Tag Archives: Plot

11.03: Layering The Elemental Genres

For our second Elemental Genre episode we discuss using the concept of Elemental Genre to help you manage sub-plots, character arcs, and genre mashups. We’ve each used the tool in these ways, and we provide examples from our own writing, as well as from works we’ve read or watched.

Here, for your convenience, is the list of the Elemental Genres we’ll be covering during Season 11.

 

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Writing Prompt: Think of an emotion that contrasts, or foils, the primary emotion in the thing you were working on for the homework two weeks ago. Identify that,  and begin exploring it as a sub-plot.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: We promo'd Word Puppets, by Mary Robinette Kowal, narrated by Kate Baker, but the audiobook does not appear to be available as of this writing. Other versions are available here, and of course there are plenty of other books  from Mary on Audible.

Writing Excuses 10.31: How Do I Control the Reader’s Sense of Progress?

This month’s Master Class episodes focus on pacing, and we’re dividing the concept of pacing into two parts: the first is the sense of progress within the story, and the second is the sense of the passage of time. In this episode we tackle that first bit, and discuss how we communicate progress to the readers.

We talk a bit about the concept of “promises made to the reader,” which we covered in more detail during episode 10.14. You may want to refer back to that at some point.

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Writing Prompt: The Magnified Moment: write two pages in which someone gets out of bed, walks across the room, and opens the door.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Time Salvager, by Wesley Chu, narrated by Kevin T. Collins

Writing Excuses 10.29: Why Should My Characters Fail Spectacularly?

We’re past the middle of the Season 10 Master Class, but we’re still in the middle of our month on middles. Perhaps some spectacular failures will help us all enjoy the middle a bit more as we write our way past it.

(Filed under: “I see what you did there.”)

(Filed also under: “spectacular failure.”)

Character failure is a big part of making the middle of a story work. We talk about why, and we provide some tips about how to make this work well for you.

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Writing Prompt: "Yes, but/no, and..." Think of the smartest thing your character can do. Now have them fail with either "yes, but" (they technically succeed, but something else has gone wrong) or "no, and" (they fail, and the failure deepens the mess.)

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Edge of the World: Terra Incognita, Book 1, by Kevin J. Anderson, narrated by Scott Brick

Writing Excuses 10.19: Intrigue

What’s the difference between intrigue, suspense, and mystery? We answer this (it comes down to reader knowledge vs character knowledge), and then talk about what makes intrigue useful as a tool for any story, and how to use it without falling back on idiot character plots, or simply withholding information from the reader.

Intrigue is also its own genre, with spy stories and political intrigue stories fitting into this space. We talk a bit about how those stories work, and how they’re built.

Upcoming Homework: We’ll be doing a Project-In-Depth on Mary’s new book, Of Noble Family, in two weeks (episode 10.21, airing on May 24th.) To get the most out of that episode without having anything spoiled, pick up a copy now and start reading!

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Writing Prompt: Write dialog in which each of the speakers has a different subtext and motive. Without explicitly stating those, try and make them clear to the reader.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: A Spy in the House: The Agency 1, by Y.S. Lee, narrated by Justine Eyre

Writing Excuses 10.14: How Much of the Beginning Needs to Come First?

April is all about beginnings, at least as far as Season 10’s syllabus is concerned. So let’s start!

The cool stuff you plan to put in your story will need other stuff to set it up, and that setting up means that other stuff needs to come first. But how far down does that rabbit hole go?

In this episode we talk about how you can determine which elements of your story should come first. We also define (finally!) the term “promises” in the way we use it when we say “promises made to the reader,” and then we talk about how to figure out what promises we’re making.

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Writing Prompt: Homework: Start writing your story! Write 500 words, focusing on just one of the promises you've identified for your story. Then stop, and start writing another 500 words with a different promise. Aaaand then do it a third time.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu, narrated by Luke Daniels

Writing Excuses 10.9: Where is My Story Coming From?

This month’s syllabus topic is story structure, and we’ll be starting with the part we start with. And that part usually isn’t the beginning — that’s where the story starts for the reader. We’re going to talk about where the story starts for you. It’s the answer to questions like “where is my story coming from?”, “What kind of a story is this?”, or  “What questions does it seek to raise, and subsequently answer for the readers?”

Structurally, it may help to revisit our discussion of the M.I.C.E. quotient. Knowing that your story is primarily a milieu story, as opposed to a character story, is a pretty big thing to know before you start writing.

Of course, if you’re not outlining, this whole discussion may seem irrelevant to you, but ultimately if you discovery-write your way into a good story, you’ll have answered these questions during that process. Knowing that this is a thing you do will likely help you do it better.

The Sherlock Episode Howard referenced was “The Sign of Three”

Homework For an upcoming “Project in Depth” — you may wish to acquire a copy of Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, because we’ll be digging into the bonus story, “Parallel Perspectives,” which plays with POV in some ways that required significant re-writing during the collaboration process.

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Writing Prompt: Take a favorite piece of of media (but not something YOU created,) and reverse engineer an outline from it.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Ancillary Justice, by Anne Leckie, narrated by Celeste Ciulla. This book has won the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Clarke award, and is a great listen. (note: In the 'cast, Mary says that this book was narrated by Adjoa Andoh, who actually narrated Ancillary Sword.)