Tag Archives: Mystery

Writing Excuses 10.19: Intrigue

What’s the difference between intrigue, suspense, and mystery? We answer this (it comes down to reader knowledge vs character knowledge), and then talk about what makes intrigue useful as a tool for any story, and how to use it without falling back on idiot character plots, or simply withholding information from the reader.

Intrigue is also its own genre, with spy stories and political intrigue stories fitting into this space. We talk a bit about how those stories work, and how they’re built.

Upcoming Homework: We’ll be doing a Project-In-Depth on Mary’s new book, Of Noble Family, in two weeks (episode 10.21, airing on May 24th.) To get the most out of that episode without having anything spoiled, pick up a copy now and start reading!

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Write dialog in which each of the speakers has a different subtext and motive. Without explicitly stating those, try and make them clear to the reader.

A Spy in the House: The Agency 1, by Y.S. Lee, narrated by Justine Eyre

Writing Excuses 10.13: Where is My Story Going?

Any discussion of story structure must necessarily take a look at that big, long bit between the beginning and the end, that piece where almost everything actually happens. In this episode we talk about the middles of stories, and how formulaic structures will help you get them to do all of the things that you need for them to do, and this can be done without the story feeling formulaic.

We got things a bit out of order here — this was supposed to be the SECOND episode of March, rather than the fifth. When Brandon says “two weeks ago” he means “four weeks ago.” Sorry for the confusion.

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Your writing exercise: Take the reverse engineered outline from a month ago, and move a side plot to the main plot.

Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson, narrated by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading

Writing Excuses 9.43: Writing Mysteries

Live from Westercon 67 and Fantasy Con, Mette Ivie Harrison and J.R. Johannson join us to talk about writing for the mystery genre. We begin by talking about the key differences between thrillers and mysteries, and then move into how this understanding can drive our story structures. We discuss how characters with arcs and iconic characters drive different types of stories, and how each of us go about building these kinds of things.

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Write a mystery in which you explain where Howard was during this recording session.

The Ghosts of Belfast, by Stuart Neville,  narrated by Gerard Doyle

Writing Excuses 8.24: Project in Depth–Kiss Me Twice

Mary’s story “Kiss Me Twice,” is a murder mystery featuring an artificial intelligence using Mae West as an avatar. It appeared on the ballot for the 2012 Hugo Awards in the Best Novella category (our early discussion to the contrary, we totally did NOT air this episode in time for 2012 Hugo voting. Yes, we recorded this episode a full year prior to airing it.)

Mary walks us through the process of creating the story, and then cutting it down from novel-length to the novella-length at which it currently appears, as well as a bunch of the work that went into creating a compelling, character-driven mystery with an A.I. as a critical character. We also get a fun “what-if” argument as the cast talks about what we liked best about the story, and how we’d change it if it got bigger.

Public Service Announcement: Voting is now open for the 2013 Hugos. The ballot can be seen here. If you purchase, or have already purchased, a membership to LoneStarCon 3, you are eligible to vote on the 2013 Hugos, and will have access to the entire Hugo Voting Packet — a collection of all nominated works. Voting closes on July 31st. (Obligatory disclaimer: Brandon and Howard are on the ballot in the Novella and Graphic Story categories, respectively, and Writing Excuses Season 7 is on the ballot in the Best Related Work category.)

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Pick your favorite actor or actress, gather your favorite quotes from them in their films, and string them together in a single character’s voice in a new context.

Empire State, by Adam Christopher, narrated by Phil Gigante

Writing Excuses 6.26: Mystery Plotting

Let’s talk mystery! Specifically, how do you plot a good mystery? We’re not focusing on the mystery genre but many of these principles will apply there. For fantasy and science-fiction work this usually means creating plots or sub-plots in which the main experience for the reader is one of discovery or revelation, rather than anticipation.

Tools we discuss include the presentation of clues, unreliable character (and narrator) viewpoints, and how to offer the reader multiple plausible explanations prior to the big reveal. Howard talks about the plotting of the next Schlock Mercenary book, Random Access Memorabilia, and Dan tells us a little about his next book, Partials. Both titles have a mystery and a reveal, while neither is a whodunit.

Special Audible Sponsor: Neil Gaiman has teamed up with Audible and the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), personally selecting several of his favorite books and producing them with some of his favorite narrators. Check out “Neil Gaiman Presents” at Audible for a list of titles and the reasons why Neil selected these books.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Snuff, by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs.

Writing Prompt: Write your way backwards into a puzzle-box mystery. The answer is that someone’s soul is in the box — now reverse-engineer the plot so that the presence of a soul in the box is surprising yet inevitable.

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