Magical Words Party Talk – Cons!


Hey y’all, it’s time for another Magical Words Party Talk!  Spring is coming, and that means it’s almost time for con season.  We writers love cons as much as fans do – a con is often the only time we get a chance to get together and gab with each other about upcoming projects and ideas in person.  Today we’ve asked our most recent guests for their opinions on a few questions about cons.  Feel free to chime in (via the comments) to tell us what kinds of panel topics you’d love to see!

When you’re asked for panel suggestions by con program directors, how do you come up with panel topics to submit? 

HERO last coverAlethea Kontis:  I like to suggest topics that make me angry…things I would love to vent about for an hour in person, but don’t feel like starting a never-ending flame war over online. 




Faith Hunter: Oy. I am so bad at this. I usually ask Misty Massey what she came up with and second hers.  Or, if she isn’t going, I offer the idea of the Person of Color Panel because my characters are often non-European.  1609060191_9780451465245_medium_Black_Arts



Only the Good Die Young coverChris Marie Green: When I’m asked for panel suggestions by con program directors, I come up with panel topics to submit by asking my friends on writing group loops what *they’d* like to hear about. They’re always a gold mine of ideas.




Delilah S Dawson:  First, I look at the pool of available panelists, then I try to figure ways to combine them that would be interesting and different yet maximize their strengths. It’s a balancing act, coming up with panels that will show the audience something new yet give the panelists topics they can speak to and that will ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????showcase their knowledge, humor, and book topics. My favorite panels are those that get the panelists and audiences laughing but can still stay on-topic and add value. And I’ll admit I try to keep panels from being nothing but a bunch of white dudes, because many of the comic cons I attend have panels end up that way.



wildthings_3-ChloeN-199x300Chloe Neill: I generally think about the type of panel I’d like to attend as a writer and brainstorm from there. I’ve written 13 novels, but I’m still adjusting my writing process, and I particularly like to hear how other writers brainstorm, plot, and draft. I err toward panel proposals on those topics—so I can use their ideas.


8 comments to Magical Words Party Talk – Cons!

  • Fireheart1974

    I find this timely!

    Can I add a second question (that I wish I’d thought of when I sent out my programming email)…What topics are you tired of seeing done? or would like to see a new spin on?

  • What Fireheart said. I’m interested in the same thing! Every convention I go to, there always seem to be the same topics addressed, over and over. Some of this is useful, but do any of you have new ideas? Do the cons expect certain topics to be addressed?

  • Fireheart and Laura, I was just discussing this very thing at Illogicon. I’m sick to death of panels about Strong Female Characters. NOT because I don’t think it’s important to recognize that girls can do everything boys can, but because I feel that panels like that maintain the fantasy that female characters are somehow different and other. What I’d prefer to see are panels about Strong Characters and How To Write Them Regardless of Gender.

  • Misty – Oh AMEN! sister. The panels always seem to start from the idea that Strong Female Character is a type and it’s other than just a character who is also female. (Don’t get me started about the people who complain that certain characters are just “men with breasts.”)

    I know “how do you come up with your ideas?” is a terrible question when it really means “what’s the magic key for being creative?” but I really enjoy hearing authors talk about the convoluted ways their ideas evolved or the incidents that led to a story. Maybe a panel called “No Shit, There I Was…” with panelists just telling stories about their stories.

    And more readings! I love John Hartness’s Literate Liquors and the other public dramatic readings. People need to read to and with each other more. I’d attend a con that was mostly workshopping and readings.

  • Maybe a panel called “No Shit, There I Was…” with panelists just telling stories about their stories.

    I love this idea! May have to carry it along to the programming directors with whom I am presently working…

  • Late night panels in which I’m drugged on migraine meds. That might have been on strong women, but I don’t remember. David Coe might, since he was the moderator. Faith was on it, too. I remember talking about women.

    I actually like specific how-to panels. I know that the answer often is “there are a million ways to…” (or fifty ways, if it is leaving a lover…) But “how to write an action scene” for example. I’d like NOT to discuss what action scenes are, but things like “if it is a fist fight, the following things can/can’t happen.” Advice like “long to short sentences increase pace” is really helpful, actually. So the practical elements of writing a particular scene or kind of moment. Settings, physical descriptions (like, once you’ve gone top down, don’t go back, like you’ve said her hair is brown, her eyes blue, her shirt red, don’t jump back to say her hair is in a pony tail now.) Small practical things like that have helped me move from “this is a good idea” to “this is working much better on the page…” But this might be more “what I’d like to see regardless of topic.”

  • “Practical Prose Dissection.” Take a line, at random, from a book, at random (ask the audience to supply it?) and trim the fat. Or explain why it works just the way it is.

  • Misty, I totally agree re the *strong women character*. Hate it. And I love the ideas suggest here.
    Lyn, the magical words crew has done that before and it was loads of fun!