Category Archives: Theory and Technique

13.52: Working Dad is a Spaceman

Your Hosts: Howard, Mary, and Dan, with NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn.

Last week’s episode may have sounded like the last one for 2018, but that’s an artifact of December having five Sundays rather than four. Fifth Sundays are our “wildcards,” and something wild seems like a nice way to round out the year.

Tom Marshburn, who is both spaceman and parent, talks to us about what it’s like to be both.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Ben Hewett, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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The 3D sense of space’s blackness meets Type I, Type II, and Type III fun

13.51: Wrap-up on the Year of Character

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard

We decided to wrap up this year on character by letting Brandon ask us some deep questions. “We decided” might be the wrong phrase, because nobody except Brandon knew what the questions were, so it might be more accurate to say “we rolled with it.”

It rolled quite nicely.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson. It was posted to the web by Howard, who is also the one who didn’t post until twenty-eight hours and twenty-minutes after he should have. 

 

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No homework. No prompt. But, y’know, if you want to flip through the homework you’ve done this year and consider what you’ve improved at, and where you might need more practice, that would be awesome.

13.50: What Writers Get Wrong, with Zoraida Córdova

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Zoraida Córdova

Zoraida Córdova, an award-winning author of urban fantasy, was born in Ecuador and grew up in Queens. She joins us to talk about what writers get wrong (and what they can get right and do well) when portraying latinas in the United States.

Credits: This episode was recorded live at FanX Salt Lake (formerly “Salt Lake Comic-Con”) by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson

Liner Notes: 

  • The comic book Howard referenced is Guardians of Infinity #3, (2016), which features a back-up story entitled “Yo Soy Groot.”
  • Peggy Whitson is the astronaut Mary referenced. As of this writing, she holds the record for longest single spaceflight by an American. 

 

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A challenge! Find (and read) books written by Ecuadoran authors. Then make one of your own secondary characters be from Ecuador.

Labyrinth Lost, by Zoraida Córdova

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 by Alex Jackson.

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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.)

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 put on those paths, and how those paths might be shaped.

We also talk about characters who walk perilous paths and emerge unscathed (sometimes thanks less to their pluck and wit, and more due to plot armor.)

Liner Notes:“The Worshipful Society of Glovers” can be found here at Uncanny Magazine .

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

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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)

13.47: 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 interest in a character who is largely inactive?
  • How do you write interesting bad guys when your only POV characters are the good guys?
  • How do you give meaningful challenges to a powerful character?
  • How can you make a normal, everyday character interesting?
  • How do you edit an existing manuscript to give characters interests which mesh with the plot?

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

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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)