Writing Excuses 4.7: Q&A with James Dashner

Recorded live at LTUE 2010, here’s a high-energy Q&A session with the Writing Excuses crew and our special guest James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner. We cover outlining vs. discovery writing, the return to the hairy palate, education for writers, killing people, whether or not we want a bagel, pragmatic approaches, authors who don’t inspire us (and by “us” we mean “James Dashner”), and cooking up complex plots.

Note: Brandon says “Episode 6” but he was totally wrong. This is 4.7, for real.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: James pitches one of his favorites to usFalse Memory by Dean Koontz

Writing Prompt: You’re flying in an airplane when a wing falls off… but the plane keeps going.

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13 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 4.7: Q&A with James Dashner”

  1. What a great episode! Everyone was hilarious and a lot of good information got out.

    Now, is there any chance you guys could can-o-worms Side Plots? You mentioned it at the end of this cast and I don’t recall you going into depths about what makes a good side plot previously.

    Also, I’m glad to hear you talk about writers you don’t like and how you can learn what you do not want to pursue via their works. Most authors are careful with how they speak about their fellow writers (for obvious and good reasons) but I sometimes think I need some bad examples to show me what not to do.

  2. Just for the record, those bacon-flavored mints that Dan handed out during the live show weren’t as fun as they sounded at first. Basically, if you took a big vat of white bacon fat, mixed in a little mint extract, stirred it up until the bacon fat was all gritty, and then pressed the end product into pill-shaped discs, that is what Dan’s bacon flavored mints were.

    Worst of all is the fact that the more you sucked on them, the more oily they became.

    What kind of cruel person buys this stuff for Dan, anyway?

  3. I thought my question was pretty original. I mean, who is ever concerned about people that don’t inspire you? It’s still useful information, I think. If not, at least they got a good laugh out of it.

  4. This was actually super helpful, even though none of the questions immediately stuck out at me as being something I was interested in. I was stuck on the middle of my book and I knew I was missing something, and low and behold, Dan mentions that making a book complex enough involves having enough groups and side-characters involved. I realised that although I had a great ensemble of side-characters around who could have complicated things, I had made too many of them “helpers” whose interests moved the plot forward, and there weren’t enough cross-purposes to sustain the length of story I needed to get the main characters from B to C to D. To hark back to the old analogy that (I think it was Dave Farland?) gave, I wasn’t throwing enough rocks.

    Now I can stop writing the end and beginning and rework the outline for the middle :)

  5. “Yeah…this Dan is on fire!”

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

    The question about death scenes ended my current excuse for not writing on my novel. Thanks to the questioner and you all for the (affirming) responses. Apparently, going for a shock once in awhile isn’t a bad thing. I shall now get to writing about the aftermath.

  6. You have given us an episode about how to develop an idea to a story. This seems to work if the story in question is plot driven. What if the intent is to have the story be about how the characters develop. So if someone has imagies of characters and their various relationships and an idea (not a story) how does one develop this?

  7. @ Waverli

    Hurt your Character. Think about what would upset them, what will make them stronger? Mostly figure out what will hurt them and throw it at them. That’s my idea anyways.

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