• 19.15: A Close Reading on Voice: Tying It All Together

    As we conclude our first deep dive of our close reading series, we want to explore how the evolution of voice helped carry readers throughout "This Is How You Lose The Time War." We also talk about the relationship between character arcs and language, learning and voice. Stay tuned for next week’s episode, where we interview Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar on what it was like to write “Time War” together! 


    Thing of the Week: 

    Princess Weekes


    Homework:

    Write a short outline of your work noting where the voice changes and evolves to reflect the character growth and change rather than focusing on the plot beats


    A Reminder

    That starting May 12th, we'll be focusing on Worldbuilding and reading A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. If you’re going to buy this book, we have this bookshop link available for you to do so! (If not, go support your local library!) https://bookshop.org/lists/close-readings-season-19

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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S19E15 - 25m - Apr 14, 2024
  • 19.14: A Close Reading on Voice- Epistolary Storytelling Through Voice

    What's epistolary writing? Well, it's writing through letters. But it's also a lot more than that. As we continue to dive into the concept of Voice, we want to explore the importance and power of the letters that Blue and Red write to each other throughout "This Is How You Lose The Time War." If you haven't already listened to our episodes introducing this novella, we recommend you go back and start with Episode 11 (of this season, Season 19)!

    And if you’ve been reading along with us while listening to these episodes, please let us know on Instagram. Tag us in a post or comment @writing_excuses ! 

    Thing of the Week: clipping.” by Story 2 

    Homework: Write a short note from one of your characters to another about something that’s important to them. Now rewrite it as a text message (change the format). Then rewrite it as a letter that will be screened before it gets to them by an outsider (change the context). And finally, write it as the final message they will get to send during their life (change the stakes).

    You can buy this (and all the other books!) through our bookshop link-- this is linked in our bio in addition to right here:

    https://bookshop.org/lists/close-readings-season-19


    Close Reading Series: Texts & Timeline

    Voice: This is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar (March 17) 

    Worldbuilding: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (May 12) 

    Character: “You Perfect, Broken Thing,” “The Cook,” and “Your Eyes, My Beacon: Being an Account of Several Misadventures and How I Found My Way Home” by CL Clark (July 7) 

    Tension: Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark (September 1) 

    Structure: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (October 13) 


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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S19E14 - 25m - Apr 7, 2024
  • 19.13: A Close Reading on Voice: Blue's Perspective - Confidence and Vulnerability

    On our third episode diving into Voice through the novella “This Is How You Lose The Time War,” we begin to explore the different voices that make up the two main characters in the story. Last episode we dove into Red’s voice– if you haven’t already, we recommend you listen to that first! 

    Today, we are doing a close read of Blue at the tea shop and how voice establishes character, growth, and vulnerability. How do the authors make Blue’s voice distinct from Red’s? Is it in the tone, the structure, or something else completely? 

    Thing of the Week: The Late Mrs. Willoughby By Claudia Gray

    Homework: Write a short note from one of your characters to another about something important to them. Now rewrite it as a text message (change the format), as a letter that will be screened before it gets to them by an outsider (change the context), and as a final message they will get to send (change the stakes).

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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S16E13 - 23m - Mar 31, 2024
  • 19.12: A Close Reading on Voice - Red's Perspective - Muscular Prose

    Today, we are doing a very close read of Red's opening narration and how Red’s voice communicates both character and world in an effective and efficient way. We read several sections aloud and dive into what each sensory detail is doing. Also Mary Robinette talks about what she thinks is the most effective way to draw your readers attention to something. 

    Thing of the Week: Planet Crafter 

    Homework: Take a sentence from your work in progress and rewrite it to adjust the age of the character to make them a child. Do it again to make them from a different region. And again to give them a different profession.

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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    26m - Mar 24, 2024
  • 19.11: A Close Reading on Voice- An Overview, and Why Time War

    The book that became a New York Times Bestseller because of a tweet. Well, it won LOTS of awards when it came out, but it was rediscovered by a Twitter account with a large following. So-- let's get into it!

    On our first episode diving into Voice using the short novel "This Is How You Lose The Time War", we talk about why Voice is essential and some working definitions of how we want to talk about it. We also explain why we chose this book and highlight some of the things it's done well, and what you can learn from it!

    Thing of the Week: Scavengers Reign

    Homework: Take a sentence from a work you love that has a strong and clear voice. Write a scene based on that as a prompt, in the same tone and voice as the original.

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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S19E11 - 24m - Mar 17, 2024
  • 19.10: Introducing Our Close Readings Series

    You’ve probably seen us posting about our Close Reading Series, and in his episode, we finally officially introduce it! 

    For most of the remainder of 2024, we’ll be diving into five core elements of writing by focusing on five different literary texts. We’ll spend five episodes on each one, and then we’re going to… drumroll please… interview the author(s)!

    As you know, we’ve spent lots of time reading, writing, talking, and recording our thoughts about different elements of the craft. But this year, we wanted to ground our episodes in specific texts that you could read along– and analyze– with us!

    Below is the schedule for each book or short story we’ll be diving into. The date on the right in parenthesis is the air date of the first episode in our series that will begin talking about that text. We highly recommend you read the book by that date, as we will be talking about the entirety of the text for all 5 episodes (including spoilers!) 

    First up: This is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar

    You can buy this (and all the other books!) through our bookshop link-- this is linked in our bio in addition to right here:

    https://bookshop.org/lists/close-readings-season-19


    Close Reading Series: Texts & Timeline

    Voice: This is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar (March 17) 

    Worldbuilding: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (May 12) 

    Character: “You Perfect, Broken Thing,” “The Cook,” and “Your Eyes, My Beacon: Being an Account of Several Misadventures and How I Found My Way Home” by CL Clark (July 7) 

    Tension: Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark (September 1) 

    Structure: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (October 13) 


    Thing of the Week: SHINOBIGAMI: Modern Ninja Battle RPG

    Homework: Take a scene from a work that you love and five highlighters/crayons/colored pencils - use one color to underline/highlight places where the voice comes through, one for great worldbuilding, one for character moments, one for any moments of tension, and one for moments that move the plot forward. What colors do you end up with? Where do they overlap? What are the colors of the moments you love the most? What would the colors of one of your scenes be?

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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S19E10 - 23m - Mar 10, 2024
  • 19.09: LIVE Recording - Rituals, Rites, and Traditions

    Hosts Erin and DongWon are joined by Fonda Lee and Mahtab Narsimhan for a special episode about creating traditions in your fictional writing. In this episode, we'll explore some of the following: 

    -How do you build traditions and rituals in your fictional world (choosing what becomes a tradition or ritual and what doesn’t)? 


    -How can you use rituals or traditions to advance a novel’s plot, give characters more depth, and create conflict? 


    -What are the pitfalls to avoid (depiction of closed practices, over-ritualizing common traditions)?


    Homework

    Pick a ritual or tradition that you are very accustomed to and make it the center of a fictional scene. You can change its meaning or impact, but the content of the tradition should stay the same.


    Thing of the Week: 

    Shanghai Immortal by AY Chao (especially the audiobook version)


    Liner Notes: 

    This podcast episode idea was inspired by ReaderCon 2023, where Erin Roberts was a panelist.


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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Fonda Lee and Mahtab Narsimhan. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S19E9 - 17m - Mar 3, 2024
  • 19.08: NaNoWriMo Revision with Ali Fisher: Working with an Editor

    An agent, an editor, and a writer walk into a Zoom room and record a podcast... but really... that's (part of) what this episode is!

    First off, a reminder that your agent, your editor, and you are all on the same team! They are all trying to make the same book (your book!) a better book. Whether you've published before or are just starting your first short story, we are so excited for you to dive into this episode.

    For our final episode in our three-part series on revising your NaNoWriMo manuscript—or any other large writing project—we are diving into how to work with an editor! We wanted to show you a peek behind the curtain that is publishing and editing-- what does this relationship look like? How do you handle differences, conflicts, and priorities? What IS an edit letter?

    Our guest for this series has been the inimitable editor Ali Fisher, who works at Tor. Thank you, Ali, for your advice, stories, and time!

    Homework:

    Take a work written by someone else (anyone else!) and come up with three questions you have for the author that would help them clarify their intention in the text.

    This could be a movie you've seen, a project you're beta-reading for a friend, or a short story you've stumbled upon.

    Then, apply these questions to your own work in progress!

    Thing of the Week from Ali: 

    Ali has two podcast recommendations for you!

    Rude Tales of Magic

    Oh These, Those Stars of Space!


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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Ali Fisher. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S19E8 - 29m - Feb 25, 2024
  • 19.07: NaNoWriMo Revision with Ali Fisher: Intention

    For our second episode in this three-part series on revising your NaNoWriMo novel—or any other larger project you have—we are diving into intentions with Tor editor Ali Fisher. We asked her how she helps writers figure out what their books are about, and how she helps set intentions for revisions.

    Ali talks with us about how its important to be kind to yourself -- and your writing-- during the revision process. She also gives us advice for how you, as a writer, can lean into what you do well.

    Homework

    From editor Ali Fisher: write down what you like best about your book. Find a spot in your book where you can incorporate that element where it isn't now.

    Thing of the Week: 

    I Will Not Die Alone by Dera White, illustrated by Joe Bennett

    A Bathroom Book for People Not Pooping or Peeing but Using the Bathroom as an Escape by Joe Pera; illustrated by Joe Bennett


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, and Ali Fisher. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S19E7 - 25m - Feb 18, 2024
  • 19.06: NaNoWriMo Revision with Ali Fisher: Length

    Ali Fisher, editor at Tor Books and member of the podcast Rude Tales of Magic, joins us for a three-part series on editing.

    First up: length! How do you edit your work—whether it's a book or a short story or a novella? Maybe you wrote a draft during NaNoWriMo, maybe you didn't-- either way, we want to help you figure out how to make your writing the perfect length.

    Homework: Find two scenes next to each other from your writing. Remove the scene break and write bridging text between the two of them instead. Then, find a different scene that has that bridging text, and cut it into two different scenes so that you are removing it and creating new signposts. See what this does to length and your perception of the pacing.

    Thing of the Week (from Ali Fisher): Infinity Alchemist by Kacen Callender

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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, and guest Ali Fisher. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S19E6 - 27m - Feb 11, 2024
  • 19.05: LIVE Recording - Revisions with Mahtab Narsimhan

    Some writers love revisions and some would rather scrub the toilet than revise their writing. On this episode, we are joined by author Mahtab Narsimhan, who many will recognize as a host from past seasons! Mahtab talks with our hosts about how she thinks about revisions. How do you revise your writing? What is the difference between revising and rewriting? Mahtab describes her favorite techniques and provides tips to make it more manageable. 


    Homework Assignment from Mahtab Narsimhan:


    Take the first 3 chapters of your finished draft and distill it by 1) Chapter 2) Scenes 3) Key plot points per scene 4) POV 5) Setting 6) Time of day/timeline 7) How many pages per scene and/or chapter. 


    Thing of the Week: 

    Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend


    Liner Notes: 

    The Revision Template that Mahtab mentions is a free resource on our Patreon! You can find it at www.patreon.com/writingexcuses


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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S19E5 - 20m - Feb 4, 2024
  • 19.04: LIVE Recording - Pacing with Guest Fonda Lee

    Pacing is one of the most subjective and difficult aspects of storytelling to get right. What is pacing? How do you know what the right pace is for a story, and what techniques can you use to speed up or slow down your narrative?


    Homework Assignment from Fonda Lee

    Take a page of a work-in-progress project and experiment with the pacing. Ideally, this should be a page with some dialogue or tension between characters. First, try to speed it up: cut description, be tight with dialogue, move the scene quickly. Then do the opposite: rewrite the scene but this time slow it down. Include more context, character interiority, exposition, and scene building. Compare the two versions. Which serves your story better?


    Thing of the Week: 

    The Book of Witches


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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S19E4 - 19m - Jan 28, 2024
  • 19.03: Behind The Scenes with our Producer and Recording Engineer

    A few months ago, we were on a cruise ship in Alaska recording podcast episodes for 2024!


    This live recording features a Q&A with cruise attendees, who were given the opportunity to ask questions to Marshall Carr, our audio engineer, and Emma Reynolds, our producer. In this episode, we talked about the benefits of MFA programs, astrology, and how to continue learning without being overwhelmed. 


    Homework from Emma Reynolds

    What homework would you give yourself as a writer today? What homework would you have given yourself a year ago? Let us know your answers on instagram, tag us @Writing_Excuses and we'll repost you!


    Thing of the Week from Marshall Carr: 

    A Necessary Chaos by Brent Lambert


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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S19E3 - 22m - Jan 21, 2024
  • 19.02: Q&A Episode with WX Core Cast

    We have a LIVE podcast recording from September 2023, when we were hosting one of our writing retreats on a cruise ship in Alaska! (To learn about our next WX Retreats, check out: https://writingexcuses.com/retreats/ 

    Or apply for our scholarships by January 31 at https://writingexcuses.com/scholarships/

    This episode features questions from our writers, and those who attended our 2023 WXR Cruise to Alaska! We answered questions about success, what happens after you’re a NYTimes bestseller, and how you can record your own audiobook. 


    Homework

    Go listen to the most recent episode of the podcast Just Keep Writing


    Thing of the Week: 

    Just Keep Writing is a podcast cohosted by Marshall, our incredible recording engineer. It’s a podcast for writers, by writers, to keep you writing. The podcast focuses on building community and lifting marginalized voices. Learn more at justkeepwriting.org, or listen wherever you get your podcasts!


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    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S19E2 - 21m - Jan 14, 2024
  • 19.01: Interview with Abraham Verghese

    In our first episode of 2024, we interviewed author and physician Abraham Verghese, who most recently published "The Covenant of Water." We talked with Verghese about how to convey technical information in fiction.


    Verghese explains how he shares medical and world-building details in the most engaging way. We also asked Verghese how to make things feel real without overwhelming your reader, and how he has mastered conveying the passing of time. We also discussed verisimilitude, translation, point of view, and revision (we love revision!).

    Homework

    From Abraham Verghese: Write a landscape in three different moods. Imagine that someone dear to you has died and you are now gazing at the landscape. Describe it without any reference to this event in your life. The second time you write it as if you were experiencing a moment of great joy, and you're looking at that landscape. The third time, imagine you are in a terrible rage and you are describing this landscape. This allows you to explore how descriptions of the physical world can reflect the various moods of characters.

    Thing of the Week: 

    "How To Draw A Novel" by Martín Solares (recommended by Abraham Verghese)


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, Erin Roberts, and Howard Tayler. Our guest was Abraham Verghese. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S19E1 - 27m - Jan 7, 2024
  • 18.53: Funding the Writing Life

    Rent isn't paid in words alone. How do all of us, in various stages of our careers, keep ourselves afloat as we go about the writing life? We're getting in the weeds with this one - tips, tricks, and tools. 


    We share our thoughts on diversifying your income stream outside of traditional publishing? Let’s get creative. We’re talking about school appearances, copywriting, fellowships, consulting, and teaching. We also share advice about newsletters, Patreon, monetizing yourself, and how an agent can help you overcome your imposter syndrome,  


    Homework: 

    Write an artist statement for yourself. Think about who you are, what’s important to you, and what are you trying to put out in the world? 


    Thing of the Week: 

    Joyland directed by Saim Sadiq


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S16E53 - 26m - Dec 31, 2023
  • 18.52: Writing Inside The Box

    "Your short story should definitely be a novel." It's something writers are often told when they write short stories. What tips and tricks can you use to keep your idea within the length of the story you're trying to tell? We dive into worldbuilding in miniature, pacing, and character development. We also think about where you can edit your writing down—whether it’s words, plot threads, or characters. 


    Homework: 

    Write a scene with two different endings - one that puts a button on the story (for short fiction) and one that asks a new question (for a novel). Identify what else would need to change for each to make those endings work.


    Thing of the Week: 

    Scenes From a Multiverse by Jon Rosenberg


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S18E52 - 23m - Dec 24, 2023
  • 18.51: So You Wanna Play With Format?

    Are you interested in experimenting with different writing forms? Do you want to try an unusual or different way of writing? Well this week, we have an episode dedicated to non-traditional formats for writing. 


    In this episode, we think about experimental short fiction from the point of view of publishing and writing. DongWon shares about the incredible success of their publishing of .. Why short stories might be the perfect place for new ideas. 


    We talk about second-person narratives, epistolaries, footnotes, and stories written as research papers. When does it make sense to use a non-traditional format for a story, what should you know as you do it, and who exactly decided on those traditions anyway?


    Homework: 

    Take a scene from a story you've written or are working on (maybe from NaNoWriMo!) and put it into a new format. What did you learn in the process?


    Thing of the Week: 

    These Vital Signs: A Doctor's Notes on Life and Loss in Tweets by Sayed Tabatabai 


    Liner Notes: 

    This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

    The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

    Love, Death, and Robots (Netflix) 

    Bite Size Halloween (Hulu)


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S18E51 - 24m - Dec 17, 2023
  • 18.50: The Unreliable Narrator

    All unreliable narrators aren't unreliable in the same way. How do they differ and how does that change the way that we write them? Erin shares her unified theory (look at the graphic below!) of unreliable narrators. 


    Homework

    Take an event that you're familiar with, and write about it as truthfully as possible. Then write about it from the point of view of someone who knows the basics, but not the whole truth, but who tries to tell the entire story anyway. For bonus points, tell the story a third time from the point of view of a lying liar with an agenda.


    Thing of the Week: 

    Lost Places by Sarah PInsker 


    Liner Notes: 

    Unreliable Narrator Graph

    The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin



    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

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    S18E50 - 26m - Dec 10, 2023
  • 18.49: Giving Your Story A Voice

    What does it mean if your writing is voice-y?  How do you give your character a natural voice? We approach this question from the high-level perspective of craft, and the granular level of word choice and sentence structure. Erin talks about the research she did about Appalachian English for her short story Wolfy Things. And Mary Robinette Kowal tells us what it’s like to be an audiobook narrator, and how this helps her bring characters to life on the page. 


    Just a reminder that our final episodes of the year will be guided by three of host Erin Roberts’ short stories: Wolfy Things, Sour Milk Girls, Snake Season. Note: these books involve some darker themes. All of these short stories are available for free online and also have audio versions available. 


    Homework

    Listen to someone's voice (a person in a coffee shop, someone on a podcast, etc.) Now write a scene from your WIP trying to approximate the essence of that voice. 


    Thing of the Week: 

    “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang 


    Liner Notes: 

    “A House with Good Bones”by Ursula Vernon/ T. Kingfisher


    Credits: Your hosts for this episode were Mary Robinette Kowal, DongWon Song, Erin Roberts, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. It was produced by Emma Reynolds, recorded by Marshall Carr, Jr., and mastered by Alex Jackson.

    Join Our Writing Community! 

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    S18E49 - 24m - Dec 3, 2023
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