By Writing Excuses | March 17, 2013 - 8:55 pm - Posted in Characters, Guest, Research, Season 8

Robison Wells joins us again, this time to help us with a discussion of writing characters with abnormal psychology. What are our resources for describing these characters in compelling, believable ways? What are the tricks, the pitfalls, and the landmines.

Brandon frames the discussion with some terms from his abnormal psych class, but let’s lay down a caveat right now: none of us are experts in abnormal psych. We have done lots of research in lots of different fields, we all love learning things, but we’re not doctors.

And that’s where you need to start — love learning, and research this heavily. This is an exercise in “writing the other.” Rob helps us with this research by describing what’s going on with his panic disorder, giving us helpful insight into the sorts of details we’ll need to make any mentally ill character believable.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, by David Eagleman, who also narrates.

Writing Prompt: Take Rob's explanation of what it feels like to be him, and write a character from that POV.

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By Writing Excuses | February 17, 2013 - 2:08 pm - Posted in Other Podcasts, Season 8, Suspense

Double the Wells brothers for double the fun! Robison Wells joins us for a discussion of cliffhangers. Rob and Dan can be found together on another podcast called Do I Dare to Eat a Peach.

Rob’s first novel, Variant, ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, which is resolved in Feedback, the second novel. Rob confesses to us that he likes leaving readers wondering about portions of the world-building — that’s the 90% of the iceberg invisible beneath the surface of the water. He also withholds lots of information from the reader, and does so without cheating since the POV character has no way to know these things.

We talk at length about how we keep information from the reader, and how the less we tell, the more suspense we can provide.

The Variant cliffhanger is a particularly sharp one. Rob defends it for us, and talks about why he and his editors decided to conclude the first book in the series the way they did. Mary discusses how she handles pacing with internal cliffhangers at chapter breaks. Dan tells us about some interesting reader reaction to Partials.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Variant and Feedback by Robison Wells, both narrated by Michael Goldstrom

Writing Prompt: Write the story of the scary, scary shade from Phantom of the Opera.

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By Writing Excuses | July 3, 2011 - 6:00 pm - Posted in Business, Career

Dan and Howard had the recent opportunity to interview Dan’s agent, http://saracrowe.com/index.html, who works with the Harvey Klinger agency. We decided to address a topic that is by far the most-requested (and under-addressed) topic on our list: query letters.

Dan begins by reading the query letter he sent to Sara four years ago. Sara then explains why she accepted him as a client. The letter had something to do with it, yes. Sara talks a bit about what she likes and doesn’t like in query letters, and this leads us into a nice discussion of what does and doesn’t work, and why.

We then further deconstruct the letter, and Dan’s decision-making process in writing it. We discuss the synopsis he included, and how well the hook of the novel was presented. We then distill this into some basic points for query-letter writing.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences, by Brian Yansky, narrated by Alexander Cendese

Writing Prompt: Write a query letter based on your current project.

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By Writing Excuses | April 3, 2011 - 9:59 pm - Posted in Guest, Live, Other Podcasts, Scenes

Sarah Eden and Robison Wells join Dan and Howard at LTUE to talk about writing romance. Sarah writes in the romance genre, but we’re not focusing on the genre — we’re talking about writing romance within the context of whatever else we might happen to be putting on the page.

We lead with how to do it wrong, because nothing is as much fun to talk about as bad romance. It’s also educational.

More importantly (and more usefully) we talk about formulas for doing romance correctly. One of the most practical is to pair characters up by finding emotional needs that these characters can meet for each other. We look at examples from each of our work: Sarah’s The Kiss of a Stranger, Dan’s I Don’t Want To Kill You, Howard’s The Sharp End of the Stick, and Rob’s Variant.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: I Don’t Want To Kill You, by Dan Wells, narrated by Kirby Heyborne. It’s true, this book has some great romance in it. Also, murder.

Writing Prompt: Create a character, and then create a complementary character who both meets a need and provides unwelcome challenge.

Everybody’s Lisp: Brought to you by the noise reduction software we used. Sorry about that. It won’t happen again.

The Bonus Game: Bad Romance! Enjoy!

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By Writing Excuses | March 27, 2011 - 7:08 pm - Posted in Guest, Live, Scenes

Dan and Howard are joined by Larry Correia and Robison Wells (Rob is the younger of the Wells brothers), and with the enthusiastic support of a live audience at LTUE they discuss writing action.

Larry’s books are made of action (and no small amount of gunplay.) Howard’s comics feature mercenaries (and sometimes elephants.) Robison’s latest book, Variant, doesn’t have any experienced fighters in it, but the characters still manage to get into action-oriented trouble. Dan’s action scenes are personal, visceral, and confusing. And so we talk about how we do it.

We also talk about how we’ve seen others do it in books and in film. We discuss the scene/sequel format, blocking, and how “write what you know” need not be an obstacle to writing about sword fighting against dragon. Or Howard’s dog.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia, narrated by Oliver Wyman

Writing Prompt: Write an action sequence that you can appropriately title “Flaming Slapfight.”

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By Writing Excuses | November 14, 2010 - 7:50 pm - Posted in Characters, Q&A

It was so popular when we did it the first time, we decided to do it again. Here’s a second rapid-fire Q&A, with questions coming to us from Twitter, Facebook, and email.

  1. How do you do bad things to your heroes and not feel bad about it?
  2. How far into writing a novel should you begin letting others read it and provide feedback?
  3. Do the bad things you do to your characters always have to suit the story?
  4. How do you design frightening creatures?
  5. How far into the outlining process do you actually start writing?

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk, narrated by Jim Colby. Content warning! This book has naughty words and some very adult concepts in it. Dan recommends it anyway.

Writing Prompt: You have decided to start “Zoo Club,” and you just punched an elephant REALLY HARD.

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By Writing Excuses | June 13, 2010 - 4:00 pm - Posted in Conventions, Editing, Uncategorized

Janci Patterson and Robison Wells join Brandon and Dan at CONduit in Salt Lake City. Both Janci and Rob have recently signed book deals, Robison with Harper Teen, and Janci with Henry Holt, and they tell us about those deals and how they got them.

Brandon puts both Janci and Rob on the spot, and asks them for advice on how to break in. This is cool, because it’s just about the most recent perspective on this advice you’re going to hear.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green

Writing Prompt: Two roommates… one sells a book and then vanishes. The second roommate decides to finish the book and pretend it was his.

Extra Special Thanks: Again,  this episode was made possible by our friends at Dungeon Crawlers Radio.

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 | 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?

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By Writing Excuses | May 30, 2010 - 9:26 pm - Posted in Fantasy, Genre, Government, Live, magic, Setting, World Building

Coming to you “live” from CONduit, Writing Excuses is pleased to welcome fantasy superstar L.E. Modesitt (plus a slightly different Howard, by which we mean that Howard was out of town and replaced by Dan’s brother Rob).

Our topic for this episode is “practicality,” which is another way of saying “fantasy and science fiction may be unrealistic, but they should still be plausible within your definition of reality.” In other words, if you have an army of 1000 armored knights, you’d better have an economy and political system capable of producing and supporting them.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: Imager by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., about a mage so powerful anything he thinks can become reality.

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.