Tag Archives: Master Class

17.13: Structuring Around a Thing

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

Our exploration of sub- and micro-structures continues with guest host Peng Shepherd. This week we’re talking about how a story can be structured around a “thing.” The simplest explanatory example would be structuring around a map, which is where we start the episode… kind of like how The Lord of the Rings starts in The Shire.

This episode does not end with even one of us climbing a volcano.

Liner Notes: 

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

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Is there a “thing” in your project that could function as a natural structure?

The Flanders Panel, by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, translated by Margaret Jull Costa

17.11: Structuring with Multiple Timelines

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

Guest host Peng Shepherd continues to lead our exploration of sub- and micro-structures by taking us into the scaffolding of in media res, flashbacks, and other tools for structuring a story by telling it out of chronological order. We also cover how to do this without breaking the flow of the story.

Liner Notes: The “trousers of time” book Howard referenced was Jingo, by Terry Pratchett.

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

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Consider what adding a second timeline to your current WIP would enhance about the story. Which characters’ motivations might be better illuminated, or which plot points or mysteries might be able to be given additional depth?

The Cartographers, by Peng Shepherd

17.10: Structuring with Multiple POVs

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

In our second micro-structure episode, Peng Shepherd leads us into an exploration of the ways in which the use of multiple point-of-view characters can create a framework within the larger framework of the story.

Liner Notes: In one example we contrasted the single POV Killing Floor, by Lee Childs with its multiple-POV TV adaptation in season 1 of Reacher.

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

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Write a scene in your current WIP from another character’s POV and see what changes,  like how the tone of the scene shifts, or what new emotions or information are revealed.

Meet Me In Another Life, by Catriona Silvey

17.9: Let’s Talk About Structure

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Peng Shepherd, and Howard Tayler

We’re beginning another eight-episode deep-dive series, and this time it’s a fresh approach to story structure, led by our guest host Peng Shepherd.

Join us as we zoom right through the overarching frameworks defined via things like the Hero’s Journey, Freytag’s Triangle, Save The Cat, and Seven Point Story Structure  to look at the microstructures  which both define and obscure these general narrative shapes.

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

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Pick a favorite book with an interesting structure. Can you identify how the author’s chosen structure enhances the tension, plot, and/or character development of the story?

16.51: Promises are a Structure

Your Hosts: Howard Tayler, Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd

Our next 8-episode intensive is all about promises and expectations. Our guest hosts are Kaela Rivera, Sandra Tayler, and Megan Lloyd. They’re joining us to talk about how the promises we make to our audiences, and the expectations they bring with them, are a structural format. In this episode we introduce the topic, and talk about some apex examples of success and failure in this area.

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

Liner Notes: Here’s the story of The Tropicana Packaging Redesign Failure

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Consider your newest “favorite thing,” whether it be a restaurant, a film, a TV series, a novel, a podcast, a webcomic, a computer game, or whatever. Ask yourself what promises were made to you by this thing, why you believed the promises would be kept, and how they were (or were not) kept. Write all this down.

The Monster at the End of This Book, by Jon Stone, and illustrated by Mike Smollin

16.35: What is the M.I.C.E. Quotient?

Your Hosts: Dan Wells, C.L. Polk, Charlotte Forfieh, and Mary Robinette Kowal

The next eight episodes are a deep dive into the M.I.C.E. Quotient, so we’ll begin with a definition. M.I.C.E. is an organizational tool which categorizes story elements as Milieu, Inquiry, Character, or Event. It helps authors know which elements are in play, and how to work with these elements effectively.

Obviously there’s a lot more to M.I.C.E. than that, and in this episode we’ll lay it out in a way that makes the subsequent seven M.I.C.E.-related episodes much easier to navigate.

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

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Seriously… watch The Wizard of Oz, and take notes. Track the M.I.C.E. elements, and how they nest in the story at every scale.

The Wizard of Oz (the 1939 film)

16.30: First Page Fundamentals—THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

Your Hosts: DongWon Song, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler

In this episode we explore the first page of The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson, with the goal of learning how to build  good first pages for own own work.

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

Liner Notes: here is the 1st paragraph of The Haunting of Hill House, for reference.

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against the hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

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Write an introduction to your book that is purely description. No action. No dialogue.

Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

16.26: Working With Teams

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette Kowal, Cassandra Khaw, Dan Wells, James L. Sutter, and Howard Tayler

Our series of game writing episodes draws to a close with a discussion about working with teams. This last skill set, these ways in which you learn to excel at collaborative projects, is often far more important than any of your other skills.

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

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Spend some time brainstorming a game idea with a friend. Try to draw out and explore their best ideas, and encourage them to suggest changes to your own, to make sure you’re both contributing equally.

Heart: The City Beneath RPG, by Grant Howitt & Christopher Taylor