Category Archives: Q&A

11.30: Elemental Thriller Q&A

We fielded the following questions about the “Thriller” elemental genre from listeners on Facebook and Twitter:

  • How do I build tension consistently through my story?
  • How do you maintain tension during dialog?
  • When do you not use a cliffhanger?
  • Do you ever picture your scenes as if they were in a movie?
  • How much elemental thriller is too much for a book that isn’t a thriller? What’s the tipping point where you’ve switched genres?
  • What do you do when the tension in your story peaks too early?

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

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Sit down with your manuscript or outline, and in the margins, add notes about the emotions you’re trying to evoke with each scene, and where in the scene it’s supposed to happen. This list of notes is your “beat chart,” and it’s going to teach you neat things about your story.

Javelin Rain, by Myke Cole, narrated by Korey Jackson

11.26: Elemental Mystery Q&A

In this episode we field some questions about elemental mystery. Here they are!

  • How do you balance between two mysteries in the same story?
  • What types of mysteries can fit well as sub-plots?
  • What do you do when beta readers figure out the mystery really early?
  • In the MICE quotient, are mysteries all “Idea” stories?
  • How do you write a protagonist who is smarter than you are?
  • How do you make sure your genius protagonist is still experiencing an interesting struggle?
  • How do you make a kidnap victim more than just a MacGuffin?
  • How “literary” can you make your mystery?

Liner Notes: The movie Howard referred to is Cellular, with Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, and Jason Statham.

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

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Take a book or film that you enjoy, and write down every mystery you see.

I Am Princess X, by Cherie Priest, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

11.21: Q&A on Elemental Horror, with Steve Diamond

Steve Diamond joins us for our third and final Elemental Horror episode as we field your questions about this particular building block. Here are the questions we selected from your submissions:

  • If I want to make peanut butter terrifying without being silly, how do I do that?
  • What is your personal line between horror and “gore-nography?”
  • How do you avoid going too far with graphic elements?
  • Soundtracks are huge for horror movies. How do you set the mood without this tool?
  • What’s the best way for a thriller writer to edge into writing horror?
  • How do you decide when to show the monster, and how does it change the story when that happens?

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

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Outline a story in which your character must choose to do something horrific.

I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson, narrated by Robertson Dean

11.19: Fashion for Writers, with Rebecca McKinney

How do we go about describing the clothing our characters are wearing? How do we use that to add depth to our story? What are the common mistakes that writers make when they start dressing their characters?

Rebecca McKinney joined us on stage at LTUE to address all this.

Liner Notes: We mentioned some resources for those wanting to get clothing right in their work:

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Describe the same outfit from two different point of view characters.

Bluescreen, by Dan Wells, narrated by Roxanne Hernandez

11.13: Elemental Idea Q&A

Shannon Hale joined us at LTUE 2016 to field questions about the Idea elemental genre. Here are the questions:

  • How do you keep an elemental idea story from feeling like you’re just waiting for the idea to “unlock.”
  • How do you tie your character motivations to the idea?
  • How do you know when you’ve satisfactorily explored the idea?
  • Are there elemental idea stories that you just need to give up on?
  • Is there such a thing as “idea clutter?”

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

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Pick your favorite idea from the brainstorming exercise, and then work your way forward, plotting out the consequences, and work your way backward, plotting the reasons.

The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale, narrated by Cynthia Bishop

11.09: Q&A on the Element of Wonder

Gama Ray Martinez joins us at LTUE to field questions on the Element of Wonder, which were submitted by members of our audience. Here are the questions:

  • How do you create wonder in non-genre stories, where there are no super-powers, spaceships, or spellcasters?
  • How do you avoid making the wonder stale?
  • Are there stages of wonder, similar to the stages of grief?
  • Does wonder come from the style of the prose, the pacing, or from other things?
  • How would you foreshadow wonder?

 

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Have a world-weary character, one who is not in awe, and find ways to help the reader experience wonder despite being in the POV of a character who is not.

Shadowguard, by Gama Ray Martinez, narrated by Adam Verner

Writing Excuses 10.51: Q&A on Showing Your Work, with Daniel José Older

Daniel José Older joins us for a Q&A on showing your work around. Here are the questions, which were submitted by attendees at the Out of Excuses workshop:

  • What’s the best way to meet editors and agents at conventions?
  • How do you write a good query letter?
  • What do you mention as credentials in your query letter?
  • You didn’t cover self publishing at all this month. Self publishing is legit, right?
  • Can you submit the same work to more than one agent or editor at a time?
  • Can you re-submit a revised work to an agent who previously rejected the piece?
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Write a query letter for a book that you love, but did not write. Then write a query letter for your own work.

Mystic, by Jason Denzel, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Excuses 10.47: Q&A on Revision

And now for your questions about revision. Or rather, questions from the WXR attendees, who were aboard the Independence of the Seas with us (the answers to these questions are secreted away in the audio file…):

  • During revision, when do you think it’s acceptable to throw the whole thing out?
  • How do you fit the whole structure in your head?
  • What do you find you most often need to add?
  • What do you do when your revisions have made things worse?
  • How do you avoid over-writing during the revision process?
  • When revising, how many passes do you make, and what order are they in?
  • Do you take the sounds of words into account when writing and revising?

This episode was engineered aboard The Independence of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered in a concrete bunker somewhere in the midwest by Alex Jackson.

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Read your piece aloud. The whole thing. Yes, THE WHOLE THING. Take notes while you do so.

Blindsight, by Peter Watts, narrated by T. Ryder Smith