S2E14 – Moist and Pulpy Gods

In today’s episode, we dive into the subject of world-building. This is a vast topic, so we focus on just one aspect that’s particularly important in fantasy: creating and writing fictional religions. Our discussion falls into two main parts. In the first, we talk about the specifics of creating a religion, and how you might integrate that religion into your fantasy world. We cover how your religion might have come into being, whether it’s in competition with others, and how it might fit into the day-to-day life of people in your world.

Once you’ve created your religion, of course, you’re going to want to include it in your story, so we also talk about writing religious characters, how religion might affect the events of your plot, and – a problem usually unique to the fantasy genre – writing gods/deities as actual characters.

And, because world-building is such a huge topic, we’ll back with a follow-up next month, when we’ll be talking about science and technology.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Leave them in the comments below, or come on over to Twitter, where you can find us @wahpodcast.

Remember, our writing contest is open until May 15th. You’ve got a few more weeks to write your entries, and potentially win a whole stack of brilliant fantasy ebooks! Need a reminder of the rules? You can find them here.

S2E13 – Life is Strange Review

We’re back with another in our series of reviews/story chats, talking about the game Life is Strange. A story-based adventure game, Life is Strange gave us plenty to discuss, from its use of place and atmosphere, to the complications of creating consistent dialogue options when time travel is one of the key game mechanics. Primarily, though, we focus on both the characters and plot of the game, including Max and Chloe, the way their relationship shapes the story, and an ending that’s been incredibly divisive among players.

As ever, to get the most out of this episode, we recommend playing Life is Strange first (though in case that’s not an option for you, or to refresh your memory, we do start off by giving a general overview of the plot.) Whether you’re a gamer or not, there’s a lot to learn from Life is Strange – whether that’s what to do or what not to do – about characterisation, about introducing your villains, and perhaps most crucially of all, about not messing with time!

Have you played Life is Strange? What did you think? Has our review piqued your interest – or scared you off entirely? Let us know via Twitter!

Finally, our contest is still running, and now has an extended deadline (we realised our original date was right in the middle of Camp NaNoWriMo, which wasn’t great timing for a lot of writers – including us!). You can find all the details in the contest blog post here.

After Dark #1 – High School Hanky Panky

There are two things you need to know about this episode. One, that it’s completely, 100% off-topic, containing absolutely no writing advice whatsoever. Two, that it’s probably (okay, definitely) NSFW.

Welcome to Words Are Hard: After Dark! In these special episodes, we’ll be taking a more relaxed approach than usual, chatting about all manner of topics other than writing. To start off, we’re reliving our school days – or that’s where we’re starting, anyway. Expect tangents, digressions and plenty of swearing (we did say it’s NSFW!), as we delve into waters we wouldn’t usually touch on the podcast.

This is, of course, a special episode, and we’ll only be recording them occasionally (most likely when one of our hosts has something to rant about). If off-topic shenanigans aren’t your thing, don’t worry! We’ll be back with one of our regular, writing-related episodes in two weeks, when we’ll be talking about the story-based adventure game Life is Strange (now is a perfect time to play it if you haven’t already). Find us on Twitter @wahpodcast to keep up-to-date with that.

We also still have a contest running! See our Twitter or the last post on the Words Are Hard website for details. Remember, you can send your entries, or any questions regarding either the contest or our episodes, to wahpodcast@gmail.com.

Our Anniversary Contest is Here!

Here at Words are Hard, we’re about to celebrate our one year anniversary. It’s been a fantastic year of podcasting for all of us, and we hope you, our listeners, have enjoyed it as much as we have. In fact, we’d like to give something back – but we’re going to make you work for it!

As we are, of course, a writing podcast, we have a writing prompt for you. We want you to take it and run wild! You’re free to write in any genre, with any original characters, and put them in any scenario, but your piece must follow one simple rule:

Write a scene or story using ONLY dialogue. No dialogue tags. No description. No exposition. Just dialogue!

In return, we have a fantastic prize for our winner, of no less than 17 fantasy novellas and story collections, by a wide range of authors, in ebook form. (You can find the full list here.)

Here are the rules:

  1.  Word count: 2000 words maximum (this is our upper limit; we’re happy to accept shorter stories or individual scenes)
  2. Deadline: May 15th 2017 (Note: our original deadline was going to be in April, but as we know a lot of writers are taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo, we’ve extended it by over a month!)
  3. One entry per person please!
  4. Send your entries to our usual email address, wahpodcast@gmail.com, and put something recognisable like ‘contest entry’ in the subject line.
  5. Finally, remember the prompt: your story or scene must be dialogue only!

We’ll be announcing the winner in a post shortly after the contest’s deadline. So, have at it, writers! Whatever genre, mood or tone you choose for your piece, we want to see something unique, that only you can tell. We look forward to seeing what you come up with!

S2E12 – Noble Pants (aka Writing Romance)

Love is in the air! Or, more accurately, we decided we’d better make at least a small concession to the fact that February is the month of Valentine’s Day.

This episode, then, is all about writing romance. As we’re a podcast full of fantasy writers, we focus primarily on how to add romantic sub-plots to other stories. We also discuss a number of pitfalls of this approach, including the balancing act between ‘too much’ and ‘not enough’ romance when creating a convincing sub-plot, power differentials between characters, and making sure your character relationships develop naturally.

Are you a romance reader, or indeed a writer? Got tips or ideas that we could share with our listeners in future episodes (or just want to tell us how wrong we are)? Find us on Twitter @wahpodcast, or send an email to wahpodcast@gmail.com, and let us know!

S2E11 – John Wick Review

With the recent release of John Wick 2, we go back to the first film for an in-depth review and story chat. We cover plot, characterisation, symbolism and more in this discussion, proving that even action films – all too easily dismissed as being shallow – can have more depth than you might expect. We also touch on subjects like women in the action film genre, accuracy when it comes to weaponry and fight scenes, and the use of colour and lighting in John Wick in particular.

We also tackle another listener question, this time about pacing in fiction. If you’ve got a writing-related question for us, like this one – or you’d like to tell us to hurry up and review John Wick 2 – send us an email to wahpodcast@gmail.com, or find us on Twitter @wahpodcast.

S2E10 – Starting From Scratch

A new year is a great time for a new start, and fulfilling a few resolutions. If your plan in 2017 is to write a novel for the very first time, this is the episode for you! This one is particularly intended for anyone who wants to write, but has never attempted it before (although we hope it’ll also be packed with tips – and a fair amount of encouragement – for seasoned writers, too).

After answering our first listener question of the year (and all being entirely too nice to one another), we talk about whether you should be planning your novel, how to keep writing when things get tough, and the value of finding a community of writers. We also cover the value – or lack of it – in pursuing a formal education in Creative Writing, and what to do if a college degree just isn’t something you can, or want to, tackle. Most of all, we hope this episode will give you a bit of encouragement, even if it’s of the tough love variety. Writing can be incredibly difficult, but also incredibly rewarding.

And, of course, we’re here for you! Got questions as you embark on your novel-writing odyssey? Send an email to wahpodcast@gmail.com, or find us on Twitter @wahpodcast. If we’ve inspired you to write, even better. We’d love to hear your story!

Final note: we mention Narratess in this episode, a new site for writers, of which Raven is one of the co-hosts. Stories, writing advice, author profiles – exactly what a budding writer needs!

Final, final note: we’re making some changes to our podcast schedule this year, meaning episodes will be going up on alternate Fridays, rather than Mondays. Of course, if you’re subscribed to our feed, or keep up with our Twitter account, you’ll get notifications every time there’s a new episode, anyway – we recommend you do both!

S2E9 – Channeling Your Characters

What do you do to make your characters feel more real? How, as a writer, can you get into the head of a person who’s never existed anywhere but your head? What happens if the emotions your character needs to feel are a long way from what you as a writer feel? Trickiest of all (or perhaps not, depending on the writer!): what about villains?

In this episode, we talk about how to channel your characters: their emotions, thoughts, worldviews. Some personality types are much easier for us as individuals to write – indeed, we might keep coming back to certain types of character – but we also discuss ways of getting into the minds of characters who are very different from us.

We’d also like to thank all our listeners for joining us in the new year, and hope everyone is ready for 2017! We’ll be answering listener questions over the next few episodes, so if you’ve got a topic for us, send an email to wahpodcast@gmail.com, or find us on Twitter @wahpodcast. Let’s hope this year is better than the last one!

S2E8 – Holiday Q&A and the Return of Bad Fanfic

That title is self-explanatory, right? It’s time for another of our Q&A episodes, and this is the first we’ve managed to do with all four hosts! We also have, appropriately for the season, a festive theme, in which we find out that most of our hosts are… well, not very festive. Bah humbug. At least we manage to cram in some actual writing advice, too.

This episode also sees – you guessed it – the return of bad fanfic! It’s Raven’s turn to take the stand this time, and Nienna has picked an excellent piece of high quality torture for the occasion. Today’s reading features rants about characters, over-writing, and semi-colons. It also happens to be based on Twilight. You have been warned.

Want to check out the appropriately titled ‘Broken’ for yourself? You can find it here.

And that’s it from the WAH crew for this year! We hope you have a great holiday season, and we’ll see you again in the new year. If you’d like to send us questions, remember to find us on Twitter @wahpodcast, and we’ll answer them in our first episode of 2017. (We cannot guarantee answers before then. It’s just possible a few of our hosts might be enjoying the festivities – particularly New Year’s Eve – just a little too much…)

S2E7 – Anchorhead (Part 2)

It’s time to return to Anchorhead! In this episode, three of our hosts return to the Lovecraftian town of Anchorhead, to continue our investigations into this mysterious place, and the rather creepy house we now find ourselves in. It’s fair to say we’ve finally got the hang of navigating this new world (and have stopped throwing our heroine off bridges). This time round, we spend less time getting stuck, and more time playing detective, delving into the secrets of the family our protagonist has married into. And ranting about fish people. You don’t want to miss that!

Remember, you can enter Anchorhead yourself here. Just don’t blame us if you meet an unfortunate and possibly sticky end…

Want to send us your thoughts on how the Anchorhead story is progressing, or how our protagonist is likely to die horribly next time round? Find us on Twitter @wahpodcast, or send an email to wahpodcast@gmail.com. We love hearing from you, and if you have questions for any of our hosts, we’ll answer them in episodes in the new year.