By Writing Excuses | April 21, 2013 - 11:03 pm - Posted in Demonstration, Season 8

We’re going to try brainstorming with Brandon again, because that last story didn’t grab him. There’s a lesson there, but let’s move on…

Our story seed is “psychic birds.” Brandon asks us to start with plotting, but we have to do a little world-building first, locking down some of the bird abilities, and their scope. Then we wrestle with conflict, and the need for a good ending.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin, narrated by Rob Inglis

Writing Prompt: Come up with an animal that both swims and flies. But not a duck.

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By Writing Excuses | April 7, 2013 - 5:28 pm - Posted in Demonstration, Ideas, Sci-fi, Season 8

As if he needs the help, Brandon challenges Mary, Howard, and Dan to help him brainstorm an A.I. short story. Brandon hands them some setup, and off they go. The ground may have been well-tread in the past, but this particular brainstorming session is full of great ideas that incorporate religion, cargo cults, puzzles, and aliens…

The big challenge here is finding a tale that’s interesting enough and original enough to be worth the telling…

Mary’s Hugo-nominated Novella: “Kiss Me Twice” which appeared in Asimov’s.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Dragonsinger: Harper Hall Trilogy Volume 2, by Anne McCaffrey, narrated by Sally Darling

Writing Prompt: Come up with a better resolution for this story than we did.

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By Writing Excuses | March 10, 2013 - 6:07 pm - Posted in Collaboration, Demonstration, Season 8

In this episode Brandon, Mary, and Dan help Howard brainstorm a story for a comic!

Howard begins with an uplift-related setting, and a couple of characters, and then the group takes off on a delightful demonstration of brainstorming within very specific constraints. The constraints in this case: existing setting and canon, existing characters, and (Howard’s favorite constraint) a limited page-count.

Disappointment of Epic Levels: Howard struggled so much with this story, even after the brainstorming session, that he decided to abandon the Bonus Story option for this book, and instead write a dozen new footnotes for the existing strips. This is no reflection upon the story itself. Brandon, Dan, and Mary did a great job. This story may see life someplace else, but not between the covers of “The Body Politic.”

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Fragments, by Dan Wells, narrated by Julia Whelan

Writing Prompt: An uplifted creature wants to get his/her entire species downlifted.

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By Writing Excuses | March 3, 2013 - 5:48 pm - Posted in Death, Demonstration, Ideas, Season 8

In this episode Howard pitches three story ideas to the group, and they pick one to brainstorm. The selection process is itself educational (which is good, because it runs for a third of the ‘cast…)

The story selected is near-future science-fiction with extra-dimensional, magical elements. As the brainstorming continues, we grab some fun secret-history elements, and successfully deepen the conflict. We also learn that there are two stories here, and Howard has to choose which one of them to write.

And For Your Disappointment: As of this time the story laid out in this ‘cast remains unwritten, so you can’t read it.

But to Make Up For It: Howard got distracted and wrote a horror piece instead! Here is a sample! (Note: this wasn’t one of the pitches, but it DOES demonstrate that Howard really, really wanted to get out of his comfort zone.)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Feedback, by Robison Wells, narrated by Michael Goldstrom

Writing Prompt: Pick a major event in history, and then write a secret history in which Death returns to take over.

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By Writing Excuses | September 2, 2012 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Demonstration, Ideas, Plot, Season 7

Dan needs to write a military thriller. It’s just a short story, but still, it’s a bit outside his area of expertise, and he needs help. So in this episode Brandon, Mary, and Howard will endeavor to help him.

The working title? “I.E.Demon”

You can’t read this story yet, but we’ll let you know when you can.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, by John Scalzi, narrated by Wil Wheaton

Writing Prompt: Google military three-letter-acronyms (IED and RPG are off-limits.) Swap out one of the words for a supernatural descriptor beginning with the same letter. That's your story seed.

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By Writing Excuses | October 23, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Demonstration, Ideas

We’ve done brainstorming casts before. This time we’ve prepared something quite a bit different. It’s different, in fact, because we prepared it — in advance, even.

Producer Jordo provided your hosts Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard with four wacky news headlines. From these, we each hammered together rudimentary bits of story, and we did so independently. You get four different takes on this four-headline mashup.

The four headlines:

  • Wary of Iguanas, Bored Germans Finally Venture Out
  • Heroic Mailman Saves Three Lives While On the Job
  • Dolphin Charged With Battery Against Girlfriend
  • Austrian Power Company Tells Customer She is Dead

Mary goes first and sets the bar rather high with an entire story outline.

Brandon goes next, and gives us a magic system.

Then it’s Howard’s turn. What looks like story shrapnel turns out to be the prologue.

Finally, Dan gives us a nice, post-apocalyptic piece, or at least the robotic skeleton of one.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, narrated by Tom Weiner.

Writing Prompt: No prompt this week. Not unless you want to try your hand at these headlines.

Those Bullet Points from Brandon: Nope, not in Howard’s email. We’ll get them eventually. Or maybe not.

 

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By Writing Excuses | July 17, 2011 - 5:07 pm - Posted in Collaboration, Demonstration, Genre, Ideas, Setting

Here’s a brainstorming episode in which Brandon throws random concepts from a textbook of his on gods and goddesses, and we attempt to brainstorm a cyberpunk story from these elements.

The elements thrown at us include clay, Sanskrit, fire god, and Buddhism.

If you’ve ever wanted to watch professionals wrestle with story genesis, this is the episode for you.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: A Scanner Darkly, by Phillip K. Dick, narrated by Paul Giamatti.

Writing Prompt: Come up with a cyberpunk world using the seed “penguins.”

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Okay, let’s have some fun. Not that we weren’t having fun for the previous 150+ episodes, mind you. But this is extra-fun.

Brandon, Dan, and Howard take the urban fantasy writing prompt about big-box stores and decide to brainstorm a story out of it. When we begin this ‘cast all we have is the prompt.

Then we brainstorm, plowing through setting, character, conflict, and story.

By the end of the ‘cast we’re ready to make a pitch to an editor and sell the book.

Okay, maybe not. But the book is totally ready for us to sit down and write. Or, better yet, for YOU to sit down and write.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Kitty and the Midnight Hour, by Carrie Vaughn, narrated by Marguerite Gavin

Writing Prompt: Take what we’ve done in this ‘cast and try to come up with a plot and an ending. Alternatively, take the list of competition films from the most recent Sundance Film Festival and pick six that are somehow part of a Fey plot.

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By Writing Excuses | July 18, 2010 - 7:21 pm - Posted in Conflicts, Ideas, Plot, Structure

When Oscar Hammerstein wrote “Let’s start at the very beginning // A very good place to start” he was talking about teaching children to sing, not writing a novel. Sometimes the beginning is the very worst place to start, so in this ‘cast the Writing Excuses crew starts at the end.

Dan leads with a reminder that we should all watch his five-part lecture on story structure, and then hits a couple of the high points in his process. Brandon points out that he and Dan both start in the same way, even though Dan usually discovery-writes his way to the selected ending, and Brandon typically outlines towards it in advance of putting chapters down. Unsurprisingly, Howard starts in the same place.

So what are the problems with working backwards? How do we prevent those things from happening? What are some great things about working backwards? How can we ensure that those happen every time?

That’s the first half of the ‘cast. The second half is a right treat, as you get to listen to Brandon, Dan, and Howard attempt to brainstorm a great ending from which they can work backwards to a beginning. Producer Jordo provides a pair of headlines as prompts, including programmable matter, Harley Davidson motorcycles, and a thrown puppy.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Furies of Calderon: Codex Alera Book 1, by Jim Butcher — a book that Brandon tells us was written when somebody dared Jim Butcher to build epic fantasy around Pokémon.

Writing Prompt: What’s the character arc for our mathematical analyst biker dude? Yes, you’ll have to listen to the ‘cast in order to figure this prompt out.

Sound Effect of the Week: George Jetson’s Harley

Weekly Feature You Won’t See Every Week: Sound Effect of the Week.

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By Writing Excuses | April 11, 2010 - 5:45 pm - Posted in Ideas, World Building

Our last brainstorming ‘cast was so well-received we decided to do another one. This time we grabbed articles from a New Scientist article called “13 More Things We Don’t Understand.”

Dark flow, hybrid life, the bloop, the lithium problem, the nocebo effect, and  noise from the edge of the universe all lead us to interesting places and other universes, and we get visits from dishonest serial killers, the Space Goat, and Cthulhu.

If any of these ideas strike your fancy and you manage to successfully sell a novel, congratulations! We don’t want a cut, but a mention in your acknowledgements page would be nice.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Noble House, by James Clavell

Writing Prompt: Start with the noise from the edge of the universe” article and brainstorm a good story.

Thing to Not Do, Lest We Were Not Clear Enough There At The End: Do not actually commit nor advocate the commission of suicide no matter how depressing your discovery about the nature of the universe may be.

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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.