Writing Excuses 10.39: Q&A on Plot Twists with Kevin J. Anderson

Kevin J. Anderson joined us at Sasquan/WorldCon 73 to take questions about plot twists. Here are the questions that came in from our live audience:

  • Genre Twists: good, bad, or ugly?
  • Can you compare and contrast a good plot twist with a bad one?
  • What is the biggest mistake professional authors make with regarding plot twists?



Try to remove your plot twist as a reveal, and see if the story still works.

Clockwork Angels, by Kevin J. Anderson, narrated by Neil Peart

Writing Excuses 10.38: How Does Context Shape Dialog?

Our second installment for the Master Class’s month of context covers the way dialog between characters may change meaning depending upon the context you create for them. This context may be the setting or genre, and it may also be the “beats” in which you describe what a person is doing while speaking. We talk about how to make this work for you, how to avoid some of the common pitfalls in writing dialog.

Liner Notes: Howard mentioned episode 10.11: Project-in-Depth: “Parallel Perspectives”. If you need to go back and have a listen, now it’s easier!


This is the Transcript Exercise, and it’s a doozy. Take our A/B scene, which is character dialog with no beats, and add the beats and the context to set the dialog in two different genres. There are further instructions in the download at the link above.

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, narrated by Simon Slater

Writing Excuses 10.37: Being a Good Panelist and a Great Moderator, with Susan J. Morris and Marc Tassin

This month’s wildcard episode comes to you from the 2015 GenCon Indy Writers’ Symposium, where Dan and Howard had the opportunity to interview Susan J. Morris and Marc Tassin. Susan is one of the finest moderators the symposium has ever seen, and Marc directs the event, building the schedule around good panelists and great moderators. Their advice is insightful, fresh, and spot-on. If you ever find yourself scheduled to speak on, or moderate, a panel, this episode is a great listen for beginning your preparation.


You’ve been invited to BobCon, and when you arrive at BobCon you realize WHY it’s called BobCon. How do you escape?

A Darker Shade of Magic, by V. E. Schwab, narrated by Steven Crossley

Writing Excuses 10.36: How Does Context Shape Plot Twists?

We’ve talked about plot twists before. This episode covers the way in which the type of plot twist is dependent on, or signaled by, the context of the story. Getting plot twists right may mean surprising the reader, but it’s just as important to have the twist surprise the character.

SPOILER ALERT: Avengers: Age of Ultron, and The Sixth Sense, among others. It’s hard to talk about plot twists without talking about some really good ones.

This month’s master-class topic is “Context,” but the Q&A at the end of the month (coming real soon!) is on plot twists, featuring a special guest who joined us at Sasquan, the 73rd Annual World Science Fiction Convention.


Unwinding the Twist: Find a plot twist in something that you enjoy, and then backtrack a bit. Take notes. Figure out where the red herrings are. Figure out where the foreshadowing is. Enumerate these, see if there’s something formulaic that you can learn from.

I Am Princess X, by Cherie Priest, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal