Season 07 Archives

Writing Excuses 7.1 When Good Characters Go Bad

How do you take a good character and make them evil? And why would you want to do this? Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard answer that second question first, and then walk you through the process of doing this.

Come up with a list of three things that are important to your main character. Push one of those things out of alignment so that it will draw your character to the antagonist’s side.

Hard Magic, by Larry Correia, narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Writing Excuses 7.3: Fauna and Flora

Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard tackle worldbuilding flora and fauna again, this time through negative examples, pizza-trees, and a can of worms.

Populate Excustoria’s coast with some magically, meteorically mutated life.

Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card, narrated by Stefan Rudniki. It’s a fantastic example of well-constructed flora and fauna, and it’s also a good example of how to make a sequel almost completely unlike the book that came before it.

Writing Excuses 7.6: Behind the Marshmallow

In this particularly self-indulgent episode of Writing Excuses we take you behind the marshmallow. We explain the origins of the ‘cast, and offer you rare insight into what makes this show what it is. We talk about how the show evolved, how our equipment came to be “borrowed,” and how Mary came to be involved.

Give us a story with an old, colonial British type eating marshmallows. For extra points, set it in the Schlockiverse. (Note: no actual points will be awarded.)

Our stuff! Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson, Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, (and lots of things narrated by Mary), and Dan Wells’ John Cleaver trilogy.

Writing Excuses 7.9: Microcasting

Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard field questions from Twitter, including what to do if you don’t like your characters, keeping your plot on track, and how grounded in real geography your urban fantasy should be. There is also a question about bacon.

Write what one of your characters would write if that character had a blog.

One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Excuses 7.11: More Microcasting

Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard field seven questions in fifteen minutes and forty-two seconds: a new land-speed record!

Listener Bill Housely provided this one—a lone woman who runs an orbital refueling post makes first contact when some aliens arrive in desperate need of fuel.

Persuasion, by Jane Austen. Note that there are lots of available recordings. We recommend something unabridged, like the version linked here.

Writing Excuses 7.12: Writing the Omniscient Viewpoint

Brandon, Mary, and Howard talk about the strengths of the omniscient POV, how to use it well, and what pitfalls to avoid.

1) Stick an omniscient narrator scene in between two 3rd-person limited scenes. 2) Have two characters carry on a dialog which is out of sync with what each of them are thinking.

Acacia, by David Anthony Durham, narrated by  Dick Hill

Writing Excuses 7.14: Writing Excuses

Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard tell you all the reasons why you shouldn’t actually be writing, and why, especially at this time of the year, these writing excuses are so critically important to your career.

Write a series of 16 numerals. This is probably Jordo’s credit card number, or at least one of them (in one of the many universes where he is still allowed to use credit cards.) Go shopping! Oh, you’ll need the expiration date! It’s April 1st, 2012.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Dummies,  by Rob Wilson and Rhena Branch, narrated by Simon Slater

Writing Excuses 7.21: Project In Depth — Force Multiplication

Howard answers questions about “Force Multiplication,” (the 12th Schlock Mercenary book) as posed by Brandon, Dan, and Mary.

Do this with your own work—have your friends interview you in depth about something you’ve finished, or something you’re currently working on.

Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs

Writing Excuses 7.22: Microcasting

A microcast is our word for an asynchronous Q&A episode: you ask us tons of questions online, either through twitter or facebook or our listenermail account (on the sidebar), and we want to answer as many of them as we can. Not every answer can fill an entire episode, though, so we take the smaller … Continue reading Writing Excuses 7.22: Microcasting

Write a flashback, in a prologue, with a mirror scene. Yes.

Writing Excuses 7.23: Time Travel

Recorded live, our regular ‘casters discuss time travel, and somehow manage not to become any of their own parents, or even uncles.

You can only go back in time as far as your own life-span, but somebody needs to go back a hundred years. A team of 100-year-olds is assembled as time traveling heroes.

The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, narrated by Fred Berman and Phoebe Stole

Writing Excuses 7.25: Writing Capers

Capers and Heists as a plot form, with lots of movies cited as examples.

Your characters need to perform a reverse-heist, putting jewels into a safe without getting caught.

The Great Train Robbery, by Michael Crichton, narrated by Michael Cumpsty

Writing Excuses 7.26: Q&A at UVU part 2

Recorded live at Utah Valley University, here’s another Q&A episode from the LTUE Symposium! The questions: What was Brandon’s plan with Mistborn and the themes regarding establishment? Why does Kelsier shrug so much? (This leads into a fun discussion of “tells.”) How do you know when to stop a chapter? What about expanding it? How … Continue reading Writing Excuses 7.26: Q&A at UVU part 2

From Earl K. Hill, our cameraman: tell a whole story from the view of the sidekick.

Partials, by Dan Wells, narrated by Julia Whelan

Writing Excuses 7.27: The Problem of Originality

Do we value originality too much? What does it mean to be original, and how can we, as authors, write wonderful things when all of the good ideas have already been used?

Regarding riding mounted beasts — make the cost to the rider so high that it’s almost never worth it. Now create circumstances under which it’s always worth it.

Sharpe’s Rifles, by Bernard Cornwell, narrated by Frederick Davidson

Writing Excuses 7.29: The Villain Problem

What do you do when your villain is more interesting and engaging than your hero? The first step? Admit that this is a problem…

Take a hero and give him a hobby, and something alive that he loves.

Imager, the first book of the Imager Portfolio, by L.E. Modesitt Jr, narrated by William Dufris

Writing Excuses 7.31: Project in Depth — Hollow City

Spoilers galore as we discuss “Hollow City,” in depth, with author Dan Wells

Go find an interesting mental illness (quick, before Dan takes all the good ones.) Now write from the sufferer’s POV, but don’t tell us what’s actually wrong.

Sucks to be Me, by Kimberly Pauley, narrated by Nancy Wu

Writing Excuses 7.34: How to Start the Next One

Finishing one project means it’s time to start the next one. And no, it’s not necessarily going to get easier…

“The Hairy Housewife,” because Brandon didn’t hear Howard correctly the first time he said “harried.”

The Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant, wraps up with Blackout, and is a very satisfying example of a series that does something different with each book.

Writing Excuses 7.36: Writing Gaming Fiction with Monte Cook

RPG Luminary Monte Cook joins us at GenCon Indy 2012 to talk about writing for games, and the perils of trying to adapt game play back into prose.

For some reason one character is put into the body of another character.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon, narrated by David Colacci

Writing Excuses 7.35: Brainstorming with Dan

Dan needs help writing a short story, so Brandon, Mary, and Howard endeavor to help him. Hopefully this will be educational for the rest of you.

Google military three-letter-acronyms (IED and RPG are off-limits.) Swap out one of the words for a supernatural descriptor beginning with the same letter. That’s your story seed.

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, by John Scalzi, narrated by Wil Wheaton

Writing Excuses 7.37: Pantsing

Pantsing! What are we even talking about? We’re talking about discovery writing, but apparently some folks think it’s more fun to call it “seat-of-your-pants” writing. In this cast we cover this exhilarating process, and how it might best be applied. Mary uses the “yes-but, no-and” trick. Dan starts with an end in mind, and then … Continue reading Writing Excuses 7.37: Pantsing

Cheerful ruffians, civilized louts, yes-but, no-and, ready, set, go.

Existence, by David Brin, narrated by Kevin T. Collins, Robin Miles, and L. J. Ganser.

Writing Excuses 7.38: Writing Love Scenes

Shanna Germain joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard for a frank discussion of love scenes.

Put your characters in a place they cannot escape, and keep them there.

Shanna plugged “One Hot Summer,” but the actual title is One Long Hot Summer. It is not currently available Audible, but it’s available on Amazon at the link above. There are lots of OTHER things on Audible for you to listen to, including four titles featuring Shanna Germain.

Writing Excuses 7.39: Death

Killing characters for all the right reasons, and knowing what the wrong ones are.

Find a way to kill a character. Then write it in three ways: sad, heroic, and accidental. As an alternative, take a story you’ve already written, and write a different ending so that someone dies instead of living, or lives instead of dying.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, by Mignon Fogarty, narrated by the Grammar Girl herself

Writing Excuses 7.40: Writing the Other

Maurice Broaddus joins us to talk about “writing the other” — writing other cultures, races, genders — basically anybody who isn’t much like you.

You’re on a sidewalk late at night. You’re approached by three young, black males. Write the scene from their perspective. (Alternatively, simply jump off from “magical redneck,” but note that Maurice has already done that one.)

The House of Discarded Dreams, by Ekaterina Sedia, narrated by Robin Miles

Writing Excuses 7.44: Writing for Comics with Jim Zub

Jim Zub talks writing comics with Brandon, Howard, and Mary at GenCon Indy

Introduce a place without using dialog. Describe five panels for an artist to draw, so that the reader has been introduced to the location.

Swords and Deviltry: The Adventures of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, by Fritz Lieber, narrated by Jonathan Davis and Neil Gaiman

Writing Excuses 7.45: Microcasting

It’s microcasting time! This week we take a crack at the following listener questions: What percentage of a rough draft makes it into print? What are the pitfalls of jumping from novels to short fiction, and vice versa? Do you need to start with short fiction first? (This answer involves this link to Jim C. … Continue reading Writing Excuses 7.45: Microcasting

Write a story about a squid who’s trying to write a space opera which is not about squids in space.

Hellhole, by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert

Writing Excuses 7.47: Raising the Stakes

What are the things that matter to your characters? What things matter to your readers? After we get the obligatory ambiguity out of the way, we settle into talking about the “stakes” and the escalation thereof.

Raise the stakes without resorting to risks to reputation, livelihood, or mental health. Or explosions. Don’t use those, either.

Control Point: Shadow Ops, by Myke Cole, narrated by Corey Jackson

Writing Excuses 7.49: Beginnings Revisited

We’ve talked about where to start. Now Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard talk about how to start — what goes “in” when you’re going “in late, out early.”

Start a new story. Give us character, place, and sense of tone. Do it one sentence, and do it within 13 lines (which is what typically appears on the first page of a manuscript.)

The Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages, narrated by Julie Dretzen

Writing Excuses 7.53: Secret History

How is “Men in Black” like “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?” This week on Writing Excuses we talk about Secret History, and how to do it well.

Take a popular piece of entertainment, grab a side-character, and give us their secret story.

A Short Stay in Hell, by Stephen L. Peck, narrated by Sergei Burbank