Share what you Learned: Writing Excuses Podcast

Pick an episodes from Writing Excuses season 10 (Links to an external site.)

They are only 15 minutes long!

Writing Excuses is a long running podcast on writing, and each episode is only 15 minutes long. In Season 10they decided to hold a virtual writing workshop, and each episode is about  writing challenge. You may find help in these episodes are you seek to polish your work.

At the beginning of class, we’ll go around and each share one insight from it. Also input here what you learned.

You do NOT need to sketchnote this one.


  1. I listened to the episode “Who Are All These People?” The podcast talked about introducing a variety of cultures and ideologies when world building, even with a small cast of characters. They used an example from Lord of the Rings: Having two characters from the same race (e.g. dwarves, elves) talk about their stereotypes about other races can tell the reader a lot about both the dwarves and the race they are talking about. And having two characters be of the same race but very different also forces you as the writer to think critically about what makes up that race.

  2. I listened to Episode 10.13: “Where is My Story Going?” I was surprised to hear that most stories in the same genre follow the same formula, and TV episodes are especially formulaic. For example, every romance story is going to end up with the main characters falling in love, but the thing that makes each story different is the specifics. One of the hosts described stories as a pitcher that always has the same shape, but with vastly different liquids in it each time. I felt relieved hearing that it’s fine if my story isn’t completely unique.
    The hosts also talked about “moments of awesome” or “show pieces,” which are the extremely memorable moments in a story. One way of writing a story is to write the moments of awesome first, and then work backwards from there.

  3. Listened to “Can You Tell Me How To Show?”. This was insightful for me, as I’m facing a bit of trouble in how to write details in my IF, where it is easier for me to tell the action instead of showing it. The hosts mention it can be helpful to think about from a character’s point of view, of what they see, instead writing it like a camera shot as if this was a film. Show and Telling can be useful in different circumstances, as telling the character’s backstory/culture for instance can be more insightful for the reader. You can understand the character’s point of view better from how they describe the world and from what they experienced in the past.

  4. I listened to 10.5 “What do you mean my main character is boring?”
    I found the part about making the main character interesting to be really unique, and that they branded a crazy/difficult backstory to be a lazy approach to making a character interesting because it often had nothing to do with the story. Now that I’m reflecting, I think that the main character is often more boring in most stories…

  5. I listened to 10.7 “Who are all these people”
    It ended up being really in line with my own thinking about side characters where they either have to fulfill a very specific purpose or have to be fully fleshed out characters in order to be satisfying. I think they highlighted something really interesting in the nature of tokenizing a species or race when we include only one character of their type in a story. Their strategies of introducing nuance while also keeping the story concise was really useful

  6. I listened to 10.29 “Why Should My Characters Fail Spectacularly?”
    I picked this episode since they talk more about the “yes but / no and” cycles that Christina mentioned in class! It was great to hear more about how to use this tool correctly, and I realized that the main character in my story really doesn’t fail all that much! I should add some more failure into the story to make the ending more satisfying.

    Some main things I learned from this episode:

    – The trying and failing needs to mirror the ending and lead up to it properly; the tries and fails should build up to the main goal established at the beginning of the story. Extraneous try/fails can bloat up the plot!

    – In general it’s good to have 3 try/fail cycles before resolution, but the more cycles there are the more satisfying the resolution might be! However, if the goal is trivial, more try/fail cycles might be frustrating. Also, try to keep it organic – following this rule can sometimes make your story feel like a checklist.

    – Try/fails can accomplish more than one thing – for example, in Jaws they catch the wrong shark in the beginning, which is a failure, but it sets up our expectations for what a shark looks like and makes it all the more horrifying when we encounter the actual monster shark

  7. I listened to 10.1
    – Pitching and sharing the idea with someone else is a good litmus test to understand how the story would be relevant and exciting for the users.
    – Subscribe to science fiction so that you are updated with science, make these “good” inventions go wrong, and write a story about it
    – Write prompts – from a walk, a piece of media, music, science or anything

  8. I listened to episode 10.3, Lovecraftian Horror. The main takeaway that I had from this episode was that we can steer away from horror that is steered by characters who make stupid decisions; instead moving towards the idea of the horror relating to self, existence — pushing the viewer/player to fear something greater than being killed. Games or media can do this by emphasizing the “unknowability of something”, making things that are not inherently scary or even inherently ridiculous terrifying.

  9. I listened to “Writing Excuses 10.1: Seriously, Where Do You Get Your Ideas?”
    – Geewhiz idea: something that you see in research that you adapt into a story
    – A story is good when you tell people about it and they say, “Oh, what about this?” and start coming up with their own ideas
    – Take your first idea, which is probably related to something else, and then you go deeper on that
    – read books, science articles, twitter, etc.

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