Category Archives: Q&A

13.12: Q&A on Heroes, Villains, and Main Characters

Your Cast: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, Howard

You had questions about heroes, villains, and main characters. We have answers! Here are the questions:

  • How do you make planned power increases not seem like an ass-pull¹?
  • What do you do when your villain is more interesting/engaging than your hero?
  • How do you know when a character is unnecessary and needs to be removed from the story, or killed off in the story?
  • What tricks do you use when you want the reader to mistakenly believe a character is a hero, rather than a villain?
  • Which is more fun for you: creating a villain, or creating a hero?
  • How many side characters can you reasonably juggle in a novel?
  • What are the drawbacks to making your villain a POV character?
  • If your villain doesn’t show up until late in the story, how do you make their eventual appearance seem justified?
  • How do you get readers to like a character who is a jerk?

Liner Footnotes
¹ We hadn’t seen “ass-pull,” the a nouning² of the idiom “pull it out of your ass³” as a noun before.
² Bill Watterson gave us the verb form of the word “noun” indirectly in the final panel of this strip.VerbingWeirdsLanguage
³ For those unfamiliar with the extraction-from-orifice idiom, it means “make it up on the spot,” with a negative connotation, suggesting that the reader can TELL that this was invented in a hurry.

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Write about a female gamer who is trying to right social injustices using her gaming skills.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes, by Jason Fagone, narrated by Cassandra Campbell

12.48: Q&A on Novels and Series, with Brian McClellan

Brian McClellan joined us to field questions about writing novels and series. Here are the questions:

  • How do you write an ending that is open for sequels, but isn’t a cliffhanger?
  • Is it a good idea to take a large novel, and release it instead as serial novellas?
  • Can you debut with a series, or should you establish yourself with standalone novels first?
  • How do you keep readers coming back for each new novel when there’s a long time between them?
  • Should you have more than just one book done before querying agents?
  • What do you do if your novel turns out to be too short to be a novel?
  • Is it possible to write a series as a discovery writer?
  • How do you foreshadow big things that are a long way out?
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Take two books or movies, suggested from friends. Those are parts 1 and 3 of a series. Now figure out how part 2 works.

Hungry Ghosts, by Stephen Blackmoore

12.39: Q&A on Short(er) Fiction

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard

Our listeners sent us  some questions about writing shorter fiction. Here are the questions:

  • How do you market short stories today?
  • Has ebook self-publishing made novellas more viable?
  • How do you structure a short story?
  • How short is too short?
  • Is publishing sections of a novel a viable way to get traction for that novel?
  • What should I look for in the semi-pro market if professional publications have rejected my work?
  • What aspects are crucial in novels, but which don’t belong in short fiction.

 

Publication “reputation” references: Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write, Writer Beware

Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Go buy a short story collection that has a variety of authors in it, and read it.

“Mind over Matter” by Howard Tayler (from Called to Battle, Volume 2  from Privateer Press.)

12.26: Q&A on Outlining and Discovery Writing

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard

Our listeners had questions about outlining and discovery writing. Here are a few of the very best:

  • Do you outline scenes? How?
  • How do you know when to STOP outlining something?
  • How much do you have to know about your character and/or world before you start writing?
  • What do you to to diagnose and fix a structural problem with a discovery-written draft?
  • What do you do to ‘get into’ an outline that you’re struggling with.
  • Are each of your projects similar in terms of procedure?
  • What are some major indicators that a piece needs more structural work?

Soundbite moment: DAN: “I had to learn the difference between a story, and a bunch of stuff that happens.”

Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered via great mastery by Alex Jackson

 

Play

Find another writer. You each write a quick outline for a story, print it, then cut your outline into strips. Now, trade piles of strips. Your missions? Re-assemble the other writer’s outline.

Contracted Defense, by Piper J. Drake

12.17: Q&A on Style, Diction, and Paragraphing

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard

We fielded some questions on style, diction, and paragraphing:

  • Is it okay to have pretty prose in a straightforward adventure story?
  • How do author voice and character voice differ?
  • How do you prevent paragraphs from rambling?
  • I feel like my writing is derivative of the writers whose work I read. How can I find or develop my own voice?
  • How much does diction play into genre fiction?
  • Is it okay to write in a natural speaking voice?
  • During which part of the writing process do you pay attention to style?

By Way Of Correction: “Unaccompanied Sonata,” by Orson Scott Card, is the story about anxiety of influence. “Tunesmith,” by Lloyd Biggle Jr., is about music, and even has the name “Bach” in it, but it’s not the story Howard described.

 

 

Play

Ask your alpha readers for their definition of your voice.

Wayward, Volume 1, by Jim Zub (writer),  Steven Cummings (Illustrator), John Rauch (Illustrator), and Tamra Bonvillain (Illustrator)

12.9: Q&A on Viewpoint

Your Hosts: Brandon, Piper, Dan, and Howard

You had questions about viewpoint. Here they are!

  • Do you have tips and tricks for making 3rd-person omniscient compelling?
  • How do you make 3rd-person limited compelling?
  • Is it normal to need several drafts to nail down a character’s voice?
  • What’s the best way to portray an unreliable 3rd-person limited narrator?
  • What are your most effective methods for immersing yourself in character attributes so that you can get the voice right?
  • How do you choose between 1st and 3rd person?
  • How do you select the viewpoint character for a scene?
  • How do you smoothly transition between viewpoints?
  • How do you prevent character voices from blending into each other and becoming indistinguishable?

(Our answers are in the podcast.)

 

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Swap dialog between characters. How do different characters say the same thing? How do they react when something they would say is said to them?