Writing Excuses 7.22: Microcasting

A microcast is our word for an asynchronous Q&A episode: you ask us tons of questions online, either through twitter or facebook or our listenermail account (on the sidebar), and we want to answer as many of them as we can. Not every answer can fill an entire episode, though, so we take the smaller ones and cover a bunch of them at once in a microcast. This week we take a brief, pithy look at the following:

  • Prologues and epilogues
  • Using drawings to get across settings
  • Simple tricks for naming things
  • Would you self publish if you had a do over?
  • How do you keep a powerful character interesting?
  • Foreshadowing
  • Trimming
  • Flashbacks
Play

Write a flashback, in a prologue, with a mirror scene. Yes.

Writing Excuses 7.21: Project In Depth — Force Multiplication

We’re doing something new, and Howard gets to go first.

The plan is to take something one of us has completed, and which you’ve had ample time to read, and grill the creator about the project. Obviously there will be spoilers. Also, we’re going to run a bit long on these.

First up in our “Project In Depth” series: Howard’s most recent online volume of Schlock Mercenary, Force Multiplication. You can read it for free at the link above. It’s been nominated in the Best Graphic Story category for this year’s Hugo Awards, this entire episode features Howard on the spot answering questions about the project from Brandon, Dan, and Mary.

The biggest issue discussed is the female perspective. In Force Multiplication Howard challenged himself by casting all of the leads for the story as women, and it changed the storytelling process for him significantly.

He also talks about the setting — Haven Hive — and how he needed the setting to functionally isolate a small ensemble cast. He talks about naming a little, and finally talks about how he turned a sterile-sounding high-concept plot into an interesting story.

Next up on our Project In Depth series: The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson. You have been warned. We’ll also be doing Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamour in Glass and Dan Wells’ Hollow City. We’re NOT doing this back-to-back. You’ve got a little time.

Thing That Would Make Howard Sound Smarter: Remove every last “you know” from his dialog. (Note that this would not actually increase Howard’s IQ.)

Play

Do this with your own work—have your friends interview you in depth about something you’ve finished, or something you’re currently working on.

Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs

Writing Excuses 7.20: Cathartic Horror

Michael R. Collings and his son Michaelbrent Collings join us live at UVU to talk with us about cathartic horror. In particular, we talk about how the catharsis is part of what makes horror such a delightful genre. Michael leads with an example from his own writing, a novel called The Slab. Brandon talks about the physiological response, and Mary compares the cautionary aspects of horror to the early (read: pre-Disney) fairy tales. Dan cautions us against didacticism, and explains about how the underlying story is usually quite different from what’s on the page. Michaelbrent further explains how our personal catharses empower us to write good stories and invoke similar responses from our readers.

Free Shot: No, Howard wasn’t even in the room for this episode.

Play

Adapt the unadaptable fairy tale Mary introduced us to (the one about the little old lady who catches on fire and dies).

The Slab, by Michael R. Collings, narrated by Andy Bowyer

Writing Excuses 7.19: Q&A at UVU

James Dashner joins us for a Q&A at Utah Valley University during Life, The Universe, and Everything.

The first question starts out amazingly rough, but the 12-year-old asking it manages to stick the landing. The questions include:

  • Why is the ARC of James’ first book so different from the later books?
  • How do you handle paragraph- and sentence-level edits?
  • How do you plot your stories?
  • How do you craft endings that are both satisfying, and leave the reader wanting more?
  • What do you do when your compelling villain threatens to take over the whole book?

That Panel Howard Talked About: It’s actually at the end of Massively Parallel, and you can look at it right here.

Play

You get kidnapped and put in an asylum for the criminally sane.

Everneath, by Brody Ashton, narrated by Amy Rubinate