You’ve seen it done… “Zombie Apocalypse in Space.” “Perry Mason in the Armed Forces.” It’s genre blending, where the author takes themes prevalent in two different genres and combines them to create something new.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. We call down a few examples of both, and offer you listeners the sage advice you need to blend genres successfully. Summary: like the vegan barbecue chef, one of the secrets to your success lies in letting no-one know what that hamburger is made of. No, that metaphor is not in the podcast. I just thought of it now.
We finish with a discussion of the genres we’ve blended in our own work, and Brandon tells us about the science fiction story he’s decided to work on.
This episode of Writing Excuses is brought to you by XDM: X-Treme Dungeon Mastery. Pre-orders close this Wednesday!
Writing Prompt: Combine “Horror” and “Western” and don’t make it look like either one.
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What are dramatic breaks? We open this episode with Howard very genuinely playing Doctor Watson to Brandon’s Holmes, which is amusing because as it turns out, Howard uses dramatic breaks every day. Simply put they are the points in the narrative, typically at the end of a chapter, where we cut to another scene. Sometimes we are shifting perspective, sometimes we are advancing the clock, and sometimes we’re merely pausing to take a breath.
What are we looking for in a dramatic break? How do we identify the right place to cut away from one group of characters and focus on others? How do we avoid doing it the same way every time?
And so we discuss those stopping points and the starting points that follow them. We cover the flow of time and the flow of story. We talk about delivering satisfying installments. We even hang from a cliff or two.
This episode of Writing Excuses is brought to you by XDM: X-Treme Dungeon Mastery by Tracy & Curtis Hickman, illustrated by Howard Tayler. Autograph editions are now on pre-order!
Writing Prompt: Write a story in which Howard hates elephants and dramatically breaks one.
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Last week we recorded four episodes, but apparently they haven’t been dropped into the hopper for posting yet. I blame the long weekend and good barbecue. As soon as the file has been processed by Producer Jordo I’ll start writing it up and get ol’ 3.6 on the air for your edification.
Sorry for the delay! We here at Writing Excuses hope your Independence Day was enjoyable and your weekend long enough.
How do you take criticism? How do you react, if you even do react? Does criticism cause you to change the way you work? Criticism can come from your peers in a writing group, from editors sending you rejection letters, and from those one-star Amazon reviewers who are out there looking for something to hate.
In this episode we provide anecdotes from other authors including Patrick Rothfuss and Kevin J. Anderson, and share our own experiences about criticism we’ve gotten and how we’ve responded to it.
This episode of Writing Excuses is brought to you by XDM: X-Treme Dungeon Mastery, by Tracy and Curtis Hickman, and illustrated by Howard Tayler. Pre-orders for XDM open on Wednesday, July 1st.
Writing Prompt: Write a story about a critic who is the hero.
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Howard here… I’ve learned that it’s a really bad idea to run out for a bio-break between podcasts. When I returned to the packed panel room I could tell that everyone’s attitude towards me was subtly different. It wasn’t until we started recording that I realized Brandon had turned our Q&A panel into a “Stump Howard” panel. Our good friend Eric James Stone joined us for the fun.
As silly themes go, this one works well. So well, in fact, that we went six minutes into overtime. The questions were all good, and yes, according to the rules (of which I was not apprised, I should add in my defense) I got stumped one time. It was the question about making aliens seem alien. Go figure.
Writing Prompt: Start with a device that vaporises water, ala Batman Begins, and turn it into a believable superweapon which is not being used to destroy the world.
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This episode was recorded live at CONduit in Salt Lake City with special guest Aprilynne Pike. Our topic: How do we “keep it real” when writing speculative fiction? What does that even mean?
(Okay, it means making the stuff that exists in real life seem real.)
Short answer: Research. We talk about how we go about researching the “real” elements of our various works, all the while trying hard not to go “squee” with our very first #1 New York Times Bestelling guest. We also discuss many of the shortcuts and tricks we fall back on.
This week’s episode of Writing Excuses is brought to you by editor Stacy L. Whitman and her World-Building in Middle Grade and Young Adult Speculative Fiction Seminar. The seminar will be held at the Provo Library in Provo, Utah from 1:00pm to 5:00pm on Saturday, June 27th, 2009. The deadline for registration is June 19th.
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Don’t you just hate it when things unfold out of order? Why do writers do that?
We explain why they do it, and how they do it, and then we discuss how to avoid some common mistakes. Non-linear storytelling is inherently risky, after all. Maybe not as risky as jumping ahead two episodes in a non-serial podcast schedule, but it’s still life on the edge.
Writing Prompt: Write a story about a flashback that is completely false…
This week’s episode of Writing Excuses is brought to you by Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, now available in hardback from TOR.
(If you’re waiting for Episodes 2 and 3, we’ll flash back to them in due time…)
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Welcome to Season 3 of Writing Excuses! With eighteen hours and fourteen months of podcasting history behind us, it seems appropriate for us to talk about history, and how to write it.
We talk about the iceberg principle — 90% of the history stuff you write never gets seen by the reader, it’s just there to support the 10% that they do see, the “tip of the iceberg” — and why for some writers it’s just not the right ratio. We also discuss Worldbuilder’s Disease — none of the writing you’re doing is prose for the novel — and how to avoid it while still knuckling down and doing the work.
And then (after a shiny commercial break) we knuckle down and talk about writing history, making it interesting, finding conflict, and avoiding oversimplified causality (“monocausationalism.”)
Writing Prompt: Write an encyclopedia article about a war that has 5 distinct causes. Identify and justify each of them.
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