Category Archives: Theory and Technique

17.29: The Job of Dialogue

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

We’re back with Maurice Broaddus for the second in our eight-episode mini-master-class on writing dialogue. This time around we’re addressing the question of dialogue’s “job.” What’s it for? Why is this particular bit of dialogue in this scene, this chapter, this book?

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

Play

Identify your authorial intent. Remove all lines of dialog that don’t support that intent.

The Murder of Mr. Wickham, by Claudia Gray

17.28: Keys to Writing Dialog

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

Writer, teacher, and community organizer Maurice Broaddus joins us for an eight-episode mini-master-class on writing dialogue. In this episode he walks us through his three keys: pay attention to how people speak, write in a way that evokes how they speak, and write dialogue that makes individual characters distinctive.

Liner Notes: We mention Descript transcription software in this episode. Here’s a link!

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

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Record (with permission!) a conversation of at least 15 minutes. Transcribe it.

Sweep of Stars, by Maurice Broaddus

17.27: Ensembles Behind the Scenes

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

In this, our final “ensemble masterclass” episode, we discuss the nuts-and-bolts, the tips and tricks, the tools of the trade. In short, we talk very specifically about how we do it. Color-coded sticky notes, index cards, spreadsheets, and more…

Liner Notes: Howard’s guest story for Dave Kellet’s DRIVE compendium is now running online! It’s called “History and Haberdashery.

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

Play

Color-code your outline, and see if it’s helpful.

Into the Dark, by Claudia Gray

17.26: Hanging Separately

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

Our episode title comes to us across two and a half centuries:
“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” —Benjamin Franklin
We’ve already established that you’re planning to write an ensemble. This isn’t an episode about the pros and cons of ensembles. No, we’re here to talk about how an ensemble story can go wrong, leaving the characters to hang separately rather than hanging together.

Liner Notes: It happened again! We referenced the Ty Franck/Daniel Abraham episode, which we recorded at GenCon Indy several years ago, and again we can’t find a link to it.

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

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Pick an ensemble story that failed for you. Find its failure mode, and write down the ways in which you’d fix it.

The Expanse (TV series, Amazon Prime)

17.25: Archetypes, Ensembles, and Expectations

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

We’ve talked about making every member of the ensemble meaningful. In this episode we’re discussing who, in archetype terms, everybody is. How can archetypes help us get started, how can they help us set reader expectations, and what are the archetype-related pitfalls we need to avoid? And finally, is ‘archetype’ even the correct term here?

Liner Notes: Here’s the “Black Superheroes with Electrical Powers” article.

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

Play

Identify the archetypes of each character in your work-in-progress. Change that archetype or give them a sub-archetype, to try to branch out and create rounder, unexpected characters.

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

17.24: Ensembles and Genre

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

This week we’re talking about how our genre choice influences the structure of our ensemble. How is a heist ensemble different from a superhero team? What happens when the superheroes need to do a heist?

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

Play

Imagine your work-in-progress as a different genre. How would your cast or ensemble need to change?

Slow Horses (Apple TV)

17.23: Are We Stronger Together?

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

Sometimes we have to look at our ensemble of characters and ask ourselves what kind of story we’re trying to tell? If the story works with a single protagonist and one POV, maybe this isn’t an ensemble story after all. If, however, the plot requires a team effort from the heroes, then we need to make sure the necessary team members make it onto the page.

Liner Notes: The “I’m the tin dog” moment is from Doctor Who, S2 E3, “School Reunion.” Mickey is speaking. Howard couldn’t remember Mickey’s name because sometimes Howard is the tin dog.

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

Play

Create a “connection” map for your characters that establishes what all the characters’ relationships are. Include at least one challenge in their relationship, and one way the relationship enhances each character.

17.22: Establishing the Ensemble

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Zoraida CordovaKaela Rivera, and Howard Tayler

Every character in your ensemble needs to matter to the team, or they probably don’t belong in the ensemble. Zoraida Cordova leads us into this discussion of how we build our ensembles, how we introduce the characters, and how we ensure that all of them are important to the group.

Liner Notes: The article about Superman’s very first line of dialog is here.

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

Play

Pick an ensemble work that you like. Identify each member of the ensemble and why they are important, and what they bring to the story.

Ghost Station, by Dan Wells