The Magic City

The Magic City

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pondering Podcasts

I adore podcasts.  Love them. Can’t get enough of them.  Next to books, they are my favorite form of entertainment.  What is a podcast you ask?  One of the greatest things to be invented since chocolate chip cookies, I respond.  But, if you want the boring definition, Wikipedia defines podcasts as “a series of digital media files (either audio  or video) that are released episodically and often downloaded through web syndication.” Oh, yes, that was helpful.  Let me try.  Basically, podcasts are audio (or video) broadcasts that have been converted to an MP3 file or other audio file format for playback in a digital music player and/or your computer.  

There are great podcasts on every topic you could imagine.  I gravitate toward podcasts on writing.  Whenever I have a long drive (or some crazy urge to exercise grips me - trust me, that is rare), I load up my iPod with several podcasts to pass the time.

My favorite podcasts on writing are:

I Should Be Writing - Mur Lafferty, author, podcast pioneer and producer and general director of Escape Pod, puts out a regular podcast on the craft of writing.  It is excellent.  No, it is better than excellent.  No, it is better than better than excellent.  Each episode is about an hour and typically includes interviews with authors, agents, and editors as well as a feedback section.  She has recently started a "Good Cop/Bad Cop" segment where she and another author provide feedback (supportive and harsh) in response to listener questions.  This is a fantastic resource.  If you aren't a follower, stop reading this, go to the website, and start listening (and then come back and comment, please :)).  You will be happy you did.

Writing Excuses - Authors Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells and Howard Tayler put out weekly fifteen minute podcasts (their motto is "Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart") focused on specific topics relating to writing.  This is a great resource.  They have covered everything from conference etiquette to the use of violence in telling a story.  With humor and intelligence, they deliver three rich view points on the various aspects of writing.  I run through these podcasts faster than a bag of Cheetos (and if you know me, I LOVE my Cheetos).

Southern Voices - Southern Voices, a four-day conference sponsored by the Hoover Public Library exploring Southern culture in contemporary arts, make available the video and audio podcasts of the panels and presentations from the writers, editors, musicians, performers and public figures featured at the conference.

Odyssey  - The Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop podcast features excerpts from lectures by writers, editors and agents during the Odyssey Writing Workshop.  New podcasts are updated every month or two.  

If you are a fan of audio books, many authors are beginning to serialize their novels, making parts (and sometimes even the entire work) available in podcast format.  New York Times bestselling author Scott Sigler gained so many followers for his novels through making them available on the internet as podcasts, he caught the attention of his publisher and the rest is history.

The potential use for podcasts is limitless.  They are great tools for education, marketing and entertainment.  I would love to hear what everyone’s experience with podcasts has been.  If you have a favorite, please share!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

World Building - Getting Started with the Physical Attributes of Your World - Part One

Is the world you are creating the only world where your story can be told?  If it isn’t, ask yourself why you want to create the world if it isn’t an essential part of the story.   World building shouldn’t be a gimmick.  Readers won’t appreciate it, and will see it as nothing more than clear Pepsi.  If you are world building, your world is as much of a main character as your protagonist.

Poor lost soul, once you realize you have to build your world, you need to decide where to start.  The physical attributes of the world need to work with the culture and politics.  Welcome to the chicken v. egg debate.  In my opinion, you need to begin with the physical attributes of the world first. 

If you are writing an urban fantasy or paranormal story set in a setting that already exists, this step is pretty easy.  If you don't live in the location and/or can't visit it, everyone’s best friend, the internet, waits with the information you need. 

Not only do you want to know what the location looks like by getting maps and pictures for your key location, but you also need to know what your location feels like.  Be sure to check out traffic patterns, local news, weather and sunrise/sunset times.  If your urban fantasy is set in Atlanta in July, you will need to know that there is daylight until the late evening, and that the humidity is so heavy and thick it can be suffocating. These details will drive the culture (when do people eat meals, where do they spend their time - inside with glorious air conditioning or outside in oppressive heat, etc.).  Be sure to get these details right. People who are familiar with the setting will spot the errors immediately, undermining your story.

Next week - building  a new world from the ground up!