mbarker: (Me typing?)
Writing Excuses 11.49: Elemental Ensemble, with Michael Damian Thomas


Key points: Ensembles are more than just heist stories. Ensemble stories have a team of specialists, each with a different role and part to play, who get together to accomplish some important goal working together. Get people together, let them bounce off each other, and together solve a problem. Why do we like them? We get to see lots of different people, see them interact, and make friends with them. Multiple character arcs intersecting in unique ways. A team of interdependent specialists, hyper competent in individual ways, but holes as a team. How do you make one? Start with a cast of characters, but give each one similar emotional weight. Make sure your characters are specialized enough. They don't all need a POV, plot arcs can happen offstage. One of the keys is introducing the members of your ensemble quickly, usually in action. Make the scene do multiple things. Don't infodump! Think about your competency porn scenes, where you show us how good the characters are at what they do, usually while doing something else at the same time.

It takes a village to... )

[Brandon] Well, we have to stop here. We've gone like 25 minutes almost…
[Whoops! Laughter]
[Brandon] Yes, but you can tell we love this topic. We will be back to talk about it again in a few weeks. I'm going to give you some homework, though. When we were talking earlier, one of the things we realized is we love ensemble stories that aren't always just the obvious heists. But we do love the heists, obviously, as well. We want you to go look at some different professions, particularly ones that have some sort of front person leading the charge, and, like a chef, maybe on a show like that. We want you to identify all the rules that happen behind the scenes to make that person succeed. We want you to try to design a story that doesn't use the front person at all, and uses all of these different roles supporting them behind the scenes. Do that for a couple different jobs. See what you come up with. We want to give a special thank you to Michael Damian Thomas.
[Michael] Thank you for having me.
[Brandon] We want to thank the Writing Excuses cruise members.
[Yay! Applause]
[Brandon] This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses. Now go write.
mbarker: (Me typing?)
Writing Excuses 5.20: More Dialogue Exercises


Key Points: Make sure characters have different personalities. A little banter goes a long way. Practice and good writing group comments can help. Think about how to evoke character and make it interesting. Beware narrative and description forced into dialogue. Keep the dialogue natural. Short, the way most people talk. Trust your readers to make connections, to put things together and figure out what is going on and why.
exercises by the listeners )
[Brandon] I'm going to read those. We'll just skip the writing prompt. I'm just going to end this by reading some Saberhagen. All right?
[Dan] OK. Nice.
[Brandon] Hear me, for I am Ardneh. Ardneh who rides the elephant, who wields the lightning, who rends fortifications as the rushing passage of time consumes cheap cloth. You slay me in this avatar, but I live on in other human beings. I am Ardneh, and in the end, I will slay thee, and thou wilt not live on.
Hear me, Ekuman. Neither by day nor by night will I slay thee. Neither with the blade nor with the bow... neither by the edge of the hand nor with the fist... neither with the wet nor with the dry.

The next line is him dying.
[Dan] Sweet. Talk about promises to the reader.
[Brandon] Yeah. There we are. This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses, now go write.
mbarker: (Me typing?)
Writing Excuses 5.18: Offending Your Readers


Key Points: Eschew the egregious offense of over-explaining. Don't talk down to readers. Be careful of racial and gender demographics, BUT don't make your characters stereotypes, either. Be inclusive, but mostly, make your characters people. Burn the strawmen, dynamite Potemkin villages, and don't stack the deck. Don't moralize or preach, trust your readers. Let them read the story, learn who the characters are and what's happening, and draw their own lessons from it. Theme and realizations are one thing, soapbox orations are another. Finally, beware broken promises, especially when it is a shortcut that defaults on what could have been. But we'll come back to broken promises another time. That's a promise.
The best offenses are good defenses? )
[Brandon] I'm going to break it and say you have to... your writing prompt is to write... what was it, a vampire romance? No, a werewolf romance that does not appear it at first... that does not break any promises.
[Dan] Looks like it's going to be hard science fiction.
[Howard] Start with space opera... er, not space opera. Yeah. Start with hard science fiction, move into werewolf romance... in three paragraphs?
[Brandon] This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses, and you're stupid.
[Dan] You're out of excuses and nobody likes you.
[Brandon] Sorry, I couldn't help it. Don't be offended.
[Howard] You're out of excuses, and Brandon has no self-control.
mbarker: (MantisYes)
Writing Excuses 5.15: Steampunk with Scott Westerfeld


Key points: Steampunk is Victorian science fiction, extrapolated without restriction to current notions of possibility. It's also very tactile. Fashions and manners and brass and chrome and leather. Plus flamethrowers. Not just a literary genre. To write Steampunk, start with alternate history world building, and add other technologies -- crazy weird stuff. The familiar and the strange. Do your research, but don't bury the characters and the story under the world. "If it's not fun, you're doing it wrong." Cherie Priest.
Under the steam robot clanking... )
[Howard] Final piece of advice for us, Scott? For writers who want to embrace the steamy punkiness of the Victorian era?
[Brandon] Or just any writing advice?
[Scott] Well, I'll quote Cherie Priest. "If it's not fun, you're doing it wrong."
[Brandon] Writing prompt is Tesla is President. This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses, now go write.
mbarker: (BrainUnderRepair)
Writing Excuses 5.11: Micro-Casting Number Two


Key points:
-- How do you do bad things to your hero character without feeling bad about it?
I do feel their pain.
-- How far into writing a novel should you begin letting others read it for feedback?
When you are finished with the story. Beware of story hijacking.
-- Do the bad things you do to your characters always have to suit the story?
They need to be motivated and properly set up.
-- How do you design frightening monsters?
Take away the eyebrows. Let them do mundane, real things. Keep them in the shadows.
-- How far into the outlining process do you actually start writing?
When I am excited and want to start writing. When I have a good sense of where the story is going, where it needs to end, and more or less how it needs to get there. When it's done.
And lots more words... )
[Brandon] All right. Well. Let's go ahead and go with our writing prompt. I'm going to say Howard, give it to us.
[Howard] You, in an extremely, extremely spur-of-the-moment sort of living-in-the-moment thing have decided that instead of fight club, it's zoo club. And you have just punched an elephant. Hard. What happens next?
[Dan] You get arrested.
[Brandon] All right. This has been Writing Excuses, you're out of excuses...
[Howard] Now go to jail.
mbarker: (ISeeYou2)
Writing Excuses 5.9: Character Arcs with John Brown


Key points: Character arcs are about character's change, growth, learning. Often either as a problem in the plot or to provide a key to unlock the problem in the plot. You can either plan where you want the character to go, or throw an issue at them and see what they learn. Watch for being bored with a character -- often a sign of a failing character arc. Make sure they have highs and lows, pits and dilemmas and tests, learning and decisions.
Down in the pits )
[Dan] Oh, sweet. Well, all right then. Your characters are trapped on an emotionally-responsive roller coaster that mimics their own emotional arc. How do they use that knowledge to escape?
[Brandon] Oh, that's genius. Okay. Man, you just earned your check.
[Dan] Yay!
[Brandon] This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses, now go write.
Public Service Announcement )
mbarker: (ISeeYou2)
Writing Excuses 5.2: Character Quirks


Key points: Character quirks make character different and memorable. Beware going to far with quirks. Incongruity helps - profession, religion, whatever - square pegs in round holes!
Not Captain Quirk? )
[Brandon] All right. I'm going to force Howard to give us our writing prompt this week.
[Howard] Okay. I'm going to ponder this for just long enough to determine that the quirk for your writing prompt is a physical attribute that in some way influences this character's religion.
[Brandon] Okay. They have some sort of physical attribute that makes up their religion, influences their religion. That's a great one! This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses, now go write.
mbarker: (BrainUnderRepair)
Writing Excuses 5.7: Avoiding Melodrama


Key points: Melodrama grows out of one-sidedness. Make your characters real people. Avoid cliche. Set up your emotional scenes. Make characters likable. Variation and contrasts add spice.
lots of melodrama, and a dramatic reading! )
mbarker: (BrainUnderRepair)
Writing Excuses Season Five Episode One: Third Person Limited


Key points: third person limited let you have multiple viewpoints. Also, you can portray characters sympathetically because you can show the reader their thoughts and their view of the world. Third limited is less biased than first-person narration. Avoid having too many characters too early. Be careful about withholding information from the reader -- third person limited is expected to be honest. Watch for point of view errors! Keep it limited to what the main character knows and feels. Realize the strengths -- third person limited lets you show different perspectives. Think about which viewpoint to use -- who has the most pain, who has to make the biggest decision, who's got the most at stake, or who can show us what is happening best?
vampires, werewolves, parasols, and bodice rippers? )
[Brandon] All right. We are out of time. I'm going to go ahead and give us our writing prompt this week. I want you to write a scene where Howard and Dan and me and then Producer Jordo do all walk through a room, and it's in our perspectives, and we are all going to think differently. You have to write this just knowing, having listened and knowing...
[Howard] You just ask people to write HowardTayler fan fiction
[Brandon] Yes, I did. I do it every time. It is accepted practice before I go to bed.
[Dan] Nice. Yeah. We do it anyhow.
[Howard] Jordo. Stop recording, quickly.
[Brandon] So, I want you to do this, and see how the four of us see the world differently. This has been Writing Excuses.
[Dan] What are the bets that my perspective is soaked in blood?
[Howard] My blood!
mbarker: (Fireworks Delight)
Writing Excuses Season Five Episode Four: Creating Suspense


Key Points: Put a bomb under the table. If it goes off, that's action. If it doesn't go off, that's suspense. Mystery is when you can't see what's under the table. Mystery is about ideas that we don't understand, while suspense is about characters we don't understand. Both create tension. Think hard about killing a character just to create tension -- it may come across to readers as a cheap trick. Make sure that there are good reasons for them to die, or use some alternate significant loss. Consider ticking time bombs and other tricks for introducing a sense of progress, too.
Watch for the bomb under the tablecloth! )
[Brandon] Excellent. All right. We have a very special writing prompt for you this week. Producer Jordo was sent a very touching piece of mail by someone in the Netherlands. It was just delightful. We're going to read just one line from this. You have to take this and make a story out of it.
[Howard] I have coated my left hand with magical ink.
[Brandon] There you go. You're totally out of excuses. This has been Writing Excuses, and I can't talk. Now go write!
mbarker: (Burp)
Writing Excuses Season Four Episode 24: Random storytelling with James and Julie


Key points: Worldbuilding, but also characters and conflicts. Change and conflict go together. Empathy for a character comes from something bad that you understand and want to see alleviated. Who will the readers want to root for?
random tails? )
[Brandon] OK. Well, excellent. We are out of time. I would like to thank our guest stars. Thank you very much.
[James] You're welcome.
[Julie] Any time.
[Brandon] This is been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses. Now go write.
mbarker: (ISeeYou2)
Ge-ge-ge no nyobou: The main characters' pictures!
(Just discovered that the flash pages have ordinary images in them!)
a scrapbook )
mbarker: (Me typing?)
Writing Excuses Season Three Episode 22: Idea to Story


Key Points: To turn an idea into a story: Look for the points of conflict. Look for the boundaries -- what kind of story is this? Consider plot, setting, characters. What is the ending? How will you resolve the story? Look for characters who are in pain. Check old ideas that didn't get used yet. Brainstorm interesting ideas -- set pieces, events, twists, interesting stuff.
the nuts and bolts )
[Brandon] We're out of time. But let's go ahead and give you the writing prompt which is the same idea that we used at the beginning.
[Howard] Insects have in some way evolved defenses against all of the poisons that we use to kill them and many of the chemicals that would work to just kill anything because they have somehow developed magic.
[Brandon] This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses, now go write.
mbarker: (ISeeYou2)
Writing Excuses Season Two Episode Three: Characters with Brandon Mull

Key points: make your characters feel real by understanding them. What are their personality quirks? What do they want? Quirks that are a little bit extreme help make the illusion real. Ask yourself, "Why can't this character fill this role?" Design imperfect characters who are interesting in that slot in your story. Know the three act format and remember that real heroes always fail twice (at least) before they succeed.
Much ado )
mbarker: (Fireworks Delight)

I'm Brandon, I'm Dan, I'm Howard . . . and I'm Batman
here there be spoilers? )
Writing prompt
Brandon: take an old piece of writing, one that you've been working on in the last year, and take a dialogue scene. Then take each line of dialogue up by half a notch -- make it a little more unexpected, evoke a little more of the character -- but it should mean the same thing.
Howard: crank it all up, but have the dialogue end up in the same place as before.
mbarker: (Burp)
Writing Excuses Episode 33: Side Characters

Key points: Give your side characters their own voice, sensible motivation, and unique aspects. Give them a good motivation and make them the center of their own story. If they are too interesting, promote them to a main character or cut them out.
The Meatloaf )
Writing Prompt [confusion over how to take a side character without having written a main character results in Brandon suggesting]:
  • Brandon: take a side character from the future, bring them back into the past, and write a story about them.
Howard: thank you, and goodnight kids.
mbarker: (Burp)
Writing Excuses Episode 32: Talking Exposition with Patrick Rothfuss


Key points: don't start with info dumps. Avoid essays, police artist sketches, thesis statements, repeating. Use three good details, and characters in action. Toss readers into the world, and move the story and the characters forward. Arguments are good. Make every sentence do more than one thing. Give your readers a little tease, then wait. Make the exposition a payoff instead of an entry price.
to da dump, to da dump, to da dump, dump, dump )
Take one thing that's unimportant and explain the heck out of it. Take something else that is very important and don't explain it all.
mbarker: (Fireworks Delight)
Okay. One of the recent shows here was the All-Japan Quiz (or something like that). And among the players, Mitsuko pointed to one woman and said, "OH. That's a man. He's a New Half. You should watch him."
Bits and pieces . . . )
Mitsuko says this man has been on several shows recently, apparently quite happily laughing with everyone. He's having a lot of fun with gender confusion, and that's okay. Subversive as all get out, but that's the way it should be. Laugh, and then wonder what the fuss was all about.
mbarker: (BrainUnderRepair)
Here in Japan, there was a TV special on about Tasha Tudor. She's the author of children's books (Corgiville Fair?) about 90 when the show was made, and lived in the Vermont mountains somewhere. Lots of fun bits about her life, but when they were complimenting her about her habit of carrying flower seed and scattering it, showing a field that she had planted over the years, she protested that she had learned that from Alexander Graham Bell. When the narrator asked what she meant, she smiled and said that Alexander Graham Bell always had a pocket full of Lupin seeds and planted it everywhere he went. And as a close friend of his daughter, she learned to do the same, although she uses other flowers.

Alexander Graham Bell as a "Johnny Appleseed" of flowers. I wonder if that made the official biographies. Fun!
mbarker: (Burp)
Writing Excuses Episode 20: More Q&A from Conduit

Guest writer: Eric James Stone

The short and sweet? Do you need plot twists? Yep, but not necessarily always world changers. Speculations about the changing market. How do you make heroes as interesting as villians? Conflict and action!
More details . . . )
And a voice announced, "We're all blimps anyways."

Amidst a flurry of thankyou, thankyou very much, the podcast ended.

May 2017

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