Tag Archives: Worldbuilding

Writing Excuses 5.35: Brainstorming Urban Fantasy

Okay, let’s have some fun. Not that we weren’t having fun for the previous 150+ episodes, mind you. But this is extra-fun.

Brandon, Dan, and Howard take the urban fantasy writing prompt about big-box stores and decide to brainstorm a story out of it. When we begin this ‘cast all we have is the prompt.

Then we brainstorm, plowing through setting, character, conflict, and story.

By the end of the ‘cast we’re ready to make a pitch to an editor and sell the book.

Okay, maybe not. But the book is totally ready for us to sit down and write. Or, better yet, for YOU to sit down and write.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Kitty and the Midnight Hour, by Carrie Vaughn, narrated by Marguerite Gavin

Writing Prompt: Take what we’ve done in this ‘cast and try to come up with a plot and an ending. Alternatively, take the list of competition films from the most recent Sundance Film Festival and pick six that are somehow part of a Fey plot.

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Writing Excuses 5.34: Story Bibles

Let’s talk about bibles. Specifically, story bibles. What are they, why do we use them, why might we NOT use them, and what tools are working for us?

Howard again plugs wikidpad, which he converted Brandon to, and which Dan Wells just couldn’t bring himself to love. Dan uses several different Open Office files. The important thing, though, is that when we need to store information about the book in someplace besides the book itself, we write it down in our story bibles.

Dan talks about his new project, how important the story bible was for that, and what sorts of things absolutely have to go in there. Howard talks about the sorts of Schlock-tech that often end up

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Freakonomics, by Steven D. Leavitt and Stephen J. Dubner, narrated by Stephen J. Dubner.

Writing Prompt: Someone is a were-animal. Pick an animal that hasn’t been done. Were-banana-slug, perhaps?

9:40 through 10:10: Yes, we went kind of quiet there. Somebody kicked a cable, maybe?

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Writing Excuses 5.23: Life Day!

Mary Robinette Kowal and Dave Wolverton again join Dan and Howard, and this time we’re talking about holidays in fantasy and science-fiction. This ‘cast was recorded at Superstars Writing Seminars, and  Moses Siregar III of Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing captured us on video as we recorded.

What sorts of things result in holidays? Historically we see them at the solstices and the equinoxes, planting and harvest, and commemorations of important events. We talk about all of these, and how to work them into your own writing without sounding like you’re just filing the serial numbers off of Christmas, Halloween, and Mardi Gras.

So of course we also talk about how to do this wrong.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: METAtropolis: Cascadia, by Jay Lake, Mary Robinette Kowal, Elizabeth Bear, Ken Scholes, Karl Schroeder, and Tobias Buckell, and narrated by Rene Auberjonois, Kate Mulgrew, Wil Wheaton, Gates McFadden, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, and Jay Lake.

Writing Prompt: Make up a holiday that isn’t based on anything you’ve seen.

Exclamation Howard Thought He’d Never Use: Bone Puppet Day!

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Writing Excuses 5.15: Steampunk with Scott Westerfeld

Brandon and Howard are again joined by Scott Westerfeld, again in a boomy room in the Provo Library, this time for a discussion of steampunk.

What is steampunk? Basically, it’s Victorian-era science-fiction as written by non-Victorian-era writers. Why do we write it? We talk about the way it lets authors bend some science-fiction rules, and how the sensibilities of an era a sesquicentury past inform the plot, prose, characters, and (of course) setting.

How does one go about writing steampunk? Scott offers some advice on the approach, from idea synthesis to world-building,. His books Leviathan and Behemoth are both great examples of the genre, though they might fit the “diesel-punk” label a little better.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld, narrated by Alan Cumming.

Writing Prompt: It’s 1912, and Nikola Tesla is the President of the United States…

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Writing Excuses 4.30: Worldbuilding the Future

Let’s build THE FUTURE! [cue dramatic music]

The Writing Excuses crew explores another angle on the massively multifaceted gem of a topic known as “worldbuilding.” We’ve touched on governments, religions, and magic systems in the past. This time we’re looking at a more exclusively science-fictional aspect of worldbuilding: extrapolating a future setting from what we know about the present.

We start with Howard explaining why and how he went about it all wrong, and then managed to salvage it in spite of that. We move on to strategies for doing this sort of future prediction, and how to employ them in concert to worldbuild underneath your next novel. Strategies include “worst-case scenario,” “best-case scenario,” “the human factor,” and “what’s cool?”

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Empire of the East, by Fred Saberhagen

Writing Prompt: “were-cuttlefish,” courtesy of Dan Wells.

Courtesy of Howard Tayler: those popping noises made by (we assume) the were-cuttlefish.

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Writing Excuses 4.21: Writing Practical Fantasy

Coming to you “live” from CONduit, Writing Excuses is pleased to welcome fantasy superstar L.E. Modesitt (plus a slightly different Howard, by which we mean that Howard was out of town and replaced by Dan’s brother Rob).

Our topic for this episode is “practicality,” which is another way of saying “fantasy and science fiction may be unrealistic, but they should still be plausible within your definition of reality.” In other words, if you have an army of 1000 armored knights, you’d better have an economy and political system capable of producing and supporting them.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Imager by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., about a mage so powerful anything he thinks can become reality.

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Writing Excuses 4.15: Visual Components of Storytelling

Isaac Stewart, the interior artist for the Mistborn books, joins Brandon and Howard for a discussion of the visual elements in our work, and how to make them cohere. We talk about the yellow ball-on-a-stick fiddly-bits in the Schlockiverse, and how they unify the hi-tech of that world. We talk about all the symbols Isaac drew as he tried to conveny with the visual sensibilities of the Mistborn world. And we explain how these and other examples of art and design unify the worlds we build and the stories we tell.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, narrated by Wil Wheaton and Kate Reading.

Writing Prompt: Sketch out a starship, with interesting features, and then work those features into your story.

Additional Plug, Just Because We Can: We mentioned XDM: X-Treme Dungeon Mastery, by Tracy and Curtis Hickman. You can get it here, at Amazon, or at any hobby and game store.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.

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Writing Excuses 4.14: Brainstorming Science Ideas

Our last brainstorming ‘cast was so well-received we decided to do another one. This time we grabbed articles from a New Scientist article called “13 More Things We Don’t Understand.”

Dark flow, hybrid life, the bloop, the lithium problem, the nocebo effect, and  noise from the edge of the universe all lead us to interesting places and other universes, and we get visits from dishonest serial killers, the Space Goat, and Cthulhu.

If any of these ideas strike your fancy and you manage to successfully sell a novel, congratulations! We don’t want a cut, but a mention in your acknowledgements page would be nice.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Noble House, by James Clavell

Writing Prompt: Start with the noise from the edge of the universe” article and brainstorm a good story.

Thing to Not Do, Lest We Were Not Clear Enough There At The End: Do not actually commit nor advocate the commission of suicide no matter how depressing your discovery about the nature of the universe may be.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.

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