Story Works Round Table

Conversations about stories and the craft of writing with Alida, Kathryn, and Robert.

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SWRT 074 | Nicey Nice

What is nicey-nice? How can you use character flaws and irrational reactions to combat it? As a writer we need to remember to push boundaries, silence that inner critic, and steer clear of writing our own reactions into our character. So how do you fix a section that is too nice? And how can you use character reactions to build tension into your story? Make your characters reactions messy and their relationships imperfect and you’ll be on your way to writing characters that keep the reader engaged!

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SWRT 073 | Stakes & Agency

What are stakes? And how does your characters agency interact with them? How do you make your stakes personal and individual for your character? And how can you use your stakes to evaluate your plot structure? How should the stakes change through the story? And how do the stakes affect your characters actions? Remember, your characters agency must be the thing that drives your story forward!

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SWRT 072 | Killing Your Characters

Why is killing characters important? How should we approach killing characters? And what are the reasons for doing it? How can it affect your story and your protagonist’s journey? What genres rely on killing characters? And how should you approach killing “extras” in your book? Even nameless characters can have a huge impact – so use your tools wisely!

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SWRT 071 | Pacing

What is pacing? How do you decide the best pace for your story? And how do you achieve that pace? What kind of effect can pacing have for your readers? And why is pacing so different between books and movies? Check out the things we’ve mentioned section to check out those books we talked about – those we loved and even those we didn’t.

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SWRT 070 | Writing Emotions

How should you use layers of emotion? And at what point in the writing process should you focus on getting them on the page? How should your character express their emotions and when can you tell if you are throttling them? Remember that not everything has to be big to be powerful and that each emotional moment for your character will have an emotional tail.

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SWRT 069 | How to End your Story

What is the purpose of your ending? How do you create space for the reader to really feel the emotional impact of your story? And when should you plan how you are going to tie up those plot points and emotional questions you opened at the beginning of your story? How...

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SWRT 068 | Evoking Emotion

Why do you want to evoke emotions in your reader? And what are some nuts and bolts ways to make that happen? Remember to stick to the basics, to structure your emotional payoffs, and that even emotions deserve an arc. We talk about how to handle this with tension and release, your character’s arc, and offsetting it from your physical climaxes. Don’t stray into melodrama, and keep that emotional pull all the way to the end of your novel!

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SWRT 067 | Character Descriptions

How should you introduce your characters? We each bring an example showing how to use action or narrative exposition to introduce your character to your reader. Remember just like everything in writing your description should do more than just describe your character.

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SWRT 066 | Theme

How do you define a stories theme? And should you start with a theme or let it develop naturally? We talk about how you can use the theme as a revelation, as well as how it connects readers to authors. Use theme as a layer of your story, balanced with the rest of your elements. And finally, Alida challenges us to write a story to a theme!

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About the Hosts

Alida Winternheimer is the author of The Skoghall Mystery Series, A Stone’s Throw, and The Story Works Guide to Writing Fiction Series. She further pursues her fervor for all things story as a writing coach and developmental editor. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her Golden Retriever, Seva the Wonder Dog. She camps, bikes, and kayaks in her free time. Unless it’s winter, in which case she drinks chai by the fire. You can find more at

Kathryn Arnold writes fantasy and anything else that sparks her creativity from her home in Kingston, Washington. She currently earns her living as an insurance underwriting assistant, where she also creates marketing and web copy. When not writing, she plays (and teaches) piano and keyboard in a band (or two), and is working on starting a ministry team with her husband. You can find Kathryn at

Robert Scanlon

Robert Scanlon was born in Australia, but whisked off to England when only a baby. After many years complaining about the weather, he did the sensible thing and moved back to Australia. Despite a career in the music industry, followed by decades teaching public speaking, Robert is an introvert who adores reading. Robert grew up on a diet of sci-fi masters, eventually discovering he had read the library’s entire science fiction section. Now he has to write his own. Robert is the author of Constellation, book one of the Blood Empire space opera series. Find out more at

Robert Scanlon

Former co-host, Matt Herron, was a member of SWRT from episode 1 through episode 17.

Matt is the author of The Auriga Project, a scifi thriller, Scrivener Superpowers, a how-to book for writers, and the forthcoming Tales of the Republic, a serialized novel set in a specualtive future. He also founded the Indie Author Society, an organization that offers community and support for indie authors. When he’s not bending words to his will, Matt likes to climb mountains, throw a frisbee for his Boxer mutt, Elsa, and travel to expand his mind. Learn more about him and his books at

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