Category Archives: Theory and Technique

17.39: Writing Bodies and Intimacy, with K.M. Szpara

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Dongwon Song, Piper J. Drake,  & Howard Tayler, with special guest K. M. Szpara

CONTENT WARNING: this episode is about adult acts and adult bodies, and we won’t be using euphemisms. 

K.M. Szpara joined us at WXR 2022 for this discussion of writing bodies and intimacy, with a particular focus on which kinds of words to use for things.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr. before a live audience aboard Liberty of the Seas. It was mastered by Alex Jackson.

 

Play

Write a scene in which a character is undressing, either alone or with others.

First Become Ashes, by K.M. Szpara

17.37: Science and Fiction—It’s Not Just Science Fiction

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Cady Coleman

The fictional side of science and the scientific side of fiction are part of the discipline of science communication, often called SciComm. In this episode Cady Coleman joins us to talk about how science fiction fits into the field of SciComm, and how the stories we tell can affect the people who read them.

Credits: This episode was recorded before a live audience by Rob Kowal, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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Find something you wish were real. Write a story in which it is.

For All Mankind (TV Series), on Apple TV

17.35: Nuances of Dialog

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler

We wrap up our eight-episode dialog master class with a discussion of nuance, which is difficult to describe in a blurb because it’s… well, nuanced. That may sound a bit recursive, but our discussion dives deep into the meta.

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

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Create a word list for each of your characters – words only they will use, and words they share.

Unfadeable, by Maurice Broaddus

17.34: Developing Subtext

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler

We begin this episode with a quick exploration of the terminology, and what we mean when we say “text,” “context,” and “subtext.” Subtext exists between text and context. It’s the information which isn’t actually in the text, but which we are able to divine based on the context. And in this episode we talk about how to use context and text to provide subtext to the reader.

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

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Grab a scene with dialog. Delete every third line of dialog, and then go back and try to use non-verbal cues to make the scene still make sense.

The Lies of the Ajungo, Moses Ose Utomi

17.33: Building Tension

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler

Tension! In this episode we discuss the ways dialog can build and/or maintain tension, especially when placed in context with the rest of the scene.

Liner Notes: A great article about tension for those who (like Howard) may need a solid working definition –Toward a general psychological model of tension and suspense

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

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Pick a moral compromise, and have a character explain why they made a questionable choice. Write four versions of the scene – the character explains it to a child, to their parent, to a law enforcement officer, and to an old friend.

Meru, by S.B. Divya

17.32: Everything is About Conflict

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler

Everything is about conflict? Really? Well, yes. Maybe not in the action-movie sense, but conflict is everywhere, even among people whose goals, objectives, and methodologies are in alignment. This, of course, means that it exists among your cast of characters, and it will inform the way the talk to one another.

Liner Notes: We mentioned this famous Monty Python sketch about wanting to have an argument.

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

Play

Write a scene in which two characters try to decide whether or not to commit a crime. One has done crimes before. One has not. Halfway through, reverse their positions on the matter.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (currently requires a subscription to Paramount+.)

17.31: Everyone Has an Agenda

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler

We’ve mentioned “area of intention” earlier in this dialog master class, but now the concept gets the spotlight. If all of your characters have their own agendas, their own areas of intention, then the dialog between them should reflect that.

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

Play

Identify the characters’ areas of intent. Remove all lines of dialog that don’t support that intent.

17.30: Know Your Characters

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maurice Broaddus, and Howard Tayler

How well do you know your characters? Sure, you might know their age, nationality, and perhaps wardrobe, but how well do you know their internal characteristics? Do you know them well enough that you can write dialog that sounds like them? In this episode we discuss how you might approach this problem.

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

Play

Write monologues in which your characters tell you about themselves.