All posts by Howard Tayler

Writing Excuses 10.22: Project-in-Depth—Of Noble Family

If you haven’t read Mary’s latest novel, Of Noble Family, this episode contains many spoilers, and you’ll get a lot more out of the discussion if you read the book (or listen to the book) before listening.

So… spoilers.

Of Noble Family is set in Mary’s Glamourist Histories universe, an alternate history setting, on the island of Antigua. Our discussion focuses primarily upon the research that Mary did, and the way she tested and then applied that research to the story. This includes how the research touched on the magic system of  the Glamourist Histories, and how linguistic and cultural differences might affect the use of Glamour.

Liner Notes

 

 

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Take something common, an activity or object that you’re familiar with, and then have a character describe it to someone who has a completely different frame of reference.

Of Noble Family, by Mary Robinette Kowal, narrated by Prentice Onayemi, Robin Miles, and Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Excuses 10.21: Q&A on World Building

We went to you for questions about world building, and you had some really good ones. The questions are listed below, and our answers are secreted within MP3 file.

  • Has there ever been a piece of world building that you didn’t include, and regretted not including?
  • How do you remain consistent?
  • How do you decide between writing a secondary world fantasy, and creating an historical fantasy?
  • Can you avoid cultural appropriation while still using elements inspired by other cultures?
    • (This one is getting a can of worms: there’s an entire episode on cultural appropriation coming up)
  • What’s the minimum amount of world building required?
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Our next master class episodes are on description. Take a scene that includes some things that you’ve world-built, and rewrite that scene using completely different words.

A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Excuses 10.20: How Do I Write a Story, Not an Encyclopedia?

You’ve done piles of world building. How do you convey this world to reader without infodumping? We talk about the different skill levels involved, and then the techniques that you’ll be using as you get better and better at what is probably the most critical skill unique to genre fiction writers.

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This week’s exercise: Take a spec gee-whiz, and have something go wrong with it. Write a scene in which the main character must deal with the problem. Communicate each of the following:

  1. How it works
  2. What it looks like
  3. The main character’s relationship to it

The Autumn Republic, by Brian McClellan

Writing Excuses 10.19: Intrigue

What’s the difference between intrigue, suspense, and mystery? We answer this (it comes down to reader knowledge vs character knowledge), and then talk about what makes intrigue useful as a tool for any story, and how to use it without falling back on idiot character plots, or simply withholding information from the reader.

Intrigue is also its own genre, with spy stories and political intrigue stories fitting into this space. We talk a bit about how those stories work, and how they’re built.

Upcoming Homework: We’ll be doing a Project-In-Depth on Mary’s new book, Of Noble Family, in two weeks (episode 10.21, airing on May 24th.) To get the most out of that episode without having anything spoiled, pick up a copy now and start reading!

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Write dialog in which each of the speakers has a different subtext and motive. Without explicitly stating those, try and make them clear to the reader.

A Spy in the House: The Agency 1, by Y.S. Lee, narrated by Justine Eyre

Writing Excuses 10.18: Build an Entire World? Are You Crazy?

This is for you folks who started writing the story before you finished building your world. Which is what we wanted you to do all along! Sneaky! We’re talking about letting your story drive your world building efforts, so that you can be more efficient.

We cover some of the tools that we use, as well as when world building fits into, then out of, and then back into our respective processes.

Out of Context Quote: “Sometimes you just need to take the underpants off the puppet.”

Other Worldbuilding Episodes to Reference: Brandon promised a list of links. Here’s a pretty comprehensive one!

We recommend not listening to all of them in one go. You’re supposed to be out of excuses and writing, not podcast diving for another two hours…

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Pick your gee-whiz, whatever it may be, and describe it in 150 words from ten different perspectives. Yes, that’s 1500 words.

Stormdancer: The Lotus War, Book One, by Jay Kristoff, narrated by Jennifer Ikeda

Writing Excuses 10.17: Q&A on Beginnings

We’ve talked about beginnings this month. Now we’ll answer some of your questions on the matter. Here are the questions:

  • What are there differences between the beginnings in different forms?
  • How do you begin in media res when you’re not writing action?
  • What’s the biggest mistake that can be made when plotting the beginning?
  • I see a lot of big-name author beginnings that aren’t all that strong. Why should I spend time making my beginning awesome?
  • How do you balance the need to have something happening right away against the need to have the reader know something about the characters?
  • In creating a character, where do you start in the development process, and what do you begin revealing first?

 

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Take the world-building you’ve done, write your beginning, and then secretly write down your “gee-whiz.” Now run that beginning past some alpha readers, and have them attempt to identify the “gee-whiz.” Compare their answers with your own.

The Shepherdess of Sienna: A Novel of Renaissance Tuscany, by Linda Lafferty, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal