Writing Excuses 8.21: What the Avengers did Right

We here at Writing Excuses enjoyed Marvel’s The Avengers. This isn’t a movie review, though. This is a discussion of what the movie did right from a writer’s standpoint. The things we focus on?

  • Dialog and character voice
  • Balanced handling of an ensemble of main characters
  • Scenes that serve more than one function
  • Pacing

Obviously there will be some spoilers here. The film is available for rental now, so you might consider watching it again with this podcast and these points in mind. And generally speaking, it’s a good exercise for writers to look at movies (or books, or comics, or whatever) that they enjoy, and then attempt to identify the reasons those things were enjoyable.

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Take an ensemble cast, and have them fighting each other as a prelude to fighting what needs to be fought. Alternatively? “Hulk smash.”

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon, narrated by David Colacci

Writing Excuses 8.20: The Short Story, with Mary Robinette Kowal

The number one request we got when we asked you what you’d like us to talk about? Short story writing. Mary is our resident expert, and if she weren’t already a member of the cast, she’d our go-to expert for an interview. Convenient!

We begin by addressing the popular notion that writing short stories is a good way to practice for writing novels, and selling short stories is a way to break in and sell novels. We then return to the M.I.C.E. quotient (first addressed by us in 6.10) and discuss how the quotient (or model, or formula) helps you understand what to cut from the telling of a story to make it a short story.

Mary then walks us through her process for turning an idea into a story concept, and then distilling that concept into a short story. She also invites us to explore her 950-word short, “Evil Robot Monkey,” free of charge!

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Being “bi-textual” is a controversial lifestyle choice…

The Language of Moths, by Christopher Barzak, narrated by Paul Michael Garcia

Writing Excuses 8.19: Writing and Convention Culture

There are numerous local cultures surrounding writers, writing groups, and the conventions that writers attend. These cultural peculiarities influence the writing that emerges from those areas.

As writers, it’s important to be aware that this is happening. As a podcast crew, we’re aware that it’s happening around us, and in many cases because of us. We talk about some of the cultures we’ve been embedded in, how they’ve influenced us, and how we have, in some cases reacted against those cultures.

We also talk about how we can conduct ourselves when participating at conventions, again, with care taken to assess the nature of the cultures in which we’re stepping into.

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Neil Gaiman is the Mentor character in your Hero’s Journey.

White Sands, Red Menace, by Ellen Klages, narrated by Julie Dretzin

Writing Excuses 8.18: Blocking

Blocking! What is it, why is it important, and how can you do it well?

We begin with a definition (blocking is the part of the narrative that tells the reader where the characters are, where the scenery is, and how these things are interacting) and then talk about why it’s important, especially how it applies to “show, don’t tell,” and how the needs of the story will dictate what actually needs to be shown.

Finally, we discuss how to block scenes effectively, and how each of us do it.

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Write a fight scene. Bonus points if it’s got four people in it. We don’t know what you’ll spend those points on.

Monster Hunter Alpha, by Larry Correia, narrated by Oliver Wyman