This is the first of our DANGER SPOILERS AHEAD story critique episodes. The story, “Sixth of the Dusk,” is available as part of SHADOWS BENEATH, the Writing Excuses anthology, which includes the finished story (obviously) and the version we critiqued in this episode. SHADOWS BENEATH also includes the stories we’ll be critiquing for the rest of July’s episodes, and some other pretty cool stuff that you can read about here. Oh, and if you purchase the hardcover, we’ll send you the ebook at no additional charge.

Sure, you can totally listen to this episode without having done the reading. We cannot stop you! Howard looked around for a full hour, but there’s no “stop playback for people who have not done the homework” button anywhere here.

This is also the first half of a two-part episode. We spent about 40┬áminutes hammering on Brandon’s story, and that’s just too much Writing Excuses for one week. Oh, and we recorded this episode live at last year’s Out of Excuses Seminar and Retreat. You’ll hear our audience of awesome attendees responding to us.

We run this session like Brandon runs his critique group — we begin by talking about what we liked, so that the writer knows what not to accidentally remove during revisions. Then we drill down on the things we have problems with, and you know what? There were a bunch of those things! Like most writers, Brandon’s first drafts are imperfect things that have problems in them.

We also run this session in a way that we don’t actually suggest you run your critique groups, at least not until you’ve put a bunch of critique sessions under your belt.

That Thing Howard Said to Brandon Between Sessions has been lost to time. Or repressed memory. Sorry.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov, narrated by Scott Brick. (Note: This version of the audiobook has the Will Smith movie cover, but it's also the best-ranked version.)

Writing Prompt: A setting in which you can vote through time for things.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, July 6th, 2014 at 4:00 pm and is filed under Collaboration, Criticism, Demonstration, Editing, Live Audience, Season 9, Structure, World Building. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

10 Comments

  1. July 6, 2014 @ 8:35 pm


    You’re doing Brandon’s first? Man, it’s the last in the book. Haven’t gotten to it yet. Making me wait to listen to the latest episode…

    Posted by Simon
  2. July 6, 2014 @ 10:33 pm


    I love this episodes. And I loved this story. One thing that I was wondering was if Brandon was by any chance a fan of Between the Buried and Me. The concept of a higher species from the space tricking humanity is really explored in their concept album “The Paralax”, which also features people running around in islands.

    It’s way more likely that it is a coincidence, specially since most of the actual plot of the Album is not available in the actual musics and the story is REALLY different. But I thought it was worth asking.

    Posted by Rui
  3. July 7, 2014 @ 5:23 am


    In the middle of the discussion Brandon makes a curious statement about Mary:

    Dan: “We kept interrupting Howard”

    Mary: “Yes, and I’m going to …”

    Dan: “Allright, let’s keep interrupting Howard”

    [Mary attempts to continue]

    Brandon: “Well, since this is Mary’s area of expertise, I will let her …”

    Listening to WE for years now, I never noticed that “interrupting Howard” is Mary’s “area of expertise”. => Fun Fact

    Posted by Timothy Cramer
  4. July 7, 2014 @ 6:17 am


    I enjoyed this story but there was one thing that jarred my suspension of disbelief quite heavily.

    When Dusk says his heavy boots are an improvement over what he was using before. It was a minor detail but as someone who was raised in a tribe I can say that the only people who wear heavy boots in the jungle are soldiers and tourists. If you’re a tracker or hunter you’d wear a leather/rawhide/skin slip that protects your feet entirely and is partially waterproof. Its softer, imitating the pads of a predator and will cause far less disturbance when moving through the forest. I would rather go barefoot than wear boots, they’re that disadvantageous.

    Also, as far as smelling sap from a broken stem to judge time… You can judge when something was broken like that if the sap has a pungent enough smell to make up for the human lack of smell (though the smell tends to fade quickly after the initial breakage), and by combining that knowledge with how long it takes to dry and the state of the saps drying. If its been long enough to begin to rot then that can be helpful as well. Even still its highly unreliable and you’d be much better off making judgments of time based on the footprints you’re following which are easier to read, standardized, and reliable. It *can* be done depending on the area of the world and plants in your surround, but its kind of a lazy fantasy cliche when it comes to tracking things. If you’ve already got pugmarks or footprints you can gauge the age, sex, approximate size, and injured status of your quarry as well as the speed at which they were moving and get a relatively accurate reading on how long ago they were in the area (also wild animal noises are a massive aid – lots of animals have specific warning calls for sighting predators, including humans). That said this is probably the wrong place to leave this information since Brandon doesn’t read the comments. :P

    The story itself was really well written. And I’m enjoying working my way through the anthology again for a reread. I always like reading Howard’s prose. It’s great to see you guys all in the same work and these insights into the process are invaluable. So, thanks for that.

    Posted by Josh
  5. July 7, 2014 @ 3:24 pm


    @Josh: There’s nothing wrong with commenting on a story in a place where the author will never read it. Your comments inform other readers, who may appreciate them.

    Writers typically are not going to change their stories whether or not they see comments that call out mistakes. Sure, there may be typographical updates between editions, but that’s it.

    Posted by Howard Tayler
  6. July 8, 2014 @ 4:31 pm


    Brandon’s comment about being an experienced “critiquee” made me think of the phrase, “Critiquee God” for some reason and I envision a little statue sitting on someone’s bedside shelf. Just something odd from a fan who’s also a visual thinker.

    Posted by mike
  7. July 8, 2014 @ 8:28 pm


    A broken trope, world building par excellence, a name that doesn’t fall trippingly off the tongue, and endings that don’t quite?

    Read all about it! Right over here, a transcript for your reading pleasure:

    http://wetranscripts.livejournal.com/90336.html

    Also available in the archives.

    Posted by 'nother Mike
  8. July 12, 2014 @ 8:20 am


    Hey – Have you closed commenting on previous seasons? I’ve been working my way up from the start over a year and some (while also following the new casts), and used to be able to comment – not any more, I guess.

    Posted by Robinski
  9. July 12, 2014 @ 10:31 am


    I know these stories have been mentioned and talked about on various episodes over the last few years and its great to have transcripts and notes in the volume but is it possible to have a single page here that lists all of the episodes and which story they relate to?

    Posted by Robert
  10. July 27, 2014 @ 7:33 pm


    Something’s wrong with the mp3… won’t download properly for me, but the others do (including Part 2). Didn’t want to listen to this till I read the whole anthology through, so I didn’t listen to it as soon as it came out.

    Posted by Ritch