sung" instead of "said?" When the rhythm of your prose echoes the rhythm of a song you'll see perhaps you've been a poet all along. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson. Les Miserables was written by Victor Hugo, set to music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, and ruined here by Howard Tayler.
3/21/202119 minutes, 16 seconds
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16.11: What is Poetry?

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard This is how we begin our master class on poetry, with Amal El-Mohtar: With not one question, but two. What is poetry? What is prose? Yes, both questions are a trap. Or maybe two traps. But definitely a beginning. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson
3/14/202119 minutes, 15 seconds
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16.10: Paying it Forward, with Kevin J. Anderson

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard, with special guest Kevin J. Anderson Kevin J. Anderson joins us to talk about how others have helped us in our careers, and how we might continue that tradition and help others. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson  
3/7/202128 minutes, 9 seconds
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16.9: Crossing The Revenue Streams

Your Hosts: Dan, Erin, Brandon, and Howard How many different ways can our writing earn money for us? What additional work, besides "just" writing, do we need to do in order to get that money? In this episode we discuss finding and managing multiple revenue streams, whether that means writing for new audiences, or monetizing existing writing in new ways. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
2/28/202121 minutes, 57 seconds
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16.8: Smart Promotion

Your Hosts: Dan, Erin, Brandon, and Howard Let's talk about how promote yourself and your work, and how to do it well. The tools we use for this continue to evolve, and in this discussion we'll cover things that have worked, things that have stopped working, things we use now, and strategies we apply to not sink beneath the churning disruptions endemic to promoting books (or, really, anything else.) Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: Here is your invitation link for the  TypeCastRPG Discord.
2/21/202124 minutes, 23 seconds
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16.7: To Series, or Not to Series

Your Hosts: Dan, Erin, Brandon, Howard Let's look a the business considerations of whether that thing you're writing is a standalone story, or part of a series. The factors are complex, and a single factor (like, say distribution channel) isn't likely to make the decision clear cut. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson  
2/14/202119 minutes, 28 seconds
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16.6: Building Your Brand

Your Hosts: Dan, Erin, Brandon, and Howard Branding, in marketing terms for writers, is the process of establishing a recognizable identity—a brand— for you and your works in the marketplace of readers, and people who buy things for readers. In this episode we talk about what our brands need to be doing for us, and how we go about getting them to do that. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson
2/7/202118 minutes, 27 seconds
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16.5: Pros and Contracts

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary Robinette, Brandon, and Erin Here's our deep dive into the subject of contracts in the publishing business. We can only go so deep during a fifteen-minute episode, so we ran about twice as long as usual. We discuss some of the things you should look for, things you should watch out for, and resources that can help you out. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson
1/31/202132 minutes, 16 seconds
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16.4: Networking

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary Robinette, Erin, Brandon, and Howard Networking is an invaluable part of any business, and the business of writing is no exception. In this episode we'll talk about how to do it effectively, genuinely, and in ways that benefit the entire community. Credits: This episode was recorded my Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson
1/24/202125 minutes, 44 seconds
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16.3: Publishing Pitfalls

Your Hosts: Dan, Erin, Howard, and Brandon Erin Roberts joins us for our third installment in Brandon's business-of-writing series. In this episode we're covering pitfalls and common problems—including some predatory practices—for you to be on the lookout for while you develop your career as a writer. Credits: This episode was recorded my Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: "Accountabilibuddy," which is written here so Howard can remember it.
1/17/202120 minutes, 3 seconds
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16.02: Publishers Are Not Your Friends

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary Robinette, Howard, and Brandon It sounds like a mean thing to say, but it's not a wrong thing to say. A publisher is a corporation, and a corporation doesn't have friends. It has contractual relationships. We can make friends with people who work for publishers, but those are not the same thing. Liner Notes: here is an archived copy of Dave Brady's essay about "company loyalty" Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson  
1/10/202119 minutes, 17 seconds
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16.01: Your Career is Your Business

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary Robinette, Howard, and Brandon Welcome to 2021, and Season 16 of Writing Excuses. This year we're dividing the year into "master classes" or "intensive courses." We're kicking it off with Brandon's episodes, which are all about the business of writing, and the first of those is this one! So... your career is your business. In this episode we'll talk about how that mindset—this is a business—informs our other activities, and how valuable it can be to get our heads in the right place early on. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson
1/3/202121 minutes, 58 seconds
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15.52: Economy of Phrase, Being the Concentrated Concatenation of Complex Thoughts in Just a Very Few Words Which Must Fit In A Very Very Small Box, With Patrick Rothfuss

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, and Dan, with special guest Patrick Rothfuss Did we have too much fun applying ironic humor to the title of this episode? Possibly! Patrick Rothfuss joins us to talk about economy of phrase, and the ways in which big ideas can be expressed with a few of the exactly-right words. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
12/27/202023 minutes, 1 second
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15.51: Feedback—When to Listen, and When to Ignore, with special guest Mahtab Narsimhan

Your Hosts: Dan, Howard, Mahtab, and Brandon We're often taught that the best critique group feedback is reactions to the writing, rather than  advice for fixing it. But prescriptive feedback—critiques that include suggestions for you how to might rewrite something—is an important part of the process. In this episode we discuss how we curate our critique groups and filter their feedback to improve our writing, and our experiences with these groups. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson
12/20/202021 minutes, 15 seconds
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15.50: Juggling Ensembles

Your Hosts: Brandon, Victoria, Dan, and Howard Our listeners have asked about how we handle managing a large cast of characters. This is something we've all struggled with, and sometimes we've failed at it pretty spectacularly. In this episode we talk about how we turned our failures into learning, and what we do today to keep our ensembles in line and our stories on track. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
12/13/202018 minutes, 45 seconds
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15.49: Maintaining Passion for a Story, with special guest Mahtab Narsimhan

Your Hosts: Dan, Howard, Mahtab, and Brandon This episode comes from a question we're often asked: "how do you stay excited about a story you're working on?" We talk about how we maintain our passion for the stories we're working on, and how that's not the same as being super excited to write every time we sit down at the keyboard Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson
12/6/202017 minutes, 40 seconds
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15.48: Deliberate Discomfort, Part Two

Your Hosts: Dan, Mahtab, Howard, and Brandon We've talked about deliberately making our readers uncomfortable. In this episode we discuss writing things that make us uncomfortable. Maybe it's writing strong language, or sex scenes. Perhaps it's a personal narrative that is painful to relive. Whatever it might be, as writers we need to prepare ourselves to embrace that pain, soak up that discomfort, and put the words on the page. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: "No, I'm Fine." by Howard Tayler Video Link for this episode, and two other episodes
11/29/202022 minutes, 33 seconds
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15.47: Worldbuilding Science Fiction, with Cory Doctorow

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Piper, and Howard, with Cory Doctorow Worldbuilding is something you do to some degree in everything you write. Cory Doctorow  writes (among many other things) near-future SF, and he joins us for a discussion of extrapolative worldbuilding. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
11/22/202021 minutes, 58 seconds
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15.46: Crafting Chinese-American Characters

Your Hosts: Dan, Piper, and Tempest, with special guest Yang Yang Wang Yang Yang Wang, an author, actor, and director (among many other things) joins us for a discussion of language, food, and a whole raft of other cultural elements critical to crafting Chinese-American characters. Credits: this episode was recorded by Ross Smith and mastered by Alex Jackson
11/15/202017 minutes, 39 seconds
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15.45: Worldbuilding Fantasy, with Patrick Rothfuss

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary Robinette, and Howard, with Patrick Rothfuss Pat joins us for a discussion of worldbuilding, in which we field a couple of challenging questions from readers. Here are the questions! How do you create timeless urban fantasy? How do you create a compelling secondary world fantasy without leaning on a complex magic system? We ran a bit long with this one, but we have no regrets. Because compelling. And maybe timeless. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson  
11/8/202031 minutes, 25 seconds
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15.44: Rebooting a Career

Your Hosts: Dan, DongWon, Mary Robinette, and Howard What do you do when some of the key foundations of your authorial (or otherwise creative) livelihood are kicked away? How do you go about repairing, rebuilding, or rebooting your career? Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson  
11/1/202023 minutes, 28 seconds
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15.43: Audiobook Narration, with Bruce D Richardson

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Mary Robinette, and Howard, with special guest Bruce D Richardson Bruce D Richardson, who is often credited as BDR, or BD Richardson, is a voice-over actor and audiobook narrator. He joins us for a discussion of reading out loud for an audience, including some mic techniques and best practices for recording. Liner Notes: https://www.accenthelp.com/ "I never said she stole my money."
10/25/202019 minutes, 24 seconds
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15.42: Writing The End

Your Hosts: Brandon, Victoria, Dan, and Howard How do you decide what sort of event ends your story? How do you set the scale and the stakes for that event? And once you've made these decisions, how do you set about writing the best possible ending? Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/18/202018 minutes, 18 seconds
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15.41: Researching the FCK out of Things, with Cory Doctorow

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Piper, and Howard, with special guest Cory Doctorow In journalism, that three-character string in our episode title means "Fact Check." Those three characters are a great way to drop a note to yourself, reminding you to get some answers later. In this episode Cory joins us to discuss when we drop FCK into our works, and how we go about removing it later. Credits: This episode was recorded at sea by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/11/202019 minutes, 8 seconds
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15.40: Researching for Writing the Other

Your Hosts: Piper, Dan, and Tempest, with special guests Nisi Shawl and Silvia Moreno-Garcia Writing stories which feature people who are not like you is, in a word, difficult. In another word? Fraught. But good writers do difficult things, and in this episode Nisi Shawl and Silvia Moreno-Garcia join us to discuss how research can make "writing the other" less difficult, and perhaps even less fraught. Credits: This episode was recorded by Ross Smith, and mastered by Alex Jackson.  
10/4/202021 minutes, 48 seconds
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15.39: Translation, with special guest Alex Shvartsman

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, and Lari, with guest Alex Shvartsman Translation is fantastically complex. In this episode Lari and Alex help us navigate those complexities, both from the standpoint of the translator, and from the standpoint of the author seeking to have their work translated. Credits: This episode was mastered by Alex Jackson
9/27/202020 minutes, 21 seconds
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15.38: Depicting Religions That Are Not Your Own

Your Hosts: Piper, Dan, and Tempest, with special guest Nisi Shawl Whether you're writing about a real-world religion, or one you've created for your setting, there are numerous factors to be aware of. In this episode we discuss a few good and bad examples of depictions of religions, and the ways in which these examples can inform the way we approach our own projects. Credits: this episode was recorded by Ross Smith, and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/20/202016 minutes, 25 seconds
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15.37: Writing Under Deadlines

Your Hosts: Brandon, Victoria, Dan, and Howard What's it like to write under a deadline which has been set for your project by someone else? What strategies might help you bring the writing in under the deadline?  Can you train yourself to be ready for this? Those are all good questions. Hopefully we won't run out of time to come up with answers... Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
9/13/202019 minutes, 30 seconds
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15.36: Collaboration, with Shannon and Dean Hale

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, and Dan, with special guests Shannon and Dean Hale We've had several discussions about collaboration, and we've learned that the answer to "how do you collaborate with other authors" is different with each collaboration team we talk to. Shannon and Dean Hale have written fifteen books together, and in this episode they talk to us about how they do it. Credits: This episode was recorded by Joseph Meacham, and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/6/202015 minutes, 40 seconds
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15.35: Tools for Writing and Worldbuilding, with Erin Roberts

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary Robinette, Lari, and special guest Erin Roberts We've received a number of questions about the 'tools of the trade' for organizing our work, especially with regard to worldbuilding. In this episode we talk about what we use, including some old-school analog tools like sticky notes and ballpoint pens. Credits: this episode was recorded remotely, and mastered by Alex Jackson  
8/30/202021 minutes, 33 seconds
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15.34: Writing Deliberate Discomfort

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary Robinette, Lari, and Erin How do you proceed when the story you want to write includes elements that make you personally uncomfortable?  In this episode we step out of our own comfort zones to examine this challenge, and to offer some strategies to you. Credits: This episode was recorded remotely, and mastered by Alex Jackson
8/23/202015 minutes, 34 seconds
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15.33: The Long, Dark Second Act of the Soul

Your Hosts: Brandon, Victoria, Dan, and Howard Many Writing Excuses listeners have asked us how we muscle through writing second acts, those big, chonky "middles" of our stories. In this episode we attempt to provide answers. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. The title of this episode is a nod to the second Dirk Gently novel from Douglas Adams.
8/16/202018 minutes, 21 seconds
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15.32: Short Story Markets

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary Robinette, and Lari, with special guest Erin Roberts Erin Roberts joins us for a discussion of short story markets—a topic which is very susceptible to "churn" because of the way short story markets come and go. We cover how to research and evaluate the various markets based on what you need from publication, and what you might reasonably expect from them. Credits: This episode was recorded remotely during the Great Isolation, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
8/9/202016 minutes, 22 seconds
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15.31: The Agent in the Room

Your Hosts: Dan, DongWon, Piper, and Howard You had questions for agents, Dongwon has answers! How do you go about becoming an agent? How do an agent and author work together? At what point do agent and author talk about the "sticky stuff?" Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
8/2/202019 minutes, 59 seconds
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15.30: Write What You Want To Know, with Laurell K. Hamilton

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Laurell K. Hamilton We've all heard the "write what you know" rule. Laurell K. Hamilton joined us to talk about how she got started by writing what she wanted to know. In this episode we discuss our various paths to learning the things that fascinate us, and which we want to be able to write about. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
7/26/202018 minutes, 18 seconds
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15.29: Barbie Pre-Writing, with Janci Patterson and Megan Walker

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, and Howard, with special guests Janci Patterson and Megan Walker Janci Patterson and Megan Walker joined us to talk about their pre-writing process, which involves role-playing in a room full of dioramas with Barbie dolls. As pre-writing processes go, this one was completely new to us, and we very quickly decided that we love it. Credits: this episode was recorded live at NASFIC by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson  
7/19/202016 minutes, 51 seconds
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15.28: Small Evils

Your Hosts: Brandon, Victoria, Dan, and Howard Small evils? Yes, please! This episode isn't about writing the big villainy of world domination, but about focusing on the more relatable villainy of small evils—the little crimes, the minor antagonisms—which can be the key to connecting the reader to the book. Liner Notes: The deadly nightshade incident Howard described is something he mentioned on Twitter as well. If you need a concrete example of a small evil and/or an external cost, there it is! Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
7/12/202016 minutes, 36 seconds
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15.27: Alternate History, with Eric Flint

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Eric Flint Eric Flint joined us at SpikeCon (host of the 2019 NASFIC) to talk about creating  alternate histories. His Ring of Fire book series is enormous in scope, and has many, many more people working on it than just Eric Flint. We get a bit of a peek behind the scenes, and a lot of great information about writing alternate histories of our own. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
7/5/202022 minutes, 23 seconds
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15.26: Taking the Chance, with David Weber

Your Hosts: Brandon, Howard, and Dan with special guest David Weber David Weber joined us at NASFIC to talk about the importance of risking failure on any path (especially a writer's path) to success--whether you're risking rejection in the submission process, or the possibility that the book you write won't be the amazing thing you've been imagining. If you're currently feeling the need to be out of excuses, this episode might be exactly what you're looking for. Credits: This episode was recorded live at NASFIC by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
6/28/202025 minutes, 39 seconds
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15.25: Using the MICE Quotient for Conflict

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard The MICE quotient is a tool for categorizing story elements—Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event—and we've talked about it quite a bit in the past. When a listener asked how we might use the MICE quotient to create, inform, manage, and otherwise help us "do" conflict in our stories, we were excited to start recording, and a bit bewildered that we'd somehow not already done this episode. Credits: This episode was recorded by Joseph Meacham, and mastered by Alex Jackson
6/21/202020 minutes, 36 seconds
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15.24: Keeping it Fresh, with Jim Butcher

Your Hosts: Brandon, Howard, and Dan, with special guest Jim Butcher Jim Butcher joined us at NASFIC for a discussion about how we can keep long-running serials engaging after numerous books. Credits: this episode was recorded before a live audience by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
6/14/202017 minutes, 4 seconds
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15.23: Serialization

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Lari, and Dan, with special guest Jenn Court Let's talk about serials. Jenn Court, whose work includes lots of  writing for TV (IMDB link), joins us for the discussion. What are the elements that get us, as readers or viewers, to come back for episode after episode, and how do we, as writers, identify those elements and set about synthesizing them? Credits: This episode was mastered by Alex Jackson
6/7/202017 minutes, 47 seconds
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15.22 Writing For Children, with Shannon and Dean Hale

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, and Dan, with Shannon and Dean Hale Shannon and Dean Hale join us again, this time to discuss how to effectively and convincingly write for¹ children. Children have their own unique sets of expectations for the books they read (as do their parents), and in this episode we talk about how to meet (or subvert) those. Credits: This episode was recorded by Joseph Meacham, and mastered by Alex Jackson ¹ "For," not "about." Shannon and Dean discussed writing ABOUT children last week.
5/31/202023 minutes, 26 seconds
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15.21: Writing About Children, with Shannon and Dean Hale

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, and Dan, with Shannon and Dean Hale Shannon and Dean Hale join us to discuss how to effectively and convincingly write about¹ children. We cover dialog tools, point-of-view elements, stakes, and character 'quirks' that can help signal to the reader that a character is a child. Credits: This episode was recorded by Joseph Meacham, and mastered by Alex Jackson ¹ "About," not "for." Shannon and Dean join us again to discuss writing FOR children next week!
5/24/202018 minutes, 47 seconds
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15.20: Mental Wellness and Writing

Your Hosts: Brandon, Victoria, Dan, and Howard In this episode we'll be talking about the things we do to stay creative, productive, healthy, and happy. For the purposes of this discussion, "mental wellness" is not about coping with mental illness, it's about self-care. Liner Notes: Here's the gridded lifestyle tracker for the homework, lifted directly from Victoria's Twitter feed. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
5/17/202023 minutes, 37 seconds
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15.19: As You Know, This Episode Is About Exposition

Your Hosts: Brandon, Victoria, Dan, and Howard "As you know, Bob..." is the trope-tastic line we use to refer to expository dialog which has no function beyond exposition. We get lots of listener questions about how to use dialog for exposition without making it feel like we're using dialog for exposition. And as Bob already knows, this episode is about answering those questions. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
5/10/202017 minutes, 45 seconds
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15.18: Finding a Community, with Shauna Hoffman

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, and Lari¹, with special guest Shauna Hoffman Many Writing Excuses listeners (especially WXR alumni) already know Shauna Hoffman. She joins us to talk about how to deal with the fact that we, as authors, often feel isolated. The listener question that sparked this episode: "How do you keep the pressure off when you feel alone?" How indeed? If this feels timely, well, some of that is coincidence. And some, of course, is not². Credits: This episode was recorded remotely³, using a variety of VOIP tools, and was mastered by Alex Jackson.  ¹ Larissa Helena is joining us as a guest host. She has worked as a literary agent, a translator, and a rights manager, and we look forward to hearing more from her this season. ² Yes, the irony of this being the first of our recorded-during-sparkling-isolation episodes is something we're leaning into. ³ This is the first airing of a Writing Excuses episode in which the participants not physically present in the same room. We suspect it won't be the last, and that we'll get better at it.   
5/3/202019 minutes, 23 seconds
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15.17: Asexual Representation

Your Hosts: Dan, Tempest, Mary Robinette, and Howard Generally speaking, asexuality is a sexual orientation or identity typified by the absence of a desire to have sex. It's *way* more complicated than that, however, and in this episode Tempest helps us unpack it so that asexual characters can be written more effectively. Liner Notes: Want to dig deeper? Over at Writing The Other there's  a master class on writing asexual characters taught by Lauren Jankowski. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
4/26/202017 minutes, 10 seconds
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15.16: Balancing Plot and Character

Your Hosts: Brandon, Victoria, Dan, and Howard We're often asked how to balance character arcs with the intricacies of the plots we create. In this episode we talk about the various ways in which we do this. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
4/19/202019 minutes, 19 seconds
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15.15: Dialog

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard Listener questions drove this episode, and there are only two of them but they were pretty good drivers.  Here they are: Is it a problem that all my dialog ends up as logic-based debates between characters? What can I do to create more variety in my dialog structure? Credits: This episode was recorded by Joseph Meacham, and mastered by Alex Jackson
4/12/202017 minutes, 40 seconds
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15.14: Agent Query Trenches

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard The title of this episode comes to us from listener questions along the lines of "what do you do when you're 'in the trenches' querying agents?" Our answers, predictably, have almost nothing to do with actual trenches. Credits: This episode was recorded by Joseph Meacham, and mastered by Alex Jackson
4/5/202021 minutes, 15 seconds
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15.13: Using Elections in Stories

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Daniel Friend Daniel Friend, who edits SF/F, has worked in election offices, has run for office, and has participated in campaigns. In this episode we talk about the ways elections can be worked into our stories. Credits: This episode was recorded by Joseph Meacham, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
3/29/202016 minutes, 22 seconds
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15.12: Writing the Other—Being an Ally

Your Hosts: Piper, Tempest, DongWon, with special guest Erin Roberts What can we do to be allies to members of marginalized groups? Many of us want to find ways to help others have safe, comfortable places within our communities, but worry about coming across the wrong way. In this episode, our hosts talk about how we can do this well as writers, as members of writing communities, and in society at large. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
3/22/202022 minutes, 30 seconds
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15.11: Digital is Different, with Cory Doctorow

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Piper, Howard, and special guest Cory Doctorow "How do you break in?" is one of those questions we always get asked in some form or another, and it's also one for which those of us who "broke in" more than a couple of years ago are increasingly unqualified to answer. The path "in" is always changing, and it seems to be changing faster as time goes on. With the obligatory disclaimer out of the way, in this episode we'll talk about how "digital" (read: "social media + everything else internet") applies to building a career as a creative. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
3/15/202026 minutes, 1 second
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15.10: Evaluating Ideas

Your Hosts: Brandon, Victoria, Dan, and Howard We've talked in the past about how ideas are cheap, and that it's execution upon those ideas which is what really matters. In this episode we'll talk about how we evaluate things over there on the side of the equation where things are cheap and plentiful. Because while we have no shortage of ideas, they vary quite a bit in their value to us. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
3/8/202020 minutes, 26 seconds
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15.09: Choose Your Own Adventurous Publishing Path

Your Hosts: Dan, DongWon, Piper, and Howard "Should I go self-pub? Should I go traditional? Can I do both? How do I decide where my book fits?" In this episode we'll cover these, and many more questions as best we're able. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: Zoe York on The SisterCast Skye Warren Marketing Class on RWA forums¹ Writer Beware ¹ RWA membership is required for these forums. This episode was recorded in September of 2019
3/1/202024 minutes, 37 seconds
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15.08: Q&A on a Ship

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary Robinette, DongWon, and Howard At WXR 19 we recorded live, and took audience questions aboard the ship. Here they are! (You'll have to listen to the episode for the answers.) What have you learned in the past year that has improved your craft? When you're having trouble, how do you know if it's "I don't feel like writing" or "there's a problem with the manuscript?" How far ahead do you plan your careers? How do you tell when a fight/battle/showdown is going on for too long? How do you continue to learn and improve on your craft? How do you manage and prioritize your time when you're working on multiple projects? How do you feel about multiple first-person POVs in a single book? What are the most important elements to include on the last page of your book? What are some things we can do to strengthen our voice when writing in third person? How do you decide who to have as alpha and beta readers? In secondary world stories, how do you decide whether to call a horse a horse? How much leeway will an editor or agent give a story when it's not ready, but it shows promise? Liner Notes: "Sometimes Writer's Block is Really Depression" Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
2/23/202026 minutes, 37 seconds
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15.07: Creating Chapters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Victoria, Dan, and Howard How do you create chapters? What are the rules for carving your manuscript into numbered chunks? Is chaptering part of your outline, is it something you discover while you write, or is it something else entirely? In this episode we talk about how we do it, and how we think about it while it's being done. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson
2/16/202019 minutes, 18 seconds
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15.06: Prose and Cons, with Patrick Rothfuss

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary Robinette, Howard, with special guest Patrick Rothfuss How do you write beautiful prose? How do you set about telling a story with words that sing (and dance, and tell jokes) instead of just conveying information in word-sized chunks? In this episode we talk about how we do it, and how writers might set out to do good word-do like the best good word-doers do. Liner Notes:  Gwendolyn Brooks—We Real Cool   Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
2/9/202025 minutes, 43 seconds
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15.05: Setting Goals for Your Career

Your Hosts: Brandon, Victoria, Dan, and Howard What kind of career goal-setting do you do? We had a discussion in this vein with DongWon a few weeks ago, but neither Brandon nor Victoria participated then, so it's worth revisiting. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
2/2/202022 minutes, 3 seconds
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15.04: Revision, with Patrick Rothfuss

Your Hosts: Dan, Howard, and Mary Robinette, with special guest Patrick Rothfuss We begin our discussion of revision by addressing a question we hear a lot: How do you know what needs to be changed? We talk about our various techniques for getting distance from our work, incorporating feedback, and breaking the process down into manageable chunks. Liner Notes: Lindsey Ellis on Three-Act Structure Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
1/26/202029 minutes, 4 seconds
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15.03: Self Publishing

Your Hosts: Howard, with special guests Victorine Lieske, Tamie Dearen, Bridget E. Baker, and Nandi Taylor Howard leads this discussion with four guests who are doing well with self publishing. They share some numbers with us, and talk about their strategies for reaching their audience, and making the most of their market. Liner Notes: Given, by Nandi Taylor, is available on January 21, (just two days from this episode's air date) Credits: This episode was recorded live at WXR by Bert Grimm, and was mastered by Alex Jackson
1/19/202024 minutes, 12 seconds
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15.02: Writing Between the Lines

Your Hosts: Brandon, Victoria, Dan, and Howard Victoria Schwab, who also writes as V.E. Schwab, joins us this year, and in this episode she helps us cover that deep concept of "theme," and how we as authors can state our themes without coming straight out and stating them—writing our themes "between the lines." Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
1/12/202019 minutes, 52 seconds
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15.01: Evolution of a Career

Your Hosts: Dan, DongWon, Mary Robinette, and Howard Season 15 is going to be a bit broader than the previous seasons have, at least in the abstract. We're going to focus on your questions. In this episode we tackle the topic that dominates our collection of these questions: CAREER. Liner Notes: It hasn't actually been 15 years. It's been 12. Writing Excuses launched in February of 2008, and the first five seasons were not full-year seasons.  Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
1/5/202027 minutes, 44 seconds
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14.52: Game Mastering and Collaborative Storytelling, with Natasha Ence

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Natasha Ence Natasha Ence is a professional game master. (Yes, you read that correctly.) She joins us to discuss collaborative storytelling, and how the principles of game mastering for role-players can be applied to creating a fulfilling, engaging story. Credits: This episode was recorded live at LTUE by Dan Thompson, and was mastered by Alex Jackson.
12/29/201918 minutes, 24 seconds
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14.51: A Farewell to Worldbuilding

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard We've spent all year focusing on worldbuilding, and it's time to move on. Almost. In this episode we try to cover some points we may have missed, we talk about what we've learned, and discuss some of our favorite recent examples of worldbuilding. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
12/22/201921 minutes, 31 seconds
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14.50: Write What You… No.

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard We've all heard the adage "write what you know," and in this episode we set out to un-misinterpret it. The phrase is fraught, and perhaps the most perilous bit is that it can be used an excuse to not write. Here at Writing Excuses we're pretty committed to approaching things in ways that let us do MORE writing, so this topic is a great place for us to leave you out of excuses. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
12/15/201919 minutes, 19 seconds
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14.49: Customs and Mores

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab In this episode we discuss how our customs and mores govern our own real-world interactions, and how our understanding of these interactions can be applied to our worldbuilding. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
12/8/201920 minutes, 27 seconds
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14.48: How to Practice Worldbuilding

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard The entire year has been about learning how to worldbuild, and we've learned a thing or two ourselves while preparing material for you. In this episode we talk about some of those lessons, and try to answer stray questions that didn't fit into any of previous episode buckets. Liner Notes: If Dinosaurs Had Body Fat Like Penguins Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
12/1/201918 minutes, 47 seconds
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14.47: Writing Characters With Physical Disabilities

Your Hosts: Piper, Dan, and Tempest, with special guest Nicola Griffith In this episode we discuss how to faithfully represent people with physical disabilities through the characters we create. Our guest, Nicola Griffith, walks us through the process of rigorously imagining how the world might look to someone with a particular disability. Credits: This episode was mastered by Alex Jackson    
11/24/201915 minutes, 54 seconds
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14.46: Unusual Resources

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard Among science fiction and fantasy plot devices, the "uncommon resource" trope is common enough to almost seem cliché. Fortunately (?), the economic principle of scarcity is ubiquitous enough in real life that most of us don't even blink when presented with the idea in fiction. So how do we keep it fresh? How do we roll scarcities into the economies we create, and the worlds we build? Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
11/17/201919 minutes, 16 seconds
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14.45: Economics

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab Economists tend to see everything as economics, which is kind of how proponents of ANY discipline see their discipline, but it's not a bad way to look at worldbuilding through the lens of economics. In this episode we talk about how this works for us, and how it lets us roll our worldbuilding into our storytelling. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: Mahtab mentioned The Economics of Science Fiction on Medium.com    
11/10/201918 minutes, 15 seconds
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14.44: Realism vs. Rule-of-Cool

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard Where do you draw the line between what seems plausible, and what would be cool? If you pick "plausible," how do you stay cool? If you pick "cool," how do you avoid knocking the readers out of the story? And finally, how might we structure things so that when the time comes, we don't need to choose one or the other, because we can have both? Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and engineered by Alex Jackson
11/3/201920 minutes, 59 seconds
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14.43: Sequencing Your Career Genome

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, Dan, and DongWon Let's talk about career planning. It's a lot more than just launching a career by selling a book, and in this episode we talk about the kinds of things we want to be thinking about and preparing for beyond simply selling our next book or project. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm at WXR 2018, and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/27/201919 minutes, 25 seconds
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14.42: Alternate History

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard Alternate histories (and historical fantasies) are a staple of genre fiction. In this episode we talk about the worldbuilding process, the tools we use, and the pitfalls we try to avoid when constructing these kinds of stories. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/20/201920 minutes, 48 seconds
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14.41: History

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab Let's make history! In this episode we talk about doing exactly that—creating real-feeling histories for secondary world settings. We discuss the resources we turn to, the pitfalls we try to avoid, and the places where we think the history has been done really well. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/13/201917 minutes, 48 seconds
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14.40: Deep vs. Wide

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard How do you decide between digging one really deep, narrow well, and digging one really wide, shallow ocean? In this episode we talk about our desires to build worlds which appear both vanishingly wide and unplumbably deep, when we have time to do neither. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/6/201919 minutes, 14 seconds
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14.39: Positioning Your Book in the Marketplace

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Dongwon "Positioning feels like the most important question in all of publishing." — DongWon Song In this episode we talk about how to ask and answer the question of positioning, which is "who is this book for?" Credits: This episode was recorded before a live audience aboard Liberty of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/29/201918 minutes, 53 seconds
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14.38: Volunteer Opportunities for Writers, with Jared Quan

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Jared Quan Jared Quan serves as a volunteer on several non-profit boards, and joined us to talk about the opportunities that exist for writers. Administration, leadership, writing and editing, and teaching are just a few of the many kinds of roles available for volunteers. Credits: This episode was recorded live at LTUE by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
9/22/201920 minutes, 11 seconds
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14.37: Outlandish Impossibilities

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard Some science fiction and fantasy stories arise from a premise which, under even just rudimentary examination, appear utterly ridiculous. And some of these stories are hugely successful. In this episode we talk about how we manage our worldbuilding when the goal is less about building a world which works, and more about getting the audience to buy in on something outlandish so we can get on with our story. Liner Notes: "Went With The Wind" begins about two minutes into this full episode of the Carole Burnett Show Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/15/201922 minutes, 57 seconds
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14.36: Languages and Naming

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab How do we come up with names? How do we do it in ways that enhance our worldbuilding? What are the elements that give our invented naming schemes (even the zany ones with lots of syllables and apostrophes) verisimilitude? In this episode we talk about some of the tricks we've used, the pitfalls we've avoided, and conlangs in general. Liner Notes: In Episode 12.51 we discuss Conlangs ("constructed languages")with Dirk Elzinga. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/8/201919 minutes, 35 seconds
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14.35: What You Leave Out

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard The advice commonly given to writers is to worldbuild an iceberg, but only to show the reader the tip. This is still too much work. Icebergs are big. In this episode we talk about worldbuilding the tip of the iceberg, and then worldbuilding as little as possible of the rest of the iceberg so that the tip behaves correctly.
9/1/201918 minutes, 31 seconds
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14.34: Author Branding

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, Dan, and DongWon Authors have brands whether they want to have them or not. It's a simple principle of marketing, and the better we understand that principle, the better able we are to control how it affects our careers. In this episode we talk marketing, and freely use terms like "relationship marketing," "authentic experience," and "brand loyalty," despite the fact that sometimes these words make our inner artists cringe. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
8/25/201923 minutes, 21 seconds
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14.33: Writing Imperfect Worlds

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard How do you write a setting in which the status quo is one with which you deeply disagree? How do you create a conflict of this sort without being overtly pedantic or preachy? In this episode we talk about creating engaging worlds while worldbuilding around—and yes, over—landmines. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
8/18/201920 minutes, 36 seconds
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Worldbuilding Gender Roles

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard Let's talk about worldbuilding with gender roles. Most of us have grown up with a very strongly defined binary, that distinction need not be how we craft the worlds in which we set our stories. In this episode we discuss the resources we have to help us, and the approaches we've taken to worldbuild with gender in our own work. We drill down pretty deeply on some worldbuilding with Brandon, and yes, we run quite long. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes Axes of Power spreadsheet pronoun.is, #ownvoices, #nonbinary
8/11/201933 minutes, 23 seconds
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14.31: Cultural Setting as Conflict

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab In this episode we talk about how to put characters in conflict with their setting, and how to structure our work so that these conflicts arise organically rather than feeling mandated by plot. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and master by Alex Jackson
8/6/201919 minutes, 17 seconds
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14.30: Eating Your Way to Better Worldbuilding

Your Hosts: Piper, DongWon, Amal, and Maurice We like food, and we like to talk about food. Our hosts this week talk about how this influences their fiction, (not to mention how incredibly complex [and interesting, and delicious] the subject is.) Credits: this episode was recorded by Howard Tayler, and mastered by Alex Jackson 
7/28/201925 minutes, 22 seconds
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14.29: Field Research

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard So, you're going to go someplace and learn something you can't learn in any other way. Maybe it's location research for setting. Maybe you're off to interview an expert. Whatever you're planning, you need to be planning it well. In this episode we discuss the field research we've done, how we went about it, and how we might do it differently. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson  EPISODE ORDER NOTE: As of this writing, episode 14.28's web-sized audio file isn't ready. We'll run it next week, and eventually swap the dates to get 14.29 and 14.28 in the right order.
7/21/201919 minutes, 11 seconds
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14.28: Warfare and Weaponry

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab How do you write about warfare in your stories when you've never fought in a war? How do you describe brilliant tactics when you're completely untrained in military movements? How can you portray the emotions of someone on a battlefield without having been on a battlefield yourself? In this episode we tackle these questions and more. (Hint: the answers include "research") Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
7/14/201918 minutes, 42 seconds
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14.27: Natural Setting as Conflict

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard In this episode we stories with the "Person-vs-Setting" structure. These are stories where nature fills the role of antagonist, and may also be what governs the pacing, and the delivery of key emotional beats. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
7/7/201919 minutes, 13 seconds
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14.26: Lessons from Aristotle, with Rob Kimbro

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, and Dan, with special guest Rob Kimbro Rob Kimbro joins us this week to talk about Aristotle's elements of tragedy, and how they might be applied to our writing. The six elements are (in Aristotle's order of descending importance): plot, character, idea, dialog, music, and spectacle.  We discuss this tool in terms of critiquing existing work, and in finding direction in the things we create. Credits: this episode was recorded by Howard Tayler, and mastered by Alex Jackson
6/30/201917 minutes, 3 seconds
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14.25: Choosing Your Agent

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, Dan, and DongWon Guest-host Dongwon Song joined us at WXR 2018 as an instructor, and gave great advice regarding the business side of working as an author. In this episode he takes us through a conversation about choosing an agent. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
6/23/201922 minutes, 5 seconds
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14.24: Political Intrigue

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard Political Intrigue stories are less about "politics" (as colloquially defined by pop culture) and more about mysteries. Per Mary Robinette, they're often like heists of information. The word "politics" here is used in its purest sense: POWER. In this episode we talk about how we worldbuild for stories in which the flow of information and misinformation affect the shift of power, and how to craft those stories so they're, well... intriguing instead of being boring. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
6/16/201917 minutes, 6 seconds
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14.23: Governments Large and Small

Answering questions about the power structures you live within can help you with the worldbuilding of politics in the fiction you write.
6/9/201918 minutes, 53 seconds
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14.22: Characters out of Their Depth

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard Sherlock Holmes has his Watson for a reason. Readers need a character to whom some things must be explained. In this episode we talk about how we create these gateway characters without delivering "maid and butler" dialog, or talking down to the reader. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
6/2/201917 minutes, 50 seconds
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14.21: Writing The Other — Yes, You Can!

Your Hosts: Dan, Tempest, and DongWon The single most asked question we get on the subject of writing cultures other than our own is some variation on "can we even DO this anymore?" Short answer: YES, YOU CAN. Our objective with this episode is to encourage you to put in the work, do the research, and write outside of your culture or personal experience. At risk of sounding cliché, it's not easy, but it's worth it.
5/26/201922 minutes, 19 seconds
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14.20: Allegory in Fiction

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard What is an allegory, anyway? This episode probably won't settle that question, but we did manage a discussion on how to use our stories to teach things, or be stand-ins for things, and to do it in the ways that allegories and/or parables might. We talk about some famous allegories, some things whose authors insisted were not allegorical, and the possible pitfalls of didacticism. Credits: This episode was engineered by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson.
5/19/201917 minutes, 30 seconds
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14.19: Religion and Ritual

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab We often worldbuild religions and rituals for the stories we create. In this episode we discuss the decisions surrounding this, and our approaches for doing it well. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
5/12/201918 minutes, 1 second
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14.18: Setting as Theme

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard Theme is one of those high-falutin' concepts we're often reluctant to approach in a nuts-and-bolts sort of way. In this episode we'll talk about how our themes can be communicated through elements of our settings, deepening reader engagement with the things we write. We offer examples from our own work, and from things we've watched or read which have done this in ways that resonated well for us. Credits: This episode was recorded by Rob Kimbro, and mastered by Alex Jackson
5/5/201918 minutes, 15 seconds
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14.17: It’s Like “Car Talk” meets “Welcome To Nightvale”

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, Dan, and DongWon This episode is about comp titles (comparative titles), which are those things you use to describe your project in terms of other works. We discuss the ones we've used (both successfully and unsuccessfully), and the criteria we use to come up with good ones. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
4/28/201918 minutes, 14 seconds
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14.16: Your Setting is a Telegraph

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard Your setting can quickly tell the reader what kind of a story they're reading, and in this episode we'll talk about how we make that happen. Think of it as the "establishing shot" principle from film making, expanded to cover whatever worldbuilding details we choose to reveal first. Liner Notes: Here are the Schlock Mercenary Book 19 prologues Howard described, complete with the footnotes which make fun of prologues. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
4/21/201916 minutes, 32 seconds
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14.15: Technology

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab We've spent a lot of time talking about magic systems in our worldbuilding. It's time to talk about  science and technology in that same way. This has been a staple (perhaps the defining staple) of science fiction since before "science fiction" was a word. At risk of opening the "where do you get your ideas" can of worms, this episode covers a little bit of where we get our ideas, and where you might get—and subsequently develop—some more of yours. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
4/14/201919 minutes, 12 seconds
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14.14: When To Tell

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard "Show, don't tell," they tell us. Except sometimes showing is not always the best thing to do. Or even the right thing to do. Sometimes we should be telling. In this episode we'll tell you about telling. (We'd show you about telling, but we still don't have a video feed.) Credits: This episode was recorded by Rob Kimbro, and mastered by Alex Jackson
4/7/201916 minutes, 42 seconds
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WX 14.13: Obstacles vs. Complications

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard What's the difference between an obstacle and a complication? Margaret Dunlap takes the lead on this episode for us, giving us the tools we need to create 'impediments to main character progress' which will drive our stories across page turns (and commercial breaks) in compelling, twisty ways. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
3/31/201916 minutes, 11 seconds
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14.12: Writing The Other — Latinx Representation

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Tempest Bradford, DongWon Song, and Julia Rios Julia Rios joins us to talk about writing characters who come from one of the many Latin-American cultures or subcultures. "Latinx" is a catch-all term for people with Latin-American heritage, including mixed-race people. In this episode we talk about mash-up cuisine, intersectionality, and how to navigate the subtleties to find the specific cultural elements which will help you create Latinx characters. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
3/24/201920 minutes, 21 seconds
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14.11: Magic Without Rules

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard When we say "without rules" we're talking about stories whose magic is not held under logical scrutiny for the reader. There are lots of reasons why you might do this, and in this episode we'll talk about not just about the why, but also the how. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson
3/17/201920 minutes, 18 seconds
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14.10: Magic Systems

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab Let's design magic systems! We talk about how we do it, and how the principles of magic system design apply to the science fiction systems we create, and vice-versa. NOTE: In this episode we're talking about "hard" magic systems, where there are well-defined rule sets (even if the reader isn't shown them explicitly.) Next week we'll talk about "soft" magic. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson.
3/10/201918 minutes, 28 seconds
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14.9: Showing Off

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard Let's infodump without infodumping. Let's deliver lots of exposition without sounding expository. Let's talk with the maid and the butler without having maid-and-butler dialog. Credits: This episode was recorded by Benjamin Hewett, and mastered by Alex Jackson  
3/3/201923 minutes, 40 seconds
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14.8: Worldbuilding Q&A #1

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, Dan, and DongWon We invited attendees at WXR 2018 to ask us some general worldbuilding questions. Here's what they asked: What cultural stuff do you need to know during the writing process? How do you treat overlaps between real-world religions and fictional religions when the fictional religions are part of the story's fundamental conflict? How much worldbuilding do you have figured out before you start your first draft, and how much do you discover on the fly? What's the point in a book beyond which you shouldn't introduce big worldbuilding elements? How do you ensure that the world comes through as a character of its own? How much change to terminology is too much? Credits: This episode was recorded live by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
2/24/201925 minutes, 19 seconds
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14.7: How Weird is Too Weird?

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard How weird, how far outside the realm of what the reader feels to be familiar, is too weird? Where is the line beyond which the fantasy is too fantastic, the unreal too unrealistic, or the aliens too alien? In this episode we discuss finding that line, and with the tools at our disposal, possibly moving it. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson.  
2/17/201915 minutes, 55 seconds
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14.6: Fantasy and Science Fiction Races

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab Let's talk about race, sort-of. Let's talk about creating races—species of people, really—which is a critically important activity in much of our worldbuilding. In this episode we discuss a few of the pitfalls, some of our own techniques, and a few of our favorite alien¹ races. ¹Can of Worms: It's likely you'll subconsciously code your creations after people who are "other" to you. This is both fraught and inescapable, but we don't want to discourage you from trying. On May 26th we'll go into detail telling you "yes, you can," in a Writing The Other episode entitled "Yes You Can."
2/10/201916 minutes, 37 seconds
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14.5: Viewpoint as Worldbuilding

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard When you're defining your world for the reader, some voice in the text must speak those definitions. This episode is about how we use character voices—their dialog and their narrative view points—to worldbuild. What do they see? How do they perceive it? What are their favorite jokes? What do they say when they swear? Credits: This episode was recorded by Benjamin Hewett, and mastered by Alex Jackson      
2/3/201917 minutes, 31 seconds
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14.03: Writing the Other—Bisexual Characters

Your Hosts: Dan, Tempest, DongWon, and TJ This is the first of our Writing The Other episodes, in which we set out to help writers portray people who are unlike them. In this episode we're joined by T.J. Berry. She walks us through the language and terminology of bisexuality.  
1/27/201918 minutes, 35 seconds
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14.03: World of Hats

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard Margaret Dunlap joins us during season 14 to talk about worldbuilding. In this, her first episode with us, we talk about worlds in which a monolithic culture (like, say, 'everyone wears hats') is represented. We cover how to use the trope to your advantage, and how to avoid the trope if it's going to cause problems.
1/20/201917 minutes, 55 seconds
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14.02: Geography and Biomes

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab Mahtab Narsimhan joins us this year for a dozen episodes on worldbuilding, and this week we're talking about geography and biomes. These pieces of our settings can be central to the stories we tell, but they can also be backdrops, and the story purposes they serve may determine which tools we use to describe them. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
1/13/201918 minutes, 47 seconds
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14.01: Worldbuilding Begins! Up Front, or On the Fly?

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard Season 14 is all about worldbuilding¹, and we're kicking it off with a discussion of when you do that bit of work. Do you handle worldbuilding before you write the story, as you write the story, or after you've finished the story? We'll talk about how we do it, and the benefits and drawbacks of each approach. Credits: This episode was recorded by Benjamin Hewett, and mastered by Alex Jackson. ¹ The question of whether this term should be a closed compound (worldbuilding), an open compound (world building), or hyphenated (world-building) is an open one. Our decision to use the closed compound "worldbuilding" in our episode descriptions this year is a matter of personal preference. 
1/6/201921 minutes, 11 seconds
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13.52: Working Dad is a Spaceman

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary, and Dan, with NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn. Last week's episode may have sounded like the last one for 2018, but that's an artifact of December having five Sundays rather than four. Fifth Sundays are our "wildcards," and something wild seems like a nice way to round out the year. Tom Marshburn, who is both spaceman and parent, talks to us about what it's like to be both. Credits: This episode was recorded by Ben Hewett, and mastered by Alex Jackson
12/30/201820 minutes, 55 seconds
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13.51: Wrap-up on the Year of Character

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard We decided to wrap up this year on character by letting Brandon ask us some deep questions. "We decided" might be the wrong phrase, because nobody except Brandon knew what the questions were, so it might be more accurate to say "we rolled with it." It rolled quite nicely. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson. It was posted to the web by Howard, who is also the one who didn't post until twenty-eight hours and twenty-minutes after he should have.   
12/25/201825 minutes, 26 seconds
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13.50: What Writers Get Wrong, with Zoraida Córdova

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Zoraida Córdova Zoraida Córdova, an award-winning author of urban fantasy, was born in Ecuador and grew up in Queens. She joins us to talk about what writers get wrong (and what they can get right and do well) when portraying latinas in the United States. Credits: This episode was recorded live at FanX Salt Lake (formerly "Salt Lake Comic-Con") by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes:  The comic book Howard referenced is Guardians of Infinity #3, (2016), which features a back-up story entitled "Yo Soy Groot." Peggy Whitson is the astronaut Mary referenced. As of this writing, she holds the record for longest single spaceflight by an American.   
12/16/201820 minutes, 23 seconds
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13.49: How to Finish

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Amal, and Maurice Last week we talked about character death. This week we talk about other, less fatal ways in which a character story can be finished, and how we, as writers, can tell when we're done with a character arc. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
12/9/201819 minutes, 24 seconds
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13.48: Character Death and Plot Armor

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard The characters we create are not all destined for long lives. Sure, some are, but a great many of them are on paths that will end in an abrupt fatality of one kind or another, and in this episode we'll talk about how we choose which characters to put on those paths, and how those paths might be shaped. We also talk about characters who walk perilous paths and emerge unscathed (sometimes thanks less to their pluck and wit, and more due to plot armor.) Liner Notes:"The Worshipful Society of Glovers" can be found here at Uncanny Magazine . Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson.
12/2/201820 minutes, 15 seconds
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13.47: Q&A on Fixing Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard You had questions about fixing character problems. We had had answers! Here are the questions: How do you fix character voices when you find out that two of them are too similar? How can you tell if a character is, in fact, the problem? How do you maintain interest in a character who is largely inactive? How do you write interesting bad guys when your only POV characters are the good guys? How do you give meaningful challenges to a powerful character? How can you make a normal, everyday character interesting? How do you edit an existing manuscript to give characters interests which mesh with the plot? Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson.
11/25/201818 minutes, 43 seconds
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13.46: The Unsexy Side of Space, with Bart Smith and Ben Hewett

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, and Dan, with special guests Bart Smith and Ben Hewett When we talk about space travel we're usually talking about rocket scientists and astronauts. In this episode we spoke with our guests Bart Smith and Ben Hewett, about the "unsexy" (read: possibly boring but don't be deceived) side of the space program—budgeting, logistics, and procurement. RFI and RFP, with toilets, hammers, and business cards; that's this episode. (For those unfamiliar with the above TLAs [three letter acronyms], RFI and RFP stand for Request for Information and Request for Proposal.)  
11/18/201827 minutes, 24 seconds
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NaNoWriMo 2018 Bonus Episode, with Mercedes Lackey

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Mercedes Lackey NaNoWriMo 2018 is half-way over today. Are you stuck? Do you need to get unstuck? Mercedes Lackey joined us at GenCon Indy back in 2017 to talk about writer's block, and how it's very likely a symptom of something else. In this episode we discuss the interpretation of those symptoms, and how we go about solving the root problems.
11/15/201816 minutes, 43 seconds
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13.45: Next Level Narration

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Amal, and Maurice Narration is that stuff which tells your story, but isn't dialog. It's the voice of your narrator, and it might be multiple voices depending on how you're handling point of view. In this episode we'll talk about the things you can do to challenge yourself and level up your narration.
11/11/201821 minutes, 40 seconds
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NaNoWriMo 2018 Mini-Episode 2

Your Mini-Episode Hosts: Amal El-Mohtar and Maurice Broaddus, with Special Asides from Mary Robinette Kowal We're a week in to NaNoWriMo. If you're scared of it, Amal is here to tell you that it's okay to feel that way, Maurice is here with the encouraging words "consequence-free."
11/7/20182 minutes, 35 seconds
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13.44: Alien Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard As writers of speculative fiction we are frequently tasked with writing a species or race of alien people. In this episode we talk about some of the tricks we use to create non-human characters in ways that make them both comprehensible and compelling, and the pitfalls we seek to avoid in the process. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson.
11/4/201818 minutes, 34 seconds
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NaNoWriMo 2018 Mini-Episode 1

Your Mini-Episode Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard Back in 2017 we recorded a bonus episode for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and then forgot to air it. Here, then, in the spirit of never throwing anything away, is a spot of motivation which is both timely AND one year late.
10/31/20185 minutes, 18 seconds
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13.43: Characters Who Are Smarter Than You Are

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Amal Many of us write characters who know more than we know, and/or who think faster than we do. Writing those characters is tricky. In this episode we talk about our own tricks, and the tricks we've seen others use. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
10/28/201825 minutes, 34 seconds
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13.42: Writing Excuses Talks to an Astronaut, with Special Guest Kjell Lindgren

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with special space-guest Kjell Lindgren Kjell Lindgren, flight surgeon, Expedition 44/45, joined us for an episode that perhaps should have been called "we ask the space-man all of the things." We asked him stuff that we wanted to know more about, and came away richer for the experience. If there's just one technical term worth bringing home from this episode, it's "expeditionary behavior." It's the sort of thing that can make us all richer for the experience. Credits: This episode was recorded by Benjamin Hewett at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and mastered by Alex Jackson at Writing Excuses Mission Control in Chicago. BONUS: NASA invited us back to be on THEIR show, Houston We Have a Podcast, and that episode went live about three days before this did. More Kjell Lindgren!
10/21/201818 minutes, 25 seconds
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13.41: Fixing Character Problems, Part II

Your Hosts: Brandon, Amal, Mary, and Maurice This is the second of our pair of episodes in which we talk about how we, your hosts, fix the problems we've identified with the characters in our work. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
10/14/201822 minutes, 36 seconds
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13.40: Fixing Character Problems, Part I

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard This is the first of two episodes in which we'll talk about how we, your hosts, fix the problems we've identified with the characters in our work. Credits: this episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/7/201816 minutes, 6 seconds
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13.39: What Writers Get Wrong, With Wendy Tolliver

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Wendy Tolliver Wendy skis, and snowboards, and  writes YA novels. She is also the parent of three, one of whom suffers from mental illness. She joined us to talk about how writers can do a better job of depicting it, and how to avoid the pitfalls and the harmful cliches. Credits: This episode was recorded live at Salt Lake Fan X by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/30/201817 minutes, 47 seconds
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13.38: How to Find and Use Alpha Readers

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard We begin by making a useful distinction between alpha and beta reader: the alpha reader is an industry professional, while the beta reader is a stand-in for the eventual audience of readers. We then set about discussing how to find alpha readers, and how to employ them in order to make your work better. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/23/201820 minutes, 17 seconds
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13.37: What Writers Get Wrong, with J.Y. Yang

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard with special guest J.Y. Yang J.Y. Yang is a Hugo-nominated short story writer from Singapore who identifies as non-binary. They joined us to talk about this non-binary identification, and how writers can do a better job of depicting it (beyond simply using non-gendered pronouns.) Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/16/201820 minutes, 6 seconds
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13.36: Confronting the Default

Your Hosts: Brandon, Amal, Mary, and Maurice If you live in the northern hemisphere, inland, perhaps above the 40th parallel, you are probably quite sure that there are four distinct seasons. There are, however, many, many people for whom "seasons" are things that happen to other people. This is the conflict between your default and the rest of the world, and in this episode we'll talk about confronting your default. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
9/9/201818 minutes, 17 seconds
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13.35: Cliché vs. Archetype

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard Tropes, archetypes, and even cliches are tools in our toolboxes. There's no avoiding them, but there are definitely ways to use them incorrectly. In this episode we'll talk about how we shake off our fear of using tropes through understanding how they work. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
9/2/201820 minutes, 29 seconds
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13.34: Q&A on Character Arcs

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard You had questions. We came up with answers. The questions are below: How do you fulfill promises about character arcs without being cliché? How do you subvert character tropes without betraying the reader? Do you need to complete each character arc in a single story featuring multiple characters? What separates an iconic character from a caricature? Have you ever had an iconic character necessarily become a character in need of an arc? How do you continue a character's story after they've completed their original arc? How much does a character need to change in their arc?
8/26/201819 minutes, 17 seconds
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13.b1: Bonus Episode — Elephants and Death, with Lawrence Schoen

Your Hosts: Howard and Dan, with special guest Lawrence Schoen Lawrence Schoen, clinical psychologist, cognitive hypnotist, small press publisher, Klingon language expert, and novelist, joined us at GenCon Indy for a bonus episode about elephants and death. Howard and Lawrence both write uplifted elephants into their stories, and their stories also feature death as a theme, so this is a closer fit than it may seem to be at first blush. Liner Notes: This episode was recorded in 2016, and after falling through the cracks (thanks in no small part to being below the fold on a spreadsheet), was rescheduled to coincide with the release of Moons of Barsk, Lawrence's second novel in the uplifted-elephant setting. Credits: This episode was mastered by Alex Jackson, and was made possible by our Patreon supporters
8/22/201818 minutes, 10 seconds
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13.33: Reading Outside the Box

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard, with Kristie Claxton Kristie Claxton joined us at WXR 2017 to talk about reading outside of the spaces where we're comfortable and familiar. Specifically, we focused on how to learn about people who are not you by reading stories by and about them. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson
8/19/201820 minutes, 41 seconds
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13.32: How To Handle Weighty Topics

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice How can we, as writers, best handle weighty matters? This is our year on character, so we'll approach this with a focus on character creation, depiction, and dialog? This topic is, in and of itself, weighty. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson
8/12/201830 minutes
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13.31: Learning to Listen as a Writer

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard "Write what you know" gets misapplied a lot. In this episode we'll talk about how to know things by listening well. In particular, we're looking at writing interesting characters by listening to real people. We also talk about the more formal act of interviewing people¹, and how to deal with the attendant complexities. Liner Notes:  Mary references her interviewing of rocket scientists and astronauts, which we just talked about last week. When this episode was recorded the JPL trip was still in our future, and was "will have been" extremely cool. Comment Notes: The audio file wasn't correctly linked until Tuesday. The irony of the our "how to listen" episode having exactly zero "listen" buttons is not lost on anyone. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and engineered by Alex Jackson. Their fine work was obscured from public view by the careless hands of Howard Tayler.  
8/5/201820 minutes, 46 seconds
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13.30: Project in Depth, THE CALCULATING STARS, with Kjell Lindgren

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, and Dan, with Kjell Lindgren Spoiler Alert! If you haven't yet read The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel, by Mary Robinette Kowal, you may wish to rectify that prior to listening. In this episode we go into great depth on Mary's novel with the expert technical help of NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who was one of Mary's consulting readers. Like most of our project-in-depth episodes this one runs long. Longer still because we were at JSC in Houston, which was incredibly cool for all of us, so nobody was watching the clock. Liner Notes: The reference to "Type 2" fun comes from an as-yet-unpublished episode. Type 1 fun is fun in the moment. Type 2 fun is fun to talk about later. Maybe much, much later. Credits: This episode was recorded by Benjamin Hewett, and mastered by Alex Jackson
7/29/201831 minutes, 22 seconds
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13.29: Iconic Heroes

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard The term "iconic hero" allows us to differentiate between different kinds of heroes who appear in series. Nancy Drew and Conan the Barbarian are iconic, but Leia Organa and Aragorn are epic. In this episode we discuss how (and why) to go about writing a hero with no arc. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
7/22/201818 minutes, 33 seconds
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13.28: What Writers Get Wrong, with Wildstyle

At GenCon Indy 2017 we were joined by Wildstyle (@MrWildstyle on Twitter), who wears many hats, and many of the hats he wears are donned in service of producing hip-hop. One of the most interesting revelations (especially for Howard, whose background in audio engineering predates MP3 technology by half a decade) was just how many hats there are. The role of producer in the hip-hop scene may include the roles of audio engineer, composer, and and even musician. Liner Notes: For a deeper look at Wildstyle's work, search Soundcloud for "Wildstyle DaProducer." He's been producing for a year since this episode was recorded.  
7/15/201817 minutes, 6 seconds
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13.27: Characters as Foils

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice A foil is a character who serves as a contrast to another character. The foil might be a sidekick, an antagonist, a romantic interest, or really any other character who gets enough focus for the contrast to be useful. In this episode we talk about foils, offering examples, and our approaches for writing foils in our own work. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson, neither of whom serves as a foil to the other.
7/8/201818 minutes, 52 seconds
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13.26: Character Relationships

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard Our characters become far more interesting when they begin interacting with each other. These interactions—these relationships—are often how our stories get told. In this episode we explore ways in which we can fine tune relationships in service of our stories. The tools include the Kowal Relationship Axes (Mind, Money, Morals, Manners, Monogamy, and The Marx Brothers) and the differences between personal and position power. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson
7/1/201821 minutes, 23 seconds
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13.25: Our Journey With Character

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard Brandon wanted to ask us how our perspectives on character have changed since the very beginning of our writing. It's a difficult question to answer, and a very soulful sort of thing to answer in front of other people. So Brandon went first while the rest of us racked our brains. What are you going to learn from this episode? Well... you might learn a bit about each of us, but it's also possible that you'll learn something about your own writing, and find yourself able to navigate the next few steps on your journey with character. Note: The apology strips Howard mentioned begin with this strip. They are part of a story that begins here. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
6/24/201818 minutes, 25 seconds
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13.24: What Writers Get Wrong, with Piper, Aliette, and Wesley, with special guest Ken Liu

Your Hosts: Piper Drake, Aliette de Bodard, and Wesley Chu, with special guest Ken Liu Our hosts for this episode are experts in a great many different things. One thing that they have in common is that they're all members of the Asian Disapora, and in this episode we'll learn what kinds of things writers get wrong when writing Asian Diaspora elements, and how we as writers can learn to get those things right. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson  
6/17/201822 minutes, 33 seconds
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13.23: Internal Conflicts

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice Internal conflicts, simply put, are problems your characters have with themselves. In this episode we address the ways in which writers can build stories and subplots around internal conflicts, and how we can tell when it's not working. Notes: the MICE quotient is Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event. Mary's relationship axes are Role, Relationship, Status, and Competence. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson
6/10/201826 minutes, 44 seconds
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13.22: Character Arcs

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard When Mary says we could do fifteen different episodes on character arcs, she's being conservative. Notwithstanding, we set out to talk meaningfully about character arcs in one episode rather than in fifteen (or fifty.) We look at the shapes of these arcs, how they progress in our narratives, and the tools we use to get them to function properly in the context of our larger works. Notes: Elizabeth Boyle's DREAM tool for plotting character change is easier to remember when written out. So here it is! Denial Resistance Exploration Acceptance Manifestation Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson
6/3/201816 minutes, 9 seconds
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13.21: Q&A on Character Depth and Motivation

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard Our listeners submitted some great questions! How do you fairly and even-handedly write a deeply compelling character you deeply dislike? What's the best way to discuss a character's underlying motivations without expressly stating them in narrative or dialog? How well should characters understand their own motivations? How do you make non-violent characters interesting? Can there be too much depth to a character? How do you balance character depth across multiple attributes? How do you make a character motivation seem deep when most people's motivations are actually pretty shallow? Do you create standard dossiers for your characters? Does your story have to have a villain? How do you know whether or not a character's voice is working? Do you track words or phrases that are unique to a particular character's voice? Liner Notes: Brandon mentioned Howard's "Tyrannopotomus Rex" doodle as part of the writing prompt. Here it is, should you need visual reference. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
5/27/201820 minutes, 7 seconds
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13.20: Fear and Writing, with Emma Newman

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard, with special guest Emma Newman Emma Newman, author, audio book narrator, and podcaster, joined us on the Baltic sea for WXR 2017, where, six days after a brilliant presentation on overcoming fear, she recorded a session with us on the same topic. The class was just that good. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and was mastered by Alex Jackson
5/20/201819 minutes, 41 seconds
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13.19: Backstories

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice Character backstories: these are the tales that describe how the characters in your story became who they are by the time they arrive in the book. How much backstory needs to be written before you start in on the manuscript? How much needs to be in the manuscript itself? And how much backstory is too much?
5/13/201819 minutes, 32 seconds
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13.18: Naturally Revealing Character Motivation

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard What motivates us? What really motivates us? Why? (Note: our motivations are probably not in service of some overarching plot.) How can we use this information to believably motivate characters? Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
5/6/201819 minutes
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13.17: What Writers Get Wrong, with Jamahl Crouch

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with Jamahl Crouch Jamahl Crouch (Illusmm1 on Instagram) joined us at the GenCon Indy Writers Symposium to talk about what writers get wrong about street art. Jamahl is many things, and one of those is "street artist." Jamahl Crouch, pen on sketchbook, GenCon Indy 2017 We discuss the differences between graffiti and street art, where things like commissioned murals fit into the scene, and how the societal pressures (read: "it's not legal to paint on this wall") affect the form.  
4/29/201816 minutes, 17 seconds
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13.16: Avoiding Flat Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard For our purposes, the term "flat character" refers to a character who lacks the depth required to maintain reader interest. In this episode we discuss how to avoid putting flat characters front-and-center in our writing, and how we go about fixing manuscripts that have flat character problems.
4/22/201816 minutes, 42 seconds
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13.15: What Writers Get Wrong, with Mike Stop Continues

Recorded live at WXR 2017. Your Hosts: Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard, with special guest Mike Stop Continues Mike has multiple areas of expertise, but for this episode he's talking to us specifically about the things that writers get wrong about being a gay man. Credits: This episode was recorded live by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Andrew Jackson.
4/15/201819 minutes, 4 seconds
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13.14: Character Nuance

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice Let's talk about characters who have conflict built right into them; characters whose attributes and attitudes might seem to contradict one another; characters who like, y'know... actual people. (And let's talk about how to write them.)
4/8/201817 minutes, 44 seconds
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13.13: Character Voice

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard Character voice, the flow, order, and feel of words that is unique to a particular character, is extremely useful in defining characters for the reader. In this episode we discuss our tools for shaping character voices, and the ways in which we make sure each one unique. Liner Notes: We talked about authorial voice in episode 12.10, and about 1st-person Voice in 12.2.  Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
4/1/201823 minutes, 38 seconds
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13.12: Q&A on Heroes, Villains, and Main Characters

Your Cast: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, Howard You had questions about heroes, villains, and main characters. We have answers! Here are the questions: How do you make planned power increases not seem like an ass-pull¹? What do you do when your villain is more interesting/engaging than your hero? How do you know when a character is unnecessary and needs to be removed from the story, or killed off in the story? What tricks do you use when you want the reader to mistakenly believe a character is a hero, rather than a villain? Which is more fun for you: creating a villain, or creating a hero? How many side characters can you reasonably juggle in a novel? What are the drawbacks to making your villain a POV character? If your villain doesn't show up until late in the story, how do you make their eventual appearance seem justified? How do you get readers to like a character who is a jerk? Liner Footnotes ¹ We hadn't seen "ass-pull," the a nouning² of the idiom "pull it out of your ass³" as a noun before. ² Bill Watterson gave us the verb form of the word "noun" indirectly in the final panel of this strip. ³ For those unfamiliar with the extraction-from-orifice idiom, it means "make it up on the spot," with a negative connotation, suggesting that the reader can TELL that this was invented in a hurry.
3/25/201817 minutes, 13 seconds
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13.11: Writing Secondary Characters, with Charlaine Harris

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Charlaine Harris Charlaine Harris joined us in front of a live audience at the GenCon Writers Symposium to talk with us about secondary characters—why they're so important, why they can be difficult to write well, and how she brings her secondary characters to life without giving them a POV.
3/18/201817 minutes, 13 seconds
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13.10: Handling a Large Cast

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice What are our favorite techniques for managing large casts of characters, and how do our processes differ from when we're writing small casts? What does "large" and "small" mean for us? Liner Notes: No, Howard was not in the room. Yes, despite his absence, he was wearing both trousers and pants while he ventured into the wilds to obtain Maurice's character sheet. Credits: This episode was recorded by  Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson, both of whom have more points in "perception" than most people have points.
3/11/201823 minutes, 12 seconds
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13.9: Quick Characterization

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard How do you go about defining a character for your readers when you don't have many words to devote to the project? What are the tricks for quickly establishing someone's individuality within your story? Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
3/4/201818 minutes, 15 seconds
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13.8: Making Characters Distinctive

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard What do we do to make our characters distinctive? Often we categorize the distinctions as flaws or quirks, and in this discussion we use those as our starting points. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
2/25/201821 minutes, 20 seconds
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13.7: What Writers Get Wrong, with Lou Perry

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard Lou Perry joined us in front of a live audience at GenCon Indy to talk about law and courtrooms, and what writers get wrong when setting their stories amid legal procedures.  
2/18/201814 minutes, 56 seconds
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13.6: External Conflicts for Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice An external conflict is a story driver that originates outside the protagonist. In this episode a large part of what we'll focus on is person-vs-environment as opposed to person-vs-person. PvE rather than PvP, if you will. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson, both of whom understand that environmental noise is a key external conflict driving their narratives.  
2/11/201820 minutes, 33 seconds
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13.5: Villain, Antagonist, Obstacle

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard What's the difference between villains and antagonists? How is an obstacle character different from those other two? How are they alike? And most importantly, how can we use this information to write effective opposition to our heroes, protagonists, and main characters? Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
2/4/201818 minutes, 20 seconds
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13.4: Protagonists Who Aren’t Sympathetic

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard This week we're joined by Valynne Maetani, who'll be one of our hosts all year. We're discussing protagonists who, per writer intent, do not engender audience sympathy. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
1/28/201820 minutes, 5 seconds
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13.3: What Writers Get Wrong, with Aliette de Bodard

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard This year's third-week episodes will all follow a common theme: "what writers get wrong." Each of these episodes will feature an expert guest who will help us understand what writers get wrong about something in which they have expertise. Aliette de Bodard will be co-hosting several of these week-three episodes, but this week her role is "subject matter expert." She has several fields of expertise, and among the hats she expertly wears which writers often fail to correctly describe is a hat labeled "motherhood" (note: not an actual hat.)  Credits: This episode was recorded at WXR 2017 in the Baltic Sea by Bert Grimm, and mastered on dry land by Alex Jackson 
1/21/201822 minutes, 15 seconds
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13.2: Writing Active Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice This week we welcome Amal El-Mohtar and Maurice Broaddus to the Writing Excuses cast for a discussion of active characters. We cover characters who move stories forward, who make decisions that influence plot-critical events, and whose actions draw the reader into the book. Liner Notes: you'll be hearing from Amal and Maurice during the second week of each month of 2018. And if Maurice sounds familiar, he joined us at GenCon for episode 7.40 back in 2012. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson, and despite the fact that both  Andrew and Alex are very active characters we never give them any dialog.  
1/14/201819 minutes, 22 seconds
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13.1: Hero, Protagonist, Main Character

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard 2018 is our Year of Character, and we kick it off with a quick exploration of the differences between heroes, protagonists, and main characters. Beginning with addressing the question "wait, aren't they all the same person?" Because that's the elephant in the room. Or maybe it's three elephants. Or two. Sometimes there's no elephant, and if you look carefully you can see an elephant-shaped hole, which is probably more like a negative number of elephants. Liner Notes: We referenced The Hollywood Formula, which was introduced to us by Lou Anders in Episode 6.18. We also keep saying "protag" as a verb, which to us means "doing proactive protagonist things." Howard may have made up this word, but its true provenance has been lost to the mists of anxiety of influence. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. For audio quality purposes the studio contained zero elephants.  
1/7/201817 minutes, 27 seconds
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12.53: Writing Excuses True Confessions

It's the end of 2017, so let's talk about the things that we've tried to make work, and failed at. Not things that we tried before arriving at career-level measures of success—things that we've folded, spindled, and/or mutilated since then. There were a lot of them! This episode runs close to thirty minutes long...  
12/31/201729 minutes, 27 seconds
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12.52: Cross-Genres as Gateways

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Howard, and Dan What are the books which have drawn us from the bookshelf genres where you're the most comfortable into bookshelves you haven't read from? What can we learn about our own writing by reading these gateway books? How can we set about writing them ourselves? Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered at the intersection of Cowboys and the Great Lakes by Alex Jackson
12/24/201717 minutes, 46 seconds
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12.51: Constructed Languages, with Dirk Elzinga

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary, Dan, with guest host Beth Meacham Dirk Elzinga, an associate professor of linguistics, joined us live at LTUE to talk about constructed languages, and how we, as writers, might go about constructing them for our work. Liner Notes: The big stack of notes from Dirk required its own page. Below are links to specific tools mentioned during the episode. Duolingo Everchanging Book of Names Credits: This episode was recorded live at LTUE by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson and mastered beneath a pyramid of stone tablet encyclopedias by Alex Jackson.  
12/17/201718 minutes, 51 seconds
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12.50: Form and Function

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley How does the shape of your physical medium change the art you're making? What are the tools that affect our storytelling, and what are those effects? Credits: This episode was recorded in Chicago by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson
12/10/201722 minutes, 58 seconds
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12.49: Non-linear Narratives

We begin the final month of our year on structure with a discussion of non-linear structures. These include flashbacks, POVs that are out of chronological order,  and a host of other storytelling techniques. Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson  
12/3/201717 minutes, 39 seconds
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12.48: Q&A on Novels and Series, with Brian McClellan

Brian McClellan joined us to field questions about writing novels and series. Here are the questions: How do you write an ending that is open for sequels, but isn't a cliffhanger? Is it a good idea to take a large novel, and release it instead as serial novellas? Can you debut with a series, or should you establish yourself with standalone novels first? How do you keep readers coming back for each new novel when there's a long time between them? Should you have more than just one book done before querying agents? What do you do if your novel turns out to be too short to be a novel? Is it possible to write a series as a discovery writer? How do you foreshadow big things that are a long way out?
11/26/201724 minutes, 59 seconds
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12.47: Screenwriting and the Writers Room, with JD Payne

Screenwriter JD Payne joined us before a live audience at LTUE to talk about writing for the screen, specifically regarding doing this work with others in a room full of writers.
11/19/201719 minutes, 16 seconds
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12.46: Reinventing Yourself

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley We discuss the idea of "reinventing yourself," which can mean anything from "trying something new" to "completely re-branding yourself as a writer," and how it's a difficult thing to do without figuring out what it actually is that you're currently doing. We talk about how we've done it, how others have done it, and how important it is to continue learning as a writer. Credits: This episode was recorded in Chicago by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson
11/12/201721 minutes, 18 seconds
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12.45: Structuring a Series

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard Before you can decide on a structure for your series, you may find it helpful to decide what kind of series you're actually building. We talk about a few of the available options, and how each of them affects the structure. Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
11/5/201723 minutes, 9 seconds
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12.44: NaNoWriMo 2017 Primer

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard We're going to share some of our experiences with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in an effort to encourage you to participate in ways that will advance you toward your goals. Note: After a week, this is the only photo we've found of Wounded Howard. Dan took it, and Howard was clearly putting on "angry face" for show.  Also, he doesn't look nearly as pale as any of us remember him looking. Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/29/201718 minutes, 40 seconds
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12.43: Serialized Storytelling

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard We're talking about the extreme long-form serial story here, and how to keep things interesting without forcing the main characters into an absurdly high number of character-developing moments. Brandon leads by aiming the question at Howard, since Schlock Mercenary has been running now for seventeen years (it was only 16 at the time we recorded.) We also talk about how long romance serials avoid "sequelitis" by swapping out the love interests, and how the tools used here apply across multiple styles and genres. Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/22/201722 minutes, 24 seconds
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12.42: Adapting Your Stories for Game Play, with Alan Bahr

Your Hosts: Mary, Dan, and Howard, with guest host Beth Meacham Alan Bahr of Ragnarok Publications, joined us at  LTUE 2017 to talk about adapting a licensed property for a game, and preserving the feel of the work while doing so. Credits: this episode was recorded live at LTUE 2017 by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex JacksonRecorded
10/15/201714 minutes, 27 seconds
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12.41: Raising the Stakes

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley When we talk about "raising the stakes," we mean making the outcomes of the events in a story increasingly important to the reader. In this episode we talk about the tools we use to raise the stakes in ways that are more sophisticated than just queuing up larger and larger explosions. Credits: This episode was recorded in Chicago by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/8/201720 minutes, 15 seconds
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12.40: Structuring a Novel

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard What makes something a novel, rather than just a serialized collection of stuff that happens? How do we use structure to turn collections of stuff into something more cohesive? What tools do we use to outline, map, and/or plan our novel writing? Reference Note: "Scene and sequel" comes to us from Dwight Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer, first published in 1965 (52 years ago.) Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/1/201718 minutes, 53 seconds
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12.39: Q&A on Short(er) Fiction

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard Our listeners sent us  some questions about writing shorter fiction. Here are the questions: How do you market short stories today? Has ebook self-publishing made novellas more viable? How do you structure a short story? How short is too short? Is publishing sections of a novel a viable way to get traction for that novel? What should I look for in the semi-pro market if professional publications have rejected my work? What aspects are crucial in novels, but which don't belong in short fiction.   Publication "reputation" references: Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write, Writer Beware Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/24/201720 minutes, 1 second
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12.38: What Do Editors Really Want, with Toni Weisskopf and Cat Rambo

Your Hosts: Dan and Howard Toni Weisskopf and Cat Rambo joined Dan and Howard to discuss what it is that editors "really want." Question To Help You Decide Whether Or Not To Send Your Editor Bad News: "Will this news get better if I wait?" Credits: this episode was recorded at GenCon Indy 2016, and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/17/201717 minutes, 13 seconds
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12.37: Subplots

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley What makes a plot a subplot? Must subplots and main plots be linked by something more binding than the actual binding of the book? In this episode we answer these questions, and ask and answer plenty more. Credits: This episode was recorded in Chicago by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/10/201720 minutes, 32 seconds
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12.36: Structuring a Mid-Length Piece

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard Larger than a short story, smaller than a novel... there's quite a bit of space between those two thresholds, and in this episode we discuss the ways in which we go about filling that space with a well-structured story. Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/3/201719 minutes, 50 seconds
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12.35: Short Fiction Markets, with Spencer Ellsworth and guest host Beth Meacham

Your Hosts: Mary, Dan, and Howard, with guest host Beth Meacham Spencer Ellsworth and Beth Meacham joined us before a live audience at LTUE 2017 for a discussion of short fiction markets, which ones we love, and why. Credits: this episode was recorded live at LTUE 2017 Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
8/27/201716 minutes, 32 seconds
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12.34: Fulfilling the Reader’s Fantasy, with Brian McClellan

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard Brian McClellan joins us for a discussion on fulfilling the promises we make to our readers—specifically the genre-specific promises made by the simple fact of where the book is shelved. Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
8/20/201720 minutes, 8 seconds
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12.33: How to be Brief, Yet Powerful

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley We've talked about some of the structural guidelines for short stories. In this episode we'll discuss how to write in the short form while still putting down enough words to convey the story powerfully. Credits: This episode was recorded in Chicago by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson
8/13/201720 minutes, 35 seconds
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12.32: Structuring a Short Piece

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard We begin our exploration of short story structure with a re-cap of the MACE quotient (Milieu, Ask/Answer, Character, Event). Then we apply that tool to how we structure the pieces we write—specifically the short ones. Liner Notes: Here's "Evil Robot Monkey" by Mary Robinette Kowal And here's a handy MICE quotient chart! Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
8/6/201722 minutes, 3 seconds
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12.31: What Makes a Good Monster, with Courtney Alameda

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary, and Dan, with guest host Susan Chang Courtney Alameda joined us at LTUE 2017 to talk monsters, and what makes the best ones so good. We discuss some of our favorites, and how the criteria we apply to them can be applied in the creation of monsters of our own. Credits: this episode was recorded live at LTUE 2017 by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
7/30/201717 minutes, 48 seconds
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12.30: Tools for Writers

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard We are often asked what software we use to get our work done. In this episode we answer that question in a bit of detail. Liner Notes: Here's a linked list of the tools referenced during this episode. Aeon Timeline Asana Time Management Dropbox Excel OpenOffice Scrivener Wikidpad Word WordPerfect Write or Die Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered via great mastery by Alex Jackson
7/23/201720 minutes, 44 seconds
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12.29: “Oh Crap, the Cops are Here!” with Joe McKinney

Your Hosts: Howard and Dan, with Steve Diamond, and special guest Joe McKinney We invited Steve Diamond, who has been a guest before, and who has some law enforcement background, to help us grill Joe McKinney, who has tons of that background, and who also happens to be a best-selling author. This Week's Liner Notes are extensive. Follow the link for a Google Doc, or click here for our local mirror of Lyn Worthen's notes. Credits: Mastered by Alex Jackson  
7/16/201720 minutes, 49 seconds
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12.28: Trimming and Expanding

Revision: it's when you make a too-short piece longer, or a too-long piece shorter.
7/9/201719 minutes, 46 seconds
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12.27: Choosing a Length

We discuss the ways in which we decide upon the length of the stories we write, and at which point(s) in the creative process we make that decision.
7/2/201721 minutes, 49 seconds
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12.26: Q&A on Outlining and Discovery Writing

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard Our listeners had questions about outlining and discovery writing. Here are a few of the very best: Do you outline scenes? How? How do you know when to STOP outlining something? How much do you have to know about your character and/or world before you start writing? What do you to to diagnose and fix a structural problem with a discovery-written draft? What do you do to 'get into' an outline that you're struggling with. Are each of your projects similar in terms of procedure? What are some major indicators that a piece needs more structural work? Soundbite moment: DAN: "I had to learn the difference between a story, and a bunch of stuff that happens." Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered via great mastery by Alex Jackson  
6/25/201720 minutes, 29 seconds
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12.25: Hiring an Editor, with Callie Stoker

Your Hosts: Howard and Dan, with special guest Callie Stoker Callie Stoker joined Howard and Dan at the World Horror convention to answer our questions about hiring an editor, which is part of the process by which self-published authors build the team of people who will make the manuscript far better than they can make it by themselves.   Credits: Mastered by Alex Jackson
6/18/201718 minutes, 50 seconds
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12.24: Creating Great Outlines

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley How might you go about creating great outlines? There are many processes, and we cover several of them.   Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson
6/11/201720 minutes, 46 seconds
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12.23: Proposals, Pitches, and Queries

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard Let's talk about selling your stuff. In this episode we discuss query letters, pitches, and proposals—the tools that you use to present your material to people who can pay you for it, and who will partner with you in the task of selling it to the general public. Liner Notes: This episode pairs very nicely with episode 11.50, "Hand-Selling Your Book," with Michael R. Underwood. Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered deep beneath a rugby pitch by Alex Jackson
6/4/201721 minutes, 29 seconds
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12.22: Hybrid Outlining and Discovery Writing

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard What can discovery writers learn from outlining? What can outliners learn from discovery writing? Is there a balance between the two that can serve as a happy, productive place for writers? (summary of answers: lots, lots, and yes-but-not-all-writers.)  
5/28/201718 minutes, 57 seconds
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12.21: Narrative Bumper Pool, with Bill Fawcett and Carrie Patel

Your Hosts: Howard and Dan, with special guests Bill Fawcett and Carrie Patel Bill and Carrie both have extensive experience writing for games, and they joined us at GenCon Indy to talk about writing for an interactive story, like a tabletop RPG, or a video game. Narrative Bumper Pool: This term comes to us from Tracy Hickman's XDM: X-Treme Dungeon Mastery.  Narrative Bumper Pool from X-TREME DUNGEON MASTERY, used with permission  
5/21/201720 minutes, 26 seconds
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12.20: Retrofitting Structure into a First Draft

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley We're speaking again, at least in part, to discovery writers. In this case, we're talking about how to take a non-outlined work and apply a structure to it in revisions. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
5/14/201721 minutes, 23 seconds
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12.19: Structure on the Fly

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard This episode is for you discovery writers, especially those of you for whom our current season of structure seems to be locking you down, or pointing up methods which you just don't like to use. We talk about how these methods, these structural principles, these mechanical advantages in the mental toolbox can be applied during the discovery writing process.   Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered on the north face of a dormant volcano by Alex Jackson  
5/7/201719 minutes, 30 seconds
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12.18: Gendered Dialect, with J.R. Johansson

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary, and Dan, with guest-host Susan Chang, and special guest J.R. Johannsen J.R. Johannson joined Howard, Mary, Dan, and guest-host Susan Chang at LTUE 2017 for a discussion of gendered dialect. We lead with a quick introduction to the Genderlect theory, by Deborah Tannen, which uses a very broad brush to describe key differences between the ways men and women in western societies communicate. We then explore the way some of the individual voices we're familiar with have been influenced through gender role, cultural socialization, and even neuroatypicality. Our goal in this discussion is to learn to write dialog which serves our stories and our characters, and  to do so in a way that both leverages and defies the existing stereotypes. Liner Notes: Here is the "My Favorite Murder" Buzzfeed article Susan referenced Gmail Plugin: Just Not Sorry
4/30/201719 minutes, 2 seconds
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12.17: Q&A on Style, Diction, and Paragraphing

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard We fielded some questions on style, diction, and paragraphing: Is it okay to have pretty prose in a straightforward adventure story? How do author voice and character voice differ? How do you prevent paragraphs from rambling? I feel like my writing is derivative of the writers whose work I read. How can I find or develop my own voice? How much does diction play into genre fiction? Is it okay to write in a natural speaking voice? During which part of the writing process do you pay attention to style? By Way Of Correction: "Unaccompanied Sonata," by Orson Scott Card, is the story about anxiety of influence. "Tunesmith," by Lloyd Biggle Jr., is about music, and even has the name "Bach" in it, but it's not the story Howard described.    
4/23/201723 minutes, 11 seconds
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12.16: Writing Crime Fiction with Brian Keene

Brian Keene joined Dan and Howard at the World Horror Convention to talk about writing crime fiction, including how he goes about getting readers to feel the things he wants them to feel to drive the story forward. Liner Notes: The Horror Show with Brian Keene
4/16/201719 minutes, 57 seconds
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12.15: Pacing With Chapters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley What makes a chapter? WHY is a chapter? How do we chapter, and do we always chapter the same way? Should our chapters be this many parts of speech? This episode will answer these questions and more, except for that last question, to which the answer is "probably not." Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
4/9/201721 minutes, 24 seconds
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12.14: Controlling Pacing with Structure

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard Let's talk about the structural tools we use to control pacing. These include sentence length and punctuation.   Also, white-space.   Liner note: Here is the Feb 12, 2017 Schlock Mercenary strip mentioned around the 18-minute mark. Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered aboard a fleeing generation-ship by Alex Jackson  
4/3/201720 minutes, 26 seconds
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12.13: Beautiful Prose, Purple Prose

The rising, golden sun crested the snowcapped eastern mountains, its first morning rays pouring like molten lemon through the window to glisten and gleam from the chrome grille of the studio microphone.
3/26/201722 minutes, 34 seconds
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12.12: Words as Words, with Linda Addison

Your Hosts: Howard and Dan, with Special Guest Linda Addison Linda Addison joined us at the World Horror Convention in 2016 for a discussion of the shapes and sounds of words as seen from the perspective of the poet, and how this approach can inform our prose.
3/19/201721 minutes, 7 seconds
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12.11: Diction

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley Let's talk about word choice. And when we say "let's" we mean "we're going to talk to you about it. You don't actually get to talk back." So maybe "let's" wasn't the best of the possible openers. Our discussion covers what we want to say, how specific we need to be, and what we want to evoke in the reader. Sometimes the wrong word is the right one, and the right word is the wrong one. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
3/12/201719 minutes, 58 seconds
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12.10: Developing Your Own, Personal Style

Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard talk about authorial voice, and how to stop being afraid of examining how you "sound" when you write.
3/5/201719 minutes, 13 seconds
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12.9: Q&A on Viewpoint

Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard answer listener questions on viewpoint.
2/26/201725 minutes, 2 seconds
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12.8 Short Stories as Exploration, with Tananarive Due

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard Tananrive Due, whose short-fiction expertise is exemplified in her collection, Ghost Summer, joined us on the Oasis of the Seas to talk about how to use short stories to explore aspects of the craft. We discuss the importance of allowing ourselves to fail, and how we can learn from those failures, and continue to push our own limits. We also talk about how we go about pushing those limits, and what we do in order to most effectively explore new techniques.   Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
2/19/201714 minutes, 26 seconds
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12.7: Description Through the Third Person Lens

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley The third-person POV lens can be used for simultaneously describing the world to the reader and describing the character. In this episode we'll talk about where we deploy these tools, where the pitfalls are, and how to do it well. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, who heard the AC turn back on, and mastered by Alex Jackson, who was happy to not need to digitally filter the AC out of the mix.
2/12/201720 minutes, 27 seconds
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12.6: Variations on Third Person

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard This episode focuses on the third person POV, and some variations on them, like omniscient and limited, and some sub-variants like cinematic and head-hopping. Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
2/5/201719 minutes, 13 seconds
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12.5: Literary Fiction

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley This week we talk about the genre of Literary Fiction. Our first hurdle is the word "literary" whose use in this context can imply that all other genres are somehow not literature. In that vein, then, we're talking about mainstream, or "non-genre" fiction which is crafted with close attention to the finer points of the prose. After framing our discussion, we dive into the nuts and bolts of writing in the Literary Fiction genre. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
1/29/201720 minutes, 18 seconds
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12.4: Hybrid Viewpoints

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard, with Sandra Tayler Piper J. Drake joins the cast for our week-four episodes, of which this is the first. This week we'll be drilling down into hybrid viewpoints—blending 1st and 3rd person, framing stories, stories-within-stories, and unreliable narration—and how to best serve our work with these techniques.
1/22/201719 minutes, 11 seconds
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12.3: Project in Depth, “Risk Assessment,” by Sandra Tayler

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with Sandra Tayler This Project in Depth episode contains spoilers for "Risk Assessment," which is included in Force Multiplication: Schlock Mercenary Book 12. The story was written by Sandra Tayler, and illustrated by Natalie Barahona. Howard handled the writing and illustrating for the framing story, but this episode isn't about that part. Risk Assessment is a romance wrapped up in an adventure, and is very different from most of the rest of Schlock Mercenary. Have a listen, and Sandra will tell you about it. Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
1/15/201723 minutes, 44 seconds
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12.2: How to Nail Character Voice in First Person

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley This week we talk about character voice, and how to get it right in First Person. This POV is a strong tool for developing memorable characters. We cover sentence structure, linguistic tweaks, accents, and much more, as well as some exercises you can try out to develop these tools. This week is also your introduction to our Chicago cast. You've already heard from Brandon and Mary; the new voices belong to Mary Anne Mohanraj and Wesley Chu. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
1/8/201721 minutes, 27 seconds
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12.1: Variations on First Person

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard We're beginning a new season, and during 2017 we will be focusing our topics on structure. We are also going to shake things by expanding our cast a bit. You'll be hearing some new voices soon! They belong to: Wesley Chu Piper J. Drake Mary Anne Mohanraj We'll post more on that in a few days, but we've already begun updating our "About" page. This week your hosts are Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. We spend a few minutes on the administrative stuff  above before jumping into January's structural topic, the first person voice, with a discussion of the variations in how that POV is presented. We cover some of the different first person POV styles, what sorts of stories they're often best-suited for, and how we go about writing them well. Spoiler Alert: Episode 12.3 will feature Sandra Tayler, and is a Project In Depth on her story, "Risk Assessment," which was illustrated by Natalie Barahona and Howard Tayler. It appears in Force Multiplication: Schlock Mercenary Book 12, available direct from Hypernode Media, or through Amazon.  
1/1/201723 minutes, 49 seconds
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11.52: Elemental Ensemble Q&A, With Claudia Gray

Claudia Gray joined us aboard Oasis of the Seas to answer our attendees questions about the Elemental Ensemble. Here are the questions: Can you fit an ensemble into a short story? What the minimum size for an ensemble? Is there a perfect length? Can you put a traitor into an ensemble story? How do I give my ensemble characters equal emotional weight if I only tell the story from a single POV? How do you introduce your ensemble without infodumping? If an ensemble is about falling in love with a group of friends, how does killing a character work? How do you give every character a role in the climax without making it seem like the plot was cut to fit the team? Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
12/24/201624 minutes, 54 seconds
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11.51: Ensemble as a Sub-Genre, with Lynne M. Thomas

Lynne M. Thomas joins us to continue our discussion of the Elemental Ensemble, which is one of our favorite elemental tools. It's not just for heists. It adds interest, emotion, and lots of plot possibilities to everything from sense of wonder to the hard-hitting issue. Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
12/18/201617 minutes, 2 seconds
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11.50: Hand-Selling Your Book to Potential Readers, with Michael R. Underwood

Michael R. Underwood has talked to us about hand-selling books before, but that was about pitching to agents and editors. This time around he's talking about placing your product in the hand of your customer, the reader. With Michael's help, we cover some specific sales techniques, guidelines for convention displays, and strategies for bookstore appearances, with an eye toward helping you make that sort of activity effective.   Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
12/11/201624 minutes, 6 seconds
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11.49: Elemental Ensemble, with Michael Damien Thomas

Michael Damien Thomas, co-publisher and co-editor-in-chief of Uncanny Magazine, joined us for a discussion of the elemental genre that contains most of the stories we refer to as "heists." It's all about a well-rounded cast in which the group relationship is what's pulling us forward. Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
12/4/201624 minutes, 17 seconds
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11.Bonus-04: Fantasy Food, with Elizabeth Bear and Scott Lynch

Elizabeth Bear  and Scott Lynch joined Howard and Dan at GenCon Indy to talk about fantasy food, and how we engage our readers' appetites with our fiction. We talk economics, logistics, sensory engagement, and we goof off quite a bit in the process. We might have been hungry at the time. There is good fun to be had here, and plenty of (pun intended) food for thought. Credits: This episode was mastered by Alex Jackson, and was made possible by the generous support of the GenCon Indy Writer’s Symposium, and the Writing Excuses patrons at Patreon.
11/29/201617 minutes, 56 seconds
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11.48: Elemental Issue Q&A, with DongWon Song

DongWon Song, literary agent with HMLA, joins us for a Q&A on the elemental genre of "Issue." Here are the questions, which were submitted by the attendees at WXR '16: Can only certain people tackle certain issues in certain stories? Science Fiction often explores issues by changing the context. Why does this work? How would you handle an issue story in short fiction? How do you make sure to research the issue enough without paralyzing yourself with the fear that you cannot do it justice? How do you convincingly write a position with which you disagree without convincing your readers that you agree with it? How do you write about a deeply personal issue without making it sound like a personal sob story? Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
11/27/201622 minutes, 20 seconds
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11.47: Issue as a Subgenre, with Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes joins us to tackle Elemental Issue, round two, in which we look at how to address it as a sub-element. He describes the thesis/antithesis approach, and we move then to logical frameworks, and how to avoid making our stories dogmatic.   Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
11/20/201624 minutes, 21 seconds
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11.46: Colonialism, with Steven Barnes, Tempest Bradford, DongWon Song, and Shveta Thakrar

Our listeners have been asking for an in-depth, "crunchy" episode on colonialism, and related issues like cultural appropriation, for a couple of years now. Our voices, however, are not the ones our listeners should be hearing on the subject. Finding the right voices has not been easy, but it has been worth it. This episode runs for over 25 minutes. Steven Barnes, K. Tempest Bradford, DongWon Song, and Shveta Thakrar discuss colonialism with Mary Robinette Kowal. Brandon, Dan, and Howard simply listened, and learned. We encourage you to do the same. Liner notes: Here's the recommended reference reading — "Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses", Stephanie A. Fryberg, Hazel Rose Markus, Daphna Oyserman, and Joseph M. Stone Discussion Note: The topics of colonialism and cultural appropriation are controversial in some circles. Our discussion here focuses on how to thoughtfully and sensitively address these matters in our work. We're taking it as a given, then, that this sensitivity is important. In order to best foster that discussion, and out of respect for our guests, comments are being moderated. Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
11/13/201627 minutes, 2 seconds
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11.45: Elemental Issue, with Desiree Burch

For November, our elemental genre is "Issue," and we were joined by actor, writer, and comedian Desiree Burch. The Elemental Issue is similar to the Elemental Idea, but the type of idea being explored is a point of social conflict, like racism, teen pregnancy, or corporate greed. Authors writing Elemental Issue stories raise questions for the readers. We talk about how to go about writing these without sounding preachy, and without writing polemics. Soundbite Moment: "The more specific a work gets, the more broadly it relates to other people." —Desiree Burch Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
11/6/201624 minutes, 30 seconds
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11.Bonus-03: Some Books Have Maps in the Front, with Maurice Broaddus, Mur Lafferty, and James Sutter

Three days late for the beginning of NaNoWriMo 2016, here's a bonus episode about maps. Because nothing says "keep writing" like "hey, let's draw a map now!" Dan and Howard were joined by Maurice Broaddus, Mur Lafferty, and James L. Sutter, who wanted to talk about maps. As Napoleon Bonaparte is rumored to have said prior to invading Russia, "geography is destiny." We talk port dwarves, rolling glaciers, star systems, and more. Liner links: Logarithmic star map Tolkien's map of Middle Earth Center-Pivot Irrigation (75 years old, not 50 as Howard said) Credits: This episode was mastered by Alex Jackson, and was made possible by the generous support of the GenCon Indy Writer’s Symposium, and the Writing Excuses patrons at Patreon.
11/3/201619 minutes, 45 seconds
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11.Bonus-02: Horrifying the Children, with Darren Shan

Happy Halloween! Darren Shan talks horror with us in this bonus episode, made possible by our Patreon supporters.
11/1/201623 minutes, 32 seconds
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11.44: Project in Depth, GHOST TALKERS, by Mary Robinette Kowal

Spoiler Alert!  If you haven't yet read Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal, this episode will spoil great swathes of book for you. Also, you probably won't get as much out of it. This week's episode is a Project in Depth discussion focusing on Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal. We begin with the difference between the catalog pitch and the pitch given to editors, and how critical that distinction is. Mary then talks to us about the decisions she made while plotting the book, and the things she did in order to best execute on the story she set out to tell.   Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
10/30/201633 minutes, 14 seconds
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11.43: Elemental Drama Q&A, with Tananarive Due

Our third Elemental Drama episode is a Q&A, featuring Tananarive Due. The questions are from the attendees at the Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat: Rather than having a protagonist change themselves, can elemental drama have the protagonist change others? What happens when a character refuses to learn, refuses to overcome their flaw(s)? What are the lines between drama and melodrama? Do you have tips for describing body language that communicates character states? Are there cases where you should not show character growth or change? How do you keep it realistic when writing a character who undergoes a great change?   Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
10/23/201619 minutes, 27 seconds
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11.42: Elemental Drama as a Sub-Genre

Focusing on elemental drama can be tricky. Remember, elemental drama is basically "character change." A great many stories use character change in some way—it's almost ubiquitous. In this episode we'll pick at the ubiquity, and look at the many different ways in which character change can be featured, and what sort of tools we have at our disposal to make this happen in our stories.
10/16/201621 minutes, 16 seconds
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11.Bonus-01: Characterization and Differentiation, with Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb joined us at GenCon Indy for a discussion of characterization and differentiation. And by "discussion," what we really mean is "we ask Robin all the questions." We learn about Robin's process for creating characters, wrapping stories around them, and making these characters distinctly different from each other. Credits: This episode was recorded by Joel Burnham, and mastered by Alex Jackson, and was made possible by the generous support of the GenCon Indy Writer's Symposium, and the Writing Excuses patrons at Patreon.
10/13/201620 minutes, 29 seconds
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11.41: The Editor’s Wish List, with Navah Wolfe

Navah Wolfe, an editor at Saga Press, joined us to talk about the manuscripts she would really like to see. Ordinarily we don't encourage people to write to the market, but Navah asked specifically for the opportunity to tell our listeners what she's looking for. As it happens, tracking Navah's wish list as you write is unlikely to send you haring after the latest trend—you're far more likely to develop some new writing skills that will make your work more enjoyable, more fulfilling, and ultimately easier to sell. Spoiler Warning: In three weeks we'll be doing a Project in Depth on Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal. If you want to get the most out of that episode, you have three weeks to acquire and read the book. Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.  
10/9/201620 minutes, 2 seconds
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11.40: Elemental Drama

The word "drama" gets thrown around a lot. What do we mean when we use "drama" as an elemental genre? For us, Elemental Drama focuses on one character's transformation, and how that transformation affects everyone around them. This is a narrow definition of the word, but it's a very useful way to look at books where the character journey is what has us turning pages. We talk about the tools we use to write these stories, and what kinds of things might trip us up. Credits: this episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson
10/2/201616 minutes, 22 seconds
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11.39: Elemental Relationship Q&A, with Greg van Eekhout

Greg van Eekhout joined us at Phoenix Comic Con for a live-audience Q&A session about Elemental Relationship writing. Here are the questions: What is your favorite way to establish relationships? How do you recover when a relationship starts to feel forced? How do you show a "best friend" relationship? How do you decide the pacing of the romance? Do you try to make the nature of character relationships clear, or do you leave it to subtext? How do you go about writing transsexual relationships? What are your favorite relationships to write? How do I write the beginning of a relationship between characters the reader has not yet really met? How do you transform love into hate, and vice-versa? When writing a love triangle, how do you avoid telegraphing the final resolution? Do you have recommendations for books that focus on familial friend relationships rather than romance? Credits: this episode was recorded live at Phoenix Comic-Con by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/25/201619 minutes, 45 seconds
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11.38: The Elemental Relationship as a Sub-Genre

We find the elemental relationship in all kinds of stories that are not fundamentally about relationships. The intimate interaction between characters is part of how we define the characters, how we understand who they are as they go on to do the stuff that the story is about. In this episode we'll talk about how to apply the principles of relationship writing to stories whose page-turning impetus comes from somewhere else. Credits: this episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/18/201619 minutes, 45 seconds
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11.37: Casting Your Book, with Gama Martinez

Live from Phoenix Comic Con, Gama Martinez joins us for a discussion of casting your book. This is the process by which you create a cast of characters for your story ahead of creating the story itself, allowing you to stay ahead of your default decisions for who will step into the scene next. Credits: this episode was recorded live at Phoenix Comic Con by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson
9/11/201617 minutes, 29 seconds
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11.36: The Elemental Relationship

In elemental relationship stories the primary page-turning driver is the relationship between two or three characters ¹. In this episode we discuss ways in which we can write character relationships—parent/child, buddy-cop, romance, and more—to be compelling. Credits: this episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson ¹We're differentiating "Relationship" from "Ensemble" because in our elemental genre model the elemental ensemble story is quite a bit different from the elemental relationship.
9/4/201617 minutes, 12 seconds
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11.35: Elemental Humor Q&A with Victoria Schwab

For our third Elemental Humor episode Victoria Schwab joins us as we field questions taken from our audience at Phoenix Comic-Con. Here are the questions: How do you add humor to a serious story without breaking the tension? How do I move beyond the "Dad jokes" and into properly funny writing? When is humor necessary in horror? Where is the line between a comedic book, and a book that uses humor as a subgenre. How do you make dialog sound natural, while still sounding funny? Credits: this episode was recorded live at Phoenix Comic Con by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson
8/28/201622 minutes, 3 seconds
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11.34: Humor as a Sub-Genre

Humor is present as an element, at least to some degree, in a substantial amount of the media we consume. In this episode we discuss some stylistic tools for applying humor  to our work, and how these tools can best be employed. WX Trivia: Episode 11.34 represents a pair of firsts for us here at Writing Excuses. It's the first time we've had to resort to having Howard record a fresh intro to replace some missing minutes It's the first time we've had a graphic novel as the Book of the Week. Credits: this episode was recorded by Jeff Cools and an audio-eating gremlin, then mastered by Alex Jackson and a crossfade brownie.
8/21/201622 minutes, 12 seconds
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11.33: Crossover Fiction, with Victoria Schwab

Victoria Schwab, who also writes as V.E. Schwab, joined us in Phoenix to talk about crossover fiction—in this context the term means books that target a given demographic but which have a much broader appeal, or books which straddle the line between age demographics. We discuss some good crossover examples, and how some of the boundaries work, and then we cover some of the techniques we use when writing crossover works.   Credits: this episode was recorded live at Phoenix Comic Con by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson
8/14/201621 minutes, 7 seconds
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11.32: The Element of Humor

"Talking about humor is the least funny thing you can do." —Howard Tayler You have been warned! and with that out of the way... What is the driving force that gets readers to turn pages in a book that is primarily a work of humor? More importantly, how do we as writers get that driver into our books? We cover this, and provide some starting points for writers seeking to improve their humor writing, along with a bunch of neat techniques, and (as apparent from the liner notes) a long example for deconstruction. Credits: This episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson.  Liner Notes: here are the lyrics we cited from "Love is Strange" (Galavant). We've added superscript numbers from the Rule of Three exercise. ¹Love is strange, And sometimes kind of gross¹ It's embarrassingly gassy² And it leaves its dirty underwear In piles around the place³ ²Love is rude, it has a sort of smell¹ And it thinks that you don't notice² And it blurts out things That make you want to smack its stupid face³ ³And it's awkward and confusing¹ It annoys you half to death² Then it grins that dopey grin And you can't catch your breath³ The full song is available here, for $1.29 (link provided out of courtesy to the original artists whose work we deconstructed for educational purposes.)
8/7/201623 minutes, 22 seconds
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11.31: Futurism, with Trina Marie Phillips

Trina Marie Phillips joined us at Phoenix Comic Con to talk about her work as a futurist. Futurism, for those unfamiliar with our use of the term here, is related to science fiction, but it remains rooted in existing technology and trends, then seeks to be predictive in useful ways. Liner Notes: Trina mentioned some online resources (and a four-year educational program!) for those interested in working as futurists: PSFK Labs The Creators Project Singularity Hub ASU's School for the Future of Innovation in Society World Future Society Catch-phrase of the episode: "all we need is a billionaire with a secure facility and a steady supply of monkeys." Credits: This episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
7/31/201616 minutes, 46 seconds
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11.30: Elemental Thriller Q&A

We fielded the following questions about the "Thriller" elemental genre from listeners on Facebook and Twitter: How do I build tension consistently through my story? How do you maintain tension during dialog? When do you not use a cliffhanger? Do you ever picture your scenes as if they were in a movie? How much elemental thriller is too much for a book that isn't a thriller? What's the tipping point where you've switched genres? What do you do when the tension in your story peaks too early? Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
7/24/201620 minutes, 29 seconds
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11.29: Elemental Thriller as a Subgenre

Thrillers are, by their very nature, page-turners. In this episode we look at the thriller element as part of a story whose principal driver is one of the other elemental genres. We consider some examples of blended-with-thrill stories, and then drill down a bit and look at how we can incorporate this in our own work. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
7/17/201620 minutes, 3 seconds
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11.28: Impostor Syndrome, with Alyssa Wong

Alyssa Wong, Campbell Award nominee and Nebula Award winner, joins us to talk about impostor syndrome. This is the frame of mind that many successful writers suffer from, in which they worry that they're not really good enough at writing to be enjoying their success. Worse, this mindset can prevent us from continuing to create. Many of us suffer from this, and we have some strategies to cope with it. Credits: This episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
7/10/201626 minutes, 27 seconds
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11.27: The Elemental Thriller

Let's get this out of the way up front: in the syntax of elemental genres, the phrase "the element of thriller" is clunky. But we'll say it anyway. We discuss the difference between the drivers in thrillers, horror stories, and mysteries, and use the elemental genre tools to assist in the differentiation. We also cover the tools we use to develop and maintain the tension that is so critical in a thriller. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
7/3/201616 minutes, 32 seconds
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11.26: Elemental Mystery Q&A

In this episode we field some questions about elemental mystery. Here they are! How do you balance between two mysteries in the same story? What types of mysteries can fit well as sub-plots? What do you do when beta readers figure out the mystery really early? In the MICE quotient, are mysteries all "Idea" stories? How do you write a protagonist who is smarter than you are? How do you make sure your genius protagonist is still experiencing an interesting struggle? How do you make a kidnap victim more than just a MacGuffin? How "literary" can you make your mystery? Liner Notes: The movie Howard referred to is Cellular, with Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, and Jason Statham. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
6/26/201619 minutes, 19 seconds
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11.25: Elemental Mystery is Everywhere

Per our Elemental Genre theme, this week we further explore elemental mystery. Elemental mystery can be found in any work in which our curiosity is what keeps us turning pages. The type of satisfaction we feel at the reveal may also reveal the elemental genre in which the element of mystery has been embedded. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.   
6/19/201617 minutes, 25 seconds
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11.24: Stakes!

We talk a lot about "raising the stakes" in our writing. When we say "stakes," we're referring to the things that keep our characters involved in the conflict, rather than just walking away and doing something else. We dig into what this really means, and how everyone in the story must be driven by things that they have at stake. Liner Notes: in this episode we refer to the three character-development "sliders" model set forth in WX 9.13. Credits: This episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
6/12/201618 minutes, 44 seconds
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11.23: The Element of Mystery

Mystery may well be the most common element in use, at least in some form or another, across the many bookshelf genres comprising "fiction." We discuss the driving force of elemental mystery, how to evoke those feelings in the reader, and the importance of being able to write mystery effectively. Liner Notes: we mentioned Episode 7.10 in which Mary and Dan interviewed David Brin. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
6/5/201619 minutes, 11 seconds
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11.22: Examining Unconscious Biases, with Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale joins us at LTUE for a live-audience session in which we explore gender biases, and extrapolate from there to our many other unconscious biases. Our unconscious biases are not just the things that we consider to be "just the way things are," or "common sense." They're the things we don't even see, much less consider, and the obvious challenge for us as writers is  to find those biases, and then to dig into them and really understand them. Our goal is to be able to write beyond them, and create literature that is both more believable, and more widely accessible. Credits: This episode was recorded live at LTUE by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
5/29/201620 minutes, 31 seconds
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11.21: Q&A on Elemental Horror, with Steve Diamond

Steve Diamond joins us for our third and final Elemental Horror episode as we field your questions about this particular building block. Here are the questions we selected from your submissions: If I want to make peanut butter terrifying without being silly, how do I do that? What is your personal line between horror and "gore-nography?" How do you avoid going too far with graphic elements? Soundtracks are huge for horror movies. How do you set the mood without this tool? What's the best way for a thriller writer to edge into writing horror? How do you decide when to show the monster, and how does it change the story when that happens? Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
5/22/201620 minutes, 43 seconds
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11.20: Horror as a Subgenre

Steve Diamond joins us again to talk horror, this time about using elemental horror as part of our stories' elemental ensemble. We discuss how the sense of dread can be a page-turning motivation, and how it can complement the other "keep on reading" motivations we set out to invoke. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.   
5/15/201622 minutes, 4 seconds
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11.19: Fashion for Writers, with Rebecca McKinney

How do we go about describing the clothing our characters are wearing? How do we use that to add depth to our story? What are the common mistakes that writers make when they start dressing their characters? Rebecca McKinney joined us on stage at LTUE to address all this. Liner Notes: We mentioned some resources for those wanting to get clothing right in their work: Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing Historic Costume for the Stage, by Lucy Barton The International Costumers' Guild Fashion Sketchbook, by Bina Abling
5/8/201619 minutes, 3 seconds
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11.18: Elemental Horror

Steve Diamond joins us to kick off our month on the elemental genre of horror. We explore the emotional components that readers seek from horror, and then drill down into the ways that we can create those reactions in our readers. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.   
5/1/201621 minutes, 41 seconds
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11.17: Elemental Adventure Q&A

You may still have questions about how to apply elemental adventure in your work. Hopefully your questions are similar to the ones we collected below, because these are the ones we answered: What do readers like more: protagonists going through lots of different incidents and locations, or through a few that are similar to each other? What lessons can we learn from adventure games? How can we make action scenes that adventurous, but that are not fight scenes? Are there tropes we should stay away from in adventure fiction? Do you have suggestions for non-western styles of adventure fiction? How do you safely skip the long, boring parts of a journey without missing out on necessary character development? Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
4/24/201622 minutes, 33 seconds
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11.16: Adventure as a Subgenre

Let's be adventurous. Let's move beyond simply being cooks, and strive to become chefs. In this episode we explore using the element of adventure as an ingredient in something that has far more than adventure going on in it. Why do we like adventure? What draws the reader forward? Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 
4/17/201622 minutes, 59 seconds
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11.15: The Environment, with L.E. Modessit, Jr.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr. joined us at LTUE for a world building discussion centered around the way the environment informs the story. We talk about lead in Roman plumbing, water lilies in Las Vegas sewers, and coal power in the British Empire, and how these examples can help us more effectively use the environments in our stories. Liner Notes: We mentioned both Americapox, The Missing Plague, (a YouTube video) and the excellent book Guns, Germs, and Steel.
4/10/201617 minutes, 21 seconds
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11.14: The Element of Adventure

Our exploration of elemental genres continues with the sense of "I want to do that."
4/3/201620 minutes, 38 seconds
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11.13: Elemental Idea Q&A

This is a Q&A about ideas that does NOT include the question "Where do you get your ideas?"
3/27/201616 minutes, 7 seconds
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11.12: Idea as Subgenre, With Nancy Fulda

Nancy Fulda is back for our second episode on the Idea elemental genre. We cover some tools for exploring an idea, and then drill down a bit on how to use that exploration, or even multiple explorations as "seasoning" elements for a larger work. Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
3/20/201619 minutes, 35 seconds
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11.11: Self Publishing in 2016, with Michaelbrent Collings

Recorded live at LTUE, Michaelbrent Collings guest-starred for a discussion about self publishing. The landscape continues to change, and Collings is fully engaged in it. He begins by stressing the importance of truly understanding the craft of writing—every professional writer needs this—and then talks turkey about Kindle Direct, Bookbub, formats and lengths, output, available resources, publicity activities, and what kinds of things new writers should commit to spending money on. Note: Writing Excuses Patrons at the "Hear it When Howard Does" level got this episode on March 9th, four days ahead of the rest of the world. You can help support the podcast, and get early access, plus other bonus goodies, by joining them at Patreon.com. Credits: This episode was recorded live by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson
3/13/201618 minutes, 13 seconds