Writing Excuses 9.50: Writing for the Enfranchised Reader

Recorded live in front of the Out of Excuses students, a crowd of savvy readers if ever there was one, we talk about how to effectively write for readers who are familiar with the genre or story structure in which we’re writing. It’s a tricky problem, since genre fiction is supported in large part by the very tropes that prove problematic. Sometimes the solution is trope subversion, but that brings its own problems.

Dave Farland’s Writing Workshops sponsored us for this episode! Both Brandon and Dan have studied under Dave, and we’re all happy to wholeheartedly recommend his workshops to you. If you can’t fly to his place, well, visit MyStoryDoctor.com and take the online course. The coupon code for your Writing Excuses discount is EXCUSES, but don’t think that means you actually HAVE any of those…


Take a mentor character, and outline a way for that character to NOT be killed off in order for them to not be more effective than the hero.

11 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 9.50: Writing for the Enfranchised Reader”

  1. 49 was two weeks ago. Things are a little muddled to get a particular episode out on the right week.

  2. Ooh, a pleasant Thursday surprise!

    Using the familiar archetypes as a “through line” actually sounds like a good way to give readers a breather, especially in something like Way of Kings where a lot of weird and interesting stuff is all happening in close proximity on a high-learning-curve setting.

    One good example of starting a work looking like a very basic plot and pulling a 180 very late in the game is Red vs. Blue Seasons 11 and 12. Spoilers, but up until midway through season 12 it looked like it was the characters the audience had been given 10 years to fall in love with were going to spend a few seasons treading a plot very similar to Star Wars as a way to give the audience a breather after Season 10. Then midway through season 12 there’s a reveal that completely flips the viewer’s perception of the entire last two seasons and things go in a very new and interesting directions. That only worked both because the enfranchised viewers would stay for love of the characters and because the characters were very self-aware about all the Star Wars references for the new viewers.

    Er, I ended my NaNoWriMo novel with your prompt. Does that count?

  3. TV Tropes describes the phenomenon Mary was talking about as the “Seinfeld is Unfunny” trope. I remember the first time my littlest sister watched the Matrix with me, we finished it and she said, “It was okay, I guess. It was really cliche, though.” I had to explain to her that most of the cliches that had bothered her had originated in the Matrix. It’s always a little sad to me when a revolutionary work has trouble reaching new audiences because they’ve been reared on the work’s (often very excellent) imitators.

  4. Re: 49, 48, 50 — Jordo applied the numbers, and then we realized that 48 needed to drop on November 30th, but by that point none of us had time to go back into the files and fix them.

    I’m totally going to retcon this whole thing and swap the dates on 49 and 48. History is written by the blog admin.

  5. (This post contains a couple of Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones spoilers – if you haven’t read the series or watched the show, skip parentheticals starting with the word like)

    I must admit – for the last few years (since I’ve been listening to this podcast and thus at least understanding the basics of what goes into building the story), I’ve been enjoying books as much or more in the prediction game. The nice thing about it is that it’s a very hard game to lose, at least with the authors I’m reading – if I call it (like the murder-weddings in Song of Ice and Fire), it’s affirms my theory (always gratifying) and I get to watch it play out (like watching a well made action movie for the nth time). If I didn’t call it (like Ned’s execution earlier in Song of Ice and Fire), I get that sensation Howard was describing with The Croods – “oo, that’s different, this changes everything!” followed by a pause in reading to consider how it changes things (like with Ned’s execution, my idea of how the war between Stark and Lannister needed major reworking).

    It’s only when an author makes something happen that’s so impossibly stupid that it wasn’t predictable that I don’t enjoy it. But that’s relatively rare and generally only happens with authors like Drew Karpyrshyn who do really well with a series and then run out of ideas (or something) – His Darth Bane trilogy started off with the excellent Path of Destruction (which does an excellent job of painting a philosophically coherent Sith and a sympathetic Sith Lord (something George Lucas failed to do despite having him marry Natalie Portman), then the alright Rule of Two, then the painful Dynasty of Evil. Not saying there aren’t authors out there who never manage to generate something special, I’m just careful who I take advice about authors from and thus manage to avoid most of them.

  6. I found that point about love triangles super interesting, both from the PoV of giving more people something to invest in (since not everyone is going to like the one love interest) and because of the idea that it makes predicting who ends up with who else less certain.

  7. Got this late, but speaking of Scream, they weren’t the first. Sergio Leone in ‘Once Upon a Time In The West’ did that. The 3 cowboys at the beginning were all name actors (to some extent) and were given the entire credits sequence to be ‘built up’.

    One of the reasons the movie flopped. Yes, it’s considered at least one of (if not THE) the greatest movies ever made, but the audience wasn’t ready for it.

  8. Byron, well said. I take that as encouragement that artists should have the courage to go beyond their audiences as they currently are.

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