ECW legend Angel Orsini
Comedy great Scott Capurro paying tribute to his friend Robin Williams
Author/wrestler Matt Wallace
Comedian Marga Gomez
Podcast: Play in new window
| Download (Duration: 2:06:22 — 115.7MB)
ECW legend Angel Orsini
Comedy great Scott Capurro paying tribute to his friend Robin Williams
Author/wrestler Matt Wallace
Comedian Marga Gomez
Podcast: Play in new window
| Download (Duration: 2:06:22 — 115.7MB)
@Matthew Whitehead. It was always my understanding that passive voice was really only a bad thing outside of the quote marks. Inside them your characters can do about anything that they want. If this way of thinking is in error I’d like someone to let me know.
You’re absolutely right. Most of the advice you recieve that tells you “don’t do x” is referring to narrative, and I like to think it should be understood as really trying to get you to simplify your narrative down and learn the basics a bit with some of your writing so you have a better handle on how to break the “rules” and avoid the pitfalls once you get back into more complicated narrative. I’d say “walk before you run”, if that wording didn’t seem to imply I think we can slack off in how much time we spend writing while we’re getting rid of those practice words.
The passive voice isn’t particularly in favour even in dialogue, however, and it’s probably the most maligned piece of grammar in writing, partly because it’s used to create false suspense by simply leaving out details we’d know if we were really watching events unfold. It’s difficult to use in dialogue because it’s clunky- it’s complicated and needs helper verbs, and it comes off very formal.
But it can be important for characterisation to use passive constructions at the right time, especially when you’re showing your characters trying to weasel out of culpability, or being passive-aggressive.
It’s the same way you can use “seem” a bit in dialogue, really, even though it’s usually a crutch and/or a weasel-word in the narrative- you need to give yourself permission to use those words and structures that writers are tempted to mis- or over-use when the situation and your sense of voice really demand them.
On the matter of voice, I think an example is in order. I’d usually say to other genre writers that being too true to modern life with your dialogue or having too much slang is a really quick way to boot your reader out of the story. (because when new writers try these phrases, they don’t work them in consistently to the dialogue, and they are too realistic with them, leaving in the parts that don’t help. I’ve done it myself many times in my beginning stuff) But look at Stephen King- his voice DEMANDS slang, and his characters all clearly speak in different types of modern or recent American voices. It’s just how he writes. And he’s great at it, and he wouldn’t be the Stephen King we know without it.
Ed: I would’ve said she told him insert new joke with bad grace. (or even “forbearingly,” if you prefer) That gives you the sense of grudging patience you want, I think, without having to imply sarcasm with the word ‘patiently’.
By popular request, here’s a ‘cast where we demonstrate line-editing. A word of warning, though: we demonstrate this process on the very first book Brandon ever wrote. Not his first published, book, mind you. No, we’re working on an ancient, unpublished manuscript, and it needs a lot more help than just line-editing. For the purposes of this exercise, we shall pretend that the story edits are complete, the darlings have been killed, and all that remains to be done is a final pass to tighten the prose.
Suspend your disbelief, please.
Audiobook Pick-of-the-Week: The Mote in God’s Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Writing Prompt: A man stumbles through the desert and is aided in some way by a headless monkey.
The Number of Minutes Required to Fix This Book: More than fifteen. Many, many more…
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Writing Excuses 4.29: Line Editing [ 18:37 ] Play Now | Play in Popup | Download (20708)
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Mary Robinette Kowal – Hugo Award-winning author of Shades of Milk and Honey, Glamour in Glass, Without a Summer, and Valor and Vanity – returns to the Roundtable to workshop a tale of supernatural murder. Guest Writer Nicole Munro brings a darkly delicious YA story about the machinations of the Fae Court and a young man’s quest to find the truth behind his brother’s murder. Ideas fly, inspirations abound, and (dare I say it) Literary Gold is achieved! If you don’t believe me, click that “PLAY” button (and if this feast of writerly awesomeness isn’t enough for you, check out Mary’s Showcase Episode!)
PROMO: “The Cromcast“
Workshop Episode 57 (Guest Host: Mary Robinette Kowal)
Produced by Lucie Le Blanc
[caution: mature language - listener discretion is advised]
Podcast: Download (Duration: 1:01:01 — 55.9MB)
Check out this and all our episodes on iTunes and on Stitcher Radio!
Mary’s Awesomeness includes…
Listen to her and the other splendid co-hosts of the Writing Excuses podcast
Her work has appeared in several anthologies including “The Hugo Award Showcase 2010” (that she also edited)
You can explore the portfolio of her puppetry studio
…and definitely bookmark her website to stay in the loop regarding her appearances and projects
About Dave Robison
Dave Robison has indulged in creative pursuits his entire life.
His CV includes writing Curious George fan-fiction at the age of eight, improv theater at age ten, playing trumpet at age twelve, as well as a theater degree, creating magazine cover art, writing audio scripts, designing websites, creating board games, hosting mythological roundtables and generally savoring the sweet drought of expression in all its forms.
His years of exploration give him a unique, informed, and eloquent perspective on the art of storytelling.
View all posts by Dave Robison
Tags: Fae Court, Faeries, Mary Robinette Kowal, mystery, Nicole Munro, YA
Categories: Workshop Episodes
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One Response to Workshop Episode 57 (Guest Host: Mary Robinette Kowal)
Dan Dan The Art Man says:
July 8, 2014 at 1:53 pm
This episode was fantastic. Mary brought some great insight, Brion and Dave added excellence as always, I’m so glad this podcast is BACK!
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Did Robert Jordan define the modern epic?
I first picked up EotW when I was 13, uncertain at first, but it defined fantasy reading for me for the next 15 years.
Even though his series defined so much of fantasy for me, I have to say the series really drags.
When I give the series to friends, they never get past book 4.
Many saying they end up breezing past page after page.
I even had my true love relate to me recently that she was even skipping pages in EotW.
This leads me to ask, what is so great about WoT?
And could robert jordan’s universe have been as good as it is if it was tightened up to say 6 books?
I recently read steve erickson’s “garden’s of the moon” and even though that book is 800 pages long, it never drags for even a moment.
It flips view points so that every scene is buzzing.
But when I look back at the book and what i just read, I feel like I have just read a good story.
I don’t feel like I have been drawn into something bigger than me, like I did with EotW.
It doesn’t have the same “epic” quality to me.
So is there something to the long meandering details that fill the pages of somebody like Jordan’s books?
Is epicness just length?
or is it a book that draws the reader into a world where they question and wonder at the world?
If that is the case, all of these new era books, can they accomplish the same with their super focus on the characters with minimal emphasis on the backdrop and canvas?
Wheel of time created so much wonder in me.
The world was so full of life, i was constantly hoping the story would move to all of the various nooks and crannies on the maps.
When I read modern “epics” like John Brown’s SoaDG, although really good, it leaves me with no wonder about the world.
It is just character driven.
Although I am only 200 pages in, I am not getting the calling to “come spend some time in this carefully crafted world” like I did with the WoT.
I think a lot of what we now call epic is actually heroic fantasy.
For something to be epic, it truly is in another class.
“epic series” is bandied about so readily these days, it does the name injustice.
I think seeing the classification of “epic” on the cover of a book should tell the reader that they need to prepare to sit down and steep themselves in a richly carved world.
That there will be some slogging, but the end effect if that you are left with a world second to your own to immerse yourself in.
I first started noticing the changes after I sealed all the cracks and crevices in my house.
It took two boxes of caulking tubes but when I was done there was no place for those roaches to hide.
At least not the ones who were not already sealed up behind the new caulk.
We had a lot of roaches.
Our house was a bungalow style wooden sided house that a previous owner had added asbestos siding onto back in the late 60s.
There was all kinds of “roach holes” in it, but not after I spent two weeks after dinner caulking every crack, seam and cabinet in the house.
I also spent a week reworking all the drawers and doors in the kitchen cabinets so they close flush with the fascia.
They are practically airtight now.
My boy and I, and occasionally my screaming wife had a stomp fest for the next month or so.
Towards the end, before the change, we were only killing 10 or 15 a night. I bought one of those bristle shoe cleaner things people buy and station outside their mud room to clean boots or shoes of mud.
Sam and I needed it to clean the guts off the bottom of our shoes.
We got real good with the fly swatters too.
Sam usually got one or two in flight every night.
Then it changed.
It was a Tuesday night and after dinner my wife presented Sam and I with a big piece of chocolate cake.
One of those three layer ones with thick fudge chocolate icing.
Man that was good!
Sam and I didn’t know what it was for but we are not stupid.
We started eating before she realized that it wasn’t dessert night.
When I finally noticed that my wife and three girls were happily watching us eat I had to ask what this was for.
They made a big deal about us killing all the roaches.
That we had come to their rescue, fought the long war and defeated the evil roaches.
They had not seen a single roach all day.
I stopped in mid chew.
I remember that moment clearly.
I had not seen any since getting home.
It didn’t make since.
Not then but it does now.
We have learned a lot since then, but that was a different time and we did not know about insect magic back then.
We really freaked out that day the flour dropped to floor and the dust cloud it created coated the hundreds of previously invisible roaches hiding in plan sight.
Seems they have always had always used magic to hide from us and get away when we thought we had them cornered somewhere.
But when I took all their hiding places away, well they got desperate.
Those were simpler times.
Apparently roaches travel a lot and talk to each other because pretty soon all the roaches in the county were gone. Then it was more counties, now its North America and is starting in Europe and Asia.
They have a better chance than we do.
See the country as a whole really freaked out when we found out all roaches were invisible and very few woman felt safe or comfortable wondering if there were roaches on the sandwich they were about to eat or on the blouse they were about to put on.
Men weren’t any different but when every woman in the United States is telling their men that they need to kill all roaches, wipe them out, no matter what it takes, well that is what they do.
Or in our case set out to do.
We really took it to them, but they adapted to our techniques and we had an insect arms race. We don’t know how they do it but they are now generating force fields that stop just about anything.
No one tries to step on a roach since they developed that needle field.
Steel soled boots will protect your foot from the invisible needle they generate but nothing else will.
I would give anything if it would have culminated there.
But we all started buying steel soled boots.
You could still squash them, it was just harder.
Then they discovered their own form of explosive.
Half the houses in our neighborhood were left empty after all the roaches in our neighborhood apparently learned this trick at the same time.
Fifteen people died that morning, others just lost legs.
Within a week it was happening everywhere.
I leave them be now but the war still goes on.
The big defense firms joined the game but it doesn’t look good from my perspective.
I think maybe we have been thinking that this was a “roach” thing only, but I can’t help but notice that
there is no longer a wasp nest under the eaves near the corner of my house and that the fire ant hill in the back yard deflects rain.
Multiple viewpoints can be wonderful. However, every time you change view points you risk losing the reader IF you switch to a story they don’t care about. You risk losing narrative momentum. You risk readers starting your story only to abandon it.
How do you minimize the risk?
1) You DON’T switch to a new story. You switch to a point of view in the same story line. For example, let’s say you have a hero pov. You can switch to the villain’s pov to reveal stuff that will shoot suspense through the roof for the hero–the villain already knows the hero’s plan, is two steps ahead, receives a traitor and makes a plan, plants a bomb, etc. Or maybe you have two points of view of the good guys and they’re in the same battle AND what they’re doing affects each other. That’s the key. That the point of view either affects or sheds light on the OTHER story.
2) You DON’T give the second point of view much stage time. We know they’re on for only a few pages and then we can get back to the main story.
3) You only give the next point of view stage time AFTER building to it so it’s likely to be interesting. For example, when the guys talk about LOTR, we meet our group and get to be invested in all of them so that when they split, we’re hopefully interested in both story lines.
4) You do what Brandon suggested and write a complete arc then hand off the story. For example, Orson Card’s Prentice Alvin starts with Cavil Planter, then moves to the slave mother trying to save her baby, and then moves again to Alvin. But we don’t go back. Cavil and the slave mother are done. However, they’re connected to what comes later. This one still carries risk because subsequent stories might not interest. But that just means you have to have 1, 2, 3 “beginnings” and treat them as such.
Having said all that, you can also say to heck with the risk. I’ll just have to appeal to the readers who will hang with me.
It’s possible to do anything you want. For example, you can use the longer sections and then do quick cuts during the climax or some other major scene. In fact, Brandon did exactly this in The Hero of Ages. A lot of movies do this as well. You could do the same at the beginning and then slow it down–Lamentation by Scholes starts with a lot of quick cuts.
The only thing you need to think about is reader effect–will this guide the reader into the experience I want them to have? My advice: always start with the effect you’re yearing for, even if it’s still mostly subconscious. Don’t start with rules. Start with the objective and then figure out the techniques to get you there.
Have you noticed how Brandon talks about producing a certain type of effect with his works–he wants them to be a bit slower (on purpose!)? He wants people to have resting places, feel closure throughout. And so he does it the way he does. But I don’t think all epics need to be this way. RUNELORDS (the first book) felt epic to me, but it was rollercoaster fast. Short chapters, different viewpoints, boom, boom, boom. I loved it.
What is the effect you’re after? What is the experience you like? Try to ID that and then use the techniques that support it best.
I know this comment will be wholly unpopular, but my biggest nitpick on Tolkien is the lack of practicality in his world building. Oh and I do not “hate” Tolkien. I’ll cut him some slack since Cultural Anthropology and the facts we know about building cultures, etc weren’t available to him at the time (Cultural Anthro came after him),
What I’m picking on is his elves–
“They are elves–they are a peaceful race.” (Though Tolkien also talks about long wars the elves were involved in outside of The Hobbit and the trilogy.) and dwarves. If they are truly a different species or subspecies, I don’t see how their cultures could exist like they do.
I’ll put it this way– Humans gained brain capacity by the ability to scavenge and hunt. (This was a Discovery channel special where they went over brain capacity and found that the majority of “smart” animals are either predators or omnivores.) Do elves really stay vegetarian? And if so where do they get enough food in the woods (no sunlight) to grow food to support that many people on that large of a civilized scale? Yet people want to make the elves peaceful, so they add that they are vegetarian. Sorry, this has a cost. Either the elves when they evolved were meat-eaters at some point, or they suffer from deficient brain capacities. (Also from an archaeology stand point, meat allows people to travel. You can’t be a caveman and a vegetarian if you’re traveling up the coast. How many poisonous meats do you know v. how many poisonous plants do you know? Coast travel is the most practical mobility.)
OK, you have an advanced civilization of elves living in the woods. Sorry, but you cannot support a large local population of people living in the woods. Most people either have to be horticultural–this is slash and burn or they have to be agricultural. The elves, however, were pretty sedentary up in the trees with buildings like that. It did not seem like a pack and move culture. How are they supporting the people? There are two answers you can have–some elves are agricultural. All elves are warfaring folk who also deal in high commodity exchange. Neither are practical because from what we know of humans, agricultural societies breed war. Why? Because land becomes necessary to own and buy. Elves had no means of getting food… and I don’t believe one enclosed garden is enough. To get that advanced there has to be other solutions.
Elves also showed job specialization–a feature of agriculture. Surplus==lazy people. Lazy people equals artisans and job specialization.
Elves can make advanced weaponry–sorry, but you need surplus for this to happen. Where do you get surplus in the woods eating vegetables? Slash and burn isn’t enough for this. Agriculture is. This means you need warfare to exist and then the advanced elves in the woods don’t exist.
My other nitpick is sugar. Sugar is a luxury item. This means you need warfare to get enough surplus to feed your soldiers and get more impoverished people than you to grow your sugar. Most sugar (save sugar beets) also grows in fairly tropical climates. (Tolkien should have realized this part at least). Yet the Shire was temperate. (I read The Hobbit). They ate Pasteries. Pasteries have sugar. Where did they get the sugar? The British Isles got its sugar by not growing it locally, but by extreme imperialism. Tea, coffee, tobacco, sugar were all featured in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. (Yes, there is honey, but if you read historical accounts on honey and bee keeping you’ll see how impractical it is for say–making a pie like featured in the books and the loads of pastries mentioned. Laura Ingalls Wilder featured how expensive and rare sugar was.) You do not spend your own fields on luxury items. If you want to feed yourself, would you seriously grow only sugar? To get these things you need a slave population. Yet Tolkien claimed the Hobbits were peaceful.
I also have an issue with the Dwarves living in the mountains with a load of riches, no running water, no means of supporting themselves internally except for trade. Trade was used by humans for some outposts which did not have supplies, however, usually there was a parent settlement. Plus, if you truly live underground, then the majority of your people will be 1. near blind 2. albino. Dwarves did not have these features. How did they truly evolve when none of the species farmed at all?
BTW, all Agricultural societies thus far have had slavery or near slavery. Industrial does too, it’s just better at hiding it from the population. Saying something like… Maybe the elves found a way around slavery and ranked systems… that’s fine if you want to state it, but HOW did they do it? An army of robot slaves instead? Who operates the robot slaves then?
This isn’t to pick on poor Tolkien and say he was all wrong so much as to point out that sometimes you need to question the tropes you are handed and maybe do them better. If you are aiming for a jump of faith, make that jump of faith believable.
Oh and Brandon said he doesn’t know about horses… so I’d like to modify the adage of write what you know…
The adage should go.
Write what you are passionate about.
Research what you don’t know.
Find an expert when lost.
Blame the expert when someone nitpicks you later. ^.~
One of my Betas/Alphas usually is an expert in something I don’t know and I ask them to fact check the draft for me. I also hit them up when I’m writing the draft and doing edits.
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