Category Archives: Guest

17.4: The Gun on the Mantel is Actually a Fish

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

In the previous episode we discussed how to ensure that your surprise feels inevitable. In this episode we’re covering how to make inevitability feel surprising. The title is a nod to the concept of the “red herring,” which is arguably the most useful tool for setting up a good surprise.

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

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Do the reverse of last week’s homework: find a thing that is important later and find a scene early where you can “put it on the mantle.”

And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie

17.1: Genre and Media are Promises

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

The genre of your story is making promises to the reader, and the medium upon which your story is told makes promises too.

In this episode we talk about the expectations set by various mediums and genres, and how we can leverage those to ensure that we deliver a satisfying story.

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

Liner Notes: The entirety of Season 11, The Elemental Genres, is a deep-dive on this stuff.

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What do you plan to have your work-in-progress deliver? Does the genre or medium you’re working in support the promise of that deliverable?

Mine by Delilah Dawson

16.51: Promises are a Structure

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd

Our next 8-episode intensive is all about promises and expectations. Our guest hosts are Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd. They’re joining us to talk about how the promises we make to our audiences, and the expectations they bring with them, are a structural format. In this episode we introduce the topic, and talk about some apex examples of success and failure in this area.

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

Liner Notes: Here’s the story of The Tropicana Packaging Redesign Failure

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Consider your newest “favorite thing,” whether it be a restaurant, a film, a TV series, a novel, a podcast, a webcomic, a computer game, or whatever. Ask yourself what promises were made to you by this thing, why you believed the promises would be kept, and how they were (or were not) kept. Write all this down.

The Monster at the End of This Book, by Jon Stone, and illustrated by Mike Smollin

16.43: The Narrative Holy Trinity of World, Character, and Plot, with Fonda Lee

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Fonda Lee, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler

We’re beginning another master class, another deep dive series of episodes, and this time around we’ll be led into the realms of good worldbuilding by Fonda Lee. In this episode Fonda talks about her process, which includes plotting and character creation along with the worldbuilding.

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

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Pick a favorite book with worldbuilding you admire. Can you identify in what ways the worldbuilding reinforces the character journeys, the plot, and the themes?

She Who Rides the Storm, by Caitlin Sangster

16.35: What is the M.I.C.E. Quotient?

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. Polk, Charlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal

The next eight episodes are a deep dive into the M.I.C.E. Quotient, so we’ll begin with a definition. M.I.C.E. is an organizational tool which categorizes story elements as Milieu, Inquiry, Character, or Event. It helps authors know which elements are in play, and how to work with these elements effectively.

Obviously there’s a lot more to M.I.C.E. than that, and in this episode we’ll lay it out in a way that makes the subsequent seven M.I.C.E.-related episodes much easier to navigate.

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

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Seriously… watch The Wizard of Oz, and take notes. Track the M.I.C.E. elements, and how they nest in the story at every scale.

The Wizard of Oz (the 1939 film)

16.21: Player Characters

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, James L. Sutter, Dan Wells, Cassandra Khaw, and Howard Tayler

So, you’re the hero of your own story, and the hero gets choices, and in many ways directs the story. In our discussion of interactive fiction and writing for games, the subject of “player characters” is essential. From the array of options given at character creation/selection, to the paths available for character development and the final chapters of that characters story, “player character” touches everything.

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

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Go through the character creation process in an RPG. Pay attention to which parts were fun, and what attracted you to the different classes, creature types, etc. Identify what makes each major character build unique and appealing.

16.20: Branching Narratives

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, James L. Sutter, Dan Wells, Cassandra Khaw, and Howard Tayler

How do you give players meaningful choices while still keeping the story within a reasonable set of boundaries? In this episode James and Cassandra lead us in a discussion of branching narratives, and the ways in which we as writers can create them.

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

Liner Notes: Dan mentioned this collection of “Choose your own adventure” plot maps.
Howard illustrated the concept of “narrative bumper pool” in Tracy Hickman’s X-TREME DUNGEON MASTERY

A branching path which begins at point A, and ends at either point X, Y, or Z.
Narrative Bumper Pool from X-TREME DUNGEON MASTERY, used with permission
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Write a short “choose-your-own-adventure” story.

The Planet Mercenary RPG, created by Alan Bahr, Howard Tayler, and Sandra Tayler.

16.19: Intro to Roleplaying Games

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, James L. Sutter, Dan Wells, Cassandra Khaw, and Howard Tayler

For the next eight episodes we’ll be talking about roleplaying games, and how that medium relates to writers, writing, career opportunities, and more. We’re led by James L. Sutter and Cassandra Khaw on this particular quest.

In this episode we lay some groundwork, define a few terms, and hopefully get you excited about looking at games in new and useful ways.

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

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Spend some time playing a roleplaying game, either video game or tabletop. Take note of what’s fun and what’s not.