Category Archives: Q&A

13.21: Q&A on Character Depth and Motivation

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard

Our listeners submitted some great questions!

  • How do you fairly and even-handedly write a deeply compelling character you deeply dislike?
  • What’s the best way to discuss a character’s underlying motivations without expressly stating them in narrative or dialog?
  • How well should characters understand their own motivations?
  • How do you make non-violent characters interesting?
  • Can there be too much depth to a character?
  • How do you balance character depth across multiple attributes?
  • How do you make a character motivation seem deep when most people’s motivations are actually pretty shallow?
  • Do you create standard dossiers for your characters?
  • Does your story have to have a villain?
  • How do you know whether or not a character’s voice is working?
  • Do you track words or phrases that are unique to a particular character’s voice?

Liner Notes: Brandon mentioned Howard’s “Tyrannopotomus Rex” doodle as part of the writing prompt. Here it is, should you need visual reference.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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Write a story about Howard’s “Tyrannopotumus Rex.” (Yes, it can be a story about how that’s not what a real tyrannopotomus rex looks like.)

Pitch Dark, by Courtney Alameda

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

 

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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.

 

 

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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)