All posts by Howard Tayler

17.32: Everything is About Conflict

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler

Everything is about conflict? Really? Well, yes. Maybe not in the action-movie sense, but conflict is everywhere, even among people whose goals, objectives, and methodologies are in alignment. This, of course, means that it exists among your cast of characters, and it will inform the way the talk to one another.

Liner Notes: We mentioned this famous Monty Python sketch about wanting to have an argument.

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

Play

Write a scene in which two characters try to decide whether or not to commit a crime. One has done crimes before. One has not. Halfway through, reverse their positions on the matter.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (currently requires a subscription to Paramount+.)

17.31: Everyone Has an Agenda

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler

We’ve mentioned “area of intention” earlier in this dialog master class, but now the concept gets the spotlight. If all of your characters have their own agendas, their own areas of intention, then the dialog between them should reflect that.

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

Play

Identify the characters’ areas of intent. Remove all lines of dialog that don’t support that intent.

17.30: Know Your Characters

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler

How well do you know your characters? Sure, you might know their age, nationality, and perhaps wardrobe, but how well do you know their internal characteristics? Do you know them well enough that you can write dialog that sounds like them? In this episode we discuss how you might approach this problem.

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

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Write monologues in which your characters tell you about themselves.

17.29: The Job of Dialogue

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler

We’re back with Maurice Broaddus for the second in our eight-episode mini-master-class on writing dialogue. This time around we’re addressing the question of dialogue’s “job.” What’s it for? Why is this particular bit of dialogue in this scene, this chapter, this book?

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

Play

Identify your authorial intent. Remove all lines of dialog that don’t support that intent.

The Murder of Mr. Wickham, by Claudia Gray

17.28: Keys to Writing Dialog

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler

Writer, teacher, and community organizer Maurice Broaddus joins us for an eight-episode mini-master-class on writing dialogue. In this episode he walks us through his three keys: pay attention to how people speak, write in a way that evokes how they speak, and write dialogue that makes individual characters distinctive.

Liner Notes: We mention Descript transcription software in this episode. Here’s a link!

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

Play

Record (with permission!) a conversation of at least 15 minutes. Transcribe it.

Sweep of Stars, by Maurice Broaddus

17.27: Ensembles Behind the Scenes

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

In this, our final “ensemble masterclass” episode, we discuss the nuts-and-bolts, the tips and tricks, the tools of the trade. In short, we talk very specifically about how we do it. Color-coded sticky notes, index cards, spreadsheets, and more…

Liner Notes: Howard’s guest story for Dave Kellet’s DRIVE compendium is now running online! It’s called “History and Haberdashery.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

Play

Color-code your outline, and see if it’s helpful.

Into the Dark, by Claudia Gray

17.26: Hanging Separately

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

Our episode title comes to us across two and a half centuries:
“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” —Benjamin Franklin
We’ve already established that you’re planning to write an ensemble. This isn’t an episode about the pros and cons of ensembles. No, we’re here to talk about how an ensemble story can go wrong, leaving the characters to hang separately rather than hanging together.

Liner Notes: It happened again! We referenced the Ty Franck/Daniel Abraham episode, which we recorded at GenCon Indy several years ago, and again we can’t find a link to it.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

Play

Pick an ensemble story that failed for you. Find its failure mode, and write down the ways in which you’d fix it.

The Expanse (TV series, Amazon Prime)

17.25: Archetypes, Ensembles, and Expectations

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

We’ve talked about making every member of the ensemble meaningful. In this episode we’re discussing who, in archetype terms, everybody is. How can archetypes help us get started, how can they help us set reader expectations, and what are the archetype-related pitfalls we need to avoid? And finally, is ‘archetype’ even the correct term here?

Liner Notes: Here’s the “Black Superheroes with Electrical Powers” article.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

Play

Identify the archetypes of each character in your work-in-progress. Change that archetype or give them a sub-archetype, to try to branch out and create rounder, unexpected characters.

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo