Writing Excuses

Writing Excuses

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

Episodes

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.

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.

11.48: 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.

11.47: 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.

11.46: 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 Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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.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.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.

11.44: 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.

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.

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.

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