11.24: Stakes!

We talk a lot about “raising the stakes” in our writing. When we say “stakes,” we’re referring to the things that keep our characters involved in the conflict, rather than just walking away and doing something else. We dig into what this really means, and how everyone in the story must be driven by things that they have at stake.

Liner Notes: in this episode we refer to the three character-development “sliders” model set forth in WX 9.13.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 


Writing Prompt: An object, a character, and a genre. Look to your left and that's your object. Check your bookshelf, and the first book that catches your eye is your genre. The character? Your best friend.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert O'Brian, narrated by Barbara Caruso

11.23: The Element of Mystery

Mystery may well be the most common element in use, at least in some form or another, across the many bookshelf genres comprising “fiction.” We discuss the driving force of elemental mystery, how to evoke those feelings in the reader, and the importance of being able to write mystery effectively.

Liner Notes: we mentioned Episode 7.10 in which Mary and Dan interviewed David Brin.

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


Writing Prompt: Create a crime scene where you know what's been done, and who has done it.  List the clues that would be present. Then begin removing the ones that characters would not notice. This becomes your framework for a mystery, which you're essentially outlining in reverse.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Mrs Roosevelt's Confidante, by Susan Elijah McNeil, narrated by Susan Duerden

11.22: Examining Unconscious Biases, with Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale joins us at LTUE for a live-audience session in which we explore gender biases, and extrapolate from there to our many other unconscious biases.

Our unconscious biases are not just the things that we consider to be “just the way things are,” or “common sense.” They’re the things we don’t even see, much less consider, and the obvious challenge for us as writers is  to find those biases, and then to dig into them and really understand them. Our goal is to be able to write beyond them, and create literature that is both more believable, and more widely accessible.

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


Writing Prompt: Take something you've written, and gender-swap it.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Women Destroy Science Fiction!: Lightspeed Magazine Special Issueedited by Christie Yant

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. 


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

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson, narrated by Robertson Dean

Announcing (…drum roll…) the 2016 Scholarship Winners!

We have processed the applications, read the submissions, and made the extremely difficult decisions, and the dust has cleared to reveal the four incredible scholarship recipients for this year’s Writing Excuses Retreat.

I called them winners in the title, but that’s misleading: this is not something they drew in a lottery, or stumbled over in a random contest, this is an award that they have earned, and we could not be more delighted to have them with us on the cruise. Please join us in congratulating the 2016 recipients of the Carl Brandon scholarship and the Out of Excuses scholarship.

Carl Brandon Scholarship Winners:

Nilah Magruder
Jacquline Hopson

Out of Excuses Scholarship Winners:

Joseph Balanzategui
Rachel Seamount

A million thanks to everyone who applied. You gave us a ton of amazing applications this year–more than we’ve ever had–and it was very hard to pick only four.

Registration for the retreat—which, let’s not forget, is taking place on a cruise ship in the eastern Caribbean—is open until the final day of June, or until we reach 150 students, whichever comes first. If you want to join us, sign up today!

11.20: Horror as a Subgenre

Steve Diamond joins us again to talk horror, this time about using elemental horror as part of our stories’ elemental ensemble. We discuss how the sense of dread can be a page-turning motivation, and how it can complement the other “keep on reading” motivations we set out to invoke.

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



Writing Prompt: Write a scene twice: first, write it so that there's humor, and then horror. Then write it so that the horror comes first, and the humor is last.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Swan Song, by Robert McCammon, narrated by Tom Stechshulte