Yesterday, I had breakfast with Dan and Howard at The Original Pancake House, which it turns out is a chain. But a tasty treat nonetheless with giant, giant portions.
Then we came down to Brandon’s house and locked ourselves into the basement for several hours to record Writing Excuses. The episodes are only fifteen minutes long — usually — but we recorded ten of them yesterday. We’re going to record several more today.
I love recording with these guys because I learn something every time I do.
Writing Excuses this week covers a topic that I find very, very interesting. I had this conversation informally with Lou in a bar and it blew my mind. This week, on writing excuses, we get him to sit down and talk in depth about the Hollywood Formula.
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.
Peter Ahlstrom, assistant to Brandon Sanderson, and Valerie Dowbenko, assistant to Pat Rothfuss, join Brandon and Dan to talk about what they do for “their authors.”
While this may seem like an incredible luxury — most of you listeners aren’t going to rush out and hire an assistant — there are things that can be farmed out from the earliest stages of your career as a professional writer. The goal, of course, is for the writer to find more time to write.
It’s also a lot of fun to hear Peter and Valerie talk about how they keep Brandon and Pat writing, and to listen to them talk about some of the unusual things they do as part of this job.
Keffy Kehrli joins Brandon, Mary, and Howard in front of a live audience at WorldCon 69 in Reno. He’s a Writers of the Future winner, a short story writer, and a female-to-male transsexual.
Mary leads us into this discussion, starting with how gender roles and gender identity lie along a continuum, defying the convenient descriptors that people typically employ, and how this can inform our writing. Keffy offers valuable tips, talking about what gets done wrong, and how to write it correctly.
We also talk about how this can apply to world-building, especially in fantasy where extended gender identities usually are not a consideration.
In our second WorldCon 69 episode we’re joined by Lauren Beukes, whose novels Moxyland and Zoo City are excellent case studies for writing in other cultures. It’s a difficult subject, and anybody venturing down the actual path in practice should be aware of the metaphorical minefield ahead of them.
But perhaps it’s not as bad as all that. Fundamentally, we’re talking about writing from the mind-set of characters who are not like us in some key way, which writers have to do all the time. Lauren walks us through her process and her approach, and Dan, Brandon, Mary, and even Howard have interesting and useful things to contribute.
It’s a great discussion. We learn what a “fixer” is in South African parlance.
Patrick Rothfuss joins Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard at WorldCon 69, where we recorded before a live, enthusiastic audience.
The topic? Suspension of disbelief, specifically, how to get your readers to do this. Patrick leads us off with verisimilitude, and how the reader will accept the fantastic if you’re presenting the mundane in a believable way. We talk about laying groundwork, about Chekov’s gun, the promises we have to make to our readers, and the dramatic tool bathos.
I’m on my way to Utah to spend the weekend locked in a basement with the Writing Excuses guys. So far, Friday the 13th has interacted with travel karma to produce zero lines and an upgrade to first class.
While I was in Utah I joined Dan Wells and Howard Tayler, of Writing Excuses, for a conversation with Dave Wolverton about movie considerations and formulas. Dave explained the three-act structure to us, and we talked about how this applies for transitioning stories to the screen.
The lovely men at Writing Excuses invited me to stick around and record another episode with them at World Con. They’ve just posted it the Writing Process Q & A. Brandon, Dan and Howard answer a wide range of questions and I tag along for the ride.
While I was at WorldCon, Howard Tayler asked me to swing by and participate in the Writing Excuses podcast panel. He described it as a bunch of fifteen minute podcasts in front of a live audience, which, I must say, was great fun.
Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler and Dan Wells are very engaging hosts and made me feel quite welcome. For the first episode, Brandon asked me if there was anything I particularly wanted to talk about. I said that lately I’ve been talking about how puppetry intersects with my fiction. So we spent fifteen minutes talking about the four principles of puppetry.
(Tor Books — August 21, 2018) Continuing the grand sweep of alternate history laid out in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars. Of course, the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, […]