Episode 59 of Speculate! – Beneath Ceaseless Skies Writing Discussion

BeneathCeaselessSkies

Welcome to Episode 59 of Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers and Fans.  In this episode we conclude our triptych of shows on the Beneath Ceaseless Skies magazine with a look at a few of the specific writing techniques used in the stories from the two issues we discussed during this series, focusing on ways to establish tone through language, work against reader expectations, use vignettes to engage the reader, and put together surprise endings–ones which don’t have to rely simply on the progression of the plot.  If you enjoy the conversation, don’t forget to check back next week for an interview with urban fantasy authors Amber Benson and Anton Strout.  Until then, thanks as always for listening, and please continue to spread the word about the show!

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7 Responses to “Episode 59 of Speculate! – Beneath Ceaseless Skies Writing Discussion”

  1. Lou Anders October 24, 2012 at 8:39 am #

    Another wonderful episode. Speculate! is becoming one of my favorite podcasts. I really appreciate the work you two guys do.

    Now… I disagree strongly about the comparison between “The Worth of Crows” and the ending of The Sopranos. The ending of “The Worth of Crows” works because, although we don’t see the narrative resolution, we know with little doubt what that resolution is. She is going to, and now has the tools, to kill Winter. We don’t need to see that any more than you need to play out the last move in chess after you declare “checkmate!” Doing so is redundant, especially in the span of a short story. By contrast, the ending of The Sopranos did not work, as evidenced by how much of its fan-base was infuriated by it. They can get away with it because it’s the last episode, the product has already been sold, there’s no more, what are you going to do, really? But a writer, who needs for his/her career to build an audience that returns to them over and over for their subsequent projects, will not go very far if they consistently deliver such unsatisfying non-resolutions in their short stories and novels.

    Incidentally, of all the sins of The Sopranos finale, the worst that can be laid at its door is that Ron Moore loved it and took it as permission to let himself off the hook when it came time to provide a satisfying ending for Battlestar Galactica. Now, really, do we want more SF&F narratives ending like that?

    • bradbeaulieu October 24, 2012 at 9:02 am #

      Great comment, Lou. And I agree that the two are somewhat polar opposites of one another, at least with respect to level and type of resolution.

      I have to say, though, I loved the Sopranos ending. You’re right, a writer can’t do that over and over again and expect to get away with it. But there’s something to be said for playing with expectations. It reminds me a bit of No Country for Old Men. The Coen brothers played with expectations and provided an ending that from a “typical story” perspective was unsatisfying. But I liked it for the mere fact that it bucked the trend.

      Plus, for me, the point of that ending was to place you in the shoes of Tony Soprano. At no time in the entire run did that happen as completely as it did at that very ending. And it was *because* it was the ending that the writers were able to do it. We thought something was going to happen to Tony, we just didn’t know what. And it played those fears against a nice scene—the family that was at times so fractured getting together for a nice meal. And that, I thought, was what it must have been like for Tony all the time—setting aside the possibility of incarceration or death to live life.

      That’s not to say that I don’t see why so many others were annoyed. I do. It just worked for me.

      • Lou Anders October 24, 2012 at 9:31 am #

        I understand why it works for a television show that is ending a long run. I don’t think a writer with commercial aspirations who ended every book that way would last long in our field. There are also, just like musicians, ‘writers’ writers’ and ‘readers’ writers.’ So some of this depends on which target you are aiming for.

        • bradbeaulieu October 24, 2012 at 9:43 am #

          Completely agree.

  2. Tim Ward December 3, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    I agree with Lou, another great episode. I’m editing a science fiction novel and my free time reading of The Hammer and the Blade has me mulling over blending a little sword and sorcery. I haven’t decided to, but your advice was helpful in determining if doing so would fit or throw the reader out of the story.

    • bradbeaulieu December 3, 2012 at 9:33 am #

      Thanks, Timothy. We’re glad it helped!

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