Writing Excuses 8.39: Dystopian Fiction with Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest stopped by for an evening during the Out Of Excuses Workshop and Retreat this summer, so of course we took the opportunity to drag her into the basement and grill her relentlessly about dystopian fiction, in front of witnesses.

(Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how it happened…)

After the requisite introductions, we give you a working definition of dystopian fiction, and why it’s popular. Cherie and Dan tell us about their dystopias, and then we dig into talking about how to build them well.

Steelheart Tweeting Thingy: Per the episode intro from Howard, this Monday, September 30th we’ll be giving away Steelheart audiobooks, courtesy of our sponsor Audible.com, to some randomly-selected people who tweet their epic weakness and the name of the book. Here’s the format:

“My epic weakness is {WEAKNESS} and the chance to win the STEELHEART audiobook from @WritingExcuses”

Obviously you’ll want to replace {WEAKNESS} with something clever. You have fifty-two characters to play with. Also, you should follow @WritingExcuses on Twitter so we can Direct Message you if you happen to be one of the lucky winners. We’ll announce the winners on Tuesday.

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Base a dystopia on breakfast cereal…

Dreadnought, by Cherie Priest, narrated by Kate Reading.

Writing Excuses 8.38:Out of Excuses Retreat Q&A #2

This was recorded at the “Out of Excuses Retreat,” and the questions came from our attendees. Here are the questions! (You’ll have to listen for the answers.)

  • How have your opinions on self-publishing changed in the last few years?
  • What did you find difficult early in your career? How did you address this?
  • What do you now find difficult? How do you address it?
  • Do you put Easter Eggs in your work that only your friends recognize?
  • How much do questions/comments from readers influence you?

And the question we did NOT answer, but it’s a great one for speculating…

  • Where would Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard be, career-wise, if their paths had not crossed?
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Where would Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard have ended up if Writing Excuses hadn’t brought them together?

Troubletwisters, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams, narrated by Miriam Margolyes

Writing Excuses 8.37: When Fail Happens in Your Career

What do you do when something goes wrong, really wrong, with your career? What happens if it’s your fault? What about if it’s someone else’s fault?

Mary leads by talking about the Glamour in Glass misprint — the first line was omitted in the hardback — and the difference between her private and public reactions to the issue.  She likens this to similar sorts of situations that might happen on stage in live theater, and how those teams are expected to behave.

Dan tells us about the issue in I Am Not a Serial Killer, which gave some readers fits because it was edited in such a way that readers didn’t know there were supernatural elements in the story until chapter 10.

From these and other experiences, we extrapolate some behaviors you can use, and some things to steer clear of.

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Write a character who really screws up, and then take them to the moment where they realize they need to apologize.

The Blinding Knife, by Brent Weeks, narrated by Simon Vance.

Writing Excuses 8.36: Transitioning Characters in Prominence

After a quick, two-and-a-half-minute announcement about Writing Excuses winning the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Related Work, we get on with the topic at hand…

How do you go about transitioning characters in relative prominence during the course of a series? This might include fading a main character into the background, or drawing a side character into focus as the protagonist.

Howard talks about doing this in Schlock Mercenary, and how readers have reacted. Dan discusses doing this in the John Cleaver books, and what was required to make that work. Brandon tells us about Spook in the Mistborn trilogy, and why it was critical to the story for him to come to prominence. Mary explains that this shift is something that happens anytime there’s a POV shift.

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Take a minor character from a story you’ve already completed, and tell their story.

The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson, narrated by Michael Kramer

Writing Excuses won the Hugo for Best Related Work!

WX Hugo win photo by Andrew Williams
(photo by Andrew Williams)

Thank you. All of you for voting for the podcast in the Best Related Work. Without you, none of us would be holding rockets in this photo. Your questions inspire us, your comments make us think, and talking to you makes our fiction better as we unpack what it is that we do. So thank you, thank you, and thank you.

UPDATE: During the awards ceremony we were unable to call out by name the guests who helped make this season of Writing Excuses so wonderful. We will now rectify that:

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to the following guests, without whose candor and expertise we would all be much poorer. We have listed them here in order of appearance during the season.

  • Sam Sykes
  • Sarah Pinborough
  • David Brin
  • Larry Correia
  • James Artimus Owen
  • James Dashner
  • Michael Collings
  • Michaelbrent Collings
  • Eric James Stone
  • Monte Cook
  • Shanna Germain
  • Maurice Broaddus
  • Janci Patterson
  • James L Sutter
  • Jim Zub

We only record guests when we can all be in the same place at the same time, which is usually at a convention. That means these people took time out of an already busy convention schedule to participate with us. Thank you again, guests. We wish you could have stood with us on the stage.

Writing Excuses 8.35: Digging Yourself Out of Holes with Jeph Jacques

At the time this podcast airs, Jeph Jacques’ Permanence project on Kickstarter has just nine days left. Jeph joined us at GenCon Indy to talk discovery writing with Brandon, Mary, and Howard, and yes, we totally agreed to plug his rock-and-roll side-gig in exchange.

Jeph Jacques is best known for Questionable Content, and by way of disclosure, Brandon has been a QC fan for years. He’s a discovery writer, and he has written himself into more than one corner. We ask him how far ahead he works, how he develops an idea, and especially how he fixes things if his discovery writing has taken him someplace he needs to get back out of.

His first step is to admit that he is, in fact, stuck in a corner. One of his tricks is a tool any of you can use in any project, Oblique Strategies, in which a random phrase (drawn from a deck of cards, or generated for you on the web) challenges you to rethink the spot that your story is in.

Obviously there’s more to it than that, but this? This is not where you’ll find the transcript. Transcripts end up here.

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Go back to whatever you wrote most recently and come up with a different solution for the scene, changing the emotional beat of the scene.

The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks, narrated by Peter Kenny