Our second installment for the Master Class’s month of context covers the way dialog between characters may change meaning depending upon the context you create for them. This context may be the setting or genre, and it may also be the “beats” in which you describe what a person is doing while speaking. We talk about how to make this work for you, how to avoid some of the common pitfalls in writing dialog.
Liner Notes: Howard mentioned episode 10.11: Project-in-Depth: “Parallel Perspectives”. If you need to go back and have a listen, now it’s easier!
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 21:51 — 15.0MB)
This is the Transcript Exercise, and it’s a doozy. Take our A/B scene, which is character dialog with no beats, and add the beats and the context to set the dialog in two different genres. There are further instructions in the download at the link above.
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, narrated by Simon Slater
This month’s wildcard episode comes to you from the 2015 GenCon Indy Writers’ Symposium, where Dan and Howard had the opportunity to interview Susan J. Morris and Marc Tassin. Susan is one of the finest moderators the symposium has ever seen, and Marc directs the event, building the schedule around good panelists and great moderators. Their advice is insightful, fresh, and spot-on. If you ever find yourself scheduled to speak on, or moderate, a panel, this episode is a great listen for beginning your preparation.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 18:21 — 12.6MB)
You’ve been invited to BobCon, and when you arrive at BobCon you realize WHY it’s called BobCon. How do you escape?
We’ve talked about plot twists before. This episode covers the way in which the type of plot twist is dependent on, or signaled by, the context of the story. Getting plot twists right may mean surprising the reader, but it’s just as important to have the twist surprise the character.
SPOILER ALERT: Avengers: Age of Ultron, and The Sixth Sense, among others. It’s hard to talk about plot twists without talking about some really good ones.
This month’s master-class topic is “Context,” but the Q&A at the end of the month (coming real soon!) is on plot twists, featuring a special guest who joined us at Sasquan, the 73rd Annual World Science Fiction Convention.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 19:46 — 13.6MB)
Unwinding the Twist: Find a plot twist in something that you enjoy, and then backtrack a bit. Take notes. Figure out where the red herrings are. Figure out where the foreshadowing is. Enumerate these, see if there’s something formulaic that you can learn from.
Charlie N. Holmberg, who was recently signed by Amazon’s 47 North imprint, joined us in front of a live audience it Sasquan (the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention) to talk about breaking in to the industry. Brandon and Dan broke in a decade ago, and Howard never actually bothered breaking in.
This episode is brought to you by David Farland’s writing workshops at mystorydoctor.com, whose URL completely escaped Howard during the episode. Here are two coupon codes:
- August50 gets $50 off any course regularly priced $399
- August100 gets $100 off any course regularly priced $749
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 16:15 — 11.2MB)
Go find a friend, and without comparing notes, writing down the names of three books or movies that you love. Randomly pick one of each, and then “your pick meets your friend’s pick” is your prompt.
We wrap up this month’s discussion of pacing with a Q&A. Here are the questions we pulled out of the virtual hat (read: Twitter) for answering during the episode:
- What are some early indications of a pacing problem?
- How do you chart pacing so that it remains even?
- Can you control pacing using scene/sequel format?
- How do you handle character progression during travel without making it choppy?
- It feels like new authors are required to deliver breakneck pacing. Is this true?
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 19:40 — 13.5MB)
Plot twists are coming next month. This exercise is called “hard left.” Take a scene that is moving forward at a breakneck pace. Throw a twist at them, and don’t break scene. Force the pacing to continue in the new direction.
Marie Brennan joins us again, this time for a discussion about writing combat. She’s studied fencing, combat choreography, and is *this close* to having a black belt in shotokan karate, bringing a valuable perspective to the discussion. Also, she’s written an ebook called Writing Fight Scenes, so she knows how to talk about this stuff.
We discuss some of our favorite fight scenes in movies and in books, why they work well, and how we can go about creating those sorts of things ourselves.
That Scene We Couldn’t Stop Gushing About: Here’s a no-Netflix-membership-required version of the Daredevil fight scene. It’s a teaser from Netflix, but it’s unabridged. For context, Daredevil is looking for a kidnapped child, and has tracked the boy’s captors to this hallway.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 19:01 — 13.1MB)
Look at the purpose of the fight you’re about to write. Make a list of everybody who is in the fight, and what each of them wants to get out of the fight. Include what do you, the author, want to accomplish. Then write the scene.
As we said last week, we’re talking about pacing, and we’ve divided the concept into two parts. Last week we covered “sense of progress.” This week we’re talking about the passage of time. We discuss the tools we use, some of which are very mechanical (scene breaks, chapter breaks) and some of which are quite intricate, and require finesse to get right.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 19:07 — 13.2MB)
Take something you’ve already written (a chapter with a few scenes would be perfect.) Change scene breaks to through-scenes. Then try moving the scene breaks around. See what happens to the pace of the story.
This month’s Master Class episodes focus on pacing, and we’re dividing the concept of pacing into two parts: the first is the sense of progress within the story, and the second is the sense of the passage of time. In this episode we tackle that first bit, and discuss how we communicate progress to the readers.
We talk a bit about the concept of “promises made to the reader,” which we covered in more detail during episode 10.14. You may want to refer back to that at some point.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 18:57 — 13.0MB)
The Magnified Moment: write two pages in which someone gets out of bed, walks across the room, and opens the door.