Writing Excuses 10.22: Project-in-Depth—Of Noble Family

If you haven’t read Mary’s latest novel, Of Noble Family, this episode contains many spoilers, and you’ll get a lot more out of the discussion if you read the book (or listen to the book) before listening.

So… spoilers.

Of Noble Family is set in Mary’s Glamourist Histories universe, an alternate history setting, on the island of Antigua. Our discussion focuses primarily upon the research that Mary did, and the way she tested and then applied that research to the story. This includes how the research touched on the magic system of  the Glamourist Histories, and how linguistic and cultural differences might affect the use of Glamour.

Liner Notes




Take something common, an activity or object that you’re familiar with, and then have a character describe it to someone who has a completely different frame of reference.

Of Noble Family, by Mary Robinette Kowal, narrated by Prentice Onayemi, Robin Miles, and Mary Robinette Kowal

5 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 10.22: Project-in-Depth—Of Noble Family

  1. Would it be possible for someone to post (or link) an example of an outline for a real novel? I got stuck back on 10.9 when the assignment was to reverse engineer an outline…. Maybe this is obvious to everyone except me, but I didn’t know what to actually write down. (Bullets? Paragraphs? Are scenes linear, or tree-shaped? Etc.) I realize this is not a one-size-fits-all thing, and I understand that authors might not be comfortable sharing their outlines, but I still think it would be enormously helpful to see some good examples.

    By analogy, when I want to learn how to write well, the first resource I turn to is real, published, best-selling fiction. Except that while the novels themselves get published, it would seem that the outlines never do.

    (Sorry for not posting this in the 10.9 thread, but the older comment threads don’t seem to get much attention, if any.)

  2. I loved listening about the different ways the same magic system can seem different depending on culture.

    I recently released a novel in Brazil, first of a series that I’m aiming for something like that. Each novel will portrait a different continent/nation inspired by some region of our world. The magic system is the same, but each region interprets it in a very different way.

    On the first novel, Myambe (my “Africa”) has apparently different magic systems in conflict, from reading bones and listening to nature spirits, to speaking with the dead or been possessed by powerful entities, but they are all the same if you look at it in the right way.

    Exploring how each culture would work (and interpret) the same magic system has been a blast. The second novel (in my “India”) has the exact same magic interpreted as accessing different planes of existence using “machines’, while the third (my “Himalayas”) has it as lingering memories.

    The conflict between visions (and beliefs) make for a lot of possibilities.

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