Category Archives: Theory and Technique

17.20: Basics of Ensemble Characterization

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida Cordova, Kaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

What’s the difference between an ensemble story, and a story the has a lot of characters in it? Zoraida Cordova joins us for this episode, kicking off an eight-episode mini-master-class about ensembles. In this episode we discuss what makes ensembles work, and how we distinguish the “pro-protagonist” from the “co-protagonist” as we create character arcs.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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Look at your pro-protagonist. Free-write a scene in which they’re applying for the job of being the protagonist in your story.

17.19: Working in a Collaborative Environment

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, and Megan Lloyd

Megan Lloyd returns to the podcast to talk us through the process of creating something in a collaborative environment, whether it’s a pair of authors working together, or a dozen people working to write, storyboard, and animate a television series.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Find a buddy. Pull up a story idea of yours, and talk it over with your buddy to find out where you should go next.

Arcane, on Netflix

17.18: How to be Funny, with Jody Lynn Nye

Your Hosts: Dan Wells and Brandon Sanderson, with special guest Jody Lynn Nye

So, you’ve decided you want something to be funny. How do you go about making that happen? Jody Lynn Nye joined Dan and Brandon at LTUE, and pitched this topic to them. And yes, it’s much more than just “delivery, delivery, delivery.”

Liner Notes: “It’s always more funny when Howard’s not here.” —Brandon Sanderson at LTUE 2022 (posted here for posterity)

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

 

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Take a scene that you’ve written, and re-write it to be funny.

View from the Imperium, by Jody Lynn Nye

17.16: Miscellaneous Structures

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

Thus far we’ve attempted to organize our discussion of sub-, micro-, and other alternative structures  with specific categories, but this domain is a lot larger than that. This final episode with our guest host Peng Shepherd has been titled “Miscellaneous Structures” because, y’know, sometimes the last bucket in your row of carefully, taxonomically-labeled buckets needs to be “miscellaneous.”

Liner Notes: Howard mentions “LTUE” during the episode. Hey, guess what! The next few episodes following this one were (will have been?) recorded at LTUE!

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Take the project you’re working on (or just an outline of it) and try to reframe it using one of the micro- or sub-structures we’ve discussed during the last eight episodes. Consider how it changes your work. What aspects of the story does it heighten, and what does it diminish?

Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries (defaced edition), by Howard Tayler

17.15: Storytelling in the Footnotes

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

You probably already know what footnotes are¹, but have you ever seen a story told through the footnotes²?  It’s similar to the story-within-a-story structure, but there’s more to it than that. In this episode our guest host Peng Shepherd explores footnote storytelling³ with us.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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¹ This is an example of a footnote.
² This is not an example of footnote storytelling.
³ With the addition of a third footnote, maaaybe there’s a beginning, middle, and end, and therefore a story?

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Read the short story “STET” by Sarah Gailey, then take a short story you like (or one which you wrote yourself) and try to add footnotes to it in a similar way; either to expand upon the story, or to deliver a twist or contradiction to the story told in the body of the text.

Molly on the Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal, illustrated by Diana Maya

17.14: Structuring for Disordered or Order-less Reading Order

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

Guest host Peng Shepherd leads our discussion of “order-less reading order” (after we get past the business of “having too much fun with the episode title”). But what do we even mean by “order-less” or “disordered?” At one level, we mean you can just pick up the story anywhere and start reading. Kind of like TV series prior to the advent of the fully serial series. But kind of unlike it, because how does this work within just one book?

Liner Notes: For good examples of non-order-dependent stories, consider schlockmercenary.com, The Lady Astronaut universe, DISCWORLD, Seventy Maxims (annotated),

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Look at your current work-in-progress. Are there pieces of backstory that you could unpack into a prequel? Can you shuffle your story events for orderless/disordered reading?

Crossings, by Alex Landragin

17.13: Structuring Around a Thing

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

Our exploration of sub- and micro-structures continues with guest host Peng Shepherd. This week we’re talking about how a story can be structured around a “thing.” The simplest explanatory example would be structuring around a map, which is where we start the episode… kind of like how The Lord of the Rings starts in The Shire.

This episode does not end with even one of us climbing a volcano.

Liner Notes: 

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Is there a “thing” in your project that could function as a natural structure?

The Flanders Panel, by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, translated by Margaret Jull Costa

17.12: Structuring a Story Within a Story

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

One common structure—both macro and micro—is the “story within a story,” or “framing story” structure, and yet somehow we’ve never really explored it on Writing Excuses. Guest host Peng Shepherd is here to help us set things right.

Liner Notes: Here are some examples of story-within-a-story structure…

  • Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
  • Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
  • Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
  • One Thousand and One Nights
  • Sun the Moon and the Stars, by Stephen Brust
  • Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Take or create an artifact within your current WIP, whether it’s a letter, a diary entry, an in-world almanac or spellbook, etc., and flesh it out for a chapter. See what it adds to your worldbuilding or plot.

Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke