All posts by Howard Tayler

17.12: Structuring a Story Within a Story

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

One common structure—both macro and micro—is the “story within a story,” or “framing story” structure, and yet somehow we’ve never really explored it on Writing Excuses. Guest host Peng Shepherd is here to help us set things right.

Liner Notes: Here are some examples of story-within-a-story structure…

  • Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
  • Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
  • Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
  • One Thousand and One Nights
  • Sun the Moon and the Stars, by Stephen Brust
  • Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow

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

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Take or create an artifact within your current WIP, whether it’s a letter, a diary entry, an in-world almanac or spellbook, etc., and flesh it out for a chapter. See what it adds to your worldbuilding or plot.

Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke

17.11: Structuring with Multiple Timelines

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

Guest host Peng Shepherd continues to lead our exploration of sub- and micro-structures by taking us into the scaffolding of in media res, flashbacks, and other tools for structuring a story by telling it out of chronological order. We also cover how to do this without breaking the flow of the story.

Liner Notes: The “trousers of time” book Howard referenced was Jingo, by Terry Pratchett.

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

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Consider what adding a second timeline to your current WIP would enhance about the story. Which characters’ motivations might be better illuminated, or which plot points or mysteries might be able to be given additional depth?

The Cartographers, by Peng Shepherd

17.10: Structuring with Multiple POVs

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

In our second micro-structure episode, Peng Shepherd leads us into an exploration of the ways in which the use of multiple point-of-view characters can create a framework within the larger framework of the story.

Liner Notes: In one example we contrasted the single POV Killing Floor, by Lee Childs with its multiple-POV TV adaptation in season 1 of Reacher.

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

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Write a scene in your current WIP from another character’s POV and see what changes,  like how the tone of the scene shifts, or what new emotions or information are revealed.

Meet Me In Another Life, by Catriona Silvey

17.9: Let’s Talk About Structure

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

We’re beginning another eight-episode deep-dive series, and this time it’s a fresh approach to story structure, led by our guest host Peng Shepherd.

Join us as we zoom right through the overarching frameworks defined via things like the Hero’s Journey, Freytag’s Triangle, Save The Cat, and Seven Point Story Structure  to look at the microstructures  which both define and obscure these general narrative shapes.

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

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Pick a favorite book with an interesting structure. Can you identify how the author’s chosen structure enhances the tension, plot, and/or character development of the story?

17.8: The Alchemy of Creativity

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela RiveraSandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd

How do you translate things from the spark of inspiration into a work that someone else can consume? Like, instead of turning a movie into a book, you’re trying to create a book out of the movie in your head. And what if your “spark” isn’t a movie in your head, but instead a suite of emotions?

In this episode we discuss how we do it. That might not answer the question for you, but hopefully it’s a good start. Alchemy is pretty magical, after all.

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

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Choose a scene from a film and write up a “novelization”.

Every Frame a Painting (YouTube Channel)

17.7: Dissecting Influence

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela RiveraSandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd

What are your influences? What pieces of art, music, literature, or other media have inspired you? In this episode we’ll talk about making that inspiration deliberate, and consciously learning from our influences.

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

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Take a slice of something that inspires you (book, movie, art) and break down a list of the specific elements you find appealing.

Hobbes Sakuga : This YouTube channel is a curated collection of the very best cuts of hand drawn animation compiled into category-specific videos.

17.6: Hitting Reset Without Getting Hit Back

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela RiveraSandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd

Oh no! You’re in the middle of a thing (a novel, a series, a career) and you suddenly realize that the expectations you set early on are not the expectations you’ll be meeting. What do you do now? ,

We’re talking about how go about resetting audience expectations, whether mid-story, mid-series, or mid-career, including some strategies for communicating “everything is changing now, forget what you know” without making the audience feel like they’ve been betrayed.

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

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“Eight Expectations” would have been a great title for this eight-episode dive into expectations-as-a-structure, but it would have required a different outline. Your homework? Write up the course outline that Howard couldn’t.

Circle: Two Worlds Connected (Korean TV series)
We’re not sure where you can watch it in your locale, so we gave you the Wikipedia link.

17.5: The Promise of the Brand

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela RiveraSandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd

Your brand—your name, the cover art for your book, and even the typeface for the title—set expectations for the book’s contents. That advice about not judging a book by its cover? It’s lovely in theory, but in practice, that’s just not how it works.

In this episode we’ll talk about how your brand gets defined, and how you can work with those elements to correctly set expectations regarding your work.

Liner Notes: We’ve done several episodes about branding. 14.34 is particularly good.

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

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Describe the perfect cover for your work-in-progress. What is the right typeface for your brand?

Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff