All posts by Howard Tayler

14.33: Writing Imperfect Worlds

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard

How do you write a setting in which the status quo is one with which you deeply disagree? How do you create a conflict of this sort without being overtly pedantic or preachy? In this episode we talk about creating engaging worlds while worldbuilding around—and yes, over—landmines.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Take a wish-fulfillment character, and place them on the lowest rung of the power structure.

The Fated Sky, by Mary Robinette Kowal

Worldbuilding Gender Roles

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard

Let’s talk about worldbuilding with gender roles. Most of us have grown up with a very strongly defined binary, that distinction need not be how we craft the worlds in which we set our stories. In this episode we discuss the resources we have to help us, and the approaches we’ve taken to worldbuild with gender in our own work. We drill down pretty deeply on some worldbuilding with Brandon, and yes, we run quite long.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson

Liner Notes

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Apply the axes of power deliberately to character gender, and determine how gender and gender identity affects the various axes

Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz

14.31: Cultural Setting as Conflict

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab

In this episode we talk about how to put characters in conflict with their setting, and how to structure our work so that these conflicts arise organically rather than feeling mandated by plot.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and master by Alex Jackson

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Make an entire planet of you. Now create a trading post where people who are NOT you must find ways to interact with the world of yous.

14.30: Eating Your Way to Better Worldbuilding

Your Hosts: Piper, Dongwon, Amal, and Maurice

We like food, and we like to talk about food. Our hosts this week talk about how this influences their fiction, (not to mention how incredibly complex [and interesting, and delicious] the subject is.)

Credits: this episode was recorded by Howard Tayler, and mastered by Alex Jackson 

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Imagine a fictional meal. Describe its history and provenance. Work that into the story.

A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook, by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sarian Lehrer, with an introduction by George R. R. Martin

14.29: Field Research

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard

So, you’re going to go someplace and learn something you can’t learn in any other way. Maybe it’s location research for setting. Maybe you’re off to interview an expert. Whatever you’re planning, you need to be planning it well. In this episode we discuss the field research we’ve done, how we went about it, and how we might do it differently.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson 

EPISODE ORDER NOTE: As of this writing, episode 14.28’s web-sized audio file isn’t ready. We’ll run it next week, and eventually swap the dates to get 14.29 and 14.28 in the right order.

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Take photos of a place that’s new to you. Write descriptions from those photos.

PBS Spacetime, by Gabe Perez-Giz and Matthew O’Dowd

(Here’s Howard’s PBS Spacetime Chronological playlist, which is current through June of 2018)

14.28: Warfare and Weaponry

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab

How do you write about warfare in your stories when you’ve never fought in a war? How do you describe brilliant tactics when you’re completely untrained in military movements? How can you portray the emotions of someone on a battlefield without having been on a battlefield yourself?

In this episode we tackle these questions and more. (Hint: the answers include “research”)

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Invent a powerful, NON-technological weapon for your setting.

The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey, narrated by Flinty Williams

14.27: Natural Setting as Conflict

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard

In this episode we stories with the “Person-vs-Setting” structure. These are stories where nature fills the role of antagonist, and may also be what governs the pacing, and the delivery of key emotional beats.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Pick a milieu, a starting point, and an exit. Brainstorm about twenty things preventing the character from exiting. Rank your five favorites in order of difficulty.

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, narrated by Peter Coyote

How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler, by Ryan North

14.26: Lessons from Aristotle, with Rob Kimbro

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, and Dan, with special guest Rob Kimbro

Rob Kimbro joins us this week to talk about Aristotle’s elements of tragedy, and how they might be applied to our writing. The six elements are (in Aristotle’s order of descending importance): plot, character, idea, dialog, music, and spectacle.  We discuss this tool in terms of critiquing existing work, and in finding direction in the things we create.

Credits: this episode was recorded by Howard Tayler, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Take something you’ve written, and then rank the elements based on how important they are in what you wrote. Now re-order the elements, and rewrite the piece to match the new ranking.

Aristotle’s Poetics, by Aristotle, narrated by Ray Childs