By Writing Excuses | January 1, 2012 - 6:35 pm - Posted in Characters, Season 7

Welcome to Writing Excuses Season 7!

Let’s start with a trip to the dark side! How do you take a good character and make them evil? And why would you want to do this? Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard answer that second question first, and then walk you through the process of doing this. We cover establishing the character, venturing onto a slippery slope, and connecting these and other elements to important pieces of the story.

We talk about the types of “evil” a character can fall into, using character examples like Oedipus, Othello, Boromir, and Doctor Horrible, and how you might incorporate tragic flaws into their downward-trending paths. Finally, we offer examples where we’ve seen it done poorly. Hello, Anakin!

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Hard Magic, by Larry Correia, narrated by Bronson Pinchot

Writing Prompt: Come up with a list of three things that are important to your main character. Push one of those things out of alignment so that it will draw your character to the antagonist's side.

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By Writing Excuses | October 16, 2011 - 6:11 pm - Posted in Characters, Conflicts, Guest, Plot, Scenes, Structure

Lou Anders joins Dan, Howard, and Mary for a discussion of endings. We begin by talking about how important it is to “stick your landing” at the end of the book, and then recap the Hollywood Formula to point out how endings work there. We get examples from Mary’s upcoming novel Glamour in Glass, Dan’s upcoming novel Partials, Howard’s work-in-progress short story, and Lou Anders’ award-worthy, dot-matrix printer.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Blood of Ambrose, by James Enge, narrated by Jay Snyder

Writing Prompt: Using the first fifteen minutes of your least favorite recent movie as a starting point, write a story with a powerful ending.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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By Writing Excuses | September 25, 2011 - 4:13 pm - Posted in Career, Guest

Peter Ahlstrom, assistant to Brandon Sanderson, and Valerie Dowbenko, assistant to Pat Rothfuss, join Brandon and Dan to talk about what they do for “their authors.”

While this may seem like an incredible luxury — most of you listeners aren’t going to rush out and hire an assistant — there are things that can be farmed out from the earliest stages of your career as a professional writer. The goal, of course, is for the writer to find more time to write.

It’s also a lot of fun to hear Peter and Valerie talk about how they keep Brandon and Pat writing, and to listen to them talk about some of the unusual things they do as part of this job.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton

Writing Prompt: First person once removed — give us a story from the perspective of a first person narrator who is NOT the cool person.

The Shoes, Pat Has All of Them: Because that’s what Valerie did for him.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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By Writing Excuses | September 4, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Fantasy, Guest, Setting

Patrick Rothfuss joins Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard at WorldCon 69, where we recorded before a live, enthusiastic audience.

The topic? Suspension of disbelief, specifically, how to get your readers to do this. Patrick leads us off with verisimilitude, and how the reader will accept the fantastic if you’re presenting the mundane in a believable way. We talk about laying groundwork, about Chekov’s gun, the promises we have to make to our readers, and the dramatic tool bathos.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss, narrated by Nick Podehl.

Writing Prompt: Make the reader believe one impossible thing. If you can’t think of something on your own, start with teleportation.

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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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 | October 10, 2010 - 4:58 pm - Posted in Business, Characters, Q&A

You’re going to love this one. This fast-paced episode of Writing Excuses goes out to everybody who thinks Writing Excuses isn’t already fast-paced enough.

We’ve done Q&A episodes before, but this one is special. This time we applied our “shot clock” to each question we fielded, and set out to knock each one down within three minutes.

The Questions:

What’s the right way to kill a character?

Who are the authors who have influenced you the most, and why?

When do you quit your day-job?

Brandon, would killing you and partaking of your flesh grant the killer your powers?

What do you do when you discover you hate a character you’re writing?

How do you respond to accusations of having written Mary Sue characters?

What are some basic tools for ensuring that all characters in a story have different voices?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

Writing Prompt: Two critics who reviewed Dan Wells’ book and who had completely opposite reactions actually read two different books…

This episode of Writing Excuses has been brought to you by Audible.
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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 | September 19, 2010 - 3:37 pm - Posted in Characters, POV, Style

Bree Despain joins us for a discussion of writing the first-person viewpoint. We talk about “method writing” and get briefly creeped out by Dan. We discuss some key aspects of this particular POV, including the unreliable narrator, the over-the-shoulder vs. the memoir perspective, and the presence or absence of a framing story.

We cover a few pitfalls, including the clichéd “mirror scene,” and then offer advice to new writers who are looking for ways to get first person right the first time.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Beastly, by Alex Finn

Writing Prompt: The main character has a secret. Write from that character’s point of view, but keep the secret from the reader.

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 | May 23, 2010 - 8:00 pm - Posted in Conventions, Submitting

Your hosts here at Writing Excuses have tried to answer the “how to get published” question before. We’re going to try again.

In this episode we begin with a discussion of New Media. Welcome to the Age of the Internet, everybody! The Web is now “old media.” When we say “New Media” we’re talking about social media — Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, user-generated content, and countless blogging tools.  After a brief warning about embracing the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent, Brandon, Dan, and Howard provide some examples for how these tools can help you.

We talk a bit about some submission practices that you should not practice, most of which Stacy Whitman covered with us back in episodes 12 and 13 of  Season 1. Then we throw you some off-the-wall suggestions that might get you published. Some of these cost real money, and none of them come with guarantees that they’ll work. We restate our firm belief that the best strategies for getting published hinge upon writing excellently and networking with people who write.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. Howard owes him a plug after last month’s epic faux-pas at Penguicon. After bringing it up in this context, Howard probably owes him ANOTHER one.

Writing Prompt: For some reason, 1000 years in the future the most cost-effective publishing involves writing on human skin…

Blame for That Horrible Mental Picture of Howard Dressed as an Elf Sans Pants: Brandon Sanderson owns that blame, down to the last mote of scowling-with-eyes-averted disapproval.

Why Mayan Calendars Predict The End of The World in 2012: seventeen minutes 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!

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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.