Graduate Essay: “Adventures in Emotional Craft” by Sam Weiss

Sam Weiss is a graduate of the 2007 Odyssey Writing Workshop and the 2021 Odyssey Online class Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers.” She is an applied mathematician who works in Boston with her husband and two cats. Her first professional sale, “There Will Be No Alien Invasion,” was published in Fireside in August 2021.


When I first started writing, I got a lot of “pretty writing but this isn’t really a story” critiques. I didn’t have a clue how to fix those stories or even what underlying problem those critiques pointed to. Once I wrapped my head around active main characters working toward a specific goal, obstacles, causal chains, and the framing of character change, those criticisms abruptly stopped. My stories fared better in my attempts to publish them (and caused less pain to those reading them), but I acquired a new set of criticisms: that my point of view was too distant, that I was telling and not showing, that I was showing but not telling, that the emotions my characters felt seemed inauthentic or inappropriate for their situations, or that the emotions were too on the nose.

Continue reading “Graduate Essay: “Adventures in Emotional Craft” by Sam Weiss”

Odyssey Podcast #140: Scott H. Andrews

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #140

Photo credit: Al Bogdan

Odyssey Podcast #140 is an excerpt from the Odyssey Online course “Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers,” taught by Odyssey graduate and award-winning editor Scott H. Andrews in Winter 2019. Scott will be teaching the course again this winter. You can find more information on all of Odyssey’s 2022 online class offerings here: https://www.odysseyworkshop.org/odyssey-online/upcoming-classes/

Scott lives in Virginia with his wife, two cats, twelve guitars, a dozen overflowing bookcases, and hundreds of beer bottles from all over the world. He writes, teaches college chemistry, and is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the eight-time Hugo Award finalist and World Fantasy Award-winning online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Scott’s literary short fiction has won a $1000 prize from the Briar Cliff Review, and his genre short fiction has appeared in Space & Time, Crossed Genres, and Ann VanderMeer’s Weird Tales. Scott has taught writing at the Odyssey Workshop, Writefest, and online for Odyssey Online Classes, Clarion West, and Cat Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. He has lectured on short fiction, secondary-world fantasy, editing, magazine publishing, audio podcasting, and beer on dozens of convention panels at multiple Worldcons, World Fantasy conventions, and regional conventions in the Northeast and Midwest. He is a seven-time finalist and 2019 winner of the World Fantasy Award, and he celebrates International Stout Day at least once a year.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2019 by Scott H. Andrews. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2021 by Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust.

For more Odyssey podcasts, visit:
https://www.odysseyworkshop.org/resources/podcasts/

Odyssey Podcasts #129 (Holly Black), #130 (E.C. Ambrose) & #131 (Scott H. Andrews)

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #129

Holly Black was a guest lecturer at the 2019 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from her question-and-answer session, Holly answers questions about writing young adult and middle grade fiction. One student points out that some people think fantastic creatures must be a certain way. How do you deal with those expectations? Holly says that when writing in a tradition, you’re adding to a conversation. Bring your own perspective into the conversation based on who you are. Another student asks how you get into a teen’s head and see things through their eyes? Holly suggests writers try to remember being a teen. Think of what you did, how you felt. The error writers tend to make is to write about teens or children who are very concerned with the adults in their lives when they should be thinking about themselves and their peers. When asked the difference between middle grade and young adult, Holly explains that the readers are very different. You need a protagonist of the appropriate age. Middle grade stories are generally about family and friendship. Harry Potter and Percy Jackson are examples. Young adult stories are usually about self-definition, friendship, and love, as the protagonist ventures outside of childhood into independence. YA should not involve an adult character looking back at her teen years. Middle grade and young adult fiction usually have a single viewpoint character; it is rare to have more.

Continue reading “Odyssey Podcasts #129 (Holly Black), #130 (E.C. Ambrose) & #131 (Scott H. Andrews)”

“Make Your Big Moments Sing!” by Barbara Ashford

barbara ashfordAward-winning novelist and librettist Barbara Ashford will be teaching the Odyssey Online class “The Heart of the Matter: Bringing Emotional Resonance to Your Storytelling” this winter (application deadline: December 7, 2019). Barbara has been praised by reviewers and readers alike for her compelling characters and her “emotional, heartfelt” storytelling. Her background as a professional actress, lyricist, and librettist has helped her delve deeply into character and explore the complexities of human nature on the stage as well as on the page. Her musical adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd has been optioned for Broadway.

Barbara’s first published series was the dark fantasy trilogy Trickster’s Game (written as Barbara Campbell). Published by DAW Books, Trickster’s Game was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Society’s 2010 Fantasy Award for adult literature.

She drew on her musical theatre roots for her second novel series, the award-winning Spellcast and its sequel Spellcrossed, set in a magical summer stock theatre. DAW Books released the two novels in an omnibus edition: Spells at the Crossroads.

A graduate of the Odyssey workshop, Barbara has taught seven previous online courses for Odyssey and has served on the staff of the Odyssey Critique Service for more than a decade. You can visit her dual selves at barbara-campbell.com and barbara-ashford.com.


Before I began writing fiction, I worked as an actress in musical theatre. Those years not only gave me the inspiration for my novel Spellcast, but taught me a lot about creating memorable moments in fiction. Continue reading ““Make Your Big Moments Sing!” by Barbara Ashford”

Director’s Corner: Tying Character Types to Plot, Suspense, and Emotion

jeanneJeanne Cavelos is the director of the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust. She was a senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell, where she worked for eight years, editing the fantasy/science fiction program, the Abyss horror line, and other fiction and nonfiction. Jeanne is also the bestselling author of seven books and numerous short stories and articles.  She has won the World Fantasy Award and twice been nominated for the Stoker Award.

Find out more about Jeanne here and more about the Odyssey Writing Workshop here.


Create a protagonist. Add an antagonist. Toss in a sidekick or minion, or if you’re writing a novel, perhaps a whole array of characters. But then what do you do with them? How do you incorporate each character into the story so he has a powerful impact on plot, raises intense suspense, and generates strong emotions? Continue reading “Director’s Corner: Tying Character Types to Plot, Suspense, and Emotion”

Director’s Corner: Tracking Your Character’s Emotional Arc

jeanneJeanne Cavelos is the director of the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust, which is in its 20th year of operation.  She was a senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell, where she worked for eight years, editing the fantasy/science fiction program, the Abyss horror line, and other fiction and nonfiction. Jeanne is also the bestselling author of seven books and numerous short stories and articles.  She has won the World Fantasy Award and twice been nominated for the Stoker Award.

Find out more about Jeanne here and more about the Odyssey Writing Workshops here.


This post was first published in January 2015 at K.M. Weiland’s “Helping Writers Become Authors” blog at: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/characters-emotional-arc/ 

Most authors try to understand what a character is feeling at a particular moment: He’s angry here. He’s happy there. Many authors also consider how the character’s emotional arc changes over the course of the entire story: He begins insecure. He ends confident. But few think about how the character’s emotional arc develops over the course of a single scene.

Continue reading “Director’s Corner: Tracking Your Character’s Emotional Arc”

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