Story Works Round Table

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

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SWRT 055 | Hard & Soft World Systems

What is the difference between hard and soft magic systems? How does it apply to science fiction as well as fantasy? What are some pros and cons of the spectrum? How do you avoid deus ex machina with all powerful magic systems? How do you incorporate consequence into your systems? And where do we fall on the sliding scale?

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SWRT 054 | Keeping a Community of Writers

What is the difference between working in a community and in isolation as a writer? How does it change your work and your mindset? Do we prefer traditional or digital communities? And what are the pros and cons of digital versus face to face? How does a writing community help you grow? And how can it hurt your efforts? As with everything, be careful to balance your life with your community and your writing so that you don’t suffer from overwhelm! And don’t forget, the Story Works community is available to you!

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SWRT 053 | What Writers Really Do part 2

This week, Alida and Robert continue their conversation about the writing process, creativity, first drafts, where ideas come from, and how revision really works. The inspiration for our conversation is George Saunders' essay "What Writers Really Do When They Write."...

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SWRT 051 | Reality-Based Fiction

How do you balance real people, events, and places within your fictional narrative? Should you use major historical figures as protagonists? Or should they just pass by as setting or scenery? Have you asked yourself what you are aiming for in terms of your historical fiction? And why do you want to use a real figure or real event instead of complete fiction? And how important is that authors note?

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SWRT 050 | Openings

Want to know what it takes to write a good opening? How do you hook your reader and get them invested in your story? How do you create character empathy and what are the action steps that you need to take in order to write a great opening?

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SWRT 049 | Balancing Action & Non-action

What can cause problems in your action balance? How do you identify these problems? And how can you work to solve them? What counts as an action beat versus a quiet moment? And what should your characters be doing in those moments?

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SWRT 048 | Misunderstood Storycraft Rules

Show, don’t tell! Don’t think, feel, and wonder your way through a manuscript. Dig deep! Use that narrative exposition. Use your dialogue and action sequences. Write visually. Never use adverbs. Use the right word choice. Make your writing strong and not weak. Don’t use to be! Don’t use said! We tackle some of the most commonly touted writing rules and how they should actually apply rather than some of their more misunderstood applications.

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SWRT 047 | Unlikeable Characters

How often do you find unlikeable characters? Is there a difference between an unlikeable personality and moral or ethical flaws? What about morally repugnant characters? What kind of arcs do unlikeable characters have? And how do you craft them?

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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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