Season 13 Archives

13.1: Hero, Protagonist, Main Character

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard 2018 is our Year of Character, and we kick it off with a quick exploration of the differences between heroes, protagonists, and main characters. Beginning with addressing the question “wait, aren’t they all the same person?” Because that’s the elephant in the room. Or maybe it’s three elephants. Or … Continue reading 13.1: Hero, Protagonist, Main Character

Tell a story with three characters—hero, protagonist, and main character. Tell it three times, once for each of those in which they are the POV character.

Emerald Circus, by Jane Yolen

13.2: Writing Active Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice This week we welcome Amal El-Mohtar and Maurice Broaddus to the Writing Excuses cast for a discussion of active characters. We cover characters who move stories forward, who make decisions that influence plot-critical events, and whose actions draw the reader into the book. Liner Notes: you’ll be hearing … Continue reading 13.2: Writing Active Characters

Find a 1st-person poem, and write it in the 3rd person POV. Perhaps even rewrite it as a scene, or a story.

Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (from the anthology Starlit Wood, and appearing here courtesy of Uncanny Magazine)

13.3: What Writers Get Wrong, with Aliette de Bodard

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard This year’s third-week episodes will all follow a common theme: “what writers get wrong.” Each of these episodes will feature an expert guest who will help us understand what writers get wrong about something in which they have expertise. Aliette de Bodard will be co-hosting several of these week-three episodes, … Continue reading 13.3: What Writers Get Wrong, with Aliette de Bodard

List the subject matter experts in your life. Make checks next to their names this year as you speak with them about their expertise (it’s like a to-do list.)

The House of Shattered Wings (Book 1 of Dominion of The Fallen), by Aliette de Bodard

13.4: Protagonists Who Aren’t Sympathetic

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard This week we’re joined by Valynne Maetani, who’ll be one of our hosts all year. We’re discussing protagonists who, per writer intent, do not engender audience sympathy. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

Write a likable character, but write them in such a way that the reader does not want them to succeed.

13.5: Villain, Antagonist, Obstacle

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard What’s the difference between villains and antagonists? How is an obstacle character different from those other two? How are they alike? And most importantly, how can we use this information to write effective opposition to our heroes, protagonists, and main characters? Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan … Continue reading 13.5: Villain, Antagonist, Obstacle

Your main character is facing one each: an obstruction, an antagonist, and a villain…

Active Memory, by Dan Wells

13.6: External Conflicts for Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice An external conflict is a story driver that originates outside the protagonist. In this episode a large part of what we’ll focus on is person-vs-environment as opposed to person-vs-person. PvE rather than PvP, if you will. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson, both of whom understand … Continue reading 13.6: External Conflicts for Characters

“Break Things” – start the character’s story, and then have things begin going wrong. Don’t fix any of it. Just keep making things worse. 

“El is a Spaceship Melody,” by Maurice Broaddus 

13.8: Making Characters Distinctive

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard What do we do to make our characters distinctive? Often we categorize the distinctions as flaws or quirks, and in this discussion we use those as our starting points. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 

Who are the five people you know best? Make a list of their distinctions, as if they were characters in a story you’re writing.

Ink and Ashes, by Valynne E. Maetani

13.9: Quick Characterization

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard How do you go about defining a character for your readers when you don’t have many words to devote to the project? What are the tricks for quickly establishing someone’s individuality within your story? Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 

Consider the silhouette test, and then create a list of words that will let you apply it to your characters.

Brimstone, by Cherie Priest

13.10: Handling a Large Cast

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice What are our favorite techniques for managing large casts of characters, and how do our processes differ from when we’re writing small casts? What does “large” and “small” mean for us? Liner Notes: No, Howard was not in the room. Yes, despite his absence, he was wearing both trousers and … Continue reading 13.10: Handling a Large Cast

Talking Heads! Write a scene between a married couple who has met at a coffee shop unexpectedly—neither of them are supposed to be there. Don’t use dialog tags.

Steal the Stars, by Mac Rogers, narrated as an audioplay with a full cast

13.11: Writing Secondary Characters, with Charlaine Harris

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Charlaine Harris Charlaine Harris joined us in front of a live audience at the GenCon Writers Symposium to talk with us about secondary characters—why they’re so important, why they can be difficult to write well, and how she brings her secondary characters to life without … Continue reading 13.11: Writing Secondary Characters, with Charlaine Harris

Take something you’ve already written. Make your protagonist a secondary character, and make a secondary character your protagonist. Tell a new story with them in those roles.

Grave Sight, by Charlaine Harris, narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan

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

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

13.13: Character Voice

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard Character voice, the flow, order, and feel of words that is unique to a particular character, is extremely useful in defining characters for the reader. In this episode we discuss our tools for shaping character voices, and the ways in which we make sure each one unique. Liner Notes: … Continue reading 13.13: Character Voice

Rewrite an existing bit of text using three different POVs: An eighty-year old, a twelve-year-old, and someone from a foreign country.

Defy the Stars by Claudia Grey

13.14: Character Nuance

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice Let’s talk about characters who have conflict built right into them; characters whose attributes and attitudes might seem to contradict one another; characters who like, y’know… actual people. (And let’s talk about how to write them.)

Play with The Sorting Hat Chats, and sort yourself. There’s no quiz. You’ll have to do some reading in order to figure out how you fit in.

Buffalo Soldier, by Maurice Broaddus

13.15: What Writers Get Wrong, with Mike Stop Continues

Recorded live at WXR 2017. Your Hosts: Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard, with special guest Mike Stop Continues Mike has multiple areas of expertise, but for this episode he’s talking to us specifically about the things that writers get wrong about being a gay man. Credits: This episode was recorded live by Bert Grimm, and … Continue reading 13.15: What Writers Get Wrong, with Mike Stop Continues

Change the sexual identity of a character in a scene of yours.

Underworld, by Mike Stop Continues

13.16: Avoiding Flat Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard For our purposes, the term “flat character” refers to a character who lacks the depth required to maintain reader interest. In this episode we discuss how to avoid putting flat characters front-and-center in our writing, and how we go about fixing manuscripts that have flat character problems.

Take a flat character from media you’ve consumed and write a backstory to make them less flat.

Artemis, by Andy Weir

13.17: What Writers Get Wrong, with Jamahl Crouch

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with Jamahl Crouch Jamahl Crouch (Illusmm1 on Instagram) joined us at the GenCon Indy Writers Symposium to talk about what writers get wrong about street art. Jamahl is many things, and one of those is “street artist.” We discuss the differences between graffiti and street art, where things like commissioned … Continue reading 13.17: What Writers Get Wrong, with Jamahl Crouch

Go watch The Get Down (available on Netflix)

Have a look at Jamal’s art on Instagram! Illusmm1

13.18: Naturally Revealing Character Motivation

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard What motivates us? What really motivates us? Why? (Note: our motivations are probably not in service of some overarching plot.) How can we use this information to believably motivate characters? Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson

Take a character motivation and express it via free indirect speech. Now take something that has been expressed via free indirect speech and unpack it into the narrative.

The Ten Cent Plague, by David Hajdu, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki

13.19: Backstories

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice Character backstories: these are the tales that describe how the characters in your story became who they are by the time they arrive in the book. How much backstory needs to be written before you start in on the manuscript? How much needs to be in the manuscript … Continue reading 13.19: Backstories

Write a flashbacks scene that reveals a key bit of a character’s backstory. Then reveal the same bit of backstory in a scene where the character describes the events to someone else.

Racing the Dark. by Alaya Dawn Johnson

13.20: Fear and Writing, with Emma Newman

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard, with special guest Emma Newman Emma Newman, author, audio book narrator, and podcaster, joined us on the Baltic sea for WXR 2017, where, six days after a brilliant presentation on overcoming fear, she recorded a session with us on the same topic. The class was just that good. … Continue reading 13.20: Fear and Writing, with Emma Newman

Read “The Listeners” by Walter de la Mare (it’s just 250 words). Now write the backstory.

After Atlas, by Emma Newman

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 … Continue reading 13.21: Q&A on Character Depth and Motivation

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

13.22: Character Arcs

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard When Mary says we could do fifteen different episodes on character arcs, she’s being conservative. Notwithstanding, we set out to talk meaningfully about character arcs in one episode rather than in fifteen (or fifty.) We look at the shapes of these arcs, how they progress in our narratives, … Continue reading 13.22: Character Arcs

Let’s apply DREAM to plotting a sideways character arc in which a character changes, but the change is neither triumphant nor tragic.

13.23: Internal Conflicts

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice Internal conflicts, simply put, are problems your characters have with themselves. In this episode we address the ways in which writers can build stories and subplots around internal conflicts, and how we can tell when it’s not working. Notes: the MICE quotient is Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event. Mary’s … Continue reading 13.23: Internal Conflicts

Use the Role, Relationship, Status, and Competence axes to define one of your characters. Then determine how each of these creates conflict with the one following it in the list.

An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon

13.24: What Writers Get Wrong, with Piper, Aliette, and Wesley, with special guest Ken Liu

Your Hosts: Piper Drake, Aliette de Bodard, and Wesley Chu, with special guest Ken Liu Our hosts for this episode are experts in a great many different things. One thing that they have in common is that they’re all members of the Asian Disapora, and in this episode we’ll learn what kinds of things writers get … Continue reading 13.24: What Writers Get Wrong, with Piper, Aliette, and Wesley, with special guest Ken Liu

Read China Men, by Maxine Hong Kingston

13.25: Our Journey With Character

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard Brandon wanted to ask us how our perspectives on character have changed since the very beginning of our writing. It’s a difficult question to answer, and a very soulful sort of thing to answer in front of other people. So Brandon went first while the rest of us racked … Continue reading 13.25: Our Journey With Character

Describe your journey with character to someone else.

My Lady Jane, by Brodie Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows

13.26: Character Relationships

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard Our characters become far more interesting when they begin interacting with each other. These interactions—these relationships—are often how our stories get told. In this episode we explore ways in which we can fine tune relationships in service of our stories. The tools include the Kowal Relationship Axes (Mind, … Continue reading 13.26: Character Relationships

Apply the relationship axes to a pair of your characters.

The Calculating Stars, and The Fated Skyby Mary Robinette Kowal

13.27: Characters as Foils

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice A foil is a character who serves as a contrast to another character. The foil might be a sidekick, an antagonist, a romantic interest, or really any other character who gets enough focus for the contrast to be useful. In this episode we talk about foils, offering examples, … Continue reading 13.27: Characters as Foils

Add a foil to a Shakespearean soliloquy. Alternatively, remove the foil from a famous comedy routine.

Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight Before NASA, by Amy Shira Teitel, narrated by Laurence Bouvard

Also, “Girl Hours,” a poem by Sofia Samatar

13.28: What Writers Get Wrong, with Wildstyle

At GenCon Indy 2017 we were joined by Wildstyle (@MrWildstyle on Twitter), who wears many hats, and many of the hats he wears are donned in service of producing hip-hop. One of the most interesting revelations (especially for Howard, whose background in audio engineering predates MP3 technology by half a decade) was just how many … Continue reading 13.28: What Writers Get Wrong, with Wildstyle

Watch the James Brown bio-pic, Get On Up, starring Chadwick Boseman. Listen to some hip-hop music.

Eastern Conference,” by Pope Adrian Blessed, Ares, and Wildstyle (link will autoplay at Soundcloud. Lyrics are flagged as [explicit])

13.29: Iconic Heroes

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard The term “iconic hero” allows us to differentiate between different kinds of heroes who appear in series. Nancy Drew and Conan the Barbarian are iconic, but Leia Organa and Aragorn are epic. In this episode we discuss how (and why) to go about writing a hero with no … Continue reading 13.29: Iconic Heroes

Explore iconic heroes by plotting out an Indiana Jones movie.

Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie

13.30: Project in Depth, THE CALCULATING STARS, with Kjell Lindgren

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, and Dan, with Kjell Lindgren Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t yet read The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel, by Mary Robinette Kowal, you may wish to rectify that prior to listening. In this episode we go into great depth on Mary’s novel with the expert technical help of NASA astronaut … Continue reading 13.30: Project in Depth, THE CALCULATING STARS, with Kjell Lindgren

Take something you’ve already written, and write a prequel set forty years or so earlier.

13.31: Learning to Listen as a Writer

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard “Write what you know” gets misapplied a lot. In this episode we’ll talk about how to know things by listening well. In particular, we’re looking at writing interesting characters by listening to real people. We also talk about the more formal act of interviewing people¹, and how to … Continue reading 13.31: Learning to Listen as a Writer

Interview some people! Find someone you don’t know, and then interview them, with a goal of learning something new.

Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer To Retrain Your Brain, by Stephen J Dubner and Steven D Leavitt, narrated by Stephen J. Dubner

13.32: How To Handle Weighty Topics

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice How can we, as writers, best handle weighty matters? This is our year on character, so we’ll approach this with a focus on character creation, depiction, and dialog? This topic is, in and of itself, weighty. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex … Continue reading 13.32: How To Handle Weighty Topics

Write a scene in which a person who is part of a group you have written about about is reading what you wrote.

Voice of Martyrs, by Maurice Broaddus

13.33: Reading Outside the Box

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard, with Kristie Claxton Kristie Claxton joined us at WXR 2017 to talk about reading outside of the spaces where we’re comfortable and familiar. Specifically, we focused on how to learn about people who are not you by reading stories by and about them. Credits: This episode was recorded … Continue reading 13.33: Reading Outside the Box

Who are you? Answer that, and then go on to read  things by and about people who are not you.

Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone, by G.S. Denning, narrated by Robert Garson

13.b1: Bonus Episode — Elephants and Death, with Lawrence Schoen

Your Hosts: Howard and Dan, with special guest Lawrence Schoen Lawrence Schoen, clinical psychologist, cognitive hypnotist, small press publisher, Klingon language expert, and novelist, joined us at GenCon Indy for a bonus episode about elephants and death. Howard and Lawrence both write uplifted elephants into their stories, and their stories also feature death as a … Continue reading 13.b1: Bonus Episode — Elephants and Death, with Lawrence Schoen

Come up with a method for immortality, and then convince your protagonist not to use it.

Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard, by Lawrence Schoen, narrated by J.G. Hertzler

13.34: Q&A on Character Arcs

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard You had questions. We came up with answers. The questions are below: How do you fulfill promises about character arcs without being cliché? How do you subvert character tropes without betraying the reader? Do you need to complete each character arc in a single story featuring multiple characters? … Continue reading 13.34: Q&A on Character Arcs

Trace the skyline of a mountain.  Treat that line, with its ups and downs, as the narrative curve for a character arc.

Fat Angie, by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo, narrated by Angela Dawe

13.35: Cliché vs. Archetype

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard Tropes, archetypes, and even cliches are tools in our toolboxes. There’s no avoiding them, but there are definitely ways to use them incorrectly. In this episode we’ll talk about how we shake off our fear of using tropes through understanding how they work. Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan … Continue reading 13.35: Cliché vs. Archetype

Set a timer for 30 minutes.

SET THAT TIMER. 

With your life-jacket securely fastened, you may now go to tvtropes.com  and follow a trope like “boy meets girl” down the rabbit hole. Follow links. Dive deeply. When the timer goes off, close the page immediately. If you need a palate-cleanser, try watching “You Just Don’t Get It, Do You?

About eight months after we recorded this episode, Brandon pulled The Apocalypse Guard back from the publisher. We’ll update this link with more recent information soon.

13.36: Confronting the Default

Your Hosts: Brandon, Amal, Mary, and Maurice If you live in the northern hemisphere, inland, perhaps above the 40th parallel, you are probably quite sure that there are four distinct seasons. There are, however, many, many people for whom “seasons” are things that happen to other people. This is the conflict between your default and … Continue reading 13.36: Confronting the Default

Think about a bird. What makes it a bird? Write down five simple characteristics which make birds birdy for you. Now research birds and find birds that don’t fit your template.

13.37: What Writers Get Wrong, with J.Y. Yang

Your Hosts: Dan, Mary, Aliette, and Howard with special guest J.Y. Yang J.Y. Yang is a Hugo-nominated short story writer from Singapore who identifies as non-binary. They joined us to talk about this non-binary identification, and how writers can do a better job of depicting it (beyond simply using non-gendered pronouns.) Credits: This episode was … Continue reading 13.37: What Writers Get Wrong, with J.Y. Yang

Your homework: do some research! Read works by the nonbinary writers Rose Lemberg and A. Merc Rustad.

The Black Tides of Heaven, and The Red Threads of Fortune, by J.Y. Yang.
(Note: We didn’t mention the third book in the Tensorate series, but The Descent of Monsters is also available now)

13.38: How to Find and Use Alpha Readers

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard We begin by making a useful distinction between alpha and beta reader: the alpha reader is an industry professional, while the beta reader is a stand-in for the eventual audience of readers. We then set about discussing how to find alpha readers, and how to employ them in … Continue reading 13.38: How to Find and Use Alpha Readers

Take something you’ve written to a targeted beta reader.

13.39: What Writers Get Wrong, With Wendy Tolliver

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Wendy Tolliver Wendy skis, and snowboards, and  writes YA novels. She is also the parent of three, one of whom suffers from mental illness. She joined us to talk about how writers can do a better job of depicting it, and how to avoid the … Continue reading 13.39: What Writers Get Wrong, With Wendy Tolliver

Pick a mental disorder that you think pop culture has informed you about. Study up on it. Then write a scene in which that disorder informs the character’s behavior without actually naming the disorder.

 

Life Inside My Mind, by Maureen Johnson, Robison Wells, Wendy Tolliver, and 28 others.

13.40: Fixing Character Problems, Part I

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard This is the first of two episodes in which we’ll talk about how we, your hosts, fix the problems we’ve identified with the characters in our work. Credits: this episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson

Take your very favorite character that you’ve created, and write a couple of scenes in which you break them by writing them wrong.

Heroine Complex, by Sarah Kuhn

13.41: Fixing Character Problems, Part II

Your Hosts: Brandon, Amal, Mary, and Maurice This is the second of our pair of episodes in which we talk about how we, your hosts, fix the problems we’ve identified with the characters in our work. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

Take a character in one of your stories and split them into two characters. Take two characters from another of your stories, and combine them into one.

The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander

13.42: Writing Excuses Talks to an Astronaut, with Special Guest Kjell Lindgren

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with special space-guest Kjell Lindgren Kjell Lindgren, flight surgeon, Expedition 44/45, joined us for an episode that perhaps should have been called “we ask the space-man all of the things.” We asked him stuff that we wanted to know more about, and came away richer for the experience. If … Continue reading 13.42: Writing Excuses Talks to an Astronaut, with Special Guest Kjell Lindgren

“I’m doing the Zero Gravity Giraffe” — Howard Tayler (Howard would like to point out that this is not the technical term you should bring home from this episode.)

R is for Rocket, by Ray Bradbury

13.43: Characters Who Are Smarter Than You Are

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Amal Many of us write characters who know more than we know, and/or who think faster than we do. Writing those characters is tricky. In this episode we talk about our own tricks, and the tricks we’ve seen others use. Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, … Continue reading 13.43: Characters Who Are Smarter Than You Are

Time is your friend. Write a solution to one of your characters’ problems off the top of your head. Spend a week thinking about it and researching it. During that week write down all the new solutions that come to you. Compile the entire set of solutions and review them to see just how good a friend time can be.

13.44: Alien Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard As writers of speculative fiction we are frequently tasked with writing a species or race of alien people. In this episode we talk about some of the tricks we use to create non-human characters in ways that make them both comprehensible and compelling, and the pitfalls we … Continue reading 13.44: Alien Characters

Look up doge-speak. Take those grammar rules and apply them to dialog from one of your characters.

The Blood Rose Rebellion, by Rosalind Eaves

Love is Never Still,” by Rachel Swirsky

NaNoWriMo 2018 Mini-Episode 2

Your Mini-Episode Hosts: Amal El-Mohtar and Maurice Broaddus, with Special Asides from Mary Robinette Kowal We’re a week in to NaNoWriMo. If you’re scared of it, Amal is here to tell you that it’s okay to feel that way, Maurice is here with the encouraging words “consequence-free.”

Relax! The “rules” of NaNoWriMo are not YOUR rules. If there’s a way you like to write, write that way!

13.45: Next Level Narration

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Amal, and Maurice Narration is that stuff which tells your story, but isn’t dialog. It’s the voice of your narrator, and it might be multiple voices depending on how you’re handling point of view. In this episode we’ll talk about the things you can do to challenge yourself and level … Continue reading 13.45: Next Level Narration

Write a scene from several points of view. Each of these characters are experiencing the same scene differently, and some of them are lying about it.

The Usual Suspects, by Maurice Broaddus
(NOTE: currently available for preorder. Between the time this episode was recorded and its air date the book’s publication date got pushed into May of 2019)

13.46: The Unsexy Side of Space, with Bart Smith and Ben Hewett

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, and Dan, with special guests Bart Smith and Ben Hewett When we talk about space travel we’re usually talking about rocket scientists and astronauts. In this episode we spoke with our guests Bart Smith and Ben Hewett, about the “unsexy” (read: possibly boring but don’t be deceived) side of the … Continue reading 13.46: The Unsexy Side of Space, with Bart Smith and Ben Hewett

Write a story in which a budget analyst and a procurement intern save the day

The Martian, by Andy Weir, about which we have gushed repeatedly

13.47: Q&A on Fixing Characters

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard You had questions about fixing character problems. We had had answers! Here are the questions: How do you fix character voices when you find out that two of them are too similar? How can you tell if a character is, in fact, the problem? How do you maintain … Continue reading 13.47: Q&A on Fixing Characters

Cheeto McFlair: Who are they, and why are they asking questions of the Writing Excuses team?

Myths and Monsters, narrated by Nicholas Day (currently available on Netflix)

13.48: Character Death and Plot Armor

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard The characters we create are not all destined for long lives. Sure, some are, but a great many of them are on paths that will end in an abrupt fatality of one kind or another, and in this episode we’ll talk about how we choose which characters to … Continue reading 13.48: Character Death and Plot Armor

An SF/F conceit in which death is looks exactly like death to the people to whom it’s not happening, but is actually a transformation for the person experiencing it.

Random Access Memorabilia, written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, with colors by Travis Walton
(available to read free online beginning here)

13.49: How to Finish

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Amal, and Maurice Last week we talked about character death. This week we talk about other, less fatal ways in which a character story can be finished, and how we, as writers, can tell when we’re done with a character arc. Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered … Continue reading 13.49: How to Finish

You’re about to cut into a cake… and it speaks.
(Note: the phrase “the cake is alive” might qualify as “low-hanging fruit.”)

This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El Mohtar and Max Gladstone
(note: Between the time we recorded and the time this episode aired the publication date was pushed back. The novel is, however, available for pre-order.)