Dan and Mary were joined by Sam Sykes at World Fantasy, and invited him to talk about sensory writing, which he had recently discussed in a workshop.
The heart of the discussion is which senses (typically beyond sight) to include as we write. Sounds, smells, tactile information, and even tastes are necessary to engage the reader. And while it’s possible to include too much of that, Sam counsels writers to err on the side of excess because it’s always easy to edit things back a notch should you find upon re-reading that you’ve gone too far.
Sam, Mary and Dan offer lots of good advice on the matter — when it’s important and why, how to do it well, and how not to overdo it.
Term of the Week: “Literary diabetes.”
Disclaimer of the Week: No grandparents were harmed in the recording of this podcast, nor were any chihuahuas.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 17:48 — 12.2MB)
Write the point-of-view of a character whose vision is obscured, and describe how they use their other senses to attempt to determine where they are.
Brevity! Use fewer words!
After the obligatory “we-are-going-to-cut-this-short-after-the-intro” joke, we talk about how we can be appropriately brief, even in the context of writing epic fantasy. Mary offers us some rules of thumb for story brevity in the short fiction she writes, and Howard talks about how he accomplishes the extreme brevity of language required by his comic. Dan points out that the shorter you work, the more important your individual words become.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 15:18 — 10.5MB)
Give us a group of people on a long trip in space, with a problem, which they solve. Do it in 150 words.
Animals and plants, round two! We begin this episode with examples where we think people did their flora and fauna wrong, or poorly, or at least in ways we can poke easy holes in. Our examples include:
- Pitch Black
- And then we get tired of negative examples, and talk about The Mote in God’s Eye.
We then attempt to brainstorm some flora and fauna on our world of mutagenic meteor dust. Pizza-trees, armored buffalo, fire-dandelions, and more… and that’s before we even get started populating the coast, and Brandon calls can-of-worms on the project and hands the brainstorming to you, the listener.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 17:37 — 12.1MB)
Populate Excustoria’s coast with some magically, meteorically mutated life.
Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card, narrated by Stefan Rudniki. It’s a fantastic example of well-constructed flora and fauna, and it’s also a good example of how to make a sequel almost completely unlike the book that came before it.
Let’s build the plants and animals for your science fiction or fantasy book!
We begin with a discussion about naming, and about deciding how much evolutionary biology to put into creating cool beasties. We also talk about planning a food chain, building around water, and considering other resources (especially wood, for growing fantasy civilizations.)
Other considerations include migration patterns, life-cycles, and the possibility of turning the whole thing on its head.
We offer examples from Dune, Legacy of Heorot, Inherit the Stars, Ender’s Game, and other places. And if you’re looking for resources, check out Guns, Germs, and Steel.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 15:40 — 10.8MB)
Take a horrible, hard-to-domesticate animal, and then create a culture in which somebody has figured out how to domesticate these beasties.
Welcome to Writing Excuses Season 7!
Let’s start with a trip to the dark side! How do you take a good character and make them evil? And why would you want to do this? Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard answer that second question first, and then walk you through the process of doing this. We cover establishing the character, venturing onto a slippery slope, and connecting these and other elements to important pieces of the story.
We talk about the types of “evil” a character can fall into, using character examples like Oedipus, Othello, Boromir, and Doctor Horrible, and how you might incorporate tragic flaws into their downward-trending paths. Finally, we offer examples where we’ve seen it done poorly. Hello, Anakin!
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 19:41 — 13.5MB)
Come up with a list of three things that are important to your main character. Push one of those things out of alignment so that it will draw your character to the antagonist’s side.
Hard Magic, by Larry Correia, narrated by Bronson Pinchot