Season Archives

16.37: Deep Dive Into “Inquiry”

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. Polk, Charlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal Our third M.I.C.E. Quotient episode asks about the “Inquiry” element, and the ways in which we can use this element to structure our stories—whether we’re writing murder mysteries, thrillers, or anything else in which the turning of pages asks and eventually answers questions. Credits: This episode was … Continue reading 16.37: Deep Dive Into “Inquiry”

Use the same fairy tale as last week, and strip out every element that is not Inquiry.

Even Though I Knew the End, by C.L. Polk (a noir fantasy novella available in 2022)

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

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)

16.34: Novels Are Layer Cakes

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler Novels deliver a lot of information, and it’s helpful to consider that delivery in terms of layers. Novels are layer cakes, and we’re not talking about a three-layer birthday cake. We’re talking about a dobosh torte, or a mille crepe cake. And if we’ve … Continue reading 16.34: Novels Are Layer Cakes

Remove your entire 1st scene from your draft. Rewrite it from scratch, using the tools we’ve covered in the last eight episodes. Once you’ve done that, revise it by highlighting the elements readers really need to know, and then put all of those ideas into a single paragraph.

Legend, by Marie Lu

16.33: Tell, Don’t Show

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler Few pieces of writing advice get repeated as much as that old saw “show, don’t tell.” We’re here to show tell you that it’s not only not universally applicable, much of the time it’s wrong¹. Tell, don’t show, especially in the early pages of … Continue reading 16.33: Tell, Don’t Show

Rewrite your whole first scene as narration. See what parts work better and what doesn’t work. Keep the better bits, and work them into the next draft.

Jade City, by Fonda Lee

16.32: First Page Fundamentals—THE KILLING FLOOR, by Lee Childs

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler In this episode we explore the first page of The Killing Floor, by Lee Childs, with the goal of learning how to build  good first pages for own own work. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: … Continue reading 16.32: First Page Fundamentals—THE KILLING FLOOR, by Lee Childs

Ghost Station, by Dan Wells

Write an introduction that focuses on the character’s view of the world

16.31: First Page Fundamentals—MOBY DICK

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler In this episode we explore the first page of Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, with the goal of learning how to build  good first pages for own own work. Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson Liner Notes: here … Continue reading 16.31: First Page Fundamentals—MOBY DICK

Homework: Write an introduction that is purely internal to the character’s mental state.

16.29: Building Trust

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler How do we build trust with our readers? What does that even mean? In this episode we discuss ways in which we let our readers know what they can expect from the book they’re holding, and how we set about getting the to trust … Continue reading 16.29: Building Trust

Write down every character in your first chapter on an index card. Write each character’s wants and needs? Ask yourself what stakes can be put on screen now.

The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
NOTE: We’ll be talking about the first page of this book next week, so you may want to add at least page one of this book to your homework.

16.28: Common First-Page Mistakes

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler Let’s have a frank, and possibly painful discussion about the ways in which the first page can go wrong. It may seem like hackneyed writing advice, but rules like “don’t start with the main character waking up” are rules for a reason.  In this … Continue reading 16.28: Common First-Page Mistakes

Have a look at the first page of your work-in-progress, and look for clichéd mistakes.

The First Line (literary magazine)