Monthly Archives: June 2021

Ep067 Karen Osborne Short Stories

The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power; The Two Bullet War; and Cratered by Karen Osborne

Episode Discussion

  • The Two Bullet War.
    • A beautifully written work that made Reid question the purpose of novels if perfection can be obtained in a short story?
    • A story of three scenes: a death and setup; the story of lovers; and the two bullet war. The first and last scenes paint pictures of a world and leave us wanting more; but, the middle scene is a lull in pacing and slows the action. That being said the middle scene provides characterization and shows the powerlessness of the characters.
    • The crafting of the prose: reference and foreshadow. In the micro prose of paragraph by paragraph, each paragraph contains a reference to what has already occurred in the story and a statement or foreshadowing of what is to come. Specifically used are the tactics of irony and question-and-answer. These techniques make for a story where each word contributes to building the world and defining characters; and make the reader flow effortlessly from paragraph to paragraph while comprehending a dense, tightly woven story.
      • Example of the opening: The story begins with the description of an unpleasant death scene. In the second paragraph we are provided with the irony that the ideal death setting was set up, but the actual followthrough of making this death is not what was originally intended. The prose ties back to the expectation vs reality of the dying character; and then doubles down on why the death scene is even worse than the dying character wanted: her children.

Links to the Works

Upcoming Episodes


Ep066 The Unbroken by CL Clark

The Unbroken by CL Clark

CL Clark’s debut novel dives into the theme of military occupation and identity. The story follow two characters: Touraine the soldier and Luca the ruler. Touraine will do anything to protect her fellow soliders, the Sands, which immediately means to rise through the ranks and become a leader of the military. Luca, meanwhile, is in the middle of a succession crisis and is seeking political wins to add to her resume. The two meet and interact in the occupied state of Qazāl, the location of Touraine’s birthe before being forcibly enlisted by the empire to fight on the front lines of the empire’s wars.


  • Pros and Cons.
    • A multitude of scenes. The books feels like it either need to be 400 pages longer or 100 pages shorter. Many scenes feel repetitive and either the scenes needed more depth and elaboration (thus 400 pages longer) or the scenes needed to be streamlined (100 pages shorter). For example in the first half of the book Touraine is negotiating on behalf of Luca, and each scene of negotiation is shown: Touraine to the rebels, back to Luca, back to the rebels, back to Luca. Discussion of the artistic choice of showing everything vs a possible summary scenario. Did each scene show a dramatic progression of character or plot?
      • In defense, these micro-moments build bit by bit by bit, which allow for each character to develop and for this development to be shown.
      • Luca = Discover magic, cement her place in the line of succession.
      • Touraine = Cares about her Sands. These two motivations never fully change, but each switch of the political and militaristic progression allows these two characters to act based upon their goals in a new way.
    • A repetition of “it went wrong.” In almost all of Touraine’s battle scenes the phrase “it went wrong” or a variation was used. This framing is good for heightening drama, but it uncharacterized Touraine who is supposed to be a skilled warrior and planner.
    • A fantastic focus on character! The characters shine in this work. Luca and Touraine and written with strong goals: Luca’s desire to secure her place in the succession crisis, and Touraine’s dedication to her military Sands.
      • The goals do not change, but each scene and micro-moment allow for these characters to interpret actions towards their goals as circumstances change.
    • A focus on relationship. The setting of the story does not change and instead it is the relationships which push the story forward. The setting, Qazāl City, descends into open rebellion, but the setting falls into the background. A common technique utilized by writers is to change the setting to show narrative progression and help anchor change for the reader. The emphasis on relationships ends up causing the setting and a common sense of progression to not be an element the reader to rely on.
    • Character Growth. Both characters are unwavering in their goals, even if it turns Luca and Touraine against each other.
      • Luca and Touraine eventually step into their power. For example, Luca begins the story as a royal representative, but an unplanned death leads to her occupying a position of Governor-General. Luca realized that she needs to be a leader. She needs to start to act like the queen, and we get to see her step into her own person and becomes the royal representative again.
    • Occupation and Political Commentary. The Qazāl region is occupied by a greater empire, very similar to the many occupied states in the real world. In the book, the rebellion ultimately just wants the empire to leave. Unfortunately, Luca playing the role of conqueror views leaving as not possible. The story raises the possibility of a simple answer: can the occupiers just leave? Is that allowed? Is that an area to start?