March 1st, 2011

BrainUnderRepair

Writing Excuses 5.11: Micro-Casting Number Two

Writing Excuses 5.11: Micro-Casting Number Two

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2010/11/14/writing-excuses-5-11-micropocasting-2/

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.
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[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.
BrainUnderRepair

Writing excuses 5.13: How do you write the second book?

Writing excuses 5.13: How do you write the second book?

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2010/11/21/writing-excuses-5-13-writing-the-second-book/

Key Points: The second published book may be mechanically easier, but emotionally harder. Your first book may not have an ending, which can teach you to start with a resolution for the second book. Your first book may fail because you are thinking too big, and need to find a story with a cohesive beginning and end. Your first book may teach you that "you can do this." To make the second book easier, learn the terms for what you are doing (e.g. POV, third person limited, character). After finishing book one, trying to write a sequel often is hard because you need a new character arc, something new for the character to learn. Coming up with a compelling new storyline after putting the galaxy in peril can be tough. Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better. "Stories are good because people you care about are doing things you care about." [Brandon]
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[Brandon] All right. Zombie John Brown. Writing prompt.
[John] Writing prompt. You have developed some strange thing... your character has developed some strange thing on his nose. So you get three different things that you could do. Somebody comes up and says, "I think that's an alien." Or somebody comes up from the occult and says, "I think I know what that is." Or it's a love story. It develops into a love story. Not with the growth. With somebody else.
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ISeeYou2

Writing Excuses 5.14: Visual Components of Novels with Scott Westerfeld

Writing Excuses 5.14: Visual Components of Novels with Scott Westerfeld
From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2010/11/28/writing-excuses-5-14-visual-components-of-novels-with-scott-westerfeld/

Key Points: Maps and illustrations can add a sense of immersion, but they should be meaningful. Illustrations also can force the text novelist to pay more attention to setting, clothing, and other "background" details.
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[Brandon] All right. Well, we're out of time. Howard, I'm going to make you give us a writing prompt.
[Howard] OK. I'm going to make you draw a picture. I want you to draw, from above, draw the floor plan of the house or the building that you are in. Now write an action scene that involves knocking out one of those walls.
[Brandon] OK. You're out of excuses, now go write.
MantisYes

Writing Excuses 5.15: Steampunk with Scott Westerfeld

Writing Excuses 5.15: Steampunk with Scott Westerfeld

from http://www.writingexcuses.com/2010/12/05/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.
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[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.
BrainUnderRepair

Writing Excuses 5.12: Time Travel!

Writing Excuses 5.12: Time Travel!

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2010/12/12/writing-excuses-5-12-time-travel/

Key Points: Treat your writing professionally. Learn your own process. Don't just wish, start! Shut up and start. Be wary of collaboration. Be true to yourself, write the books you care about. Try out different ways of writing (outlining, discovery writing, etc.) early. Try new things! Pay attention to what you love, and don't worry. You can make a living writing books.
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[Brandon] All right. Your writing prompt is to go forward in time and get next week's writing prompt and write a story based on it.
[Dan] Nice.
[Brandon] This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses, now go write.
Me typing?

Writing Excuses 5.16: Critiquing Dan's First Novel

Writing Excuses 5.16: Critiquing Dan's First Novel

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2010/12/19/writing-excuses-5-16-critiquing-dans-first-novel/

Key Points: Avoid discontiguities. Stomp out the cliche that all fantasy starts with a long, dry, boring description. Character before things! Punch it up and show us a character's viewpoint. Consider your genre, but put the promise of the story as early as possible. Start the story where it starts, and don't tell us all the stuff you wanted to tell us, just start it and go. You don't have to fill in everything. One telling detail beats pages of prose. Evoke plot, character, and setting. Make each sentence do multiple things. When you rewrite, make decisions. Consider your pace, and rearrange information as needed.
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[Brandon] All right, Dan. I'm going to let you give us our writing prompt.
[Dan] Our writing prompt?
[Howard] And remember that time travelers may be reading this writing prompt for last week.
[Dan] May be reading this right now? Okay. This is... take an idiomatic expression and literalize it. So, for example, the crack of dawn... a world in which dawn actually cracks, visibly or audibly. Then describe that going on. Not as a pun, but as world building information.
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Burp

Writing Excuses 5.17: Dialogue Exercises

Writing Excuses 5.17: Dialogue Exercises

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2010/12/27/writing-excuses-5-17-dialog-exercises/

Key Points: Make your characters identifiable from their dialogue alone. Make sure there's a sense of the world, the setting, and action. If you use dialect, do it sparingly, but be consistent. Word choice, sentence length, verbal quirks, social position -- any and all of these can be used to differentiate your characters. And don't forget the interplay of the characters, too.
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[Brandon] So we'll go ahead and do a writing prompt. Dan?
[Howard] Ha, ha!
[Dan] Oh, man. Okay. You are walking down a back alley and you meet Jason from Dragonmount and he's getting all uppity about how he had a great writing sample. What do you do to him?
[Brandon] Okay. This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses, now go write.
Me typing?

Writing Excuses 5.18: Offending Your Readers

Writing Excuses 5.18: Offending Your Readers

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2011/01/02/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.
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[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.
BrainUnderRepair

Writing Excuses 5.19: Fulfilling Promises to Your Readers

Writing Excuses 5.19: Fulfilling Promises to Your Readers

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2011/01/09/writing-excuses-5-19-fulfilling-promises-to-your-readers/

Key points: Be careful of memorable, vivid phrases. Beware of a gorilla in a phone booth derailing your story. "Don't put a gorilla in the phone booth if that's not what your story is about." Watch out for "bait and switch" endings (aka deus ex machina). When the rest of the story has built expectations, don't yank the rug out from under them. Ask yourself, "Where am I spending my time?" That is making a promise. Beware deus ex wrench, things going wrong without foreshadowing. Cool twists may break promises, especially when they shift genres. Make sure you have enough foreshadowing, and that if you put a gorilla in the phone booth, you let him call Chekhov by the end.
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[Brandon] This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses... except we need a writing prompt. Howard?
[Howard] OK. Um... promises, promises, promises. All right.
[Brandon] Oh, I made you do it the other time. So you have to do it again. Dan'll do it next time.
[Howard] No, we'll be fine. I'll get this. I just... it's right here on the tip of my tongue. Think of all the times that... in grade school, you or a friend of yours said something and said, "I promise." Any time that a child has made a promise in that sort of a context. Pick a really good... and that usually means in child context, stupid promise that a kid has made. Now use that as the leaping off point for a promise that you're going to keep in a book.
[Brandon] OK. This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses, now go write.
[Howard] I'll be your best friend.
MantisYes

Writing Excuses 5.20: More Dialogue Exercises

Writing Excuses 5.20: More Dialogue Exercises

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2011/01/16/writing-excuses-5-20-more-dialog-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.
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[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.