All posts by Writing Excuses

Writing Excuses Season 9.52: From the Page to the Stage

Allison W. Hill and C. Austin Hill joined us at the Out of Excuses Retreat to talk about turning A Night of Blacker Darkness, by Dan Wells, into a stage play. “From the page to the stage” is a thing that theater people actually say to describe this, so the process is one that has a lot of precedent behind it. We talk about the guiding principles behind adaptation, and then dive into the challenges that our guests face with this particular project.

(Note: We may be tweaking the audio on this episode in the future to remove the “Season 10” references right at the end. They’re confusing, and you don’t need that.)

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Take a monster from pop culture, and write it with all of the traditional weaknesses, but with none of the strengths.

Writing Excuses 9.51: Q&A At The Retreat

If there’s a crowd with good questions, it’s the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat attendees.

  • Given the trend toward moral ambiguity, is there still a place for an unquestionably evil character?
  • Should you publish a first book that isn’t in the style or genre that you’re ultimately interested in?
  • Is it possible to write epic fantasy with a single POV?
  • Of all of the myriad talents of the literary agents you work with, what’s the one that makes you stick with your agent?
  • How do you maintain your writing chops when you’re buried in the research phase of a project?
  • What are some issues a short story writer should be aware of when tackling a novel?
  • How do you go about discovery writing characters?
  • When you build a story, does the foreshadowing go in during the first pass, or in later edits?

Our sponsor, Audible, is giving away Legion: Skin Deep, by Brandon Sanderson between now and December 24th. Follow that link and get a free audio book!

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“Everywhere I look, everyone is covered with ketchup.”

Angelmaker, by Nick Harkaway, narrated by Daniel Weyman

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…

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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.

Writing Excuses 9.48: Neurobolics of Characters

As authors we spend a lot of time trying to make our readers care about the characters we create. We have a wide variety of techniques at our disposal to accomplish this. But do we ever ask ourselves why any of this is possible in the first place? What is it about our brains that makes us care about fictional characters?

Enter Cory Doctorow, who posed this question to us at Westercon 67. If you like the episodes where a guest comes in and blows our minds (and they’re some of our favorites) you need to put this one on the list.

Audiobook Pick of the Week: Homeland, by Cory Doctorow, narrated by Wil Wheaton, with Noah Swartz and Jacob Applebaum. (Note:  Cory Doctorow’s titles aren’t carried by Audible, but you can find all of them here and buy them DRM-free directly from Cory.)

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Along the lines of the anecdote Cory shared, sever a character’s corpus callosum so that they have to say things out loud in order to fully comprehend what they’re seeing.

Writing Excuses 9.49: Hiding the Open Grave

So, you’re planning to kill somebody, but you don’t want anyone to see it coming. How do you make that happen?

We begin by talking about the hints that writers inadvertently drop, and why they drop those hints. Then we look at how to write without sending those cues, and how to get away with that while still fulfilling promises made to the reader.

Special Offer: Our sponsor, Audible, is giving away Legion: Skin Deep, by Brandon Sanderson between now and December 24th. Follow that link and get a free audio book!

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Take a story you’ve been planning. Kill the protagonist in the first scene, then have a secondary character step in and pick up the plot. You don’t need to finish the whole story this way–just get far enough into this exercise that you can see what a surprising death looks like from your side of the keyboard.

Ruins, by Dan Wells, narrated by Julia Whelan

Writing Excuses 9.47: Conversation With a Bookseller

Bookseller Sara Glassman joined us at the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat to talk to us about her perspective on this industry, with an eye to the things that make it easy for her to put a book in a customer’s hands. We talk about back cover copy, covers, query letters, signings, and what booksellers look for on page one.

(Note: Brandon refers to a book of the week pitch that Sara made for us. We needed to run this episode out of order, so you’ll get Sara’s pitch for that book sometime next year.)

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Have three of your friends to send you a random photograph of an object. Use each object in the first 13 lines of your story.

The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley, narrated by Susan Duerden

Writing Excuses 9.46: Disability in Narrative

Charlie Harmon, one of the luminaries of Utah area fandom, joined us to talk about disability in narrative. She’s been going blind gradually since she was a child, and these days while she can see some colored blurs, she cannot read, or recognize faces. We talk about some of the nuances of disability that many writers fail to capture, and how we can learn to write those things more convincingly.

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Go to tvtropes.org and look up “Blind People.” Read some of the many tropes (Disability Superpower, Blind Black Guy, and Blind Mistake, just to name three)  then write a blind character without using those tropes.

The Fairy-Tale Detectives: The Sisters Grimm, by Michael Buckley, narrated by L. J. Ganser

Writing Excuses 9.45: Tools for Writing from Oral Storytelling

M. Todd Gallowglas is a writer and a storyteller who has spent years doing traditional oral storytelling at renaissance fairs. He joined us at FantasyCon/Westercon 67 before a live audience and talked to us about how this tradition has informed his writing, and how these principles can inform our writing as well. He also schools us (okay, mostly Howard) about how these principles should be informing parts of our podcast.

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Take the book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and drill down into the nitty-gritty realities of pancakes falling from the sky.

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, narrated by Nick Podehl