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

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: I Am Princess X, by Cherie Priest, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

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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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Writing Prompt: 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.

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

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11.24: Stakes!

We talk a lot about “raising the stakes” in our writing. When we say “stakes,” we’re referring to the things that keep our characters involved in the conflict, rather than just walking away and doing something else. We dig into what this really means, and how everyone in the story must be driven by things that they have at stake.

Liner Notes: in this episode we refer to the three character-development “sliders” model set forth in WX 9.13.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 

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Writing Prompt: An object, a character, and a genre. Look to your left and that's your object. Check your bookshelf, and the first book that catches your eye is your genre. The character? Your best friend.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert O'Brian, narrated by Barbara Caruso

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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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Writing Prompt: 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.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Mrs Roosevelt's Confidante, by Susan Elijah McNeil, narrated by Susan Duerden

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11.22: Examining Unconscious Biases, with Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale joins us at LTUE for a live-audience session in which we explore gender biases, and extrapolate from there to our many other unconscious biases.

Our unconscious biases are not just the things that we consider to be “just the way things are,” or “common sense.” They’re the things we don’t even see, much less consider, and the obvious challenge for us as writers is  to find those biases, and then to dig into them and really understand them. Our goal is to be able to write beyond them, and create literature that is both more believable, and more widely accessible.

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

Play

Writing Prompt: Take something you've written, and gender-swap it.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Women Destroy Science Fiction!: Lightspeed Magazine Special Issueedited by Christie Yant

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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. 

Play

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

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson, narrated by Robertson Dean

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