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Writing Excuses 12.29: "Oh Crap, The Cops Are Here!" With Joe McKinney


Key points: How can you write a believable police officer? Try going on a ride along. If you're adding police procedure to your horror story, don't just ditch the cops because they are about to solve things and end your story -- make them the ones who are isolated and have to handle it. Don't get carried away with police terminology and procedures -- use a little bit exactly right, and get the reader involved. A few details, used correctly, is engaging, while a lot of details makes it more likely you'll get it wrong.

The boys in blue? )

[Dan] Awesome. So let's wrap this episode up. Thank you very much for coming along. I think… Actually, we used… We stole your writing prompt for the title of our episode. The writing prompt you want us to use is "Oh, crap, the cops are here." So, dear listeners, that's what we want you to write about. Oh, crap, the cops are here. And go from there.
[Howard] You're out of excuses. Now go write.

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Writing Excuses 12.28: Trimming and Expanding


Key points: Revision! Specifically, taking something short and making it long, or taking something long and making it short (expanding and trimming). Novels expand easily, as you add extra scenes. Expanding: longer version of itself, changing genres, layering in a second theme or plot. You can expand at different points in the writing process, early in the development or later during revision. Sometimes adding a second theme/through line/plot can make a story work! To bring out a theme that is already there, but needs more emphasis: Mechanically, every page or paragraph, check that the thematic element is brought out. To turn a short story into a novel, instead of simply making the scenes longer, try looking at the backstory and starting the story earlier -- then build to the climactic moment of the short story, and keep on going! Short story writers often have to learn to linger when writing long form. Readers bring different expectations to short and long forms: Long form is for the immersion, short form is a quick emotional punch in the gut. Cutting? Start by looking at cutting the beginning -- first chapter, each scene? Often we are writing our way into the scene/story, and that bit is not needed. Kill your darlings, especially prose that calls attention to itself. Try the 10% solution -- cut 10% everywhere to see what's really important.

Snip, snip, whoooosh! )

[Brandon] All right. We are going to stop for some homework, which is going to teach you to do this. Mary, you were going to?
[Mary] Right. So, this is a very brutal solution to cutting. This is when you've got something that you know is bloated. Like, your readers have gone, "I'm getting really drowsy here." Or "This goes on too long, it's a giant infodump." Take a look at it. Examine how many concepts are in that, that the story will completely break if they aren't there. So let's say that it's… That the onions must be sliced thinly, that your main character is wearing red, and there's a bowl of kimchi on the table. Those are the three concepts. You should be able to convey those three concepts in just three sentences, but you're using 11 sentences. So, trim that down to get it to three sentences. It's not that each concept must be in its own sentence, but you're not allowed anymore than three sentences.
[Wesley] Okay. I'm going to add to that. Go the opposite direction and say "The onions must be sliced thinly." Figure out how to expand that, without actually saying "The onions must be sliced thinly," and see what you can kind of expand out to, and kind of discover as you write around it.
[Brandon] Great. So there's your homework, guys. This has been Writing Excuses. You are out of excuses, now go write.

May 2017

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