Writing Excuses 9.48: Neurobolics of Characters

As authors we spend a lot of time trying to make our readers care about the characters we create. We have a wide variety of techniques at our disposal to accomplish this. But do we ever ask ourselves why any of this is possible in the first place? What is it about our brains that makes us care about fictional characters?

Enter Cory Doctorow, who posed this question to us at Westercon 67. If you like the episodes where a guest comes in and blows our minds (and they’re some of our favorites) you need to put this one on the list.

Audiobook Pick of the Week: Homeland, by Cory Doctorow, narrated by Wil Wheaton, with Noah Swartz and Jacob Applebaum. (Note:  Cory Doctorow’s titles aren’t carried by Audible, but you can find all of them here and buy them DRM-free directly from Cory.)

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Along the lines of the anecdote Cory shared, sever a character’s corpus callosum so that they have to say things out loud in order to fully comprehend what they’re seeing.

Writing Excuses 9.49: Hiding the Open Grave

So, you’re planning to kill somebody, but you don’t want anyone to see it coming. How do you make that happen?

We begin by talking about the hints that writers inadvertently drop, and why they drop those hints. Then we look at how to write without sending those cues, and how to get away with that while still fulfilling promises made to the reader.

Special Offer: Our sponsor, Audible, is giving away Legion: Skin Deep, by Brandon Sanderson between now and December 24th. Follow that link and get a free audio book!

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Take a story you’ve been planning. Kill the protagonist in the first scene, then have a secondary character step in and pick up the plot. You don’t need to finish the whole story this way–just get far enough into this exercise that you can see what a surprising death looks like from your side of the keyboard.

Ruins, by Dan Wells, narrated by Julia Whelan

Writing Excuses 9.47: Conversation With a Bookseller

Bookseller Sara Glassman joined us at the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat to talk to us about her perspective on this industry, with an eye to the things that make it easy for her to put a book in a customer’s hands. We talk about back cover copy, covers, query letters, signings, and what booksellers look for on page one.

(Note: Brandon refers to a book of the week pitch that Sara made for us. We needed to run this episode out of order, so you’ll get Sara’s pitch for that book sometime next year.)

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Have three of your friends to send you a random photograph of an object. Use each object in the first 13 lines of your story.

The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley, narrated by Susan Duerden

Writing Excuses 9.46: Disability in Narrative

Charlie Harmon, one of the luminaries of Utah area fandom, joined us to talk about disability in narrative. She’s been going blind gradually since she was a child, and these days while she can see some colored blurs, she cannot read, or recognize faces. We talk about some of the nuances of disability that many writers fail to capture, and how we can learn to write those things more convincingly.

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Go to tvtropes.org and look up “Blind People.” Read some of the many tropes (Disability Superpower, Blind Black Guy, and Blind Mistake, just to name three)  then write a blind character without using those tropes.

The Fairy-Tale Detectives: The Sisters Grimm, by Michael Buckley, narrated by L. J. Ganser

Writing Excuses 9.45: Tools for Writing from Oral Storytelling

M. Todd Gallowglas is a writer and a storyteller who has spent years doing traditional oral storytelling at renaissance fairs. He joined us at FantasyCon/Westercon 67 before a live audience and talked to us about how this tradition has informed his writing, and how these principles can inform our writing as well. He also schools us (okay, mostly Howard) about how these principles should be informing parts of our podcast.

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Take the book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and drill down into the nitty-gritty realities of pancakes falling from the sky.

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, narrated by Nick Podehl