Category Archives: Guest

11.43: Elemental Drama Q&A, with Tananarive Due

Our third Elemental Drama episode is a Q&A, featuring Tananarive Due. The questions are from the attendees at the Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat:

  • Rather than having a protagonist change themselves, can elemental drama have the protagonist change others?
  • What happens when a character refuses to learn, refuses to overcome their flaw(s)?
  • What are the lines between drama and melodrama?
  • Do you have tips for describing body language that communicates character states?
  • Are there cases where you should not show character growth or change?
  • How do you keep it realistic when writing a character who undergoes a great change?


Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.


In preparation for next month, and Elemental Issue, define both sides of an issue about which you’re passionate. Write down the arguments in favor of the side you disagree with, but don’t use strawman arguments.

Ghost Summer, by Tananarive Due

11.Bonus-01: Characterization and Differentiation, with Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb joined us at GenCon Indy for a discussion of characterization and differentiation. And by “discussion,” what we really mean is “we ask Robin all the questions.” We learn about Robin’s process for creating characters, wrapping stories around them, and making these characters distinctly different from each other.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Joel Burnham, and mastered by Alex Jackson, and was made possible by the generous support of the GenCon Indy Writer’s Symposium, and the Writing Excuses patrons at Patreon.


Pull some of your favorite books down, examine the dialog itself, without tags, and determine what tricks the writer has used to differentiate the character voices.

Hex, by Thomas Olde Huevelt

11.41: The Editor’s Wish List, with Navah Wolfe

Navah Wolfe, an editor at Saga Press, joined us to talk about the manuscripts she would really like to see. Ordinarily we don’t encourage people to write to the market, but Navah asked specifically for the opportunity to tell our listeners what she’s looking for. As it happens, tracking Navah’s wish list as you write is unlikely to send you haring after the latest trend—you’re far more likely to develop some new writing skills that will make your work more enjoyable, more fulfilling, and ultimately easier to sell.

Spoiler Warning: In three weeks we’ll be doing a Project in Depth on Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal. If you want to get the most out of that episode, you have three weeks to acquire and read the book.

Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.



Write two different “this meets that” pitches, once with a focus on the emotional heart, and once with a focus on set dressing.

The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, edited by Navah Wolfe (available October 18th, 2016. No audio version available yet.)

11.39: Elemental Relationship Q&A, with Greg van Eekhout

Greg van Eekhout joined us at Phoenix Comic Con for a live-audience Q&A session about Elemental Relationship writing. Here are the questions:

  • What is your favorite way to establish relationships?
  • How do you recover when a relationship starts to feel forced?
  • How do you show a “best friend” relationship?
  • How do you decide the pacing of the romance?
  • Do you try to make the nature of character relationships clear, or do you leave it to subtext?
  • How do you go about writing transsexual relationships?
  • What are your favorite relationships to write?
  • How do I write the beginning of a relationship between characters the reader has not yet really met?
  • How do you transform love into hate, and vice-versa?
  • When writing a love triangle, how do you avoid telegraphing the final resolution?
  • Do you have recommendations for books that focus on familial friend relationships rather than romance?

Credits: this episode was recorded live at Phoenix Comic-Con by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Identify something about your location that would provide, in an alternate universe, a source of magic unavailable in other locations.

California Bones, by Greg VanEekhout

11.35: Elemental Humor Q&A with Victoria Schwab

For our third Elemental Humor episode Victoria Schwab joins us as we field questions taken from our audience at Phoenix Comic-Con. Here are the questions:

  • How do you add humor to a serious story without breaking the tension?
  • How do I move beyond the “Dad jokes” and into properly funny writing?
  • When is humor necessary in horror?
  • Where is the line between a comedic book, and a book that uses humor as a subgenre.
  • How do you make dialog sound natural, while still sounding funny?

Credits: this episode was recorded live at Phoenix Comic Con by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Write  a joke, and have each of your characters tell that joke. Find a way for them to tell that joke “in character,” in their style.

A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

11.33: Crossover Fiction, with Victoria Schwab

Victoria Schwab, who also writes as V.E. Schwab, joined us in Phoenix to talk about crossover fiction—in this context the term means books that target a given demographic but which have a much broader appeal, or books which straddle the line between age demographics.

We discuss some good crossover examples, and how some of the boundaries work, and then we cover some of the techniques we use when writing crossover works.


Credits: this episode was recorded live at Phoenix Comic Con by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Write a story about a book that cannot be read until you are dead.

Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal, and also narrated by Mary