Tag Archives: Heists

11.52: Elemental Ensemble Q&A, With Claudia Gray

Claudia Gray joined us aboard Oasis of the Seas to answer our attendees questions about the Elemental Ensemble. Here are the questions:

  • Can you fit an ensemble into a short story?
  • What the minimum size for an ensemble? Is there a perfect length?
  • Can you put a traitor into an ensemble story?
  • How do I give my ensemble characters equal emotional weight if I only tell the story from a single POV?
  • How do you introduce your ensemble without infodumping?
  • If an ensemble is about falling in love with a group of friends, how does killing a character work?
  • How do you give every character a role in the climax without making it seem like the plot was cut to fit the team?

Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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A Million Worlds With You, by Claudia Gray, narrated by Tavia Gilbert

11.51: Ensemble as a Sub-Genre, with Lynne M. Thomas

Lynne M. Thomas joins us to continue our discussion of the Elemental Ensemble, which is one of our favorite elemental tools. It’s not just for heists. It adds interest, emotion, and lots of plot possibilities to everything from sense of wonder to the hard-hitting issue.

Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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Look at some of the elemental genres we’ve already discussed. Brainstorm some story ideas, looking at  what happens to them when you mix those genres up with the ensemble element.

Heroine Complex, by Sarah Kuhn

11.49: Elemental Ensemble, with Michael Damien Thomas

Michael Damien Thomas, co-publisher and co-editor-in-chief of Uncanny Magazine, joined us for a discussion of the elemental genre that contains most of the stories we refer to as “heists.” It’s all about a well-rounded cast in which the group relationship is what’s pulling us forward.

Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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Look at professions with a front-person, and with behind-the-scenes staff. Create a story that focuses on the behind-the-scenes folks.

Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damien Thomas

Writing Excuses 7.25: Writing Capers

Capers! They’re delicious on bagels with lox and cream cheese. Also, tricky to write well, and often called “heists.”

Dan explains the caper/heist format to us using Ocean’s Eleven as the model, so we can identify the key elements that are typically present. Brandon explains the key difference between the two styles: In the first, the reader doesn’t get the whole plan, and the plan goes off without a hitch. In the second, the reader gets the whole plan, but the plan goes wrong and the team has to improvise. Ocean’s Eleven is an example of the first. The Italian Job and Mission Impossible are examples of the second.

One challenge writers face, as opposed to filmmakers, is keeping the reader in the dark for an Ocean’s Eleven-style caper without cheating.

We talk about how the formation of a team of experts or specialists is critical to the form, but also works across lots of other forms. Beware using these teams as a substitute for character development, however.

The combined viewing time of our example films is, quite frankly, oppressive. Don’t watch them all in one sitting. But if you do, that was all part of our insidious plan to keep you busy while somebody else steals your stuff.

What is a Pig in a Poke: Basically, it’s a confidence scheme involving a substitution.

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Your characters need to perform a reverse-heist, putting jewels into a safe without getting caught.

The Great Train Robbery, by Michael Crichton, narrated by Michael Cumpsty