Tag Archives: Elemental Genre

11.42: Elemental Drama as a Sub-Genre

Focusing on elemental drama can be tricky. Remember, elemental drama is basically “character change.” A great many stories use character change in some way—it’s almost ubiquitous. In this episode we’ll pick at the ubiquity, and look at the many different ways in which character change can be featured, and what sort of tools we have at our disposal to make this happen in our stories.

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Take two scenes, each with a different conflict—a logistical one, and an emotional one—and blend them into a single scene.

Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal, narrated by the author. In two weeks, Episode 11.44 will be a Project In Depth on this book, so if you want to do the homework, now’s a good time to start.

11.40: Elemental Drama

The word “drama” gets thrown around a lot. What do we mean when we use “drama” as an elemental genre? For us, Elemental Drama focuses on one character’s transformation, and how that transformation affects everyone around them.

This is a narrow definition of the word, but it’s a very useful way to look at books where the character journey is what has us turning pages. We talk about the tools we use to write these stories, and what kinds of things might trip us up.

Credits: this episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Let’s foreshadow the failure state: look at something you’ve recently written, and then go back and insert a character who represents the failure state that your protagonist must avoid.

Ink and Ashes, by  Valynne E. Maetani

11.39: Elemental Relationship Q&A, with Greg van Eekhout

Greg van Eekhout joined us at Phoenix Comic Con for a live-audience Q&A session about Elemental Relationship writing. Here are the questions:

  • What is your favorite way to establish relationships?
  • How do you recover when a relationship starts to feel forced?
  • How do you show a “best friend” relationship?
  • How do you decide the pacing of the romance?
  • Do you try to make the nature of character relationships clear, or do you leave it to subtext?
  • How do you go about writing transsexual relationships?
  • What are your favorite relationships to write?
  • How do I write the beginning of a relationship between characters the reader has not yet really met?
  • How do you transform love into hate, and vice-versa?
  • When writing a love triangle, how do you avoid telegraphing the final resolution?
  • Do you have recommendations for books that focus on familial friend relationships rather than romance?

Credits: this episode was recorded live at Phoenix Comic-Con by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Identify something about your location that would provide, in an alternate universe, a source of magic unavailable in other locations.

California Bones, by Greg VanEekhout

11.38: The Elemental Relationship as a Sub-Genre

We find the elemental relationship in all kinds of stories that are not fundamentally about relationships. The intimate interaction between characters is part of how we define the characters, how we understand who they are as they go on to do the stuff that the story is about.

In this episode we’ll talk about how to apply the principles of relationship writing to stories whose page-turning impetus comes from somewhere else.

Credits: this episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Take your notes from the rom-com homework two weeks ago, and build a different relationship onto those beats.

And I Darken, by Kiersten White, narrated by Fiona Hardingham

11.36: The Elemental Relationship

In elemental relationship stories the primary page-turning driver is the relationship between two or three characters ¹. In this episode we discuss ways in which we can write character relationships—parent/child, buddy-cop, romance, and more—to be compelling.

Credits: this episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson


¹We’re differentiating “Relationship” from “Ensemble” because in our elemental genre model the elemental ensemble story is quite a bit different from the elemental relationship.

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Grab a romantic comedy of some kind. Watch it, and take notes of the things that define their relationship, and how it progresses.

11.32: The Element of Humor

“Talking about humor is the least funny thing you can do.” —Howard Tayler

You have been warned! and with that out of the way…

What is the driving force that gets readers to turn pages in a book that is primarily a work of humor? More importantly, how do we as writers get that driver into our books? We cover this, and provide some starting points for writers seeking to improve their humor writing, along with a bunch of neat techniques, and (as apparent from the liner notes) a long example for deconstruction.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 

Liner Notes: here are the lyrics we cited from “Love is Strange” (Galavant). We’ve added superscript numbers from the Rule of Three exercise.

¹Love is strange,
And sometimes kind of gross¹
It’s embarrassingly gassy²
And it leaves its dirty underwear
In piles around the place³

²Love is rude, it has a sort of smell¹
And it thinks that you don’t notice²
And it blurts out things
That make you want to smack its stupid face³

³And it’s awkward and confusing¹
It annoys you half to death²
Then it grins that dopey grin
And you can’t catch your breath³

The full song is available here, for $1.29 (link provided out of courtesy to the original artists whose work we deconstructed for educational purposes.)

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Get a funny book, and highlight or underline appearances of the rule of three, and comic drops.

Death by Cliché, by Robert J. Defendi

 

11.30: Elemental Thriller Q&A

We fielded the following questions about the “Thriller” elemental genre from listeners on Facebook and Twitter:

  • How do I build tension consistently through my story?
  • How do you maintain tension during dialog?
  • When do you not use a cliffhanger?
  • Do you ever picture your scenes as if they were in a movie?
  • How much elemental thriller is too much for a book that isn’t a thriller? What’s the tipping point where you’ve switched genres?
  • What do you do when the tension in your story peaks too early?

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

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Sit down with your manuscript or outline, and in the margins, add notes about the emotions you’re trying to evoke with each scene, and where in the scene it’s supposed to happen. This list of notes is your “beat chart,” and it’s going to teach you neat things about your story.

Javelin Rain, by Myke Cole, narrated by Korey Jackson

11.29: Elemental Thriller as a Subgenre

Thrillers are, by their very nature, page-turners. In this episode we look at the thriller element as part of a story whose principal driver is one of the other elemental genres. We consider some examples of blended-with-thrill stories, and then drill down a bit and look at how we can incorporate this in our own work.

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

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Practice your cliffhangers! Experiment with the placement of chapter breaks, new questions, and big reveals, and work on each of these methods as a way to satisfactorily encourage that page turn.

Planetfall by Emma Newman, narrated by Emma Newman