E.J. “Eric” Patten joins us for a discussion of pre-writing. His first book, Return to Exile, came out in 2011, and The Legend Thief released in March of 2013.

What is pre-writing? Eric walks us through his process for developing a story, beginning with the high-concept world-building inspired by the phrase “Cthulhu for kids.” He talks about the importance of getting the characters right, and how this process precedes plot development. Each of us handles this a little differently, and we talk about how that goes.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: E.J. Patten's books aren't available on Audible, but if you're looking for Cthulhu that isn't for kids, H.P. Lovecraft's classics "Call of Cthulhu" and "Reanimator" can be found in H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 2, narrated by Garrick Hogan.

Writing Prompt: Kids get magical powers from their Halloween costumes...

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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."

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 | May 22, 2011 - 6:21 pm - Posted in Characters, Dialog, Genre, Guest

John Scalzi joins Brandon and Howard at Penguicon for a discussion of writing dialog. John’s advice begins thusly: “start reading outside Science Fiction and Fantasy.” It’s good advice regardless, but John’s justification for it is fascinating.

Dialog in prose is not very much like real-life dialog. Your goal as a writer is to convince the reader that it is. And that’s what we’re going to try to teach you how to do. Or at least how to learn how to do.

 

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Fuzzy Nation, John Scalzi’s reboot of H.Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy, narrated by Wil Wheaton

Writing Prompt: Write a dialog between someone ordering at a drive-through and someone taking the order, but the person taking the order is being held up at gunpoint.

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!

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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.

By Writing Excuses | January 16, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Criticism, Dialog, Editing

The rules: Write dialog with no dialog tags and no narration. Write it in such a way that we get character, conflict, and setting. We did this a few weeks ago, and have more examples from you, our daring, sharing listeners!

We ran waaay long this time, but it’s okay because we spent a bunch of time reading the submissions. After each reading we discuss what went right and what went wrong, and what to learn from it.

Lots of principles come out of this, including avoiding Maid-and-Butler dialog, how to write natural banter, how to establish a character with that character’s voice, and how dialog-only, “white-room” pieces just can’t tell certain types of stories effectively.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Empire of the East, by Fred Saberhagen, narrated by Raymond Todd

Writing Prompt: Brandon decided to read the first two paragraphs of Empire of the East to us, because it’s all dialog and seemed to fit.

Special Guest Appearance: Howard’s pants. We haven’t heard from them in almost a month. They’re back.

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!

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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.

By Writing Excuses | December 27, 2010 - 8:27 pm - Posted in Characters, Conflicts, Dialog, Editing

This week’s episode, a day later than usual because of extended eggnogging*, features the submissions of a few brave souls who participated in Brandon’s tagless, unnarrated dialog exercise.

The rules were simple: Write a scene featuring nothing but dialog between two characters. The characters should have distinct voices, and the scene should communicate both setting and conflict. A great example of this is “They’re Made Out of Meat,” by Terry Bisson, which was a Nebula award nominee in 1992 (not a Hugo winner, though Brandon thought it was.) If you haven’t read it before, it’s a right treat and you should click on the story title and go read it right now.

Well… in 20 minutes or so (we ran long.) Listen to the podcast first, and pay attention as Brandon, Dan, and Howard gently dissect and critique the submissions of tagless, unnarrated dialog.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Dune, by Frank Herbert, narrated by Scott Brick , Orlagh Cassidy , Euan Morton , and Simon Vance

Writing Prompt: You are walking down a back alley, and you meet Jason from DragonMount. He’s getting all uppity about how good his submission was. What do you do to him?

Word That In This Context Is A Euphemism For “Howard Got Sick”: Eggnogging: [egg-nah-ging]

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 | August 8, 2010 - 7:00 pm - Posted in Characters, Dialog, Editing

We return to White Sand (original version), Brandon’s first book, written while he was a teenager. Again, you’ll need to suspend your disbelief as we assume that the story edits and other major content passes are complete, and what’s on the page now only needs refinement.

In this episode we’re drilling down on the dialog, which includes not only what the characters are saying, but also the said-bookisms (most of which are going to need to go.) We prune, we trim, and do all kinds of little things to make the conversations flow better, serve the plot better, and better engage the reader.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde. Note that there are three dramatizations available. Our first link is to the one with James Marsters.

Writing Prompt: From Producer Jordo: The Importance of Being Earnest Goes To Jail. Or Camp. Whatever. Think “Oscar Wilde/Earnest mashup.”

White Sand Excuses: The decades-long spin-off podcast in which over the course of 10 years we line edit this book down to around 200,000 words.

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 | June 6, 2010 - 5:45 pm - Posted in Characters, Conflicts, Guest, Lifestyle, Live, Q&A

Recorded live at CONduit with the inestimably valuable help of our friends at Dungeon Crawlers Radio, here’s an episode full of the randomness that is “questions from the audience.” These include:

  • What do people get wrong when they write military science-fiction?
  • How do you develop action sequences?
  • What makes a good foil character?
  • How do you schedule your time as a writer?
  • How do you write good, true-to-character dialog for each of your characters?

Our podcasters for this episode were Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, L.E. Modessit Jr., and Robison Wells.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Haze by L.E. Modessit, Jr.

Writing Prompt: Why does she NOT sound like the guy she’s interested in?

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.