All posts by Writing Excuses

Writing Excuses 10.7: Who Are All These People?

Our character-focused month continues with an exploration of the challenges involved in building a cast for your story. Whether you’re building a large or small cast, you need to know why you’re putting these people in the book, whether they’re main characters, secondary characters, or spear-carriers, and what purpose each of them actually serves in your story.

Play

Pick one of the dead-drop characters from the exercise two weeks ago, and turn them into a secondary character. Now take one of the characters with whom they interacted, and write the same scene again, but from this new character’s POV.

The Splendour Falls, by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat

Writing Excuses 10.6: The Worldbuilding Revolves Around Me (“The Magical 1%”)

Max Gladstone joins us to talk about worldbuilding, and how many genre settings seem to revolve around whatever gifted, magical, or otherwise special sort of people our heroes and villains happen to be. Jedi, for instance. Consider, then, the plight of the “regular” people, like Han Solo.

We talk about how to tell whether or not this is problematic for the story you are telling, and how one might work with the trope in ways that make stories better.

Play

Think about the last time you lost at a game. What was the process of thought that led to your loss? Now, replicate that moment in the dramatic structure of the story, except the story isn’t about games.

Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone, narrated by Claudia Alick

Writing Excuses 10.5: What Do You Mean My Main Character is Boring?

Characters are the focus of the Writing Excuses Master Class during February, and we lead off with an exploration of a common problem: the main character is often the least interesting person in the story. And of course, in the process of exploring the problem, we look at the sorts of things you can do in order to solve them. It something each of the hosts has struggled with, and we talk about the solutions we’ve arrived at (insomuch as we’ve managed to solve the problem.)

Sidebar: In Season 9 we talked about character attributes using a slider metaphor. If you want to catch up on that, here are links to Episode 9.1 (the three-prong model), Episode 9.25(sympathy), Episode 9.26 (competence), and Episode 9.32 (proactivity.)

Play

Take three different characters and walk them through a scene. Convey their emotional states, their jobs, and their hobbies without directly stating any of those. The scene in question: walking through a marketplace, and they need to do a dead-drop.

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, narrated by Simon Slater

Writing Excuses 10.4: Q&A on Ideas

At the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat we premiered the Season 10 concept, and we invited our attendees to give us the questions we need this month. (They’ll also be the ones providing our questions for February, but we’ll cast our net wide for questions in March.)

  • Ideas are hard! Is it ever acceptable for inexperienced writers to write derivative works?
  • How do you keep from being discouraged when something similar to your idea comes out?
  • How do you know when your idea is a novel, vs. when it’s a short story?
  • Should you only write for themed anthologies if you already have an idea ready in that theme?
  • How can you practice description when your idea is set someplace completely unfamiliar to you?
  • When should you abandon an idea you love?

Liner Notes: We talked about novel-length vs short-story-length ideas in Season 6, Episode 10 when we covered the M.I.C.E. quotient, and again in Season 8, Episode 20, when Mary talked about short story structure. Also, the anthology into which Howard was drafted on the basis of a spur-of-the-moment idea is Shared Nightmaresand his story is called “U.I.”

Play

Take one of the ideas you’re excited about, and then audition five different characters for the lead role in that story. Make sure they’re all different from each other.

City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett, narrated by Alma Cuervo

2015 Hugo Award Eligibility – SHADOWS BENEATH

The Hugo Awards voters have honored us by nominating the Writing Excuses podcast in the Best Related Work category several times in the past, and two years ago Writing Excuses won! This is something we’re still giddy about.

If you’re eligible to nominate things for the Hugo ballot, and if you think Writing Excuses belongs on that ballot, we’d like for you to consider nominating our anthology, SHADOWS BENEATH, in the Best Related Work category, rather than nominating the podcast itself. Of course, it’s possible that the (free!) podcast is all you’re familiar with, so if you’re eligible to nominate for the Hugos, use the contact form at brandonsanderson.com* for a complimentary electronic copy of SHADOWS BENEATH: THE WRITING EXCUSES ANTHOLOGY.

And don’t delay! The nomination period is open for another month, but if you were not at LonCon, and have not yet registered for WorldCon 2015, you only have until January 31st to buy your voting or attending membership. Visit sasquan.org for the details.

Whether or not you want to nominate Writing Excuses, you should consider acquiring that membership so that your favorite books, stories, publications, editors, artists, and writers have a chance to appear on this year’s Hugo Awards ballot.

(*WEBMASTER’S NOTE: during the podcast, Brandon said to use an email address to acquire the complimentary copy of the book. That email address isn’t working, so we’re falling back to the contact form. Sorry for the inconvenience!)

Play

What five genre fiction novels would you most like to see on the Hugo Award ballot this year? What about novelettes? Short stories? Now imagine that each of these works is actually a superhero. What kinds of crime would your Hugo Super Team fight?

Writing Excuses 10.3: Lovecraftian Horror

Cherie Priest joins us for our “wildcard” episode on Lovecraftian horror this month. We’re still doing the master class format, and part of that format is that once per month we’ll have a guest, or otherwise step away from the month’s topic a bit.

This episode talks about what Lovecraftian horror is, its influence on genre fiction, and the tools it offers for modern writers.

Play

Take a character, and from that character’s point of view, describe their reaction to something horrific and awful, but do so without describing the thing itself.

Maplecroft, by Cherie Priest, narrated by Johanna Parker and Roger Wayne.