Writing Excuses 7.26: Q&A at UVU part 2

Recorded live at Utah Valley University, here’s another Q&A episode from the LTUE Symposium!

The questions:

  • What was Brandon’s plan with Mistborn and the themes regarding establishment?
  • Why does Kelsier shrug so much? (This leads into a fun discussion of “tells.”)
  • How do you know when to stop a chapter? What about expanding it?
  • How do you make your prose more transparent?
  • How do you decide who and what to cut?
  • What do you do to filter out the extraneous ideas that come while you’re writing?
  • What can collaborators do in order to create a single “voice” for the book?
  • What’s the best way to tackle a long back-story?
Want answers? You’ll just have to listen…
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From Earl K. Hill, our cameraman: tell a whole story from the view of the sidekick.

Partials, by Dan Wells, narrated by Julia Whelan

Writing Excuses 7.25: Writing Capers

Capers! They’re delicious on bagels with lox and cream cheese. Also, tricky to write well, and often called “heists.”

Dan explains the caper/heist format to us using Ocean’s Eleven as the model, so we can identify the key elements that are typically present. Brandon explains the key difference between the two styles: In the first, the reader doesn’t get the whole plan, and the plan goes off without a hitch. In the second, the reader gets the whole plan, but the plan goes wrong and the team has to improvise. Ocean’s Eleven is an example of the first. The Italian Job and Mission Impossible are examples of the second.

One challenge writers face, as opposed to filmmakers, is keeping the reader in the dark for an Ocean’s Eleven-style caper without cheating.

We talk about how the formation of a team of experts or specialists is critical to the form, but also works across lots of other forms. Beware using these teams as a substitute for character development, however.

The combined viewing time of our example films is, quite frankly, oppressive. Don’t watch them all in one sitting. But if you do, that was all part of our insidious plan to keep you busy while somebody else steals your stuff.

What is a Pig in a Poke: Basically, it’s a confidence scheme involving a substitution.

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Your characters need to perform a reverse-heist, putting jewels into a safe without getting caught.

The Great Train Robbery, by Michael Crichton, narrated by Michael Cumpsty

Writing Excuses 7.24: Project in Depth — Way of Kings

There are a lot of things that Our Very Own Brandon Sanderson can get away with. In The Way of Kings, he gets away with not just one, but TWO prologues. In this ‘cast Mary, Dan, and Howard get to grill Brandon about his opening epic, The Way of Kings.

This is the second entry in our “Project in Depth” series in which three of the cast members gang up on the fourth and ask them all about one of their books.

We get answers about the prelude/prologue decision, the extremism of the setting, and lots of information about why this book needed three different major character POVs. Brandon talks in detail about some of the character problems he encountered with Dalinar in the early drafts of the book. If anything, this part of the discussion points up the importance of a good re-write.

Finally, Brandon talks about his naming conventions.

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Take a character of yours, and split that character into a character and a foil.

Stranger in a Strange Land (unabridged), by Robert A. Heinlein, narrated by Christopher Hurt

Writing Excuses 7.23: Time Travel

Coming to you pre-recorded from the boomy basement of Brandon Sanderson, here’s an episode about time travel. Oddly, there’s an audio artifact here where we’re hearing faint echoes of those speaking, and some of them precede the stuff they’re echoing. “Oddly?” More like “Serendipitously.” It’s a shame we didn’t know that would happen. If we really WERE time travelers we’d have seen that coming.

We begin by categorizing three major types of time travel by the movies they appear in: “Twelve Monkeys,” “Back to the Future,” and “A Sound of Thunder” (the short story, though. Not the movie.) We then talk about the tools each of these provide to storytellers. We also talk about the challenges involved in writing a time travel story, and how to overcome these challenges by writing about the things that will always be interesting, rather than focusing on the time travel itself. We also talk a little about time travel clichés, perhaps by way of warning you.

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You can only go back in time as far as your own life-span, but somebody needs to go back a hundred years. A team of 100-year-olds is assembled as time traveling heroes.

The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, narrated by Fred Berman and Phoebe Stole