Writing Excuses 7.4: Brevity

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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.

Today the podcast for Writing Excuses seemed out of order to me, so I wrote it haphazardly, linking the topics to each other to make better sense of the topic, which is brevity. Brevity is important for a writer because, as Dan says, “The briefer your writing becomes, the shorter form you are dealing with, the more important word choice is.” Brevity is a strategy that all writers should have within their repertoire simply because of this quote.

Poems, my niche in the writing world, have the need and/or ability to make every word count. And though it is thought only to be necessary in that profession, it is actually stressed by the group that brevity should be in all forms of writing.

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Writing Excuses 7.3: Fauna and Flora

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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.

As promised, our podcasters — Mary, Brandon, Howard and Dan — gave us more examples of what not to do if you are their listening audience.  These are always helpful hints for us non-published or lesser published in comparison to the group I fawn over on a weekly basis. Ironically, when the topic first came to the table last week (see previous post) I had been thinking about every example that was wrong as being a good example. Those of you who are lacking in the cinematic and literary experiences behind Pitch Black, Twilight, and Avatar are missing out on some very big mistakes in the eyes of our presenters.

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Writing Excuses 7.2: World Building Flora and Fauna

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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.

When you write a story you, as an author, want details. These fillers are what immerse the reader in the world you created. Does the sun rise somewhere else? Does the weather change sporadically? Does the foliage eat people for dinner? These are things that a writer, especially a fantasy writer, has to think about when they set the scene.

A rule of thumb Mary goes with is to play with names, descriptively identifying a plant or insect by their trait. This is a trend throughout our own history and is a quick and easy way to have a natural setting in a very short amount of time. The choice of scientific evolutionary biology or the ‘coolness’ of an animal, that you then add science to, is what Brandon tells us about. Howard says that he tells only a very small percentile of the actual floral history and scientific jargon while secretly keeping the records of “Why the plants can eat humans?”

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Writing Excuses 7.1: When Good Characters Go Bad

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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.

Ah the New Year, and a new podcasting season. I look forward to this year and the new tidbits of information these hosts give us, and I can only hope the collective audiences feel the same. To start off this season with a bang, the podcasters Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells and Mary Robinette Kowal postulate on a particular subject that many writers find to be an arduous task. “How can an author transform a beloved character into a bad one?” With an addendum to the question, “How can an author still make the audience love that character afterward?” It is an epic task within the sphere of writing because there is an intricate art to the manifestation of the topic at hand. The emotional arches are what the group follows in a progression of good going bad.

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Writing Excuses 6.25: When Characters do Dumb Things

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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.

How are dumb actions a good thing to use as an author and how do you do it right? It is better to make the logical choices, which any person in the audience would identify with. This method convinces the audience that the story one point Howard admits his own problem, when he reads a good book, like the unnamed example. It seemed that if he had been the main character in the book, he would have made all the same, distinctly wrong choices. Ending up in the same sticky situation the character was in, at the moment of his realization.

How is this pervasive way of telling a story a bad thing? Mary points out, that if the story is too obvious, too stupid, it makes the audience disengage from the story. A good reason for an audience to disengage from the story is when they know some aspects of the story that the character doesn’t. This is an intentional strategy of an author, to engage rather than disengage his/ her audience. A good example is found in Kovthe, created by Rothfuss. His temper, is uncontrollable, and this character flaw leaves the audience knowing that Kovthe will react regrettably stupid, many times. The key reason why this is a good example is the reader expects the wrong reaction from the character, therefore, they do not disengage, but rather, become active participants in the plot.

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Writing Excuses 6.24: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

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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.

If you ever break down a story to its fundamental basics, many of them can be considered a ridiculous beginning. To think that a character who is placed amongst insurmountable adversity will succeed is beyond the ridiculous, because it does not happen within the scope of reality. This, however, is what makes a story. Mary points out that a writer can, “do almost anything ridiculous, as long as you go back to the core of emotion.” This emotion gives the reader a foothold into the world which the author creates.

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Writing Excuses 6.23: Pigeon Holes

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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 a constant fear for writers that they will be constricted by pigeon holes. Pigeon holes are like type-casting for actors. When you are a writer you can be type-casted into a genre. Some authors might be comfortable with just writing what the public wants — more power to you if you can. But for the majority, authors want to be able to push the boundaries rather than risk their creativity’s stagnation over time. So to make our writing more diverse, the group gives some great examples to keep us going insane with boredom.

There guest, Jonathan Maberry — who suggested the topic — was more than thrilled to give writing advice to the audience. As he is a teacher as well as a renowned author and he tends to run into authors/students who need this type of career advice. He quotes Ray Bradbury, whom he met years ago, as saying, “A writer writes.” This inspired him to look at his writin projects like challenges rather than obligations. To make it in the writing world you have to be willing to write to the audience and, “What they think they want.” Sometimes authors would rather not, which isn’t how the business works. The trick is to make sure that instead of just going through, we authors grow from the experience.

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Writing Excuses 6.22: Continuing Education for Writers

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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’s podcast is all about betterment of our craft. Where can we writers find workshops that give us that specific opportunity? Well the podcasts names a few: Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp, Clarion and Clarion West, Writing Superstars, Odyssey, Taos Toolbox, and Launchpad are all ways in which writers can expand their knowledge base. Now why wouldn’t we just sit down and write for hours on end rather than spend money on these various technique trainings when one of our very own podcasts hosts says that, “nothing improves your writing skills like doing more writing?”

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Writing Excuses 6.21: Brainstorming From Story Seeds

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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 this week is, by far, one of the more difficult podcasts I have had to listen to since I started writing them up in June. It is an amazing learning experience about how to construct a story from a set of given facts, which they call “mash-ups”. So, first, here are the list of mash-ups that Jordo (producer) gave the group to work on:

  • Wary of Iguanas, Bored Germans Finally Venture Out
  • Heroic Mailman Saves Three Lives While On the Job
  • Dolphin Charged With Battery Against Girlfriend
  • Austrian Power Company Tells Customer She is Dead

Second, I want to point out that they had some time to work on these before the podcast, which explains why the stories have their varying degrees of development. Mary kicks the group off with an epic plot that Brandon describes as having all the necessary qualities for a fully vetted story — A.K.A. content, character, premise. The most memorable description of her story was “the technology to transfer human consciousness to animals,” which isn’t found in any of the others stories.

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Writing Excuses 6.20: Endings

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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, Lou Anders, who previously talked with the group about the Hollywood Formula, joins the group again to help explain the ins and outs of how to end things. Endings in stories can be a bit tricky, as authors try to step away from the story. I recall my own dilemma with endings and how many times I have just avoided them altogether, by leaving the story on the shelf, making me a much invested listener.

Mary talks about her self-discovery as an author by using M.I.C.E. Quotient and Hollywood Formula, while Dan talks about his three act format. This, Dan explains, he uses to gauge his writing process and progress rather than the story formula, knowing that not every story can be written with only three parts to it.

The question is, “How do writers mess up their stories with bad endings?”

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