Writing Excuses 7.40: Writing the Other

Maurice Broaddus joins us to talk about “writing the other” — writing other cultures, races, genders — basically anybody who isn’t much like you.

We talk about common pitfalls, including resorting to tropes like the “magical Negro,” and the “noble savage.”

More importantly, we talk about how to do this well. Maurice has plenty to offer from his own experience, including some fun anecdotes about his crazy research.

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You’re on a sidewalk late at night. You’re approached by three young, black males. Write the scene from their perspective. (Alternatively, simply jump off from “magical redneck,” but note that Maurice has already done that one.)

The House of Discarded Dreams, by Ekaterina Sedia, narrated by Robin Miles

Writing Excuses 7.39: Death

Death! DEATH!!

Let’s talk about killing characters.

Howard starts by relating a time when he did it poorly, and why he feels like it didn’t work. Brandon discusses the academic, clinical aspect of the matter, and how he in particular handles planning (or not planning) for character death. Dan talks about the email he gets about page 267. Mary talks about the differences between deaths in the various genres in which she writes.

There’s lots more. If characters risk death in your writing, this ‘cast will certainly affect their odds for survival.

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Find a way to kill a character. Then write it in three ways: sad, heroic, and accidental. As an alternative, take a story you’ve already written, and write a different ending so that someone dies instead of living, or lives instead of dying.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, by Mignon Fogarty, narrated by the Grammar Girl herself

Writing Excuses 7.38: Writing Love Scenes

Shanna Germain joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard in front of a live audience at GenCon Indy to talk about writing love scenes. They’re not easy to get right, and they can be even more difficult to talk about it in a way that leaves the Writing Excuses team’s “clean” rating intact.

We cover the ways in which the love scenes must support the story, and the importance of tension in setting those scenes up. Mary asks the question foremost in all our minds: how do you write a sex scene so that it’s not silly? Shanna fields it with aplomb, explaining how she lets the characters drive it, washing unintentional humor out of the scene.

We also talk about how difficult it can be for those writing the POV of the opposite sex to get the head-space details right, and how love scenes fit into the pacing of your work.

What You Missed: Prior to recording this episode, in an effort to get all the nervous giggles and snerky titters worked out of our live audience, Mary read a portion of a recently released Pathfinder novel in her “one-nine-hundred” voice. No, we did not record it. Some things are meant to be loved, then lost.

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Put your characters in a place they cannot escape, and keep them there.

Shanna plugged “One Hot Summer,” but the actual title is One Long Hot Summer. It is not currently available Audible, but it’s available on Amazon at the link above. There are lots of OTHER things on Audible for you to listen to, including four titles featuring Shanna Germain.

Writing Excuses 7.37: Pantsing

Pantsing! What are we even talking about?

We’re talking about discovery writing, but apparently some folks think it’s more fun to call it “seat-of-your-pants” writing. In this cast we cover this exhilarating process, and how it might best be applied.

Mary uses the “yes-but, no-and” trick. Dan starts with an end in mind, and then ignores it in order to write today’s chapter. Brandon, despite being a fairly rigid outliner, often finds himself discovery writing when under odd sorts of pressures. Howard likens discovery writing to improvisational music.

Fundamentally, seat-of-your-pants writing is like seat-of-your-pants anything else: the more practice you have within that discipline, the more of the techniques you’ve mastered, the more likely you are to succeed in the endeavor.

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Cheerful ruffians, civilized louts, yes-but, no-and, ready, set, go.

Existence, by David Brin, narrated by Kevin T. Collins, Robin Miles, and L. J. Ganser.

Writing Excuses 7.35: Brainstorming with Dan

Dan needs to write a military thriller. It’s just a short story, but still, it’s a bit outside his area of expertise, and he needs help. So in this episode Brandon, Mary, and Howard will endeavor to help him.

The working title? “I.E.Demon”

You can’t read this story yet, but we’ll let you know when you can.

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Google military three-letter-acronyms (IED and RPG are off-limits.) Swap out one of the words for a supernatural descriptor beginning with the same letter. That’s your story seed.

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, by John Scalzi, narrated by Wil Wheaton