By Writing Excuses | April 13, 2008 - 11:18 pm - Posted in News & Reviews, Scenes, Season 1

Pacing… it’s all about keeping the tension up, keeping things snappy, and keeping the reader interested. This week the Writing Excuses crew delivers some tips, tricks, and tools you can use to get your story flowing in all the right ways.

Also, on Sunday The Salt Lake Tribune posted an article about Podcasting in Utah. Jordan Sanderson and Howard Tayler were interviewed for this article. You can read it here. Writing Excuses, with quotes from Howard, is mentioned near the end of the article.

And this week from Tor, The Hidden World, by Paul Park

By Writing Excuses | July 7, 2008 - 8:04 am - Posted in Plot, Scenes, Season 1, Writing Prompt

As a writer it’s sometimes difficult to decide between doing things the readers want, and things that are right for the story. But as Dan says, writers can get away with doing things to readers that readers would never do to themselves.

Beware! This podcast contains spoilers for The Lord of the Rings, Return of the Jedi, and Serenity (the statute of limitations should have passed on all of these) as well as for the current week of Schlock Mercenary.

This Week’s Episode is brought to you by one of our favorite causes, “Buy Dan Bacon.” Mmmm, bacon.

By Writing Excuses | July 14, 2008 - 8:12 pm - Posted in Scenes, Season 1, Writing Prompt

You’ve heard about viewpoint, but do you really know what it means? Discover along with Howard the magic world of person, tense, and omniscience, and how you can use them to tell your story. It’s a short journey, as quests go, but we’ll all learn a valuable lesson about writing–and about ourselves.*

*Heartfelt lessons about ourselves not guaranteed. Contents non-refundable.

By Writing Excuses | July 28, 2008 - 9:31 am - Posted in general, Scenes, Season 1, Writing Prompt

We are pleased to present the second half of “Viewpoint and Tense,”  which, as we all know, is Tense. Part 1 was Viewpoint. It’s not two podcasts that both talk about tense and viewpoint, it’s two totally different podcasts that share a title for some reason. Why didn’t we just do two separate podcasts, one on tense and one on viewpoint, instead of trying to connect them like this? Because, as we tell you every week, we’re not that smart.

This week’s Writing Excuses Book of the Week: Warbreaker, by some hack.

By Writing Excuses | September 29, 2008 - 7:46 am - Posted in Ideas, Plot, Scenes, Season 1, Writing Prompt

Like all right-thinking people, we loved The Dark Knight–but because we are also writers obsessed with the craft of storytelling, we liked it for very specific, very nerdy reasons. Join us as we take a journey through What The Dark Knight Did Right: strong characters,  excellent dialogue, a layered plot that blended perfectly (and unexpectedly) with the central themes, and more.

Writing Prompt: Pull out an old piece of writing from the last year or so. Pick a dialogue scene and try to take each piece of dialogue up a half of a notch, evoking a little more character. The outcome or conclusion of the dialogue scene should remain the same.

With Brandon still mysteriously missing, Professor Bob Defendi returns to take Dan and Howard on a magical journey through the three-act format: every step, every element, every nuance of this very common and very helpful writing structure. The only way you could conceivably learn more is in a magic school bus, and frankly we don’t think that’s very likely.

This week’s episode is brought to you by Bob’s podcast audiobook Death by Cliché, by Robert J. Defendi. No matter how hilarious you think this is going to be, it’s actually more hilarious than that.

Writing Prompt: Plot out a three act structure for a current project or a new one.

By Writing Excuses | December 14, 2008 - 8:15 pm - Posted in Guest, Scenes, Season 2, Writing Prompt

Dave Farland, aka Dave Wolverton again joins the Writing Excuses team, and helps us discuss boredom. Specifically, we cover how to deal with it, how to go about writing those “boring parts” that come between the exciting bits that fuel your writing passion.

We talk about skipping ahead, switching viewpoints, following the pain, and trying to do this in a first-person narrative. And for an episode that claims to be about the “boring parts” this one is fairly action-packed. 

Finally.

Writing Prompt: Kill the main badguy in every chapter.

By Writing Excuses | January 4, 2009 - 9:32 pm - Posted in Conflicts, Scenes, Writing Prompt

All three of your Writing Excuses hosts include a measure of violence in their written work. So Brandon, Dan, and Howard decide to clear the air a little bit.

Why do we write about violence? What does it bring to a work of fiction, and what challenges does it pose? Is there a morally appropriate way to write about violence? How does it impact the theme of your work?  Is there a difference between writing about violence and writing comedic mayhem?

Writing Prompt: Have some fun in the worst possible way. Write a scene that has an extremely violent sequence that glorifies the violence and then write a scene dealing with the consequences.

By Writing Excuses | January 18, 2009 - 9:46 pm - Posted in Ideas, Scenes, Writing Prompt

When do you know when you’re ready to begin? What does that question even mean? Apparently Brandon gets asked it a lot, though, so he posed it for the group. How do you know when that story in your head is ready for you to start writing it? Or maybe, how do you know you’re ready to start writing that story that’s up in your head? Or perhaps, when do you know when in that story in your head you should begin writing it, assuming you’re ready?

Confused yet? If you’re ready to begin listening, we’re ready to begin making more sense.

Writing Prompt: Write an ending, and start your book with it.

By Writing Excuses | March 1, 2009 - 9:16 pm - Posted in Conflicts, Guest, Scenes

 Rob Wells joins the Writing Excuses crew for a second ‘cast, this time dealing with fight scenes. We talk about good blocking versus a bad blow-by-blow, and cover a few of the factors that may dictate the right style of description for that wicked-cool fight you’ve pictured in your head.

This episode is fast-paced and, well… punchy. No, really, it is. Seriously, that seemed like the right word there, pun notwithstanding.

Writing Prompt: Write a fight between two people who have never been in a fight before.

By Writing Excuses | April 26, 2009 - 8:40 pm - Posted in Plot, Scenes, Writing Prompt

Let’s talk about failure… but let’s talk about it so that we can avoid it.  How do you know if your ending has flopped?  What kind of approaches to ending a story should you be avoiding? How can you recognize these approaches in time to avoid them? The best approach? Identify the promises you’ve made to your readers, and then fulfil them with your ending. Okay, now you don’t have to listen.

Writing Prompt: Start your book with an ending where everyone dies.

This weeks Writing Excuses is brought to you by Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson, Book 3 of the Mistborn series now in paperback.

Howard here… I’ve learned that it’s a really bad idea to run out for a bio-break between podcasts. When I returned to the packed panel room I could tell that everyone’s attitude towards me was subtly different. It wasn’t until we started recording that I realized Brandon had turned our Q&A panel into a “Stump Howard” panel. Our good friend Eric James Stone joined us for the fun.

As silly themes go, this one works well. So well, in fact, that we went six minutes into overtime. The questions were all good, and yes, according to the rules (of which I was not apprised, I should add in my defense) I got stumped one time. It was the question about making aliens seem alien. Go figure.

Writing Prompt: Start with a device that vaporises water, ala Batman Begins, and turn it into a believable superweapon which is not being used to destroy the world.

By Writing Excuses | November 8, 2009 - 7:13 pm - Posted in Genre, Scenes, Style

Jake Black fills in for Brandon “#1 New York Times Bestselling Author” Sanderson this week, and that’s perfect because Jake writes comics and Brandon doesn’t. So mostly this is Dan holding Jake’s and my feet to the fire.

We’ll talk about the business of writing comics next week. This week it’s more nuts-and-bolts, and we run for almost 20 minutes…

Writing Prompt: Write a story in which Superman swoops into a room, kicks something, and then turns into Spider-Man.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible. Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership*.

*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
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By Writing Excuses | July 5, 2010 - 9:45 am - Posted in Characters, Dialog, Scenes

“As you know, we’ll be discussing stilted dialog” said Howard. “We should do something different for the introduction.”

“Let’s speak our dialog tags” said Brandon cleverly.

“We mustn’t forget to include adverbs” said Dan pensively.

That’s not exactly how it went down, but that’s a nicely stilted object lesson, right? And let me state for posterity that writing it was painful.

What is “stilted dialog?” Who is wearing stilts, and why? More importantly, how can we avoid writing dialog that staggers about on leg extensions?

We offer a few tricks, including heavily re-writing (after first racing to get as much dialog on the page as possible), using turns of phrase that are in-character for the person saying it, and turning exposition into arguments.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, which is currently being read by the Internet reading group One book, One Twitter.

Writing Prompt: This is a two-parterStart by writing the very worst infodumping maid & butler dialog you can (using an actual maid and an actual butler.) Now rewrite it with the maid & butler arguing viciously. Include all the same information, but make the dialog believable and entertaining.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.

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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | July 11, 2010 - 8:28 pm - Posted in Characters, Dialog, Editing, Plot, Scenes, Structure

What do you do when, halfway through the book you’re writing, you realize it needs to be completely rebuilt? More importantly, how do you figure this out in the first place? This podcast came about as a result of a question from a listener, but the question was specific to “what if you find out it’s too derivative?” As it turns out, that’s just one of the many problems you can discover midway through a novel.

We spend the first half of the cast discussing how each of us identify the showstopping problems that require us to overhaul our works.

We then talk about the process of fixing things that might, at first glance, appear to be completely unfixable. Sometimes we shift pieces of paper around, sometimes we push blocks of text around in our word processors, and sometimes we have to do something really significant, like adding an entirely new character or point-of-view.

One of the best features of this particular ‘cast is the bit in the second half where Howard and Dan grill Brandon about his process for Towers of Midnight. Wheel of Time fans won’t find any spoilers, but they’ll certainly gain some insight.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett, which Howard loves because of the “stand-up-and-cheer” moments of heroism throughout the book.

Writing Prompt: Take something you’ve already written, grab a throwaway concept in that story, and rewrite that scene or chapter so the throwaway bit is now the major focus.

Moment of Extreme Hubris: “I give lessons.” Listen for it.

That Episode on Stealing for Fun and Profit: Right here.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.

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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | November 28, 2010 - 7:12 pm - Posted in Artwork, Guest, Scenes, World Building

Scott Westerfeld joins Brandon and Howard for a discussion of the visual components of novels. His novel Leviathan is set in an alternate history 1914, and is designed to look like a book from 1914, complete with illustrations. Keith Thompson designed the art to look like period art, and it adds a significant dimension to the book.

Brandon talks about how he employed these same principles in The Way of Kings, which has in-world maps and in-world illustrations throughout its thousand pages. And of course Howard points how these things apply in the illustration-dependent Schlock Mercenary.

We move into a discussion of how the illustrations affect both the publication process and the storytelling, and how things like deck-plans and engineering diagrams feed back into the story.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, narrated by Alan Cumming

Writing Prompt: Draw the floor plan of the house or building you’re in. Knock out a wall, and write an action scene involving that.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership*.
*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | March 27, 2011 - 7:08 pm - Posted in Guest, Live, Scenes

Dan and Howard are joined by Larry Correia and Robison Wells (Rob is the younger of the Wells brothers), and with the enthusiastic support of a live audience at LTUE they discuss writing action.

Larry’s books are made of action (and no small amount of gunplay.) Howard’s comics feature mercenaries (and sometimes elephants.) Robison’s latest book, Variant, doesn’t have any experienced fighters in it, but the characters still manage to get into action-oriented trouble. Dan’s action scenes are personal, visceral, and confusing. And so we talk about how we do it.

We also talk about how we’ve seen others do it in books and in film. We discuss the scene/sequel format, blocking, and how “write what you know” need not be an obstacle to writing about sword fighting against dragon. Or Howard’s dog.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia, narrated by Oliver Wyman

Writing Prompt: Write an action sequence that you can appropriately title “Flaming Slapfight.”

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | April 3, 2011 - 9:59 pm - Posted in Guest, Live, Other Podcasts, Scenes

Sarah Eden and Robison Wells join Dan and Howard at LTUE to talk about writing romance. Sarah writes in the romance genre, but we’re not focusing on the genre — we’re talking about writing romance within the context of whatever else we might happen to be putting on the page.

We lead with how to do it wrong, because nothing is as much fun to talk about as bad romance. It’s also educational.

More importantly (and more usefully) we talk about formulas for doing romance correctly. One of the most practical is to pair characters up by finding emotional needs that these characters can meet for each other. We look at examples from each of our work: Sarah’s The Kiss of a Stranger, Dan’s I Don’t Want To Kill You, Howard’s The Sharp End of the Stick, and Rob’s Variant.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: I Don’t Want To Kill You, by Dan Wells, narrated by Kirby Heyborne. It’s true, this book has some great romance in it. Also, murder.

Writing Prompt: Create a character, and then create a complementary character who both meets a need and provides unwelcome challenge.

Everybody’s Lisp: Brought to you by the noise reduction software we used. Sorry about that. It won’t happen again.

The Bonus Game: Bad Romance! Enjoy!

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | July 31, 2011 - 8:29 am - Posted in Career, Characters, Liner Notes, Plot, Scenes

Microcasting again! The questions we fielded from the Twitterverse include:

  • How do you hold the whole story in your head when it’s a thousand pages long?
  • What steps do you use when creating a character?
  • As an outliner, when do you start putting in the details?
  • How do you patch plot holes?
  • How do you come up with names?
  • Is there one writing skill you’d like to get better at?
  • Writing groups: what do you look for?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Hard Magic, by Larry Correia, narrated by Bronson Pinchot

As Promised, Here is a Link: The Everchanging Book of Names

 

Speaking of the Twitterverse: The Writing Excuses team is BrandSanderson, MaryRobinette, HowardTayler, JohnCleaver (Dan), and MonkeySloth (Producer Jordo).

Writing Prompt: Someone has to save the world from an intercontinental ballistic hairball, but their keyboard layout has been changed.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation.

By Writing Excuses | October 16, 2011 - 6:11 pm - Posted in Characters, Conflicts, Guest, Plot, Scenes, Structure

Lou Anders joins Dan, Howard, and Mary for a discussion of endings. We begin by talking about how important it is to “stick your landing” at the end of the book, and then recap the Hollywood Formula to point out how endings work there. We get examples from Mary’s upcoming novel Glamour in Glass, Dan’s upcoming novel Partials, Howard’s work-in-progress short story, and Lou Anders’ award-worthy, dot-matrix printer.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Blood of Ambrose, by James Enge, narrated by Jay Snyder

Writing Prompt: Using the first fifteen minutes of your least favorite recent movie as a starting point, write a story with a powerful ending.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
Visit http://AudiblePodcast.com/excuse for a free trial membership*.
*Note: From the Audible website, here are the terms of the free membership. Read the fine print, please!

Audible® Free Trial Details
Get your first 14 days of the AudibleListener® Gold membership plan free, which includes one audiobook credit. After your 14 day trial, your membership will renew each month for just $14.95 per month so you can continue to receive one audiobook credit per month plus members-only discounts on all audio purchases. A very small number of titles are more than one credit. Cancel your membership before your free trial period is up and you will not be charged. Thereafter, cancel anytime, effective the next billing cycle. Any unused audiobook credits will be lost at cancellation

By Writing Excuses | February 26, 2012 - 6:48 pm - Posted in Characters, Dialog, Editing, Grammar and Spelling, Plot, Q&A, Scenes, Season 7

Microcasting! This is a fancy word for “Q&A” — we pick some questions from Twitter, and do what amounts to nine mini-episodes of Writing Excuses with a side of bacon. This time around the questions were:

  • What do you do if you dont like your characters?
  • How do you keep your plot on track?
  • Is it better to use real locations in an Urban Fantasy?
  • What do you do about plot holes?
  • How do you know if you should abandon a story and move on to something else?
  • How do you ensure the answers to mysteries are satisfying?
  • What are some language-level mistakes that mark writing as amateurish?
  • What should a scene consist of?
  • What kind of bacon is best?
  • Why is Schlock, who looks like a pile of poo, lovable instead of disgusting?

Dan Has A New Book Out This Week: Partials releases this Tuesday, Februrary 28th.

Howard Has An Actual Birthday This Week: Wednesday, February 29th. There will be a sale on at schlockmercenary.com, and it will involve the numbers 11, 29, and 44.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

Writing Prompt: Write what one of your characters would write if that character had a blog.

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We’re doing something new, and Howard gets to go first.

The plan is to take something one of us has completed, and which you’ve had ample time to read, and grill the creator about the project. Obviously there will be spoilers. Also, we’re going to run a bit long on these.

First up in our “Project In Depth” series: Howard’s most recent online volume of Schlock Mercenary, Force Multiplication. You can read it for free at the link above. It’s been nominated in the Best Graphic Story category for this year’s Hugo Awards, this entire episode features Howard on the spot answering questions about the project from Brandon, Dan, and Mary.

The biggest issue discussed is the female perspective. In Force Multiplication Howard challenged himself by casting all of the leads for the story as women, and it changed the storytelling process for him significantly.

He also talks about the setting — Haven Hive — and how he needed the setting to functionally isolate a small ensemble cast. He talks about naming a little, and finally talks about how he turned a sterile-sounding high-concept plot into an interesting story.

Next up on our Project In Depth series: The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson. You have been warned. We’ll also be doing Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamour in Glass and Dan Wells’ Hollow City. We’re NOT doing this back-to-back. You’ve got a little time.

Thing That Would Make Howard Sound Smarter: Remove every last “you know” from his dialog. (Note that this would not actually increase Howard’s IQ.)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs

Writing Prompt: Do this with your own work—have your friends interview you in depth about something you've finished, or something you're currently working on.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.

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By Writing Excuses | August 12, 2012 - 6:34 pm - Posted in Characters, Scenes, Season 7

Writers, like actors, have to animate the inanimate, and evoke emotions that we may not have ever felt, and in this episode we talk about the things that we do in order to accomplish that. We talk about making faces, remembering analogous events, playing thematic music, and running around the kitchen with a knife.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: All Men of Genius, by Lev AC Rosen, narrated by Emily Gray

Writing Prompt: Describe a setting. Then, without using any emotion-words, describe that same setting again three more times from a happy, sad, and angry point of view.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.

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Cancel anytime, effective the next monthly billing cycle. Cancel before your trial ends and you will not be charged. Check out the full terms and policies that apply to Audible membership.

By Writing Excuses | September 16, 2012 - 4:29 pm - Posted in Characters, Pacing, Romance, Scenes, Season 7

Shanna Germain joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard in front of a live audience at GenCon Indy to talk about writing love scenes. They’re not easy to get right, and they can be even more difficult to talk about it in a way that leaves the Writing Excuses team’s “clean” rating intact.

We cover the ways in which the love scenes must support the story, and the importance of tension in setting those scenes up. Mary asks the question foremost in all our minds: how do you write a sex scene so that it’s not silly? Shanna fields it with aplomb, explaining how she lets the characters drive it, washing unintentional humor out of the scene.

We also talk about how difficult it can be for those writing the POV of the opposite sex to get the head-space details right, and how love scenes fit into the pacing of your work.

What You Missed: Prior to recording this episode, in an effort to get all the nervous giggles and snerky titters worked out of our live audience, Mary read a portion of a recently released Pathfinder novel in her “one-nine-hundred” voice. No, we did not record it. Some things are meant to be loved, then lost.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Shanna plugged "One Hot Summer," but the actual title is One Long Hot Summer. It is not currently available Audible, but it's available on Amazon at the link above. There are lots of OTHER things on Audible for you to listen to, including four titles featuring Shanna Germain.

Writing Prompt: Put your characters in a place they cannot escape, and keep them there.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.

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By Writing Excuses | December 2, 2012 - 7:53 pm - Posted in Characters, Conflicts, Scenes, Season 7, Submitting

We haven’t discussed beginnings this in a while, and when we did, we summed it up with “in late, out early.” Now we’re going to talk about what needs to be present when you’re “in.” We talk about tone, and how the tone you set in your beginning is a promise made to your reader, using examples from George R.R. Martin and David Brin. We also talk about how useful (and how dangerously trite) a labeled prologue can be, and how important it is to establish a setting, especially in genre fiction.

This episode appears out of order with something else we recorded which we refer to, specifically a piece Mary is working on. Tantalizing, yes? Here is the episode you probably wanted to hear first.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages, narrated by Julie Dretzen

Writing Prompt: Start a new story. Give us character, place, and sense of tone. Do it one sentence, and do it within 13 lines (which is what typically appears on the first page of a manuscript.)

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.

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Cancel anytime, effective the next monthly billing cycle. Cancel before your trial ends and you will not be charged. Check out the full terms and policies that apply to Audible membership.

By Writing Excuses | April 14, 2013 - 6:58 pm - Posted in Scenes, Season 8, Suspense

We begin with an audio glitch and a jumbling of our usual intro. Why? Because it breaks rhythm, and sometimes you may actually want to do that.

Narrative rhythm is the pattern of story elements and associated structures that help drive the reader’s pace through a book. Consciously managed, narrative rhythm is a a critical pacing tool, but can also be used to point up important information, increase the impact of certain scenes, and even encourage the reader to take a breather.

We talk about examples from film (it’s not the same thing, but it’s easy to make the point this way), as well as examples from our own work. Scenes and sequels, chapter breaks, cliffhangers, and more all come in to play here.  And of course you, fair listener, want to know how to manage narrative rhythm, and we cover some tips and tricks for that, too. 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Book of Three: The Prydain Chronicles, Volume 1, by Lloyd Alexander

Writing Prompt: Re-write a classic fairy-tale, first with nothing but rising action, and then with the addition of some falling action.

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By Writing Excuses | May 5, 2013 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Pacing, Prose, Scenes, Season 8

Blocking! What is it, why is it important, and how can you do it well?

We begin with a definition (blocking is the part of the narrative that tells the reader where the characters are, where the scenery is, and how these things are interacting) and then talk about why it’s important, especially how it applies to “show, don’t tell,” and how the needs of the story will dictate what actually needs to be shown.

Finally, we discuss how to block scenes effectively, and how each of us do it.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Monster Hunter Alpha, by Larry Correia, narrated by Oliver Wyman

Writing Prompt: Write a fight scene. Bonus points if it's got four people in it. We don't know what you'll spend those points on.

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By Writing Excuses | May 26, 2013 - 8:56 am - Posted in Characters, Dialog, Pacing, Scenes, Season 8

We here at Writing Excuses enjoyed Marvel’s The Avengers. This isn’t a movie review, though. This is a discussion of what the movie did right from a writer’s standpoint. The things we focus on?

  • Dialog and character voice
  • Balanced handling of an ensemble of main characters
  • Scenes that serve more than one function
  • Pacing

Obviously there will be some spoilers here. The film is available for rental now, so you might consider watching it again with this podcast and these points in mind. And generally speaking, it’s a good exercise for writers to look at movies (or books, or comics, or whatever) that they enjoy, and then attempt to identify the reasons those things were enjoyable.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon, narrated by David Colacci

Writing Prompt: Take an ensemble cast, and have them fighting each other as a prelude to fighting what needs to be fought. Alternatively? "Hulk smash."

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By Writing Excuses | July 7, 2013 - 5:51 pm - Posted in Characters, Live Audience, Outlining, Pacing, Scenes, Season 8, Structure

What determines our chapter breaks? How do we handle POV shifts, scene-sequel balance, and other considerations when we’re carving our stories into chapters?

Dan starts with a discussion of the POV considerations in Fragments and in Ruins (from the Partials series,) and Brandon contrasts that with some of the epic fantasy methods. We argue the respective merits and pitfalls of rapid switching and large blocks, and then we talk about how the chapters take shape during our outlines and initial drafts.

Episode Trivia: This was the first episode we recorded at the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat, and was the first time in a year that the four of us had been together to record. So rusty!

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Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Promise of Blood, by Brian McClellan, narrated by Christian Rodska

Writing Prompt: Outline a two-character plot arc, and then break it into chapters. Experiment with big blocks and little blocks of POV in this chapter-chopped outline, and consider how this will affect the arc.

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By Writing Excuses | August 4, 2013 - 3:02 pm - Posted in Dialog, Prose, Scenes, Season 8

The combination of dialogue, blocking, and description, can be considered from a couple of directions. The first is the idea that we’re really talking about making every element do double or triple duty. Dialogue, blocking, and description work together for exposition, answering questions the reader is asking.

The second is the “pyramid of abstraction.” The bottom of the pyramid, the scene setting, is the concrete foundation. The layers atop it can be more and more abstract, like tagless dialog without concrete descriptions, if that original foundation is firm enough.

In this ‘cast we take both approaches, and offer some tips, tricks, and examples so that you can learn to do this well.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Bloody Jack, by L.A. Meyer, narrated by Katherine Kellgren

Writing Prompt: (Which is Actually Homework) Write description for half an hour. A full half hour. Set a timer! Try to use all five senses. Now write a single paragraph in which we establish a single character in that setting. Finally, write three sentences that convey the character, the description, and the character's emotional state. Want more exercises like this one? Here you go! (courtesy of Mary.)

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By Writing Excuses | October 27, 2013 - 3:56 pm - Posted in Guest, Live, Scenes, Season 8

Wesley Chu joins Brandon, Mary, Howard, and a live audience at GenCon Indy for a discussion of writing realistic melee fights. Wes has lots of martial arts experience, he learned rope-dart fighting from Scorpion, he has worked as a stunt man, and his latest book, The Deaths of Tao, is out this week!

He talks to us about melee fighting. What sorts of things knock us out (ahem) of the story? How can we realistically portray combat without losing the heroic, incredible edge we want in our story?

Out of Order Episode Moment: Scott Lynch’s episode was mentioned, but has not aired yet. It’s okay. We’ll get to it.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Lives of Tao, by Wesley Chu, narrated by Mikael Naramore

Writing Prompt: Write a scene in any world where a pirate actually can beat a ninja.

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By Writing Excuses | June 9, 2014 - 10:45 am - Posted in Characters, Conflicts, eBooks, Publishing, Scenes, Season 9

Side quests come in a couple of forms — they may be something inside the book that takes the characters away from the main plotline, or they may be adventures that take place outside of the book itself.

We talk about the first type, and how to make sure they’re in the book for the right reasons, citing examples from The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, Redshirts, The Way of Kings, and The Hollow City among other stories.

In covering the second type, we talk about how ebooks have made ancillary, side-quest releases more common, and we cite the book trailers for the Partials series, the Glamourist Histories Christmas Stories, Steelheart, and the Schlock Mercenary Bonus Stories.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, by Christopher Healy and Todd Harris, narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Writing Prompt: Create a story in which you have an incredibly powerful character, and a sidekick, then flip the relationship so the sidekick is in charge.

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