Clearly Carve Your Dialogue #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #amwriting

Author Toolbox Blog Hop

The Author Toolbox Blog Hop is “a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.” Want to jump into the writing tool box? Search #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join via blog, click here.

Thank you Raimey!

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Overwriting dialogue is a difficult balance for me. I’m an over explainer. It’s something I learned as a mom. So when my editor mentioned streamlining my lines and tightening up some of the descriptive elements in my last submission, I picked up a great resource called How to Write Dazzling Dialogue, by James Scott Bell.

Today, I’m sharing a few fast tips on the art of “Compression.”

1. Watch for extra words in the beginning of dialogue lines. When we talk, we like to say, “Well, Like, Yes, No.”

These extra “fluff” words can often be cut. Unless there is some giant reason for the way the character talks, like in the case of a particular profession, dialogue does flow more smoothly, and I hadn’t thought of this point until the book showed me it’s effectiveness.

Example:

I pace the wall along the bedroom and stop short of my boyfriend Edward.
“Why do you always answer a question with a question?” I ask. “It’s so irritating.”
“I do? I mean, I guess it helps me think.” He steps backwards into the doorway.
“Well, stop.” I say. “I hate it.”
“What do you suggest I do?”
“Really? All I want is for you to be honest.” I cross my arms. “I’m done here.”

Thinner Example:

I pace the wall along the bedroom and stop short of my boyfriend Edward. “Why do you answer a question with a question?” I ask.
“I guess it helps me think.”
“I hate it.”
“What do you suggest I do?” He asks.
“Be honest.” I cross my arms. “I’m done.”

An exercise to help: Take a current piece of dialogue and make a second version. Cut it to the bone. Read it. See which one shines

2. Description elements in dialogue determine the pace.

Scott mentions two ways to write dialogue, either with white space or descriptive element scattered in dialogue.

The reason to cut dialogue description is pace. If you need to speed up things, cut the description to add more white space. If you need to slow it down, add more of it.

Example:

I stand in the doorway staring at Dylan; my heart hammers a million miles an hour.
“You’re really here,” I say, stepping back until I meet the wall.
“Did you plan to forget me?” Dylan asks, brow lifted.
Heat hit my cheeks. “You did that for me, remember?”
He drops his chin, his gentle gaze locks with mine, “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
I fidget with the hem on my dress. “I forgive you, but I won’t forget.”

The thinner version:

I stand in the doorway staring at Dylan; my heart hammers a million miles an hour as I say, “You’re really here.”
“Did you plan to forget me?”
“You did that for me, remember?”
He drops his chin, his gentle gaze locks with mine, “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
“I forgive you, but I won’t forget.

As I read on, I came across this perfect line and my editor’s comments clicked, “Use dialogue like an orchestra leader’s baton. Slow down, speed up, make music,” (Page 88).

3. Proofread your dialogue for common punctuation mistakes.

One mistake I used to make, was capitalizing “He said” or “She said” after the dialogue. Yikes!

4. One major tip is where to put the attribution. Bell suggests to add it before or after the first complete phrase.

Example of what works:

Tonya said, “Keep your voice down. You don’t want to wake the baby.”

Or this:

“Keep your voice down,” Tonya said. “You don’t want to wake the baby.

Not this:

“Keep your voice down. You don’t want to wake the baby,” Tonya said. Action beats and dialogue attributes should both be used.

5. Action beats create the picture for the reader.

Too much of this creates hurdles in clarity. Bell suggests action beats work best when they enhance what the character is feeling and add to the scene.

Question: Any other fantastic dialogue tips? I’d love to hear them. Happy Hop Day 🙂

New Stories Stem from Old Stories #IWSG #amwriting

[I wrote this post as a member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our worries and also offer support and encouragement to each other on the first Wednesday of every month. If you’re a writer like me and you’re looking for a bit of support, you can click the link and sign up here]

This month’s awesome Co-Hosts feature fabulous writing friends Gwen Gardner, Doreen McGettigan, Tyrean Martinson, Chemist Ken, and Cathrina Constantine!

Check out our IWSG homepage for recent news and events.  And as always, thank you to founder Alex J. Cavaugh 🙂 

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Ever since high school, I swore I’d visit the Island of Crete before I died. I’m not sure if it’s the creativity in the birth of so many famous Greek Gods, or the mystery behind it’s destruction at one time, or even the beautiful turquoise waters splashing up against the rocks that entrance me, but I feel a giant tug to visit. I can only imagine the stories I’d craft, stemming from an older, historical world.

This month’s IWSG question asks: “If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?”

In the trip inside my head, I’d chat with the locals wandering freely through the streets, listening, people watching, even sketching the sights that come to mind. I’d love to listen to the music, study the art, and walk across the famous locations of so much history. Plus, I studied architecture at one time. Art history, too. It’s like a textbook come to life mixed with little bits of imagination.

How about you? Where are you most creative? Do you envision yourself someplace else to write a book?

I’ll leave you with a Shel Silverstein poem:

“If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. 
Come in!
Come in!” 
― Shel Silverstein

Surprise Trails #IWSG

[I wrote this post as a member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our worries and also offer support and encouragement to each other on the first Wednesday of every month. If you’re a writer like me and you’re looking for a bit of support, you can click the link and sign up here]

This month’s awesome Co-Hosts feature fabulous writing friends Renee Scattergood, Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner!

Check out our IWSG homepage for recent news and events.  And as always, thank you to founder Alex J. Cavaugh 🙂 

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Writing is like a tree. We begin with a seed, one sentence, one powerful image, and we plant that strong seed in the earth and nurture it. A trunk emerges from the earth touched in wind, rain and sunshine. A network of branches forms and leaves shiver in the wind and rustle alive, tipped in light.

This month’s IWSG question asks: “Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you’d forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

Hemingway answers the question best: “write one true sentence.”

From that sentence the mind does this amazing creative thing. Our characters come alive. Sometimes they grow their own legs and walk away on their own. So I guess in my own roundabout way, I say yes. Writing is always a surprise.

But I do always start with the ending, so most times, that part doesn’t surprise me 🙂

Happy IWSG Day. Sorry to be brief, but this month has been wildly busy! May your month bring you something wonderful.

Strike a Balance in First Impressions #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #amwriting

Author Toolbox Blog Hop

The Author Toolbox Blog Hop is “a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.” Want to jump into the writing tool box? Search #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join via blog, click here.

Thank you Raimey!

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Live Everything Now by Rainer Maria Rilke

When you meet a new person, what makes you take interest?

  • Maybe it’s the passing conversation as you walk, where the topic is something that grabs your attention, or the humor in the way they say it that makes you laugh.
  • Maybe they actually saved you from some sad disaster, like toilet paper stuck on your shoe, or a piece of lettuce between your teeth before you go to that next meeting.
  • Maybe it’s the way they handle others you work with, scribble notes, ask questions, and do things to let you know you’re in their world, and both worlds matter.

In any case, what I’m trying to say is first impressions are a careful balance of action and conversation. Being somewhere that matters, and revealing something that makes one person stand out to the other.

This is also what I find true about writing.

Recently I’ve come across a great resource called “Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers,” by Mary Kole. Kole spells out plenty of tips in how to strike a balance in the introduction.

Action writers should consider the facts and the world building laced through the conflict.

Dialogue writers should consider a push into action and a cut off limit on information.

As invested readers, we want to move forward, with a certain level of intrigue. We want to know what makes a plot different to the character so we do care and turn the page.

One of my favorite analogies Kole made was with a stage: “Know that where you shine, that’s where your audience will look.”

She continues with the stage and states, “Use your spotlight powers to draw attention where you want it and to minimize the reader’s investment in things that don’t really matter.” (54)

Kole says even when the stakes are high they can’t be “generic.” The reader needs to know the world.

I think one of the last things I read that really stuck out about introductions is grounding the reader with every new scene and chapter like:

The next morning I stared out the window at the sun rising over the cold city. I still didn’t have the answer to that one dying question Lisa had asked me. Why do you care so much about someone who doesn’t give two craps about you?

 Kole says, “If you confuse us, you lose us.”

I agree. I’m in love with this resource. If you write young adult or middle grade, it’s definitely a must have resource.