17.4: The Gun on the Mantel is Actually a Fish

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela RiveraSandra 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

Play

Do the reverse of last week’s homework: find a thing that is important later and find a scene early where you can “put it on the mantle.”

And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie

17.3: Chekov’s Surprising Yet Inevitable Inverted Gun

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela RiveraSandra 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

Play

In your current WIP, pin down a person, a place, or a thing you threw in for flavor at the beginning of your story but didn’t plan to use again. Write a scene for them to come back in the final act of your story in an unexpected way.

17.2: It Was a Promise of Three Parts

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela RiveraSandra 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

Play

Write six different 1st lines, each of which makes a promise you don’t think you can keep. Ask yourself WHY you can’t keep it.

17.1: Genre and Media are Promises

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela RiveraSandra 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.

Play

What do you plan to have your work-in-progress deliver? Does the genre or medium you’re working in support the promise of that deliverable?

Mine by Delilah Dawson

16.52: Structure is a Promise

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela RiveraSandra 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!

Play

Look up these structures. Now, pick a favorite thing, sit down with it, and map it onto which structures it fits. BONUS points! Do this again with your least favorite thing.

Eragon, by Christopher Paolini

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

Play

Consider your newest “favorite thing,” whether it be a restaurant, a film, a TV series, a novel, a podcast, a webcomic, a computer game, or whatever. Ask yourself what promises were made to you by this thing, why you believed the promises would be kept, and how they were (or were not) kept. Write all this down.

The Monster at the End of This Book, by Jon Stone, and illustrated by Mike Smollin

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

Play

An essay question: What are your armored bears? What element of your work-in-progress makes you most excited about worldbuilding and why?

Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse

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

Play

Come up with one speculative element to add to our world. “Children have night vision.” “Dogs can talk.” Come up with as many aspects of the world that would be different from our own as a result and mark one or two that would be the seed for interesting stories.

David Mogo Godhunter, by Suyi Davies Okungbowa