Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, and Dan, with Kjell Lindgren
Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t yet read The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel, by Mary Robinette Kowal, you may wish to rectify that prior to listening.
In this episode we go into great depth on Mary’s novel with the expert technical help of NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who was one of Mary’s consulting readers. Like most of our project-in-depth episodes this one runs long. Longer still because we were at JSC in Houston, which was incredibly cool for all of us, so nobody was watching the clock.
Liner Notes: The reference to “Type 2” fun comes from an as-yet-unpublished episode. Type 1 fun is fun in the moment. Type 2 fun is fun to talk about later. Maybe much, much later.
Credits: This episode was recorded by Benjamin Hewett, and mastered by Alex Jackson
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 31:22 — 21.6MB)
Take something you’ve already written, and write a prequel set forty years or so earlier.
If you haven’t read Mary’s latest novel, Of Noble Family, this episode contains many spoilers, and you’ll get a lot more out of the discussion if you read the book (or listen to the book) before listening.
Of Noble Family is set in Mary’s Glamourist Histories universe, an alternate history setting, on the island of Antigua. Our discussion focuses primarily upon the research that Mary did, and the way she tested and then applied that research to the story. This includes how the research touched on the magic system of the Glamourist Histories, and how linguistic and cultural differences might affect the use of Glamour.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 30:43 — 21.1MB)
Take something common, an activity or object that you’re familiar with, and then have a character describe it to someone who has a completely different frame of reference.
If you haven’t yet read “Parallel Perspectives,” from Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, we have a PDF for you to download and read before you start listening to this episode. It’s a 33mb file in a public DropBox folder.
Parallel Perspectives PDF for Writing Excuses listeners
Got the file? Done reading? Okay, let’s go…
This week is a Project in Depth episode focusing on a 13-page graphic story (“comic book”) found at the end of Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, and our focus this week will be story structure. It’s fun, because the process of structuring a bonus story begins much differently than most projects, and the structure was laid in support of a four-creator collaboration.
The creators? Howard Tayler, Brenda Hickey, Travis Walton, and Keliana Tayler.
(If you’d like your own hard-copy of Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, you can get it from Amazon.com or directly from the publisher.)
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 20:23 — 14.0MB)
Next month we’re going to talk Beginnings: decide on the promises you want to make to your readers in your story. Then outline according to those promises.
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.
Spoiler alert! We’re going to talk in depth about The Emperor’s Soul, which just came out, and if you haven’t yet read it but want to, we’d rather not spoil it for you. The e-book is available here.
Brandon talks to us about the origin of the magic system, and why he decided it fit well for setting in the same world as Elantris. He also talks to us about the way in which he arrived at the ending, and how the ending grew very naturally from the early stages of defining the character.
We have fun comparing Howard’s interpretation of a story point with what Brandon actually intended, and Mary talks about the structural changes made between the draft she read and the final version, a change that perfectly fulfills the definition of killing a darling. And on the subject of darlings, Dan asks about the fight sequence, and whether that really needed to be part of the story. Then we talk about some darlings Brandon opted to NOT kill.
Audiobook Freebie (limited time only): Legion by Brandon Sanderson, narrated by Oliver Wyman
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 23:17 — 16.0MB)
Come up with a magic system based on stamps, but that has nothing to do with forgery.
It’s time for our fourth “Project in Depth” episode, and now Dan Wells is on the spot. The Hollow City is Dan’s latest book, and while it’s not a new John Cleaver book, it’s still a supernatural thriller with a tight psychological focus.
Spoilers galore, of course. If you haven’t read The Hollow City yet, go read it before listening to this episode.
Dan’s New Twitter Handle: Per Howard’s suggestion, @JohnCleaver has been retired in favor of @TheDanWells.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 21:35 — 14.8MB)
Go find an interesting mental illness (quick, before Dan takes all the good ones.) Now write from the sufferer’s POV, but don’t tell us what’s actually wrong.
There are a lot of things that Our Very Own Brandon Sanderson can get away with. In The Way of Kings, he gets away with not just one, but TWO prologues. In this ‘cast Mary, Dan, and Howard get to grill Brandon about his opening epic, The Way of Kings.
This is the second entry in our “Project in Depth” series in which three of the cast members gang up on the fourth and ask them all about one of their books.
We get answers about the prelude/prologue decision, the extremism of the setting, and lots of information about why this book needed three different major character POVs. Brandon talks in detail about some of the character problems he encountered with Dalinar in the early drafts of the book. If anything, this part of the discussion points up the importance of a good re-write.
Finally, Brandon talks about his naming conventions.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 23:24 — 16.1MB)
Take a character of yours, and split that character into a character and a foil.