Storyboard: A Call for Questions

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet. Here’s last month’s episode of Storyboard:

Not that I haven’t been proud of the other episodes, but I think we finally hit our stride with this one. It’s my favorite so far…

For episode #6, we’re doing something a little different. Since it’s happening on Jan 2nd, I know putting together a full panel of four writers will be tricky, as everyone is going to be either traveling because of the holidays or hung over from New Year’s. (Or still drunk from New Year’s).

Pat’s Edit: Sorry. I meant to say we’re doing this tonight, on January 1st. (At 8:00 PST)

So I’m going to team up with Mary Robinette Kowal this month. Together, we’ll be answering any questions people care to throw at us.

So if you happen to have any questions about the craft of writing, or the business of writing, or pretty much anything, post them in the comments below, and I’ll use them for Tuesday’s show.

Fire away….


This entry was posted in calling on the legions, concerning storytelling, Geek and Sundry, Machine Gun Q&A, The Story Board. By Pat75 Responses


  1. BurstDragon
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 3:36 AM | Permalink

    First of all, Happy New Year…

    Now my question is pretty common how to deal with a block and get out of the self critical mode. For the past one month, I’m constantly asking myself what makes my story so goddamn special? I’m basically berating myself, and because of that I’m not able to write. Should I see a psychiatrist?

    Another questions is, how do you enhance the feel of your world and the people that inhabit it?

    Thank You

    P.S. Since, it’s 31st December, it’s my birthday, and it’ll be cooler if you wish me. Cool if not. ^_^

  2. Day365
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 3:52 AM | Permalink

    How do you go about placing guns on the mantle? Do you do any of this during the first draft or does it happen when you’re working backwards? Do you intentionally look for what guns you can place or does it come naturally? What makes for a good gun or setup? I’ve noticed The Kingkiller Chronicles has many of these, and would be interested in hearing about the process.


    William Wall

    • Posted January 1, 2013 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

      Good idea. I’d love to talk about this….

  3. Yoni
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 6:13 AM | Permalink

    Foreshadowing – How do you find the right balance of not being too overt/obvious, while not being too coy that it doesn’t jump out during a re-read or many scenes later when the event comes to fruition?

    Do you feel you’ve failed in some attempts at foreshadowing that we either too obvious or too subtle?

  4. AO_22
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 7:06 AM | Permalink

    Supporting local independent bookstores is a great idea…at least in theory. I live near one that consistently overpromises and underdelivers, at least in my experience. In one case I even overheard one employee say to another that “it isn’t worth it” to help a potential customer who came into the store out. Do such establishments really deserve our support simply for being “local” and “independent”?

  5. AO_22
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 7:21 AM | Permalink

    Might it be feasible to shrinkwrap new print books, or at least a portion of each new print release? I know that some book customers would be quite against such a thing, but others like their physical objects in as nice a shape as possible, and it might help sales at brick and mortar stores, wherein every “New” book for sale stands a fair chance of having already been read in the store.

  6. Tempi Tantrum
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 7:48 AM | Permalink

    In a lot of fantasy novels, religions play an important part in the story, for example Brandon Sanderson’s works. Yet in the ‘Kingkiller Chronicles’, whilst there are religions, they take a backseat in the story. Did you deliberately decide to move the focus of your story away from religion to subvert the usual conventions, or did it merely happen as you wrote?

    And in a broader sense relating to all books, how important do you think religion is to any fantasy book- or, for that matter, any book in general?

    Thanks guys.


  7. Kerensky287
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 9:32 AM | Permalink

    What is your opinion on eBooks? More specifically, what do you think about the recent trend toward some authors releasing certain books exclusively in an electronic format? Do you think it’s a good idea, and do you think it might spring a bit of a popularity surge for the written word now that people can download and buy a book to read on their cellphones at any time? Or do you regret the move away from the physical pages some readers so adore?

    • SilverTpt
      Posted January 1, 2013 at 12:24 AM | Permalink

      As someone who has and intends to grow & maintain a physical library, yet appreciates the convenience-appeal of ebooks, I second this question.

      The exclusively-digital model mentioned above concerns me from the standpoint of long-term culture preservation as well. We have trouble reading many data storage formats from as little as 20 years ago, and the pace of technology advancement continues to accelerate.

  8. Posted December 31, 2012 at 10:28 AM | Permalink

    I think that I associate all things Pat with beards, because when I saw the link for this post, my brain decided that it said, “Storybeard: A Call for Questions.”

    I think that’s a good thing.

    • dvs2nite
      Posted December 31, 2012 at 4:46 PM | Permalink


    • Posted January 1, 2013 at 12:02 PM | Permalink

      Storybeard wouldn’t be a bad name for a show….

    • Andrew
      Posted January 2, 2013 at 11:16 AM | Permalink

      “Storybeard”: a show about a fantasy author with an enchanted beard that constantly spews forth stories, which the man writes down and sells. Of course, as the show goes on and the author’s popularity soars, guilt sets in about possibly giving the beard a share of the royalties.

      Also, he’s afraid to ever trim it, lest he somehow compromise its magical powers.

  9. ericturner29
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 10:46 AM | Permalink

    I’ve decided to follow the letter of your call for questions instead of the spirit:

    In Denna’s letter to Kvothe there are several capitalized letters out of place. I’ve spent embarrassingly large amounts of time attempting to decipher these as some sort code or easter egg to no avail. If there is something there, asking you to reveal what it is would spoil all the fun, so the question is: Am I wasting my time?

    If you need to storyboardize the question, please talk about it in the context of inserting clues in the text and the separation of the audience that results.

  10. Mojojojo449
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 11:02 AM | Permalink

    1) The history of your world seems quite in depth but I never feel overwhelmed by it. Could you tell us a little about the craft of giving needed information but subtly so it doesn’t feel like it.
    2) Pat, you have a gift for implying things which makes your books great for second and third read throughs. How to you gauge this? How do you know when your saying just enough to lead someone down a path of thought without having neon road signs to guide them.
    3) When I think of magic in fantasy I judge it like this – Mistborn magic, Pratchett Magic , and The Last Unicorn magic. You touched a bit on the subject of magic in the last episode, about how sometimes it structured and other times very … airy. I love this discussion please continue.
    4) What’s your writers routine like with book three (Not so much during world builders becuase your busy but on your average week)
    5) Top 5 mistakes you see new writing making? ( Broad question, anwser however you like,)
    6) “Live cheap” and “just write” is some of the advise I’ve heard for young writers. Any advise for dealing with people around you when you tell them you want to be a writer ( In my case I took school off to explore writing and found that I really love creating a story but I can feel my parents cringing as they think of a future where I live in their basement till I’m forty. They really want me in school but I am rather happy doing what I’m doing) So any advise on that or general writers advise is always fun.
    7) Martin has set a bar for incorporating all kinds of characters in his books ( Little poeple, disabled, LGBT, women) Gone are the days of all white male casts? <-Sarcastic sad tone
    8) It seems hard to find good female character in fantasy ( They tend to be either the strong man type just without a penis or the damsel who on occasion is spunky and independent) What have you read that has good, believable, real female characters. Ps Through The Door by Jodi McIssac really impressed me on this and I would highly recommend it to fantasy and urban fantasy lovers.
    Thanks so much for doing this and thanks again for StoryBored

  11. cotterdan
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 11:21 AM | Permalink

    What is your experience like when you write a real gut wrenching moment? There are some scenes, one in particular for me, in your books that could be described as gut wrenching to read. Does it fell that way to write those kind of scenes, considering you are the one creating them?

  12. cyanness
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 11:46 AM | Permalink

    Mary Robinette Kowal did a series of blog posts on tips to get through her first signing tour, which I found fascinating. The one about developing an autograph different from her legal signature was particularly eye-opening. Are there other tips or tricks either of you have come up with for tours or cons? Or maybe something you wish you had known prior to your first tour or con that would have been really helpful? (PS: Mary, my other half thanks you again for the shot of whiskey at the WFC San Diego author signing.)

  13. adam.7oews
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 11:54 AM | Permalink

    Hey Patrick,

    So whenever I finish something with characters that I really love such as Full Metal Alchemist, Firefly, Azumanga Daioh (somewhat obscure slice-of-life anime, really good though), there settles on my heart this heavy weight. I feel as though the characters have died, even if they succeeded in their goal. If the show is over I will never experience something new with them again. So often, no matter the conclusion, I feel really sad after whatever piece of media ends.

    So my question is: Do you feel the same sort of attachment to your characters as you do someone else’s?

  14. IvoryDoom
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 12:22 PM | Permalink

    How do you get started on a story? Where do you start?
    Is it best to know the ending or work your way toward an ending?

    In terms of world building, what are the most important and basic aspects? Should you have your entire world built before you start writing a story based in it? Do you build the geography before or after you build the history? Do you build the true history but also a less factual mor Lore-based history as well? (Like the real history, then the history everyone thinks…hope that wasnt too vague…)

    How do you decide when and where to add foreshadowing? Should you keep it to the beginning of the books only? How do you decide when to “reward” the reader with an answer to their questions? Should these “rewards” be peppered throughout the entire book? Is it fair to falsify Foreshadowing and “rewards” of that falsification, so that later in the series the reader realizes it? (sort of a matter of opinion there)

    As reader, what fantasy world have you found most rewarding? Have you taken anything from fantasy and used it in your real life? (For instance, sometimes when I’m getting over emotional I try to use Heart of Stone. Or when I see something dead I immediately think “Valar Morghulis” and try to stay calm. I’m a very emotional person so this crap actually helps me.)
    If you dare, what fantasy worlds have you found overly cliche? Or just simply not rewarding enough?

    What is your opinion of Audiobooks vs. Physical Copies? What is your overall opinion of cinematic representations of novels? Have you ever watched a movie based on a novel that was actually better than the book? (Sorta like Fight Club……LOL) If one of your books was adapted for tv or film what things have you considered cutting out so that it could work into that sort of media? What characters, if any, have you thought of removing or possibly even combining into one character? (Something I hated in Water for Elephants!)

    Yah…I could totally keep going, but I’ll just stop now unless I think of something really good later.

  15. LordZod
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 12:25 PM | Permalink

    This is a few-parter, I (Lord Zod) hope you will pardon this:
    – Before you are published, how did you (or how do you recommend an aspiring author) build readership?

    -How much does a publisher actually do toward promoting a first-time author’s low fantasy book? How would I (for example) best supplement their efforts?

    -As a writer, how far into the future do you plan, in terms of what you are writing – whether it be short stories, novellas, (to a limited degree blogs, but I can’t imagine those matter so much as the others), etc., – and are these terribly important in building and maintaining readership?

    -If you have ideas for two series (serieses? … more than one series) of books, and know that one is much more commercially viable than the other, but have already written the first book of the other (the not-as viable one). Is it even worth shopping the completed text (I’ve heard that people will eventually just stop looking at a person’s work after a while)? Should the text be set aside until the more viable series has some readership and publication before saying “Oh, by the way, mr (or madame) Agent Man (or Lady) I have this other project…?

    -If you get to any of these, I, Lord Zod, would be infinitely grateful to you both. Also, thank you for the things you do that affect people.

  16. BlinkingBlah
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 1:21 PM | Permalink

    1. I am kind of noticing that you can’t have a proper fantasy story without a love loss. I’ve seen short stories go without that as a theme but not too many novels. Do you think it is vital to a story? Is it more for character building and making you feel more empathetic toward your character? Do you think there might be another way to tell a full blown novel without “love loss” as a theme?
    2. I love Robin Hobb, you?
    3. I need a new good fantasy read any suggestions?

    • BlinkingBlah
      Posted December 31, 2012 at 1:24 PM | Permalink

      Love Loss- When one loses a person, animal or thing they love.
      Sorry I felt the need for clarification.

  17. TangentialMind
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 1:37 PM | Permalink

    Have you ever played white wolf rpgs? If so, tabletop or minds eye theatre?

  18. scribblingglue
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 1:37 PM | Permalink

    Under the category of “pretty much anything” – I’d love to hear Mary talk a bit about A Month of Letters and what it is that she loves about letter-writing.

  19. dannylopuz
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 3:36 PM | Permalink

    I’ve always been bad at telling stories, not when I’m writing them but when I’m telling them to someone else. What do you think is the most important thing to make a story interesting and easy to tell?

  20. CactusQuill
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 4:04 PM | Permalink

    Do you ever challenge yourselves to ridiculous writing exercises? I am writing a short story for no reason other than personal entertainment in three parts, the first in third person narrative, the second in all dialogue and the third in first person narrative. Each part with a different character at the center. Am I the only one stupid enough to do such a thing?

  21. JediJoe
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 4:17 PM | Permalink

    How do you write a first novel? Is it best to treat it as a hobby and whittle away at it after school or work for a few years, or to focus solely on writing for a while? For that matter, how can a person tell whether they’re cut out for publishing? I imagine there are quite a few of us aspiring authors who think we’re good because our mothers say so—what’s the gauge? It seems like becoming a successful writer is like becoming a rock star—how do you get over the statistical unlikelihood of success?

  22. Posted December 31, 2012 at 4:19 PM | Permalink

    Until I was 18 I wanted to be a filmmaker. All of my creative energy was channeled into it. Then, out of nowhere, I was compelled to become a writer. Nothing else seemed imprtant. Since I was 23 (I’m now 27) I’ve had 7 or 8 short stories published.

    I’ve outlined 3 novels but never completed them. I feel as though I don’t have the skill level to attack one. Part of me worries that it’s because I spent most of my early creatively formative years learning about films. It’s stressful because the impulse to write novels is so strong but I have a lot of trouble.

    My question is, should I not sweat it and just keep going?

    Or should I put away the idea, and take the next several years to acquire an extensive education on writing, kind of the way I did with film?

    Or is there a magical third option?

    Thanks for this chance!

  23. dvs2nite
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 4:41 PM | Permalink

    Happy New Year

    My Question is this. If your books were picked up and produced quickly and wonderfully by HBO would any of your writing be influenced by how the actor/show portrayed your original charter/setting?
    I ask this question because as a reader/watcher of Game of Thrones my perception of Tryion has been entirely influenced by Peter Dinklage and his portrayal.

    I’ll see you at Confusion

  24. jacobchastain
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 4:51 PM | Permalink

    What is your opinion on an author going indie with ebooks and print on demand, vs the traditional route? Many authors support either or, or a hybrid model. Any advice on the subject would be great to hear. Thanks!

  25. Jonathan
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 4:55 PM | Permalink

    -What is your opinion on Point of View in a novel? What stories may be better suited to first person, or third person, or anything in between? Maybe some advice on trying to figure out at what point an author may decide to have extra point of view characters, instead of keeping the novel in just one voice.
    -Do you ever find yourself writing puns into your narration, intentionally or otherwise? Have you ever had a beta reader or editor point out a “punny” phrase to you that you had never intended to be interpreted that way?
    -When you have a new idea for a story, but are currently in the middle of writing another, is it better to let the newest idea stew and wait while you continue to progress on the current novel, or to start on the new idea while it’s still fresh and come back to the current story later?
    -What are the top books or authors that you plan to watch in 2013, to see their new releases? Or as a parallel question, what already-released books or series do you plan to read this next year?
    Thank you for the great Story Board videos (which I need to catch up on) and have a Happy New Year!

  26. DMage
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 5:12 PM | Permalink

    Well, not really about writing, but maybe you find it a good question.
    I assume you know terry pratchett has a kind of Alzheimer, and he is pro euthanize. I wonder what you writers and creative folks would do in his situation?

  27. yilinw
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 5:17 PM | Permalink

    Thank you for offering to answer questions for this Storyboard episode, Pat! I really enjoy reading your novels and following the show. I have two questions about writing:

    1) I really like the worldbuilding in your fantasy novels. Can you share your worldbuilding process? Can you give some advice about worldbuilding? What are some common mistakes to avoid? Books with great worldbuilding that I can learn from?

    2) You mentioned in some interviews and storyboard episodes that you think about your stories in terms of story and character arcs. Can you explain in more detail how you construct a story using arcs? How do use arcs in your planning, drafting, or editing process?

    Thank you very much! I look forward to the episode,

  28. michaelk
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 5:17 PM | Permalink

    As a published author and lover of books, what are your thoughts on digital books and the state of the digital book marketplace?

    In particular, I find the lack of ownership rights rather chilling. Sellers like Amazon can revoke all of a user’s rights to a purchased book for any reason, without refund, and will even remotely delete the book from the user’s device if they’re using a Kindle.

  29. Posted December 31, 2012 at 5:25 PM | Permalink

    Describe your experiences of, as you write, having revelations about your characters, story, or story world that requires rework in earlier parts of the story to incorporate the new insights.

  30. Rasputin
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 5:33 PM | Permalink

    A general form of a specific question.

    In Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe goes to the Eolian and plays cards with his buds. He plays poorly and gets chastised by Manet who says, “Here’s a primer for admissions. Let’s say you have three spades in your hand, and there have been five spades laid down. How many spades is that, total?”

    Then when Kvothe gets to his admissions interview, Elodin asks, “You have three spades in your hand, and there have been five spades played. How many spades is that?”

    The question, then, is this. Is this important, or are you just fucking with us?

  31. ChristineGC
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 5:48 PM | Permalink

    To the Honorable Sir Rothfuss,

    I have been told that as a writer you should write every day. How do you decide which story is worth your time? I can come up with tons of ideas for stories but I never feel like they are good enough to write down. It has been extremely difficult for me to write every day because I can’t decide what to write. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

    With the Greatest Respect,

  32. Gourey
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 7:00 PM | Permalink

    Any good questions… hmm, i’m not sure but certainly do have quite a few. To shorten it though maybe just three.

    1) How to create a good character that you plan to have accomplish quite astounding feats without making the audiance hate the character for being amazing.

    2) building a world. How much is to much. I really want to write a story… series, spanning thousands of years, multiple time zones, and everyhting in between. Yet i seem to be stuck in jsut the basic construction of the world and names for things. Is this something that should be done as you go?

    3) Staying motivated to write, i find stretches where i can write for hours on end without brakes, other times i go a week with only adding one or two words and then those usually get deleted.

    I would love to really write someday but working fulltime seems to get in the way, that and i’m not really the best with big words and grammar, so i think it mroe of a hobby that i would love to really do something with.

    Matt Mc

  33. dmbeucler
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 7:09 PM | Permalink

    The trouble with questions is finding just one….

    How do you keep all of your world information or plot information organized? Especially over a long series.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on story structure…. but that wasn’t really phrased as a question.

    I recently got in a debate over historic fantasy at a writing con and I’d love to hear Mary’s thoughts. The opposing side was that in historic fantasy you must make large changes to history. I came down on the side that you could do Hist. Fantasy with out making earth shattering world changes. I’d love to see that debated further.

    I’d best stop, but I look forward to it all soon.

  34. fictionsmith
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 7:12 PM | Permalink

    When working on a sequel, how do you balance moving forward with the story with reminding the reader of what happened in the first book?


  35. n8esq
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 7:22 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for fielding questions! Here’s mine:

    1) What are the essential elements to a good hook in the beginning of a story? Every great story has that moment in the beginning when the reader is clearly meant to become fully invested in the narrative. Harry boards the train to Hogwarts, Kvothe begins his tale, Locke Lamora starts the con, and the Lannisters paralyze a small child. For a while now I’ve been struggling to figure out what it is about these moments that makes them so special. What their common element is. Thoughts?

    2) How do you come up with names for your characters?


  36. Fenix
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 7:34 PM | Permalink

    Why did kvothe run away from the Cthaeh. Kvothe finnaly find the one thing that can tell him everything but he runs away like a girl. .

    • cyanness
      Posted January 1, 2013 at 8:20 AM | Permalink

      No. Kvothe ran away like a boy.

  37. mcflycahill90
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 7:37 PM | Permalink

    Hello You Two Marvelous People,

    Happy New Year to you both!

    1: What are your thoughts on shared universe novels a la Brandon Sanderson and Stephen King?

    2: Are there any rules of writing you live by? A daily mantra that keeps you focused?

    3: What are you looking forward to/any specific goals you have for the New Year?

    Thanks for doing this, Mary and Pat! Have a wonderful new year, and keep up the great work!

    • duke7883
      Posted December 31, 2012 at 9:23 PM | Permalink

      About your number one, ever read anything by Steven Erikson or Ian Esslemont? They both write in the same universe they created together to role play in when they were younger. I think that makes it all some of the most amazing stuff I’ve read. Erikson has written more of the novels and really, really, really gets into world/character building. There are literally hundreds of secondary characters. I am not joking. And then often a lot of the big names in the mythos of his world that you don’t touch on enough get picked up by Esslemont and flushed out in his novels. The only time that it has gotten weird I’ve found was in one of Esslemont’s books where he actually wrote from the perspective of several of Erikson’s more primary characters. I recognized the characters, but they had lost some of the flavoring that only Erikson could bring with his writing and it left me feeling put off. Otherwise, they write amazing stories. Check them out.

  38. leaf101
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 8:29 PM | Permalink

    When writing, do you try to keep each chapter or section the same length? Do you have any tips for keeping each section over a page long so everything you write doesn’t look like a page from a Dan Brown novel?

  39. marshallm
    Posted December 31, 2012 at 10:06 PM | Permalink

    I’ll keep this short and simple:

    To begin, Happy New Year! Now, what do you think are some common tributes (or habits, hobbies, quirks, etc.) of writers of today’s generation. What about from past generations of writers? Thought of this while I was running today and figured it’d be something great to think about and discuss.

  40. Kingslayer
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 12:49 AM | Permalink

    Hi Pat, I am a big fan of collecting limited editions, you have worked with Subterranean Press before, any chance we will see them releasing your books in a limited edition in the future?

  41. andrescw
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 1:14 AM | Permalink

    First of all: Happy New Year from Spain (8.15 AM, just back from party)
    Second: I’m sorry for my english. It would be quite better if you could hear me (well, maybe not now).
    Third: Thank you for being so nice with us (your fans) and give us so often the posts in your blog and your smile and enthusiasm in every video we can see you on the web.
    FINALLY, my question:
    How do you manage mysteries? I mean, how do you decide what to say and how much to make readers realize there’s something important in one line or story without leaving us that sense of incompleteness, but make us wish thousands more words of plots and stories?

    I hope to see you soon in Spain, or win the lottery and visit you in America.
    Thank you for your patience and time

  42. Silvence
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 7:13 AM | Permalink

    Pat, I would like to know what moment defined your, and Mary’s, individual successes.

    I would pose the question like this, “Would you please describe the moment that you knew you had decided to push through all the barriers, personal and external, to reach the success that you were looking for? What went on in your mind at that moment?”

    Thanks, as always, for giving us this opportunity like you have given us so many others; you’ve been a great role model in the way you carry yourself in the community, and make yourself available to your fans. I may never grow a beard as extraordinary as yours (read: never, it just isn’t that robust when it does grow in), and I could never be as snarky cool as you are, but that can’t stop me from trying to be as successful in my writing career as I feel that you have been. Take care Pat, and have a good New Year!

  43. JediJoe
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 8:01 AM | Permalink

    Would you rather have a really compelling story that’s poorly written, or a boring one written really, really well?

    Do you write for marketability, or do you think of yourself as more of an artist?

    Modern fantasy allows sex and swearing more than ever before. Would you say there’s an expectation or requirement for that now?

  44. Posted January 1, 2013 at 8:07 AM | Permalink

    Hi Pat,

    My question is to do with subplots. I’m switching from writing very short stories to writing novels, and I’m not always sure what distinguishes an interesting and important subplot from a random and frustrating tangent. I realize we’re coming from opposite ends of the spectrum, as you’re working on an epic scale and trying to winnow down to what’s essential whereas I’m trying to stretch things out, but I think that also means you have a great idea of when a subplot is emerging naturally and NEEDS to be there versus when it’s just kind of tacked on.

    Many thanks,


  45. Posted January 1, 2013 at 8:27 AM | Permalink

    Do you find yourself often thinking more about the story than actually writing it?

    I feel like overthinking it can actually do more harm than good. It’s almost like I should just write down the fun parts I like and then worry about the logical details later. Is this a common issue you run into?

  46. aphitt119
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Permalink

    Hey Pat,

    So I would love to know from you are Mary about when you create your magic systems what was your thought process about how you wanted the magic to work in your world? Are you magic systems to evolving in the sense that you keep coming up with new aspects of your magic system or is it at its peak already?


    • aphitt119
      Posted January 1, 2013 at 9:18 AM | Permalink

      “you *and* Mary”

  47. R.C. Brooks
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 10:09 AM | Permalink

    Hello! Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, you guys rock.

    On the subject of craft: how much detail do you put in to side characters’ back stories? Since your specialty is character stories, how do you keep from overdeveloping a character and keep their growth at a reasonable pace? As a fantasy writer how much real world research do you still do? For Mary, how do you keep your magic grounded in the “real” world without letting it get too out of hand?

    On the subject of trying to get published: how important are query letters and agents? How much money would you recommend setting aside for when you are finally ready to start sending out your manuscript? What do you and Mary think of self publishing vs. traditional publishing?

    I hope this is something along the lines of what you are looking for. I’m really looking forward to the next Story Board!


  48. DavidGLein
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 1:11 PM | Permalink

    Dear Patrick Rothfuss:

    I hope that you and your family had a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year’s. Please indulge me as I have three questions which might work for the Q&A episode of Storyboard.

    1) I know that many people talk about the need to foreshadow surprises, but is it really so bad as to have an actual surprise? (For Example in the time travel fantasy novel I’m working on both the hero and the villian are the same person but from different timelines and I want the revelation of this to be an actual surprise as it takes place at the end of Act 1. I’m painting another character as the villian during this time.)

    2) How do you handle a large ensemble cast? The story originally started out as a series of radio plays which I started adapting to a novel for Nanowrimo. Right now my story has about 7 main character view points (I’ve only introduced four so far) and there will be several side characters. Not all of them will live, nor all of them used all the time.

    3) I have another story that I think will only work in first person. It’s a generational story about a family trying to save their culture by rediscovering forbidden tech (re: spaceships) as their sun continually erodes the planets goldilocks zone. My question is: What are some of the pitfalls new writers make in using first person and how to avoid them?

    Thank you very much for your time.


    David G. Lein

  49. iaipunk
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 3:05 PM | Permalink

    My questions have to do with the career of writing.
    I am in the enviable position of being supported (meaning my family doesn’t require my income for basic needs)
    I will shortly get my Bachelor’s degree in English-Creative Writing, and then will have to decide what to do with my life.
    My mentor (college professor) feels that going to grad school is unnecessary unless I want to teach… otherwise, she feels my time would be best spent writing, in the attempt to publish.
    I have heard Pat say that you don’t need a degree to write, which is true… but I would like to get a serious perspective on this, since I need to be a productive member of society even if I don’t immediately need the income.

  50. obscureclarity17
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 3:16 PM | Permalink

    I hope I’m not too late for consideration. I was wondering how, if at all, one could break into the fiction publishing world while traveling. This is of course assuming that productivity is a constant but writing is definitely what I want to do, and I feel like there’s no time but the present for developing good habits but on the other hand there’s also a lot of pressure to travel while I’m still young and not tied down with more than things like student debt.

  51. saibelle
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 5:09 PM | Permalink

    I would also like to hear more about how you developed the world for your novels.

    How much of the background world knowledge do you keep written down vs locked up in your head? What types of things from your world were solidified in your mind before the writing process versus parts of the world that may have been created along with the story.

  52. fyrbird
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 8:54 PM | Permalink

    I’ve been thinking about this since the Form and Function episode. The Name of the Wind books don’t follow a traditional story structure, something I think you mentioned briefly. I’ve found in my own writing I rarely like writing traditional Point A to Point B stories and like frame stories somewhat like you use.

    So how do you know when a less traditional storytelling structure is working and good for the story, and when do you know it’s just an author’s darling or something that is just over complicating the story?

    If that’s not easy to answer, then maybe: could you talk some about how you decided to write the Name of the Wind books in the structure that you did?

  53. Feriku
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 8:57 PM | Permalink

    I hope I’m not too late with this. I was wondering if you had any advice on publishing novella-length work. Do you know of any good places that publish novellas? What do you recommend an author with a novella do?

  54. Jeffrey Reuther
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 10:27 PM | Permalink

    You’ve spent years on your trilogy. How long can you let a story mulch before it gets stale? Do you do what Asimov did and surround yourself with type-writers?

  55. deadhand11
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 10:51 PM | Permalink

    I don’t really know how to judge my own writing. I have shared it with my Parent’s, and some friends, but I don’t really know that I can trust them to give me an accurate criticism. How do I get an accurate criticism from someone I trust? Also, any advice for young writers?
    Thanks a ton!

  56. Brandon Nichols
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 11:07 PM | Permalink

    How do you choose Beta readers? It seems hard to find people who you don’t think will be biased.

  57. JoBird
    Posted January 1, 2013 at 11:37 PM | Permalink

    Great episode, thank you.

  58. Marclee1703
    Posted January 2, 2013 at 2:08 AM | Permalink

    How do you handle realism?
    What I mean is the difference between a Disney movie devoid of profanity, sexuality, violence, etc. and something like Walking Dead or Game of Thrones where character’s actions and consequences seem plausible.

  59. knnn
    Posted January 2, 2013 at 7:00 AM | Permalink

    Hi Pat.

    I was recently listening to a podcast where you mentioned you originally had a chapter of NotW where Scarpi and Chronicler catch wind of Kvothe’s existence that was dropped.

    I was wondering what you and other authors thought of releasing a “director’s cut”, or perhaps a “blooper reel” for those rabid fans who just have to have an extra taste of the world. It’s a nice bonus that’s become quite the standard for DVD sales (presumably to add value to those who went out and bought a copy of the movie, rather than just catch it on tv), and sometimes even tacked on at the end of movies (e.g. Jackie Chan movies, Pixar movies).

    It might not be worth (the time or the effort) publishing an entire print book of this kind of random add-ons, but what about selling an e-book (or whatever sort of electronic publication you think would work), full of random less-edited thoughts?

    Heck — you could even make an anthology of bloopers. I’ll bet there are a bunch of authors who have the same fan base as yours who would be willing to shell out a few dollars. If you wanted to try it as an experiment, you could do it as a charity fundraiser.

  60. Rahl
    Posted January 2, 2013 at 10:51 AM | Permalink

    Hi Pat,

    Sorry didn’t visit the blog until today so its too late for this epp but i would love to know your and other authors views on ebooks and DRM. A few years ago there was a big broo ha ha about DRM music leading to Amazon et al releasing DRM free music but this hasn’t happened yet with ebooks leading to restrictions on things like loaning books to friends or family or to ereaders not opening certain file formats.

    Do you (authors) get any say when releasing a book or now that you are a best seller will you get to have a bigger say in things like this? As a consumer of books do you have different feelings about DRM compared to when you have your writing hat on?

    Anyways, hope that you had a great new year!

  61. B
    Posted January 2, 2013 at 6:57 PM | Permalink

    I’d like to echo knnnnn’s comment

    The ‘deleted/expanded scenes’ section of the special edition Kingkiller Chronicles would be a must-read for me. While clearly such things might be spoilers or confusing if the story has changed since they were written, but I (as well as many other fans I am sure) would treasure an extra peek at the parts of the 4C that didn’t make it through rewrites and editing.

    In the same vein – a short-story collection ‘Legends of Kvothe’ or some-such that covers in a little more detail the parts of the story that are glossed over in print (the Trial, and the shipwreck come to mind) would also be a great read sometime…

  62. B. L. Garver
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:14 PM | Permalink

    The old nugget “write what you know” is often thrown around as advice to aspiring writers. What does that actually mean? This seems to me like a go-to answer that doesn’t have much substance. For instance, the things I know are video production, fierce daddy issues and emotional trauma, and a sexual history worthy of a Jerry Springer episode.

    But I want to write speculative fiction, leaning toward fantasy. So I have a hard time translating my real-life experiences and knowledge into things that are actually helpful to the kind of writing I seem to be drawn to. And in many ways, I am too close to these topics to be able to write about them without turning it into a glorified bitchy soapbox – work, parents, the mine-field of past relationships, etc. – and that’s not what I want to do as a writer. I feel like that’s misusing my passion for writing. The craft deserves better than my petty bullshit.

    My question is this: Is “write what you know” just a buzz phrase to feed to the flocks of writers who aren’t actually serious about it, or is there something meaningful that serious aspiring writers can take away from that bit of advice?



    PS Just to clarify, the daddy issues and sexual adventures are entirely unrelated. Don’t want to convey the wrong idea here.

  63. JFSOCC
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 6:33 AM | Permalink

    That was an insightful hour and a half. My respect for Will Wheaton continues to increase every time I hear what he has to say. A lot of what I’ve heard from all of you resonates with me. Though, Pat, about the part where you hope talking about your experiences may prevent others from making the same mistakes; I’ve found that it’s impossible to teach wisdom, you can only teach knowledge, but wisdom comes with understanding. Kind of like love I guess.
    It’s interesting to me to see you have all struggled with fear, anxiety or depression. I wonder sometimes if having some kind of terrible baggage is a requirement to being a good artist. To me, I’ve only recently started writing and what I found is that it was fear that held me back before. But since you can’t improve as an artist without practice, without failures, I think that’s an essential part of the process.
    I’m reminded of an anecdote where Einstein would continuously argue with Bohr, coming up with new theories weekly. Einstein has made many brilliant mistakes. But from that process we were left with two theories which moved science forward significantly.

    I’m rambling on a bit. 1.hr30mns is a lot to comment on, so I’ll keep it at this. Good show, interesting.

  64. Michael
    Posted January 21, 2013 at 8:29 AM | Permalink

    For the next storyboard, can you touch base with getting writing grants for beginning writers?

    And a pesonal question: I was forced down a career path different from writing because “writing isn’t profitable”, according to my unsupportive family. Working in the labourforce has become a 24-hour grindstone that I want out of and just focus on writing — otherwise, I’m too exhautested to write anything. I have not been able to finish my book because work is always in the way. How can I happily write and get published without living on the street unemployed?


  65. Shepsus
    Posted March 2, 2013 at 6:31 AM | Permalink

    *Huff huff*
    Took me a lonnng while to get set up and registered and logged in to comment…

    Anyway, This was my favorite episode. I hope one day one of my stories booms and I can meet you in person Pat. I have both your books and enjoyed them immensely.

    I’ll be keeping up on your blog now too!

    -Brandon “Shepsus”

  66. Shepsus
    Posted March 2, 2013 at 6:36 AM | Permalink

    Sorry for the double-post, but I have a question for you.
    I understand that you are an epic fantasy writer, but how do you feel about comic books outside of the DC/Marvel/Dark horse?

    I find myself writing short stories that are very different from one another, but I think they would go well within a comic-type draft to tell the great story in a shorter amount of text.

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