Category Archives: Theory and Technique

14.23: Governments Large and Small

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab

What kinds of governmental systems do you live within? What kinds do you implement? Answering these questions can help you with the worldbuilding of political power structures. In this episode we’ll talk about all that. (Within our time limit, of course.)

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

 

 

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Come up with your own system along the lines of the “four estates” model common in the west.

A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine, narrated by Amy Landon

14.22: Characters out of Their Depth

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard

Sherlock Holmes has his Watson for a reason. Readers need a character to whom some things must be explained. In this episode we talk about how we create these gateway characters without delivering “maid and butler” dialog, or talking down to the reader.

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

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Pick something you haven’t read or watched before. Perhaps something you wouldn’t otherwise consume. Watch the first five minutes (or read the first five pages) with a note card at the ready. Write down the questions you have about the story. Then finish watching/reading, and see how (or if!) those questions were answered.

 

14.21: Writing The Other — Yes, You Can!

Your Hosts: Dan, Tempest, and Dongwon

The single most asked question we get on the subject of writing cultures other than our own is some variation on “can we even DO this anymore?”

Short answer: YES, YOU CAN.

Our objective with this episode is to encourage you to put in the work, do the research, and write outside of your culture or personal experience. At risk of sounding cliché, it’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

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Your homework is to show that you’ve done your homework. Make a list of the things you’re going to do (or have done) to properly research writing the other.

My Sister Rosa, by Justine Larbalestier, narrated by David Linsky

14.20: Allegory in Fiction

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard

What is an allegory, anyway? This episode probably won’t settle that question, but we did manage a discussion on how to use our stories to teach things, or be stand-ins for things, and to do it in the ways that allegories and/or parables might.

We talk about some famous allegories, some things whose authors insisted were not allegorical, and the possible pitfalls of didacticism.

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

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Take a famous fable and retell it as an allegory.

14.19: Religion and Ritual

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab

We often worldbuild religions and rituals for the stories we create. In this episode we discuss the decisions surrounding this, and our approaches for doing it well.

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

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Attend a meeting of religious or worship service which is not yours.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

14.18: Setting as Theme

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard

Theme is one of those high-falutin’ concepts we’re often reluctant to approach in a nuts-and-bolts sort of way. In this episode we’ll talk about how our themes can be communicated through elements of our settings, deepening reader engagement with the things we write.

We offer examples from our own work, and from things we’ve watched or read which have done this in ways that resonated well for us.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Rob Kimbro, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Pick a sensory thematic element, and make it recurring. Determine a reason for it to appear in each scene.

Babylon 5, by J. Michael Stracynski

14.17: It’s Like “Car Talk” meets “Welcome To Nightvale”

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Dongwon

This episode is about comp titles (comparative titles), which are those things you use to describe your project in terms of other works. We discuss the ones we’ve used (both successfully and unsuccessfully), and the criteria we use to come up with good ones.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Come up with six comp titles—three for existing projects, and three for projects you may want to write. May, in fact, need to write…

A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine

14.16: Your Setting is a Telegraph

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard

Your setting can quickly tell the reader what kind of a story they’re reading, and in this episode we’ll talk about how we make that happen. Think of it as the “establishing shot” principle from film making, expanded to cover whatever worldbuilding details we choose to reveal first.

Liner Notes: Here are the Schlock Mercenary Book 19 prologues Howard described, complete with the footnotes which make fun of prologues.

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

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Write an opening. You can start from scratch, or re-open something you’re already working on. Write a half page, and with three concrete details establish the tone. Now rewrite, keeping the dialog the same, and use different details to telegraph a different tone.

Terminal Alliance, by Jim Hines