Category: ‘Story Development’

Mind the Gap: From “My bad” to “I totally meant to do that” (Guest Post by K.T. Bryski)

October 24, 2012 Posted by kt_bryski

Hi, everyone! This is K.T. Bryski, author of Hapax: an end-of-the-world fantasy from Dragon Moon Press. I’m thrilled and honoured to be writing this post; my thanks to Dave and Brion for having me here!

So, there I was: writing the first scene of the first draft of Hapax. I was bright-eyed and innocent, the scene zipping along beneath my fingers. My monks were preparing to hold vigil to see if the Apocalypse was nigh (spoiler: it was). I had a plot outline, I had character notes, I had worldbuilding…

And then, I realized.

I had forgotten to figure out the monks’ hierarchy. I had no idea who or what their leader was.


Don’t Panic

Discovering a mistake or an omission in the middle of writing is not the nicest feeling. Especially if things have been running smoothly up to that point. Still, resist the urge to hit the “delete” key right away. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Bring on spur-of-the-moment creativity! (more…)

The Roundtable Podcast – Interviews from WorldCon 2012

October 18, 2012 Posted by Dave Robison

ChiCon 7 - WorldCon 2012WorldCon is an event that many authors anticipate all year, an epic gathering of writers, publishers, and readers celebrating the ever-shifting tapestry of speculative fiction.

Once again, Brion and I found ourselves in the unenviable position of not attending such an epic event. Thank all the literary gods that our Wandering Alchemist, Ben Delano (co-host of his own podcast, “Reader/Writer“), was on hand and willing to seek out Literary Gold on our behalf.

And such gold he found! Ben heroically pursued some truly remarkable people and asked each of them:

Describe your ideal protagonist (more…)

The Roundtable Podcast – Interviews from FanExpo2012

October 4, 2012 Posted by Dave Robison

FanExpo 2012FanExpo is considered “The Comic-Con of Canada” and judging by this year’s amazing attendance and awesome guest list, they’re absolutely right.

Brion and I would have dearly loved to make that scene, but it just wasn’t gonna happen. Enter the astonishing Ben Delano (host of his own podcast as well as the Guest Writer from Workshop Episode 24), who stepped up and volunteered to be our “Wandering Alchemist” seeking out remarkable and talented creators and asking them our one question. (more…)

Frankenstein’s Ideas: Working Multiple Stories

May 23, 2012 Posted by L. L. McKinney

This is my first guest blog post. Ever. I am both incredibly excited and nervous. Before diving into this, I want to thank Dave and Brion, the wonderful hosts here at the Roundtable Podcast, for not only inviting me to ramble on their website, but for the opportunity to brainstorm with some of the brightest minds in  podcasting.

If you have not signed up to take part in what is happening here, I highly recommend you do so. I enjoyed myself more than words can say, and left with plot ideas and possibilities that have since taken off radically. To quote a famous, though fictional, mad scientist, THEY’RE ALIVE! (more…)

Hitting the Description Sweet Spot

May 21, 2012 Posted by Tristan Gregory

“Descriptive” is a common compliment for books. Perhaps too common – one of the usual downfalls of newer writers is the tendency to over-describe every aspect of their stories, from the characters to the setting to the teapot in the cupboard.

Characters should be described. So should setting. That teapot, though, probably doesn’t require the readers’ attention, and you should not be wasting your authorly breath on it. Too much description, even of vital elements of the story, bogs down your narration and leads the reader to start skipping entire sections of your story – assuming, that is, they don’t simply quit reading.

How much is too much? At what point do you go from “very descriptive” to “bloated and boring?” With writing, there are never any rules – only guidelines. The following are a couple of mine. (more…)

Master Procrastination and the Disciplinary Imperative

April 28, 2012 Posted by Brion Humphrey


“If we let too much time to lapse, the thread will snap and getting back to it later will cause the flow of our writing to become stilted and disjointed.”

I’ll get to it later.

I have to spend time with my wife /family /friend /posse /dog /herd of rabid monkeys or they’ll hate me.

I write best at night, so right now I’ll just do research (watch TV).

I’m hungry, let me just eat a sandwich first…or a taco…or a sandwich AND a taco.

I’m currently 63,000 words into my second novel attempt.  Sounds fairly impressive, but I’ve been at 63,000 words for the last six weeks.  Sure, I’ve written two short stories, a couple blog entries, participated in recording ten-or-so Roundtable episodes(my favorite distraction besides my wife), taught, graded papers and lesson-planned for about 60 hours a week, etc., etc., and on, and on.  A lot like you! But is all of that really keeping me from writing my book?  Yes.  Because I let it.

We all are experts at wasting time, and the successful few have learned to at least minimize the bastard! We’ve all heard and read countless papers and pamphlets and programs on how to beat down the maniacal villain known as Master Procrastination.  That is not what this post is going to do.

Instead, it’s important to look at why we need to get our butts in seats and get to work and leave the hot pocket (or two) in the freezer. (more…)

Actors Write Better Characters

April 26, 2012 Posted by Dave Robison

Actor studying

image from The University of Iowa Libraries

“There is no one better equipped to build rich authentic characters than someone who has actually “lived” (for a few hours) as someone else.


The best characters in our stories are living breathing people.  They are unique individuals that speak and act authentically as the tale unfolds around and through them.  You can’t learn how to write characters like that from a book… it takes years of practice and study to write honest characters.

Or you can become an actor… because we totally have it going on in the “character” department. Seriously, there is no one better equipped to build rich authentic characters than someone who has actually “lived” (for a few hours) as someone else. In order to appear authentic on stage, an actor has to be able to respond to cues and events AS THEIR CHARACTER.  If they don’t, the performance is flat and uninteresting.

Writers are striving for that same authenticity… and suffer the same consequences if they fall short of the mark.

So how do actors do it? (more…)

Love Your Bad Self!

April 4, 2012 Posted by Brion Humphrey

Brion Humphrey as... The Dark One

The Dark One

“We want to believe the best of who we are, and ignore and deny the worst.  The most intriguing moment of a story is when a villain begins to convince a reader that what he is doing may actually be necessary…”

As writers, we often romanticize our protagonists, endowing them with ruggedly handsome, or sweepingly enchanting good looks, special abilities that set them above the fray and add intrigue, and razor dialogue that always leads them to exactly the right thing to say at the right time.  Our heroes are, after all, in some way not too short of narcissism, based on ourselves.  And don’t we love to pretend we are that cool?

One thing that we definitely do with our protagonist, is give him a sense of duty born from a true conviction.  He believes in what he does, and what he does is right and just.  This aspect of a character is why he acts and plays out the trials and conflicts in the story.  Ultimately, it is also why we as readers follow him into whatever danger his belief conjures.

But what of the villain?  Why do so many bad guys fall flat and fail to intrigue readers?  And why, as writers, do we spend so little time developing our antagonists as fully as even our sidekicks?

What of a villain bent on world domination, or a bad guy who just likes to kill? Isn’t that good enough to tell a good story?



March 18, 2012 Posted by Dave Robison

“There are people who appear to be able to invoke creativity on command.  They sit down and BAM, creative inspirations suddenly leap from their lips like spawning salmon.  Want to know their secret?”

image by Kyle SteedI’m a big advocate of creativity, and spend a lot of time both exploring the process and ways of cultivating more of it.  Part of the reason the Roundtable Podcast excites me is the opportunity to take what is usually an “in-your-own-head” experience and pull it into the light with a group of like-minded people.

Between my experiences on the podcast and the articles, posts, and books I’ve read on the subject, I’ve discovered that there is an inherent disconnect in our notions of creativity and the processes that foster it. (more…)

Character Development: Backstory

March 3, 2012 Posted by Dave Robison

Listening to History

image by cliff1066â„¢


“Authentic characters are part of a continuum. They existed before the story and they will exist after it (if they survive. If not, the consequences of their actions will continue).”

Download the Character Background Worksheet

For many writers, character development is the cornerstone of their storytelling process.  Plot is merely a set of choices made by the characters of the tale (“I need the Ring of Awesomeness”), conflict is generated when those choices become mutually exclusive (“You can’t have the Ring of Awesomeness, because I want it”), and the coveted protagonist and antagonist positions are determined by the ethics and morals of those choices (“I need the Ring of Awesomeness to save my dog”).

Nearly every scene is defined and driven by the characters.  Creating authentic well-supported characters (heroes AND villains) can make for a great story.  The character development process takes place in as many ways as there are writers, but if you step back far enough, there are generally two schools of thought:

Fit the character to the plot or “I know the story I want to tell, I just need a character to make it happen.”

Fit the plot to the character or “I love this character, I just need a story to feature him/her in.”

Regardless of your approach vector, having a clear understanding of your characters will help make the writing process flow more gracefully and your enrich your stories. (more…)