11.05: Writing and World Building for Role Playing Games

Michelle Lyons-McFarland, Monica Valentinelli, and Shanna Germain joined Howard and Dan at GenCon Indy for an episode which is a thinly-veiled indulgence for Howard to glean advice from three people who know far more about the craft of RPG design than he does.

Our discussion centers around how world building for role playing games, and especially the manner in which the world is presented, differs from world building for novels. We don’t talk about rule sets or physics simulations. We’re after the things that players want and need to read in order to immerse themselves in the setting, and get “in fiction.”

Pro-Tip: There are two major things, listeners, that you can get from this podcast: first, soak up the incredibly valuable writing-for-RPGs information provided by our guests. Second, listen to how Howard abases himself when he has the opportunity to sit down with experts who have information he desperately needs.

Liner Notes: Howard habitually mispronounces the word “ablative.” The accent should be on the first syllable: [ab-luh-tiv]

Addendum: As of this posting The Planet Mercenary Role Playing Game is not yet available for purchase. Details about the project can be found here.

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Writing Prompt: Write about a non-player, non-heroic character (say, the NPC who cleans the alley behind the tavern) in your setting. What do they want? What do they fear? What do they love? How might their story play out independently from the story told by the players?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Perdido Street Station, By China Mieville, narrated by John Lee

11.04: Newton’s Laws of Writing

In the interest of experimenting with metaphor, and our ongoing need to keep writing, we played with the idea of mapping Newton’s Laws onto the process of writing.

Because obviously a wordcount at rest tends to remain at rest…

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Writing Prompt: Imagine someone is a serial art collector AND a serial artist killer.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho, narrated by Jenny Sterlin

11.03: Layering The Elemental Genres

For our second Elemental Genre episode we discuss using the concept of Elemental Genre to help you manage sub-plots, character arcs, and genre mashups. We’ve each used the tool in these ways, and we provide examples from our own writing, as well as from works we’ve read or watched.

Here, for your convenience, is the list of the Elemental Genres we’ll be covering during Season 11.

 

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Writing Prompt: Think of an emotion that contrasts, or foils, the primary emotion in the thing you were working on for the homework two weeks ago. Identify that,  and begin exploring it as a sub-plot.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: We promo'd Word Puppets, by Mary Robinette Kowal, narrated by Kate Baker, but the audiobook does not appear to be available as of this writing. Other versions are available here, and of course there are plenty of other books  from Mary on Audible.

11.2: How To Get The Most Out Of A Conference, with Kathy Chung

Kathy Chung runs the Surrey International Writing Conference, which is a professional development event, rather than one of the fan-run conventions, which are primarily reader and/or consumer events. She also helped us put together the 2015 Out Of Excuses event, where we were fortunate to witness her expertise first-hand.

Naturally, we invited her to talk with us about conferences and conventions. She’s easy to talk to, and she knows more about them than we do.

We cover some of the key differences between conferences and conventions (especially from the writer’s point of view,) and, per the subject, how to get the most of them.

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Writing Prompt: Homework: Research conventions and conferences in your area.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: My Name is Red, by Orhan Pamuk, narrated by John Lee

BLADE OF THE DAGGERKNIFE: The 2015 Stabby Awards

Just this morning we learned that readers, listeners, and commenters over at r/fantasy have voted Writing Excuses as Best Related Work for the 2015 Stabby Awards

Thank you, Reddit!

The trophy is an actual stabby thing.

The 2014 Best Related Work Stabby pictured above was awarded to the WORLDBUILDERS charity
The 2014 Best Related Work Stabby pictured above was awarded to the WORLDBUILDERS charity

We’re honored  by this award, and in reviewing the nominees and the winners over at /r/fantasy/, we’re doubly honored to see the company we’re in.

Writing Excuses is something we do for the community of writers, and we’re delighted to know that people like it enough to give us (including Dan Wells) something really shiny and sharp.

Delighted, if perhaps a little concerned.

Writing Excuses 2016 Scholarship Announcement

The fourth annual Out of Excuses Retreat will be bigger and better than ever, and at this point that’s saying a lot. Last year’s retreat was a crazy experiment—could we actually do this on a cruise ship?—but it worked so well that the students wanted to pay it forward so that even more people could participate. They organized themselves, collected donations, and literally doubled the amount of scholarship money we are able to offer. With that introduction, we are proud to offer four full scholarships to the 2016 retreat: two Out of Excuses Scholarships for writers who can’t afford the cruise on their own, and two Carl Brandon Society Scholarships for writers of color .

Information and Entry Rules

Each scholarship offers full tuition, a bed in a double occupancy room, and up to $500 of travel expenses to and from our departure port in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Because the food on the cruise is free, this covers essentially all of your expenses for the week. You may apply to either scholarship, but only to one of them (even if you qualify for both).

These scholarships are very popular, and get a lot of applicants, so this year we’ve streamlined the process a little to help handle the volume. Please read the instructions carefully, and follow them exactly: Incomplete applications will be disqualified.

To apply, please prepare the following scholarship package as a Word document, and send it to writingexcusesscholarship@gmail.com with the subject line: “Scholarship Application: [name of scholarship].” Please copy and paste the cover sheet to the main body of the email, and also include it as the first page in the package.

1) This cover sheet, filled out completely:

Name: [name]

Email: [email]

Phone Number: [number]

Scholarship: [“Carl Brandon Society” or “Out of Excuses”]

I confirm that my scholarship is complete, including: a personal essay, three letters of recommendation, and a writing sample.

Personal Essay word count (between 450-700 words): [insert word count here]

Letter of Recommendation 1: [Name of recommender]

Letter of Recommendation 2: [Name of recommender]

Letter of Recommendation 3: [Name of recommender]

Writing Sample total word count (1-3 pieces, limited to 10,000 total words): [insert word count here]

2) A single attachment, saved as [Name of Scholarship_Your Name]

We will accept the following three file formats.

  • .DOC
  • .DOCX
  • .RTF

Examples:

Out of Excuses Scholarship_Jane Doe.doc

Carl Brandon Scholarship_Jane Doe.doc

The attachment should contain all of the following, in the following order:

    1. Cover Sheet, as described above.
    2. Personal Essay: A 450-700 word personal essay explaining why you are a good candidate for the scholarship. What makes you unique? What can you bring to our group that no one else can? Keep in mind that even as we focus on “need,” the panel will also be reviewing your writing in terms of “merit.”
    3. Letters of Recommendation: Three brief letters of recommendation (no more than 300 words each) from people who are not your relatives: friends, bosses, people from your writing group, anyone who can tell us exactly how awesome you are. Please note that we would like all three letters to be included in the scholarship package, and not to be emailed individually; we’ve had too many letters go astray, and we want to give you the chance to personally make sure every aspect of your scholarship package is complete before submitting it. If you have a concern with this, please contact Kenna Blaylock at assistant@thedanwells.com.
    4. Writing Sample: A brief example of your writing, consisting of 1-3 separate pieces and totaling no more than 10,000 words. These can be short stories or novel excerpts. Don’t feel obligated to fill the word count: if you can wow us in less, more power to you.

Again: make sure to send everything in one email or your application will be disqualified!

Please review it several times, or have a friend or family member review it for you, because we will reject applications on technicalities, just like an editor or publisher would. We would much prefer to read your awesome writing and give you a scholarship.

The application period for both scholarships opens on January 15, 2016, at 9am EST, and closes at midnight EST, March 15. We will contact the winners in May, and announce them officially the morning of May 15.

If you have any questions regarding the scholarship, email Kenna Blaylock at assistant@thedanwells.com.

FAQ:

Q: What do The Letters of Recommendation Need?

A: Think of this like a college entry application letter. Have your friend answer “Why are you the best candidate for the scholarship?” The one writing the letter can point out what they think might be relevant to the decision that the committee would otherwise not know. The letters help us round out the picture for each candidate.