Odyssey Podcast #137: Carrie Vaughn

mp3 Odyssey Podcast #137

Bestselling author Carrie Vaughn was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, she answers questions about revision, plot, and point of view.

Carrie’s latest novels include the post-apocalyptic murder mystery, Bannerless, winner of the Philip K. Dick Award, and its sequel, The Wild Dead. She wrote the New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, along with several other contemporary fantasy and young adult novels, and upwards of 80 short stories, two of which have been finalists for the Hugo Award. She’s a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R. R. Martin, and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop. An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado. Visit her at www.carrievaughn.com.

The text of this recording is copyright © 2020 by Carrie Vaughn. The sound recording is copyright ℗ 2020 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)”

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”

Interview: Guest lecturer and graduate Elaine Isaak (E.C. Ambrose)

Elaine IsaacE. C. Ambrose will be a guest lecturer at the 2015 Odyssey Writing Workshop. She writes “The Dark Apostle” historical fantasy series about medieval surgery, which began with Elisha Barber (DAW, 2013) and continues with Elisha Magus (July 1, 2014). Other published works include “The Romance of Ruins” in Clarkesworld Magazine, and “Custom of the Sea,” winner of the Tenebris Press Flash Fiction Contest 2012. She is also the author of The Singer’s Crown and its sequels, The Eunuch’s Heir, and The Bastard Queen, published as Elaine Isaak.

An Odyssey 1997 graduate, Elaine quite enjoys her alternate identity, aside from a strong desire to start arguments with herself on social media. She blogs about the intersections between fantasy and history at ecambrose.wordpress.com and can also be found at facebook.com/e.c.ambroseauthor or twitter @ecambrose. Under any name, you still do NOT want to be her hero. Learn more at http://www.TheDarkApostle.com

In addition to writing, the author works as an adventure guide. Past occupations include founding a wholesale business, selecting stamps for a philatelic company, selling equestrian equipment, and portraying the Easter Bunny on weekends.


You graduated from the Odyssey Writing Workshop in the summer of 1997, and returned as a guest lecturer in 2011 and 2012. You’ve also taught for Odyssey Online, and you provide feedback on author manuscripts through the Odyssey Critique Service. What draws you back to Odyssey and working with developing writers? Continue reading “Interview: Guest lecturer and graduate Elaine Isaak (E.C. Ambrose)”

Odyssey Podcasts #76 (Alex Jablokov) and #75 (Holly Black)

Jablokov Black podcastEvery month or two, the Odyssey Writing Workshop releases new podcasts created from excerpts from lectures given by guest writers, editors, and agents at the Odyssey Writing Workshop. Each one is ten to fifteen minutes long.

Our two newest podcasts feature authors and guest lecturers Alexander Jablokov (Brain Thief), from the 2014 summer workshop, and Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles), from the 2013 summer workshop.  Alexander discusses how a character functions within a plot, and the many conventions authors use to present believable characters, while Holly explains how to create a magic system.

Other available podcasts include:

  • Carrie Vaughn: Goal-setting for writers (#38)
  • Lori Perkins: Agents, what they do, and what to look for in an agent (#37)
  • Sheila Williams: Qualities of short story openings (#74)
  • Nancy Holder: Short fiction and novel contracts; advances and royalties (#72 & #73)
  • Lane Robins: Outlining techniques (#64)
  • Craig Shaw Gardner: Writing humor in science fiction and fantasy (#18)
  • Melissa Scott: Worldbuilding techniques (#5 & #21)

These podcasts and many more are available for free on the OdboatcleanedupOdyssey Podcast page at http://www.sff.net/odyssey/podcasts.html.  Here you may browse and download podcasts, or subscribe to podcasts so you automatically receive them upon release.

Odyssey Podcasts can also be found in the iTunes store (for free): https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/odyssey-sf-f-writing-workshop/id213992784?mt=2.

Writing Question: Creating a Plot

Plot is usually one of the weakest elements in the work of developing writers. Most developing writers don’t know how to structure a plot. Even if they do, they often find themselves caught between two conflicting goals: the desire to let the story develop organically versus the need to plan and set up key elements so they generate a powerful, unified story.

We decided to ask the brain trust of Odyssey graduates how they have learned to deal with plot, so you can profit from their trials, tribulations, breakthroughs, and realizations. They’ve come through with some great responses. I hope you’ll try all the approaches they discuss and see which one works best for you. Each month, we’ll be asking them another question on writing.

Do you have some idea of what your plot will be before you write, or do you write by the seat of your pants, with no idea how the story will end until you get there, or something in between? What is your plot process, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of your process?

Continue reading “Writing Question: Creating a Plot”