Monday, August 29, 2011

Write Great Dialogue: Part One

 I've been studying my writing books as I edit The Enchanted Locket and wanted to share some essentials to writing great dialogue from the book, Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell.

Dialogue is another form of character action in fictional stories. It must be essential to the story with three goals in mind: advance the plot, reveal the characters, and reflect the theme of your story.

To advance the plot, dialogue reveals important information for the story, such as background, exposition, or help us understand what's happening in a scene. An example of this is:

"Bill," Sheila said. "What are you doing here? I thought you were going to be in Baltimore."
"We have some unfinished business, sweetheart."

We know from this exchange that as far as Sheila was concerned, Bill was supposed to be in Baltimore, and he has something on his mind that he wants to discuss that may be terrible for her.

Dialogue reveals both character and character relationships by the way people talk. One character may talk in casual and short, clipped sentences, while another character speaks in a refined, formal manner.

Dialogue illuminates theme such as the simple life of the hobbits made them much less tempted to use the evil ring and man's desire for power in the epic tale, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. All of the nine men who took Sauron's rings desired power and were the easiest to to seduce and corrupt to the evil of the ring.

It comes from one character to another character
gives a good example of what not to write:
Ted stood there.
 "Oh hello, Ted, our family doctor from Baltimore," Mary said. "Please come in."
 Ted walked through the door.
 "Mary," Ted said, "I'm so glad you were home here on Mockingbird Lane."
 "I am too, Ted. I am comforted that you're here. Having a doctor who is six feet, four inches and in good shape, but even better knows what he's talking about, is a wonderful thing for a forty-year-old woman in crisis to have visit her."
 The author is attempting to slip information to the readers by hitting them over the head with it. It's so bad you can't help but snicker at it. While dialogue is an excellent way to impart information, it must be written from one the view point of one character to another. (We'll come back to this in Friday's post).

Friday's post will discuss conflict and other essentials to writing believable dialogue. Which books have you been moved with dialogue? Do you have any favorites you wish to share?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back and Forth

I’ve been adding and deleting sections of my novel countless times, trying to create a unique story without the overused words I find, such as: was, I, took. etc.

I have a word document for the scenes I've removed, and some of these are making their way back in. Now I'm pouring over my manuscript and asking myself, is this important or just useless words to the reader? As I read more books and write/edit my book, it seems easier to find my useless words and either delete it or improve it, maybe even add an additional small but important scene. My thesaurus and dictionary have been great friends to me as I search for better words to express my characters’ reactions to their problems.

Do you either delete or improve your story countless times like me? Do you copy and paste the deleted words to a separate document?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Observation Galore!

My family and I spent ten action packed days out west, flying from Houston to Boise, and then driving through four different states. We rarely stayed in the same hotel each night!

Being out of my element raised my observation skills; as I drove through the change of scenery from flat land to mountains, rivers which ranged from narrow to very wide, and a HUGE change in temperature. Instead of the 90-100 degree days in Houston, we enjoyed anywhere between 75-90 degree days.

I took lots of pictures of people, scenery, and the parks we visited so that if I need to use them for any future writing, I won't have to search very far.

 What do you observe while on vacation?

Monday, August 1, 2011


Finding the motivation of our characters, the ‘why are they behaving this way,’ takes lots of investigating. Why does a ghost live in this old house? Why does Olivia stay when most people leave?
As I’ve edited The Enchanted Locket my teenage ghost character, Emma, has revealed an interesting family and past. They lived in the early nineteen hundreds, so their worldview was very different than ours. For instance, when Olivia looks at a cell phone, she knows what it is and what it does. In 1915, cell phones were not invented yet, so when Emma sees this cell phone, she thinks it’s a result of ‘strong magic’ and if she had her body she’d be afraid.

In order to understand a character’s motivation, it helps to create an in-depth character profile. Questions like ‘personal history,’ ‘early childhood years,’ ‘relationships with parents,’ and ‘education,’ allow us to know our characters and write from their perspective.

It’s fun to write as two different people with different emotions life perspectives. How deep do you dig for your story?