Tag Archives: Elemental Genre

11.27: The Elemental Thriller

Let’s get this out of the way up front: in the syntax of elemental genres, the phrase “the element of thriller” is clunky. But we’ll say it anyway.

We discuss the difference between the drivers in thrillers, horror stories, and mysteries, and use the elemental genre tools to assist in the differentiation. We also cover the tools we use to develop and maintain the tension that is so critical in a thriller.

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

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Ramp up the tension! Take the “yes, but; no, and” approach on one of your try-fail cycles. Prune the “sequel” down to nothing between a pair of “scenes,” and force your characters to move directly from a problematic success (“yes, but”) or a disastrous failure (“no, and”) into the next crisis.

Patriot Games, by Tom Clancy, narrated by Scott Brick

11.26: Elemental Mystery Q&A

In this episode we field some questions about elemental mystery. Here they are!

  • How do you balance between two mysteries in the same story?
  • What types of mysteries can fit well as sub-plots?
  • What do you do when beta readers figure out the mystery really early?
  • In the MICE quotient, are mysteries all “Idea” stories?
  • How do you write a protagonist who is smarter than you are?
  • How do you make sure your genius protagonist is still experiencing an interesting struggle?
  • How do you make a kidnap victim more than just a MacGuffin?
  • How “literary” can you make your mystery?

Liner Notes: The movie Howard referred to is Cellular, with Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, and Jason Statham.

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

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Take a book or film that you enjoy, and write down every mystery you see.

I Am Princess X, by Cherie Priest, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

11.25: Elemental Mystery is Everywhere

Per our Elemental Genre theme, this week we further explore elemental mystery. Elemental mystery can be found in any work in which our curiosity is what keeps us turning pages. The type of satisfaction we feel at the reveal may also reveal the elemental genre in which the element of mystery has been embedded.

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

 

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Put a mystery into whatever it is you’re working on. Look at what your character knows they need, and then remove that knowledge. Force the character to figure out WHAT they need.

Thud, by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs

11.23: The Element of Mystery

Mystery may well be the most common element in use, at least in some form or another, across the many bookshelf genres comprising “fiction.” We discuss the driving force of elemental mystery, how to evoke those feelings in the reader, and the importance of being able to write mystery effectively.

Liner Notes: we mentioned Episode 7.10 in which Mary and Dan interviewed David Brin.

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

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Create a crime scene where you know what’s been done, and who has done it.  List the clues that would be present. Then begin removing the ones that characters would not notice. This becomes your framework for a mystery, which you’re essentially outlining in reverse.

Mrs Roosevelt’s Confidante, by Susan Elijah McNeil, narrated by Susan Duerden

11.21: Q&A on Elemental Horror, with Steve Diamond

Steve Diamond joins us for our third and final Elemental Horror episode as we field your questions about this particular building block. Here are the questions we selected from your submissions:

  • If I want to make peanut butter terrifying without being silly, how do I do that?
  • What is your personal line between horror and “gore-nography?”
  • How do you avoid going too far with graphic elements?
  • Soundtracks are huge for horror movies. How do you set the mood without this tool?
  • What’s the best way for a thriller writer to edge into writing horror?
  • How do you decide when to show the monster, and how does it change the story when that happens?

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

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Outline a story in which your character must choose to do something horrific.

I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson, narrated by Robertson Dean

11.20: Horror as a Subgenre

Steve Diamond joins us again to talk horror, this time about using elemental horror as part of our stories’ elemental ensemble. We discuss how the sense of dread can be a page-turning motivation, and how it can complement the other “keep on reading” motivations we set out to invoke.

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

 

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Write a scene twice: first, write it so that there’s humor, and then horror. Then write it so that the horror comes first, and the humor is last.

Swan Song, by Robert McCammon, narrated by Tom Stechshulte

11.18: Elemental Horror

Steve Diamond joins us to kick off our month on the elemental genre of horror. We explore the emotional components that readers seek from horror, and then drill down into the ways that we can create those reactions in our readers.

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

 

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Take one of your favorite triumphant moments from a something you’ve read or watched, and rewrite it so that this triumph is the false victory that makes everything worse.

Residue, by Steve Diamond, narrated by David Stifel

11.14: The Element of Adventure

We’ll be looking at the element of adventure in April. Our exploration begins with a description and definition of this element, and how it is discreet from other elemental genres.

The easiest way to describe it is that the element of adventure evokes “I want to DO that,” but obviously there’s a lot more to it.

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

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Take an expository scene, and set it during something exciting. Give us an adventure while the exposition happens.

Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey, narrated by Jefferson Mays