Tag Archives: Theme

Writing Excuses 7.26: Q&A at UVU part 2

Recorded live at Utah Valley University, here’s another Q&A episode from the LTUE Symposium!

The questions:

  • What was Brandon’s plan with Mistborn and the themes regarding establishment?
  • Why does Kelsier shrug so much? (This leads into a fun discussion of “tells.”)
  • How do you know when to stop a chapter? What about expanding it?
  • How do you make your prose more transparent?
  • How do you decide who and what to cut?
  • What do you do to filter out the extraneous ideas that come while you’re writing?
  • What can collaborators do in order to create a single “voice” for the book?
  • What’s the best way to tackle a long back-story?
Want answers? You’ll just have to listen…
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From Earl K. Hill, our cameraman: tell a whole story from the view of the sidekick.

Partials, by Dan Wells, narrated by Julia Whelan

6.18: The Hollywood Formula, with Lou Anders

Lou Anders, Hugo-winning editorial director from Pyr books, joins Mary, Dan, and Howard at Dragon*Con for a discussion of the Hollywood Formula. Lou shared this with Mary originally, and she used it to tighten up some of her work. It’s useful enough that we decided to invite Lou onto the ‘cast to share it with everybody else, too.

The formula centers around three characters – the protagonist, the antagonist, and the relationship character. Lou explains how these terms have, in this formula, different meanings than we might be accustomed to.

Among the things that we learn:  The Dark Knight has an antagonist none of us could guess, Die Hard and Stargate are third-act movies, and Howard is criminally ignorant of classic cinema.

Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Dervish House, by Ian McDonald, narrated by Jonathan Davis

Writing Prompt: Using the Hollywood Formula, come up with a protagonist, an antagonist, and a relationship character.

Credit Where Credit Is Due: Lou got the Hollywood Formula from Dan Decker.

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Writing Excuses Season 3 Episode 18: How To Not Repeat Yourself

John Brown rejoins us for this discussion of  repetition. How do we, as writers, avoid repeating ourselves? We’re not just talking about the literal re-use of words and phrases here. We’re interested in avoiding the re-use of themes, character arcs, and plotlines.  Forget the problems Howard might have coming up with a new joke… he (and all of us) need to reach further than that to keep things fresh.

This week’s Writing Excuses is Brought to you by Servant of a Dark God by John Brown.

Writing Prompt:  The princess is trying to eat a pie, but someone is trying to stop her. Oh, and the fate of the world depends on the outcome.

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Writing Excuses Season 2 Episode 18: World Building Governments

Let’s get back to world-building, and dig into a tough one: government. In this case we’re talking about government as part of the backdrop, rather than political intrigue as part of the plot. Are you going to create a monarchy, a democracy, or perhaps some crazy, experimental sort of rigidly constitutional representative republic? City-states? Confederations? Empires? What’s it going to be, and (more importantly) why?

Oh, and how do you do it right?

Writing Prompt:  Create a government by starting with “Colon Cleansers,” and then taking two steps back to create something unique.

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Writing Excuses Season 2 Episode 12: Theme

For the first time in eleven episodes, we have a “normal” one. No special guests, no special locations, and no new format tricks. This episode grows out of Howard’s ignorance – remember back in Episode 10 when Howard called “can of worms” on “theme?” Well, we open the can for this entire episode.

What is theme? Is it something the author must consciously include? Is it something the reader must successfully identify? How can writing to a particular theme help your work? How can it hurt? How can writers avoid thematic pitfalls?  We discuss examples from other writers, and from our own work (especially Brandon’s.)

This week’s Writing Excuses is brought to you by Dave Farland’s Novel-Writing Workshop.

Writing Prompt: Write a short story that has no theme. No deeper meaning. Nothin’.

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