Writing Excuses

Writing Excuses

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Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart.


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.

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.

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.  

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.)

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. 

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?

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 into how we can incorporate this in our own work.

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.

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.

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. 

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.   

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. 

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