Category Archives: Theory and Technique

13.43: Characters Who Are Smarter Than You Are

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

Many of us write characters who know more than we know, and/or who think faster than we do. Writing those characters is tricky. In this episode we talk about our own tricks, and the tricks we’ve seen others use.

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

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Time is your friend. Write a solution to one of your characters’ problems off the top of your head. Spend a week thinking about it and researching it. During that week write down all the new solutions that come to you. Compile the entire set of solutions and review them to see just how good a friend time can be.

13.42: Writing Excuses Talks to an Astronaut, with Special Guest Kjell Lindgren

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with special space-guest Kjell Lindgren

Kjell Lindgren, flight surgeon, Expedition 44/45, joined us for an episode that perhaps should have been called “we ask the space-man all of the things.” We asked him stuff that we wanted to know more about, and came away richer for the experience.

If there’s just one technical term worth bringing home from this episode, it’s “expeditionary behavior.” It’s the sort of thing that can make us all richer for the experience.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Benjamin Hewett at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and mastered by Alex Jackson at Writing Excuses Mission Control in Chicago.

BONUS: NASA invited us back to be on THEIR show, Houston We Have a Podcast, and that episode went live about three days before this did. More Kjell Lindgren!

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“I’m doing the Zero Gravity Giraffe” — Howard Tayler (Howard would like to point out that this is not the technical term you should bring home from this episode.)

R is for Rocket, by Ray Bradbury

13.41: Fixing Character Problems, Part II

Your Hosts: Brandon, Amal, Mary, and Maurice

This is the second of our pair of episodes in which we talk about how we, your hosts, fix the problems we’ve identified with the characters in our work.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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Take a character in one of your stories and split them into two characters. Take two characters from another of your stories, and combine them into one.

The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander

13.40: Fixing Character Problems, Part I

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

This is the first of two episodes in which we’ll talk about how we, your hosts, fix the problems we’ve identified with the characters in our work.

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

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Take your very favorite character that you’ve created, and write a couple of scenes in which you break them by writing them wrong.

Heroine Complex, by Sarah Kuhn

13.39: What Writers Get Wrong, With Wendy Tolliver

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard, with special guest Wendy Tolliver

Wendy skis, and snowboards, and  writes YA novels. She is also the parent of three, one of whom suffers from mental illness. She joined us to talk about how writers can do a better job of depicting it, and how to avoid the pitfalls and the harmful cliches.

Credits: This episode was recorded live at Salt Lake Fan X by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Pick a mental disorder that you think pop culture has informed you about. Study up on it. Then write a scene in which that disorder informs the character’s behavior without actually naming the disorder.

 

Life Inside My Mind, by Maureen Johnson, Robison Wells, Wendy Tolliver, and 28 others.

13.38: How to Find and Use Alpha Readers

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard

We begin by making a useful distinction between alpha and beta reader: the alpha reader is an industry professional, while the beta reader is a stand-in for the eventual audience of readers. We then set about discussing how to find alpha readers, and how to employ them in order to make your work better.

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

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Take something you’ve written to a targeted beta reader.