If the Element of Wonder is the driving force behind “sense of wonder” science fiction and fantasy, then that same element can be used to give wondrous flavor to stories whose driving force lies among the other elemental genres. We talk about how to use wonder at smaller scales, how to create it with context, and how you might use it in support of the other themes of your story.
Gail Carriger joined us at WorldCon in Spokane, Washington, to talk about her Convention Survival Kit, which is full of things most of us wish we’d known to bring to conventions back when we first started attending them.
Pronunciation note: Brandon uses the soft “g” when saying Gail’s surname, but it’s actually Carriger with a hard “g.”
Liner note: Gail’s convention tips and packing list can be found here. The page is pretty comprehensive, and is worth bookmarking and committing to memory.
We’ve introduced the concept of Elemental Genre already. It’s time to start digging in to the elements themselves, beginning with the Element of Wonder. We started with this one because “sense of wonder” is a term that gets used to describe what makes some science fiction stories work.
In this episode we expand upon the word “wonder” a bit, making the shorthand of “elemental wonder” more useful, not to mention more descriptive. We then go on to detail some methods writers might use to evoke wonder, leveraging that element for the greatest effect in their work.
Our discussion centers around how world building for role playing games, and especially the manner in which the world is presented, differs from world building for novels. We don’t talk about rule sets or physics simulations. We’re after the things that players want and need to read in order to immerse themselves in the setting, and get “in fiction.”
Pro-Tip: There are two major things, listeners, that you can get from this podcast: first, soak up the incredibly valuable writing-for-RPGs information provided by our guests. Second, listen to how Howard abases himself when he has the opportunity to sit down with experts who have information he desperately needs.
Liner Notes: Howard habitually mispronounces the word “ablative.” The accent should be on the first syllable: [ab-luh-tiv]
Write about a non-player, non-heroic character (say, the NPC who cleans the alley behind the tavern) in your setting. What do they want? What do they fear? What do they love? How might their story play out independently from the story told by the players?
For our second Elemental Genre episode we discuss using the concept of Elemental Genre to help you manage sub-plots, character arcs, and genre mashups. We’ve each used the tool in these ways, and we provide examples from our own writing, as well as from works we’ve read or watched.
Kathy Chung runs the Surrey International Writing Conference, which is a professional development event, rather than one of the fan-run conventions, which are primarily reader and/or consumer events. She also helped us put together the 2015 Out Of Excuses event, where we were fortunate to witness her expertise first-hand.
Naturally, we invited her to talk with us about conferences and conventions. She’s easy to talk to, and she knows more about them than we do.
We cover some of the key differences between conferences and conventions (especially from the writer’s point of view,) and, per the subject, how to get the most of them.
The word “genre” has a lot of weight to it. Arguments about whether a particular work is, or is not, part of a given genre are long, and tedious. Season Eleven will not be engaging in those arguments. We’re giving all that a wide miss by adding an adjective, and defining a new term: Elemental Genre.
During 2016 we are going to explore what we write, why we write, and how we write in much the same way as previous seasons have, but our guidepost this year will be this concept of Elemental Genres. In January we’ll stay high-level and firm up the framework. Starting in February we’ll drill down on each of the Elemental Genres, and explore the writing process.
Here’s what the year will look like, month-by-month:
Take three stories (books, films, whatever) you love, and explore the emotional impact those stories have on you. Strip away the “bookshelf” genre, and try to identify for yourself the core elements that make those stories work.
Lost Stars, by Claudia Gray, narrated by Pierce Cravens
Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart.