Writing Excuses 7.32: Astronomy 101 for Writers

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The featured guest this week is Eric James Stone, who recently received a Nebula Award for his detailed work that focuses on analog. Translation: he’s the expert the group goes to when it comes to astronomy and its effects within a story’s framework. An added bonus to his repertoire is his recent visit to NASA’s Launchpad workshop.  This workshop focuses on how the moon and rotation of the planet make it habitable for a civilization. It is a good research tool for sci-fi writers, when they are essentially creating life in a solar system far, far away.

The best example they used was Earth. I have not been an avid follower of sci-fi, mainly because I am a fantasy reader through and through. Luckily, the group — catering to their eclectic audience — gave information that I could understand on the 101 level. The first example that caught my interest was their theory of moons and how they affect tides. As a writer, it is always good to know the science behind something, and the moon we have helps predict tides for fisherman. The effects of tides in creation of continents and habitats are also key brainstorming cornerstones in creating alternate worlds.

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Writing Excuses 7.30: Microcasting

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Microcasting is where the group, way back when they podcasted this episode, decided to read off some questions fans have asked. To participate in future micro-cast, just tag the group #WritingExcuses with your question. And now for the questions.

How do you deal with bad reviews?

Come to grips with the fact that your work will not be universally loved. Calling bad reviewers heathens and getting fans to bash these reviewers frequently is one of the more passive aggressive ways to deal with bad reviews, even if it is a tad childish. Can we blame them? How many of us writers in the audience have wanted the bad reviews to just go away? Childish pranks are some of the answers, but on the more constructive side, we have Mary. Her interpretation of reviews falls in two categories, ‘target audience’ and ‘not target audience’. As long as the target audience is happy, she can easily ignore the bad reviews found in the ‘not target audience’. When a ‘target audience’ does have a bad review for an author, it should be considered a learning experience. If you are an author that would dwell on bad reviews, the best answer the podcasters give is: “Don’t read them.”

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Writing Excuses 7.29: The Villain Problem

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We’re a month into summer and I have finally found the time to get my blog started up again. There is a new photo and a few new podcast formats. The podcast entitled, “The Villain Problem,” is more old school podcast, though — a lot of information in a limited time.

The Villain Problem happens when the hero of the story you write or read is less proactive than the villain he faces. In other words, the hero’s actions are just reactions to the villain’s plan to dominate the world or whatever other scheme a villain has in mind, (but it usually is taking over the world, or the greater city area). This makes the villain the focal point and main character in the story, rather than the hero. Some writers do this intentionally, and it does have an interesting effect on progression of plot. This podcast is for those who do not want the villain to be the star of the show.

Brandon says that the podcasters are here to help writers recognize when their villain becomes the problem, and how to fix this problem by making the hero more proactive, without the hero deciding to take over the world himself. Mary believes that this would be a good story plot, and points out that Brandon has already written a version of it.

What are the most common plots that concentrate on villains? The group gives the consensus that comic books often have villain focal points, particularly Batman, who is identified by the villains he faces. The villains have the most unique ways of world domination, though I always thought that most of their domination really just concentrated on Gotham City, I realize that Gotham City is ‘their world’. Batman is the least powerful superhero, which makes his villains less likely to have actual superpowers, and more likely for the villains to just be insane. In Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of Batman, Heath Ledger’s Joker stole the show. But to keep Christian Bale’s Batman the lead focal point, they had Batman wanting to quit his Dark Knightly deeds rather than just reacting to all of Joker’s schemes.

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Writing Excuses 7.14: What ever you do…don’t write

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Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Linda K. Strahl, an editor at the Jet Fuel Review. Her full bio can be found at the end of this post.

The podcast for this week is titled Why You Really Shouldn’t Write. The first reason, and I feel the best explanation for not writing, is the difficulty of the task. Howard states, “It’s hard, you really shouldn’t do hard things.” The list they deliver consists of the many ways our podcasters stall and refuse to write. The best justification occurred when they voiced that important truth, “Writing is pointless.” It is a useless pastime that should be ignored and not mulled over for years. A great example is Tolkien, who spent twenty years not writing! Since we all have to admit that we are not Tolkien, we should wait forty plus years to develop an epic fantasy story that really has no hope of being published.

Noticing the dust on your keyboard — and the necessity to clean and polish each individual key — is another must-do-to-avoid-writing task that Howard mentions. The group agrees that watching TV, TiVo, YouTube, commercials and even The Simpsons are tasks that a writer must do in order to not write. Mary also suggests taking cards and writing each word of your first sentence so that you can reorder them in a more original format that challenges preexisting works. Catching dyslexia is another obstacle that could interfere with your work rather well. It is recommended that you befriend many of these diseased people so that you may drink from their glasses and get sick with this highly contagious illness.

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Writing Excuses 7.12: Writing the Omniscient Viewpoint

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Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Linda K. Strahl, an editor at the Jet Fuel Review. Her full bio can be found at the end of this post.

Last week’s podcast had the audience go back to basics, which is why I decided to write it up this week along with this week’s podcast, which will be published later. With that note I will write the rest of the podcast in the summarizing format in present tense.  

The group has no guest host and Dan is absent due to family matters and ninjas somehow being involved. This, of course, means that the podcast happens without him. The topic Brandon, Mary, and Howard have decided to broach is none other than the omniscient POV in an author’s tools-of-the-trade handbook. There are a few kinds of this POV that we should all recognize. One kind is the “cinema omniscient POV”, the narrator and camera angle of a story, which is never an actual character in the plot. This POV is actually considered limited omniscient, because the perspective is not all encompassing and limited to the camera and timeline the story has to follow. Brandon corrects their name of “limited omniscient” to Orson Scott Card’s term of “limited third POV”.

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Writing Excuses 7.9: Microcasting

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Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Linda K. Strahl, an editor at the Jet Fuel Review. Her full bio can be found at the end of this post.

This week the group covered a whole bunch of questions to fit into the fifteen minutes of their Microcasting episode. I will summarize a few of their answers for some of the questions asked on their Twitter feed.

What do you do if you don’t like your characters?

The simple answer they give is to stop writing the book altogether because if you don’t like your characters, neither will your audience. A more detailed answer is to make your characters believable to the audience. These qualities might include being really good at something, quirks that you can build upon as an author, strange fascinations (the stranger the better, as they will make your characters unique to one another). Adding these qualities will improve your characters and you won’t have to completely start over.

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Writing Excuses 7.8: The City as a Character

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Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Linda K. Strahl, an editor at the Jet Fuel Review. Her full bio can be found at the end of this post.

There is an atmosphere that can be created when an author sits down and writes their city, or just setting, as if it were a character. Characters have depth and eccentricities that we identify them by. Cities should be treated with the same care. Think of a film scene at a wide angle — you don’t just see the character running through a street with no real descriptors, no references as to where they are. You see the shot pan to a street sign as they run down the poorly lit pavement, as the director hints at the inevitable ending for a character. This is an example that I thought would be helpful as it explains the purpose behind why a scene is so important in a story.

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