Story Works Round Table

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

SWRT 016 | Cliffhangers

What is the difference between a cliffhanger, an end hook, and an ambiguous ending? And what about cliffhangers within books versus at the end? How can you avoid cliffhangers within a series? And what does the reader actually want at the end of the book, story, or part in a serial?

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SWRT 015 | Fantasy Adventure with Alina Sayre

What makes a fantasy a fantasy? Can you combine fantasy with other genres? What are the main things that go into a fantasy novel? And what are reader expectations of your world and characters? And what are some pitfalls you need to avoid as a fantasy writer?

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SWRT 014 | Foreshadowing Redux with Mike Stop Continues

Since our last conversation about foreshadowing created more questions than answers we decided to try again! Here we lay down a solid definition of foreshadowing and talk about why you want to do it, and how to do it well. What elements in your story can foreshadowing be used in? Does it require hindsight? And are you opening loops? Or providing answers to questions the reader hasn’t even thought to ask?

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SWRT 013 | Plotting Science Fiction with Chris Fox

How important is the science in science fiction? What are some conventions of science fiction? And when should you break them? How can you use names to bridge the familiar and unfamiliar? And are there any genres you can’t mash in with science fiction?

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SWRT 012 | Foreshadowing

As a writer, do you consciously try for foreshadowing, or is it a miraculous surprise? What feeling should foreshadowing give the reader? And what are the differences between foreshadowing, laying clues, or layering plot elements? What truly is the nuance of this portion of the craft, and is it okay that all of us have different definitions?

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SWRT 011 | Openings – Reading/Reacting

We take a deep dive into three sample openings from literary novels. Want to know what your readers latch on to? How do you deliver a strong character in just a few paragraphs? And can you telegraph what your story is about in such a small space? What are the most important elements of an opening? And do we want to keep reading?

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SWRT 010 | Genre Series: Mystery Plots with Sara Rosett

What makes a mystery plot different from other kinds of genre plots? When should your body show up? And how do you finesse the art of keeping readers in suspense? When and how should you craft your twists, and how do point of view and genre limit your mystery plot points? And how do you keep your protagonist from just calling the police?

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SWRT 009 | Middle Grade Fantasy with Alina Sayre

How does a writers philosophy of writing affect their voice? And how does the canon of literature you grew up on help you develop as a writer? What are the differences between middle grade and adult fantasy? And what is a middle grade reader looking for? Can you write to specific themes within a middle grade book? And how do you get those children to sound like children while still driving your story? Above all, it’s all about staying true to your own voice and who you are as a writer!

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SWRT 008: Making the Unfamiliar Familiar

What does it mean to make the unfamiliar familiar? And what parts of your story does that apply to? What is our rule of thumb and why would you want to break it? How should you approach culture? And how often should you touch on new things? Don’t forget, your unique things are what hook the reader!

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SWRT 007 | Arcless Protagonists

Is it even possible to have an arcless protagonist? What is an arcless protagonist? After diving into some famous and beloved arcless protagonists, we dive into how to make it work. How can you use your secondary characters to create emotional resonance? And how can you keep that emotional buy in through a series? Do you need the same supporting characters around your arcless protagonist? And what are some of the drawbacks to using one? Just remember: an arcless protagonist is the exception, not the rule!

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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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