Tag Archives: Plotting

12.41: Raising the Stakes

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Mary Anne, and Wesley

When we talk about “raising the stakes,” we mean making the outcomes of the events in a story increasingly important to the reader. In this episode we talk about the tools we use to raise the stakes in ways that are more sophisticated than just queuing up larger and larger explosions.

Credits: This episode was recorded in Chicago by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson

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Try a few of the techniques discussed, especially by making the stakes more personal to a side character. And don’t do it by having anybody be dead.

Writing Excuses 7.23: Time Travel

Coming to you pre-recorded from the boomy basement of Brandon Sanderson, here’s an episode about time travel. Oddly, there’s an audio artifact here where we’re hearing faint echoes of those speaking, and some of them precede the stuff they’re echoing. “Oddly?” More like “Serendipitously.” It’s a shame we didn’t know that would happen. If we really WERE time travelers we’d have seen that coming.

We begin by categorizing three major types of time travel by the movies they appear in: “Twelve Monkeys,” “Back to the Future,” and “A Sound of Thunder” (the short story, though. Not the movie.) We then talk about the tools each of these provide to storytellers. We also talk about the challenges involved in writing a time travel story, and how to overcome these challenges by writing about the things that will always be interesting, rather than focusing on the time travel itself. We also talk a little about time travel clichés, perhaps by way of warning you.

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You can only go back in time as far as your own life-span, but somebody needs to go back a hundred years. A team of 100-year-olds is assembled as time traveling heroes.

The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, narrated by Fred Berman and Phoebe Stole

Writing Excuses 6.26: Mystery Plotting

Let’s talk mystery! Specifically, how do you plot a good mystery? We’re not focusing on the mystery genre but many of these principles will apply there. For fantasy and science-fiction work this usually means creating plots or sub-plots in which the main experience for the reader is one of discovery or revelation, rather than anticipation.

Tools we discuss include the presentation of clues, unreliable character (and narrator) viewpoints, and how to offer the reader multiple plausible explanations prior to the big reveal. Howard talks about the plotting of the next Schlock Mercenary book, Random Access Memorabilia, and Dan tells us a little about his next book, Partials. Both titles have a mystery and a reveal, while neither is a whodunit.

Special Audible Sponsor: Neil Gaiman has teamed up with Audible and the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), personally selecting several of his favorite books and producing them with some of his favorite narrators. Check out “Neil Gaiman Presents” at Audible for a list of titles and the reasons why Neil selected these books.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Snuff, by Terry Pratchett, narrated by Stephen Briggs.

Writing Prompt: Write your way backwards into a puzzle-box mystery. The answer is that someone’s soul is in the box — now reverse-engineer the plot so that the presence of a soul in the box is surprising yet inevitable.

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