Category Archives: Q&A

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

11.30: Elemental Thriller Q&A

We fielded the following questions about the “Thriller” elemental genre from listeners on Facebook and Twitter:

  • How do I build tension consistently through my story?
  • How do you maintain tension during dialog?
  • When do you not use a cliffhanger?
  • Do you ever picture your scenes as if they were in a movie?
  • How much elemental thriller is too much for a book that isn’t a thriller? What’s the tipping point where you’ve switched genres?
  • What do you do when the tension in your story peaks too early?

Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 


Sit down with your manuscript or outline, and in the margins, add notes about the emotions you’re trying to evoke with each scene, and where in the scene it’s supposed to happen. This list of notes is your “beat chart,” and it’s going to teach you neat things about your story.

Javelin Rain, by Myke Cole, narrated by Korey Jackson

11.26: Elemental Mystery Q&A

In this episode we field some questions about elemental mystery. Here they are!

  • How do you balance between two mysteries in the same story?
  • What types of mysteries can fit well as sub-plots?
  • What do you do when beta readers figure out the mystery really early?
  • In the MICE quotient, are mysteries all “Idea” stories?
  • How do you write a protagonist who is smarter than you are?
  • How do you make sure your genius protagonist is still experiencing an interesting struggle?
  • How do you make a kidnap victim more than just a MacGuffin?
  • How “literary” can you make your mystery?

Liner Notes: The movie Howard referred to is Cellular, with Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, and Jason Statham.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 


Take a book or film that you enjoy, and write down every mystery you see.

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

11.21: Q&A on Elemental Horror, with Steve Diamond

Steve Diamond joins us for our third and final Elemental Horror episode as we field your questions about this particular building block. Here are the questions we selected from your submissions:

  • If I want to make peanut butter terrifying without being silly, how do I do that?
  • What is your personal line between horror and “gore-nography?”
  • How do you avoid going too far with graphic elements?
  • Soundtracks are huge for horror movies. How do you set the mood without this tool?
  • What’s the best way for a thriller writer to edge into writing horror?
  • How do you decide when to show the monster, and how does it change the story when that happens?

Credits: This episode was recorded by Daniel Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 


Outline a story in which your character must choose to do something horrific.

I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson, narrated by Robertson Dean

11.19: Fashion for Writers, with Rebecca McKinney

How do we go about describing the clothing our characters are wearing? How do we use that to add depth to our story? What are the common mistakes that writers make when they start dressing their characters?

Rebecca McKinney joined us on stage at LTUE to address all this.

Liner Notes: We mentioned some resources for those wanting to get clothing right in their work:


Describe the same outfit from two different point of view characters.

Bluescreen, by Dan Wells, narrated by Roxanne Hernandez