Tag Archives: rational writing

48 – Romance

Daystar and Alexander discuss romance in fiction, particularly in finding meaningful romantic conflicts as either the major plot, or as a subplot in a broader story.

Co-hosted by Alexander Wales

With thanks to Tim Yarbrough for the Intro/Outro music, G.A.T.O Must Be Respected


Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton

Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal, is Alex’s post-credits recommendation, a romantic fantasy story set in Regency England. You can head over to Audible to help support the show and pick up a free copy!


7:21 Body Language and Chemistry

14:00 Source of Romantic conflict

21:43 Troubled vs Doomed

30:20 Extreme Romantic Contexts

36:29 Compatibility

43:06 Conflict from Change

50:38 New and Ongoing Conflicts


47 – Timeskips

Daystar and Alexander discuss the value and pitfalls of using time skips, long and short.

Co-hosted by Alexander Wales

With thanks to Tim Yarbrough for the Intro/Outro music, G.A.T.O Must Be Respected


A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller Jr.

Newton’s Cannon by J. Gregory Keys

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Seveneves by Neil Stephenson


1:13 The Two Axes

11:51 Rules for Timeskips

25:27 Relationships

42:13 Extremely Long Timeskips

46 – Story Research

Daystar and Alexander discuss the common necessities of research for writing fiction.

Co-hosted by Alexander Wales

With thanks to Tim Yarbrough for the Intro/Outro music, G.A.T.O Must Be Respected


Vulgar, language generator useful for consistency in made up languages: https://www.vulgarlang.com/

Google Translate, for real languages: https://translate.google.com/

Etymology Online, for word origins: https://www.etymonline.com/

Google N-gram viewer, for historical usage patterns: https://books.google.com/ngrams

WolframAlpha, for math and physics: https://www.wolframalpha.com/

Wikipedia, orders of magnitude for physics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Orders_of_magnitude


0:30 A Stable of Experts

12:49 Inspirational Research

19:15 Spot Research

45 – Writing as a Skill (Guest: Kuiper)

Daystar and Alexander are joined by professional game writer Kuiper to discuss writing as a skill, or rather a set of skills, and the ways people can improve them.

Kuiper’s various work can be found on his site.

Co-hosted by Alexander Wales

With thanks to Tim Yarbrough for the Intro/Outro music, G.A.T.O Must Be Respected


Brandon Sanderson lecture on description and and viewpoint.


1:19 Writing as a skill

21:03 What improves writing?

24:20 Don’t grow attached to your ideas

32:45 Skilling up one at a time

45:36 Sticking with or abandoning

50:25 Other ways to improve writing.

44 – Worldbuilding II (Guest: Erratic Errata)

Guest writer Erratic Errata joins Daystar and Alexander to discuss more aspects of world building, particularly in his serial A Practical Guide to Evil.

Co-hosted by Alexander Wales

With thanks to Tim Yarbrough for the Intro/Outro music, G.A.T.O Must Be Respected


A Practical Guide to Evil by Erratic Errata

Stronghold Builders Guidebook

A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge (Book 1: A Fire Upon the Deep)

A Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (Book 1: The Name of the Wind)

Anita Blake by Laurell K. Hamilton


1:36 Planet of Hats

12:01 Societal Axioms

20:02 Reconstructing Tropes

26:24 Playing with Narrative

35:38 Worldbuilding Differences

44:10 Free Will and Deities

50:10 Video game inspiration

55:47 A Practical Guide to Evil Q&A

41 – Worldbuilding: Second Order Effects

Daystar and Alexander discuss worldbuilding, and why considering second-order effects is so important to making it rational, and can help in finding or fleshing out good plots.

Co-hosted by Alexander Wales

With thanks to Tim Yarbrough for the Intro/Outro music, G.A.T.O Must Be Respected


Asterisk War Sucks


2:50 Battle School concept

6:46 Inadequate Equilibria As Story Elements

22:55 Shadows of the Limelight

28:22 Consequence of the Consequence

37:20 Aesop Exacerbation

41:14 Confronting Civilizational Inadequacy

Alexander’s Book Recommendation

My recommendation for this week is The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson, starting with “The Way of Kings.” Sanderson is a rather prolific author, and this is his epic fantasy series, with thick, doorstopper books, dozens of viewpoint characters, and a larger scale than he’s worked on before.

I feel like worldbuilding, and specifically, second-order worldbuilding, has always been one of Sanderson’s strong points. The world of Roshar is dominated by immense, rock-hurling storms that move from east to west, which has all sorts of interesting first order effects, like the best places to build cities being in the lee of a mountain or cliff, and architecture being suited specifically to defend against heavy winds from one side. The second order effects are in trade, travel, the organization of civilizations, and the prominence of cities. Because the highstorms grow weaker as they move across Roshar, the vegetation and plantlife is affected, and the civilizations that live within them are adapted to different conditions.

If you want to give it a listen instead of a read, you can go to Audible and get a free book credit when you start a trial, and by using that link you can help support the show!

39 – Children in Fiction

Daystar and Alexander discuss children in fiction, including what makes them realistic and why reactions to them can vary so widely.

Co-hosted by Alexander Wales

With thanks to Tim Yarbrough for the Intro/Outro music, G.A.T.O Must Be Respected


Stranger Things

IT by Stephen King

Dark Wizard of Donkirk by Alexander Wales

Time Stamps

0:31 Advantages of child protagonists

4:43 “Children don’t act like that.”

16:00 Keeping smart/mature children children

20:37 Evergreen methods

26:40 Predictive Processing and “Wonder”

34:33 Pokemon: The Origin of Species


Hey everyone, this week I’m recommending IT, by Stephen King. While the movie that was recently released was a well made adaptation, it’s impossible for any single movie, or even pair of movies, to capture the world and characters of the book, which is about 450 thousands words long, almost half the length of the Harry Potter series. The reason I’m recommending it this week is because IT is like few other books in capturing the feeling of being children: the friendship, the fear, the tragedy, the lack of control, the imagination, all of it.

There’s also an evil shapeshifting clown monster, of course, an eldritch avatar of fear that is nearly as iconic as any horror monsters out there, but that’s not where I would say the heart and soul of the story is: for me that has always been the characters. The children in IT can at times be caricatures, but they’re caricatures in the ways that kids can be caricatures, still developing who they are as people by committing to one dimension at at time while you watch the other two grow. And seeing them all do this together, to fight an unspeakable evil that only they can face, is fantastically done.

As a rational work, IT is middle of the road: a lot of the monster’s true mechanics are left vague, and what “magic” there is in the story is the wild and unexamined kind. But there are great explanations for why it’s up to the kids to deal with this instead of getting adults involved, and the characters do their best to understand their mercurial enemy and strategize against it without the gifts of particularly high intelligence or rationalist techniques. Mistakes feel organic and understandable, and there’s little if any Idiot Ball holding.

Some content warnings: the book does include a lot of grotesquery, in the forms of gory deaths, including of children. There’s also a sex scene near the end that squiks a lot of people out for understandable reasons. Overall though, I think IT is one of Stephen King’s best works, and the first piece of fiction I think of when I think of writing realistic children. The second, incidentally, is also by Stephen King, a much shorter non-horror novella called The Body, which was adapted into the movie Stand By Me and can be found in the book Different Seasons.

Both can be found at Audible, and if you don’t already have an account, you can sign up for a trial and get a free book at http://www.audibletrial.com/rational

Thanks for listening!