Writing Excuses 7.31: Project in Depth — Hollow City

It’s time for our fourth “Project in Depth” episode, and now Dan Wells is on the spot. The Hollow City is Dan’s latest book, and while it’s not a new John Cleaver book, it’s still a supernatural thriller with a tight psychological focus.

Spoilers galore, of course. If you haven’t read The Hollow City yet, go read it before listening to this episode.

Dan’s New Twitter Handle: Per Howard’s suggestion, @JohnCleaver has been retired in favor of @TheDanWells.

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Go find an interesting mental illness (quick, before Dan takes all the good ones.) Now write from the sufferer’s POV, but don’t tell us what’s actually wrong.

Sucks to be Me, by Kimberly Pauley, narrated by Nancy Wu

Writing Excuses 7.30: Micocasting…Again!

Microcasting! Again!! Now with exclamation points!!! You’ll have to have a listen for our answers, but here are the questions:

  • How do you deal with bad reviews?
  • How do you apply Brandon’s magic system rules to science fiction?
  • Dan, will you do the marshmallow voice for us again?
  • How do you keep tension high without exhausting the reader?
  • You’ve made your manuscript as good as you know how to. Now you need to make it even better, based on feedback. What do you do?
  • Any tips on creating suspension of disbelief?
  • How do you deal with annoying fans?

“Oddly, no. Sometimes you guys are dull.” 5:22, Mary Robinette Kowal.

Mary’s Shmoozing 101 Link: Right here.

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The story of the writer and her VERY ENTHUSIASTIC alien fan who is impossible to escape.

Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, narrated by Jenny Sterlin

Writing Excuses 7.29: The Villain Problem

The villain problem, as we define it here at the beginning of the ‘cast, is when the heroes are less proactive than the villain, when they spend most of the book doing little more than reacting to the cool things the villains do. It’s one reason that villains are often more interesting, more memorable, than the protagonists against whom they face off. The villain steals the show.

So we talk about how to offset this. There are lots of tools available — focusing on the hero’s passions, giving the protagonist an internal conflict independent of anything coming from the villain’s plotting, and building a solid acceptance of the “call to action” fairly early in the story.

Halfway through we arrive at the conclusion that the villain problem isn’t actually a problem with the villain. It’s a hero problem, and that’s probably the key piece you need to come up with a solution for your book.

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Take a hero and give him a hobby, and something alive that he loves.

Imager, the first book of the Imager Portfolio, by L.E. Modesitt Jr, narrated by William Dufris

Writing Excuses 7.28: Project in Depth– Glamour in Glass

Mary talks to us in depth about Glamour in Glass, and yes, there are spoilers. She discusses the challenges she faced with the project, and some of the inspirations and key concepts that drove it.

Brandon, Dan, and Howard fire questions at Mary, and while she’s supposed to be on the spot she fields everything with aplomb (with the exception of that one surprise at 4:42.) We learn about the military applications of the glamour magic system, a system that up until now we’d only seen in the drawing rooms of high society.

The content here is particularly fascinating (and useful!) if you’re looking to write alternate history, as Mary goes into quite a bit of detail about what went into the rather significant changes she made to the history in her books. Her research process is worthy of your close attention.

Hello Kitty at 4:42: The cat’s name is “Pinecone” and its arrival was unexpected.

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Have Queen Victoria’s cousin not die. How is history changed?

The Hollow City, by Dan Wells, which, as of this writing, doesn’t show up on Audible’s site. We counsel patience.

Writing Excuses 7.27: The Problem of Originality

It’s important to be original, but is it possible to be TOO original? Further, is it possible that we over-value originality?

Dan raises the question in regards to James Cameron’s Avatar, which made lots of money and was widely enjoyed, but which was also roundly criticized for being a story we’ve already heard before. Christopher Paolini’s Eragon is similarly criticized. It is solid execution upon a story cycle that science fiction and fantasy fans are already intimately familiar with.

Howard talks about borrowing “uplift” from David Brin, Mary points out that David Brin borrowed it from Christian Missionaries in Africa, and Brandon then ponders aloud whether this ‘cast is going to be of any use to any of you.

Each of us have struggled with this. It’s exceedingly unlikely that you won’t. The point? Originality is not the be-all, end-all some make it out to be, and authors need to take care not to pursue it to the point that they miss other objectives.

Meme of the Week: “If I pee far, it’s because I stand on the shoulders of giants.” — Howard Tayler

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Regarding riding mounted beasts — make the cost to the rider so high that it’s almost never worth it. Now create circumstances under which it’s always worth it.

Sharpe’s Rifles, by Bernard Cornwell, narrated by Frederick Davidson