Tag Archives: Alternate History

Writing Excuses 9.5: Hijacking the Knowledge You Already Have, with Mette Ivie Harrison

What are those things you already know, but which you might not be using in your writing? How do you identify those things and put them to work for you? Mette Ivie Harrison joins us for a discussion of how you might “hijack” (okay, “repurpose”) the knowledge you already have in order to make you a better writer. We hear a lot about the 10,000 hours of practice required to gain expertise in a given domain. It’s possible that you’ve already spent some of those 10,000 hours in activities that you didn’t realize were related.

Mette leads with her love of history. Mary directs us a bit with a metaphor from Jim Henson. Brandon talks about what is, by any other name, fanfic, and Howard talks about his degree in music composition. We also talk about how we leverage the knowledge we’re acquiring in other activities to flesh out the things we’re writing — in effect, letting that stuff serve as research without it being part of the actual research we do.

 

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Look at your own life. Take some skill, activity, or piece of esoteric knowledge that seems completely unrelated to your writing, and then incorporate it in the next thing that you write.

Dangerous Women, by George RR Martin, Gardner Dozois and several others (including Brandon Sanderson), narrated by a long A-list of voices.

Writing Excuses 8.39: Dystopian Fiction with Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest stopped by for an evening during the Out Of Excuses Workshop and Retreat this summer, so of course we took the opportunity to drag her into the basement and grill her relentlessly about dystopian fiction, in front of witnesses.

(Okay, maybe that’s not exactly how it happened…)

After the requisite introductions, we give you a working definition of dystopian fiction, and why it’s popular. Cherie and Dan tell us about their dystopias, and then we dig into talking about how to build them well.

Steelheart Tweeting Thingy: Per the episode intro from Howard, this Monday, September 30th we’ll be giving away Steelheart audiobooks, courtesy of our sponsor Audible.com, to some randomly-selected people who tweet their epic weakness and the name of the book. Here’s the format:

“My epic weakness is {WEAKNESS} and the chance to win the STEELHEART audiobook from @WritingExcuses”

Obviously you’ll want to replace {WEAKNESS} with something clever. You have fifty-two characters to play with. Also, you should follow @WritingExcuses on Twitter so we can Direct Message you if you happen to be one of the lucky winners. We’ll announce the winners on Tuesday.

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Base a dystopia on breakfast cereal…

Dreadnought, by Cherie Priest, narrated by Kate Reading.

Writing Excuses 7.53: Secret History

Hey, guess what 2012 has fifty-three of? Mondays! So you’re getting a fifty-third episode of “Writing Excuses” this season. (You’re also going to be getting a fifty-fourth, because we stuck an extra in there a few weeks back.)

Hopefully this excuses (no pun intended) the fact that this episode is a full three days late. Merry Christmas!

Let’s talk about secret histories. A secret history is a subset of alternate history, in which historical events are given new explanations, typically fantastical ones, but in which the reader is invited to believe that this is the world we all currently live in.

We mention Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Tim Powers’ Last Call, and Jo Walton’s Among Others, and why secret history has the appeal it does, especially when it’s done well. And because you want to know how to do it well, we spend some time on that, as well as discussing some of the ethics of creating secret histories in the first place.

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Take a popular piece of entertainment, grab a side-character, and give us their secret story.

A Short Stay in Hell, by Stephen L. Peck, narrated by Sergei Burbank

Writing Excuses 7.28: Project in Depth– Glamour in Glass

Mary talks to us in depth about Glamour in Glass, and yes, there are spoilers. She discusses the challenges she faced with the project, and some of the inspirations and key concepts that drove it.

Brandon, Dan, and Howard fire questions at Mary, and while she’s supposed to be on the spot she fields everything with aplomb (with the exception of that one surprise at 4:42.) We learn about the military applications of the glamour magic system, a system that up until now we’d only seen in the drawing rooms of high society.

The content here is particularly fascinating (and useful!) if you’re looking to write alternate history, as Mary goes into quite a bit of detail about what went into the rather significant changes she made to the history in her books. Her research process is worthy of your close attention.

Hello Kitty at 4:42: The cat’s name is “Pinecone” and its arrival was unexpected.

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Have Queen Victoria’s cousin not die. How is history changed?

The Hollow City, by Dan Wells, which, as of this writing, doesn’t show up on Audible’s site. We counsel patience.

Writing Excuses 7.17: Guns and Fiction

Larry Correia joins Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard in front of a live audience at LTUE on Utah Valley University campus. Larry knows guns inside and out, and talks to us about the mistakes that writers make when putting firearms into their stories.

Most of this is simple stuff, or at least it’s simple to fix, but that doesn’t change the fact that we get it wrong all the time. Have a listen, follow Larry’s advice, and get your guns right.

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Give us a character who, after reading one Larry Correia novel, goes out and procures a grenade launcher.

Spellbound: Book II of the Grimnoir Chronicles, by Larry Corriea, narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Writing Excuses 7.8: The City as a Character

Mary and Dan discuss using a city as a character with Sarah Pinborough, for whom London is an important setting and one of her favorite places. We talk about the importance of being accurate, and how a city isn’t just the buildings and the history, it’s also the attitudes of the people who live there. Sarah gives us lots (and lots and lots) of insight into how she wrote London into her books, what she did right, and what (per her admission) she got wrong.

Dan and Mary also give us some peeks into what they’ve done with Clayton (completely fictional) and Nashville (adjusted via authorial arson) in their own books.

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Take a city to which you have been, and set a chase scene there.

The Terror, by Dan Simmons, narrated by Simon Vance