[Writer’s Bootcamp Lesson 2] Make Your Characters Sweat

Presented by Natasa Lekic natasa@nybookeditors.com

You love your character and you can’t bear to see anything bad happen to him. Perhaps that’s because you know something that your reader isn’t privy to, yet.

Your challenge is to create a character that the reader cares about just the same way that you do. Each major character should be rooted for (or against). You’ve got to make the reader feel how you feel about the character.

But that’s not all. You must be willing to let your characters sweat and fall on their faces. You need to show their flaws. Even your likable characters have to suffer occasionally, although you don’t want to see anything happen to them.

Easier said than done, right?

Well, in today’s email, we’ll share some killer strategies for doing just that. Let’s jump right in.

Character vs. Plot

The good ole’ Character vs. Plot debate. Some people think characters are more important than plot, and others argue the opposite. Here, we think character and plot are equally important.

Building character without a plot is a tad boring. Is the character doing anything? What’s the point of your story if there is no story?

On the other hand, building plot without character lacks depth. The story may be fun but it’s meaningless if your reader doesn’t identify with or care about the characters.

In order to create a compelling and even story, you must focus on both. You’ll find there’s a delicate balance between the two.

How to use character to push your plot

Let’s talk about how character can drive plot first.

Figure out what the character cares about. Forgive my cliche, but let’s use this example: your character met a girl at a pool party.

Figure out why the character cares about this. In our example, the character has fallen head over heels in love with this girl, and now he’ll spend the rest of the summer obsessing over how to get the girl to fall in love with him. That’s his motivation for your story.

Figure out why the character cannot have what he cares about. This is where you amp up the cruelty (or reality, as it seems), and throw obstacles in his path to getting what he wants. Perhaps he’s incredibly shy or a vampire or the girl has relocated to Antarctica, or all of the above.

Of course, this last part is your plotline. It’s hopelessly intertwined with the character’s motivation. As the character forces his way towards what he cares about (the girl from the pool party), he drives your plot forward.

That’s why it’s so crucial to focus on character. Your reader will not continue on an adventure with a character they don’t care about.

How to use plot to develop your character

Alternately, you can use plot to develop your character.

It’s important to make your character sweat and to reveal a chink in his armor. Some characterization can only be revealed during times of stress.

How does the character find out about himself? Character revelations, especially those of self-discovery, are wonderful in both fiction and nonfiction alike. Maybe the struggle (plot) shows the character something interesting about himself that he never knew.

By making the character fail to reach his goal but learn from it, you’re using plot to craft character.

How to create likeable characters

Now, let’s talk about creating likeable characters.

In real life, you know someone who makes you feel great when you’re around them and then you know someone else who you avoid like the plague. What makes one person likeable and the other one not?

Relatability.

You like people who share traits similar to your own, and you like people who have traits you admire. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of what a likable character has or possesses:

A sense of humor

Courage

Modesty

Honesty

Intelligence

To create a likeable but relatable character, model him after someone you know or want to know. But be careful not to build a “perfect” shrine. Your goal should always be to create a flawed human whose good traits are in constant opposition to the bad, and the good is winning.

Remember that no character should be saint, especially your likeable ones.

How to use other characters to create tension

Everyone comes into the story with their own motivation, and that motivation will not be the same for everyone. In fact, some characters will be diametrically opposed to each other.

Alternatively, they may all want the same thing but have different ideas on how to get it.

Allow supporting characters to stand between your protagonist and what he cares about. This will make him sweat and bring out his true personality.

How to use internal dialogue to create tension

Your character may, and often will, struggle internally about a choice before making it. Give the reader insight into this inner conflict.

Final Thoughts

Remember that creating a likeable character with flaws humanizes them. Pitting that well-rounded character against a struggle makes your reader root for them. It’s hard to watch good characters in pain, but it’s necessary for good storytelling.

 Until next time!

– Natasa & the team at NY Book Editors

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Don’t Feed Your Internal Editor

Do you have a little voice in your head that says:

Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound right.

Is that a run-on sentence?

There has to be a better way of saying that. Thesaurus.com?

Your fifth grade grammar teacher would be so proud of you. Not!

Are you seriously going to ignore the squiggly line under the misspelled word?!

No one will understand this sentence. Reword it. NOW!

That little voice is called your internal editor, and it’s not just a terrible nag — it’s also a destructive force that can throttle your creativity.

What’s worse: giving in to your internal editor and correcting a sentence or conflict here or there only emboldens that internal editor. The soft nag becomes a forceful command that will not be ignored. You’ve heard “don’t feed the animals.” Now, I’m telling you “don’t feed the internal editor.”

Well, at least not during your first draft.

The truth is, the internal editor provides an important job during the editing process. However, it is unwelcome in the creative process. During the creative stage, you should allow yourself the freedom to brain dump.

This is what’s called “writing the whole.” Instead of creating a lean draft and then inserting content afterwards, you should create a “fat” draft initially and then take away the unneeded content during the editing process.

But in order to do that, you must turn off the nitpicky part of your brain that’s constantly trying to edit and create the “perfect” story.

That sounds admirable, but the problem is, you won’t know what the perfect story is until after you’ve written it. By tweaking it here or there, you could be left with disparate, disjointed content. Instead of working on the next great American novel, you’re piecing together a literary Frankenstein. *cue thunder clap*

The internal editor needs something else to do during the creative process. Here are a few ways to shut off your internal editor, or at least distract it until you’re ready for editing:

Unconventional Advice

Type with the screen black. If you’re working on a computer, turn the screen brightness all the way down. It will definitely feel weird at first, but it’s extremely freeing once you get the hang of it. This way, with the internal editor in the dark, you won’t have the irresistible urge to re-write that sentence or passage until you’re in editing mode mostly because you can’t see it to correct it.

When you type this way, brace yourself: you will have typos. You’ll probably even feel yourself making those typos as they happen. Instead of correcting it (which is pretty impossible in the dark), just take a space and then type the word again, this time correctly, and carry on. Remember, you can fix all of these errors at the end of your writing session when the ideas are no longer flowing.

Dictate your words. Similar to typing in the dark, you can also speak instead of write. This method eliminates the itch to correct yourself until the editing process.

Why? Because you literally cannot “see” your words until they’ve been converted into text.

Dictation is quick, easy, and in most cases, free. If you have a smartphone, you probably have a built-in recording app. If not, you can easily download one for free like Voice Recorder(Apple) or Audio Recorder (Android).

The next step is just to speak. You’ll be amazed at how many more words you can “write” by speaking instead of typing. This strategy speeds up the creative process and quiets the internal editor. Two for one!

Distract your internal editor. For some writers, it’s difficult to write in complete silence. Having the radio or television turned on at a low but decipherable volume in the background can give your internal editor something else to focus on while you get some work done.

Give yourself a word limit. The internal editor becomes less vocal when you force yourself to write to a certain word threshold within a specific amount of time, for example 1000 words in one hour. If you tell yourself, I’ve got to get this amount of words written in this specific time frame, you’ll find that the internal editor becomes more of an ally than a foe.

Negotiate with your internal editor. If your internal editor has a strong personality, you may find that it’s better to negotiate. For example, promise yourself to edit your draft at the end of each writing session.

But be sure to keep your promise because you can’t fool yourself.

That’s all for today’s bootcamp, but stay glued to your inbox. Next, we’re delving head first into character development.

Until next time!

– Natasa & the team at NY Book Editors

8 UNUSUAL WAYS TO BOOST YOUR WRITING PRODUCTIVITY

The following can be found on the website of NY Book Editors

As a writer, you’ve probably experienced ebbs and flows in terms of writing productivity.

Some days, no one can  rip you away from your notebook or computer. You’ll write so much that your fingers will cramp, your eyes will grow tired and your stomach will growl– but none of that matters because you’re in “the groove”.

Then there are times…

You spend all day looking for inspiration. You’ll embrace all distractions, and then lament the fact that you haven’t gotten any writing done. You’ll feel stressed out, disappointed and in “a funk”.

What if I told you there’s a way to boost your daily writing productivity and then keep it on an even keel?

yespleaseImage Courtesy of Meme Generator

Let’s discuss the top productivity hacks for writers. I personallyve used all of the tips I’m listing below and wholeheartedly recommend.

Here’s a list of unusual writing rituals of the masters. Subscribe to receive this extra resource.

FREE WRITING

Free yourself from writer’s block with freewriting.

Freewriting is the process of just writing whatever comes to your mind, without pausing to think about what it sounds like and definitely not editing it. It’s simply a stream of consciousness.

Freewriting helps you find your writer’s voice that can sometimes get buried under what youthink you need to sound like.

Freewriting is difficult if you usually police your thoughts. However, it’s easier if you can shut off your internal editor and just write. Not sure how to do that? Here are some suggestions:

Start with a prompt. You need a jump off spot, and fortunately, there are a lot of inventive prompts out there (we’ll discuss more below).

Give yourself a time limit. Go for five or 10 minutes, but resist freewriting for any longer than that. It’s most effective when completed in short bursts.

Type or write for a pre-selected period of time, and don’t stop until the buzzer goes off.

Don’t edit yourself. Don’t stop to think of what you’re writing. Let me be the first to tell you— it’s going to be crap, and that’s okay. The point of freewriting isn’t to create a perfect work of prose, it’s to warm you up when you’re not primed to write.

WRITING PROMPTS

story shackImage Courtesy of The Story Shack

I highly recommend the use of writing prompts to stoke the fires of your creativity.

Done on a daily basis, prompts can help you get in the habit of writing. Plus, you no longer need to ask yourself, What am I going to write about?

Instead, you simply visit a site that contains a list of writing prompts, choose one and get started.

Here are my favorite resources for sourcing interesting writing prompts:

Reddit Writing Prompts

Tumblr Writing Prompts

The Writer Writing Prompts

The Write Prompts

The Story Shack Writing Prompt Generator

EXERCISE

Physical activity, whether it’s a leisurely walk around the neighborhood or a high-intensity workout at the gym, will help you as a writer.

Many famous writers swear by physical exercise as a way to give your brain a break.

Research shows that physical activity actually improves brain function. There are certain neurons in your brain that are directly activated by physical activity. When active, these neurons improve your ability to think creatively.

So, when you’re stuck and can’t work past a certain point in your prose, get up and do something not related to writing. Do squats or jumping jacks, go for a swim or a hike– but do something every day.

CREATE A ROUTINE

You don’t have to wait for your muse. She’s always late anyway.

As uninspiring and boring as it sounds, routine helps you as a writer. If you plan to write every day at a certain time, you’ll boost your productivity, no doubt.

Sometimes you have to tell yourself to write no matter whether you feel like it or not. In fact, I’d estimate that 95% of my writing life consists of me speaking to myself in Nike mottos.

justdoitImage Courtesy of Meme Blender

WRITE IN CHUNKS

Don’t try to write too much at one time, you’ll burn out.

Instead of forcing yourself to write for hours at a time, break it up and write for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. Then, take a break.

Why 20 or 30 minutes?

While it doesn’t sound like very long, it’s just enough time to keep you focused and extremely productive. For most of us, 20 minutes is as long as we can focus intently on a topic before our productivity drops and our attention span vanishes. So, when you’re white knuckling your way through writing for two hours straight every day, you’re spending most of that time out of steam and burned out.

The good news is that you can recapture your productivity and elusive attention span if you limit yourself and take frequent breaks.

Instead, write two hours, but over a span of three hours. After every 20 minutes, take a 10 minute break.

CHANGE YOUR KEYBOARD

qwertyImage Courtesy of Qwerty Writer

Some writers get a kick out of the sensory experience of the mechanical keyboard. The clickety clack of a mechanical keyboard is addicting and can inspire you to continue writing. It provides an almost hypnotic effect.

One of my current obsessions is this impressive mechanical keyboard by the folks at Qwerty Writer. It looks and feels like a typewriter (for all you old school writers out there), but it works with computers and tablets. Isn’t it love at first sight?

WRITE IN THE MORNING

Writing in the morning takes advantage of a fresh mind. You’re not weighed down by the troubles of the day or corrupted by the different voices you’ve encountered in person, on television, on the Internet. It’s just you and your brain, and it’s the quietest time for you to listen.

SPEAK, DON’T WRITE

Typing is faster than writing, but typing is still slower than speaking. While it may take you one hour to write 1,000 words, it can take you considerably less time to speak your thoughts instead.

If you’re working with an outline, you can speak 1,000 words in well under 30 minutes. Think of how quickly you can write your novel by actually speaking it first

Whether you have a Mac or a Windows PC, you have access to speech recognition software. You can even download an app on your phone or use a web-based dictation tool, too. All for free.

My favorite web-based tools include:

Join R. Clint Peters, Author on Go Fund Me

Among the hundreds of goals I have for my writing, re-writing my first five novels is the highest.  However, it seems the daily grind gets in the way.

I was recently reading a web post about crowdfunding that described the new ways to fund projects.  One of the projects the author was describing being funded was real estate.  The article pointed out that real estate was a recent addition to crowdfunding, and it had great expectations.  The article also discussed personal crowdfunding, funding for an individual, personal project rather than an humanitarian project.

What is crowdfunding?  How could it help me or you?  What are some of the main crowdfunding platforms?

Basically, it’s a request for money published on the Internet by various crowdfunding organizations.  Each request is considered a campaign.  A campaign might be to get enough money to take a trip to Israel.  Or more recently, as reported on Fox 10 News, a campaign might be to acquire the funds for surgery for a small child.

How can crowdfunding help you or me?

Other than the obvious result of funding, it will introduce the campaign to viewers through the website.  If the viewer wants to submit funds, great.  But they may also wish to learn more about the author of the campaign.

One of the suggestions provided by Go Fund Me is to offer something as part of supporting a campaign.  Originally, when I started my Go Fund Me campaign, I did not offer any benefits for joining the campaign.  I have decided to offer several things for those who support my campaign:

  1. A Copy of “The God Project”, a short story, in PDF
  2. A Copy of  one of my full-length novels, in PDF (The Alberta Connection, a Ryce Dalton novel)

If anyone who joins my campaign wants additional copies of my novels, I will be happy to provide them, in a PDF format.

It’s apparent that crowdfunding works.  I’m not looking to become a millionaire, but perhaps find funding for an editor, a publicist, or something to embark on becoming a sought after author.

For those looking for crowdfunding, there are over 450 platforms, as reported by Wikipedia.  I use Go Fund Me, which seems to be the safest and easiest to use.

If you have used crowdfunding, please send me an email, and tell me about your campaign. You can reach me at rclintpeters@gmail.com.

The link to my Go Fund Me account:  www.gofundme.com/2kea6pdg

 

 

Two New Authors Have Joined The Author’s Club

The Author’s Club membership continues to grow.  Two new authors have joined:  Belinda G. Buchanan and Darrell Case.  You can check out their membership information at http://theauthorsclub.weebly.com.

Several weeks ago, I introduced my readers to Natasa Lekic and the NY Book Editors.  I would like to continue the insightful emails they have presented about being a better writer.  Today’s installment is “Make Your Characters Sweat”

Hi Ron,
You love your character and you can’t bear to see anything bad happen to him. Perhaps that’s because you know something that your reader isn’t privy to, yet.

Your challenge is to create a character that the reader cares about just the same way that you do. Each major character should be rooted for (or against). You’ve got to make the reader feel how you feel about the character.

But that’s not all. You must be willing to let your characters sweat and fall on their faces. You need to show their flaws. Even your likable characters have to suffer occasionally, although you don’t want to see anything happen to them.

Easier said than done, right?

Well, in today’s email, we’ll share some killer strategies for doing just that. Let’s jump right in.

Character vs. Plot

 

The good ole’ Character vs. Plot debate. Some people think characters are more important than plot, and others argue the opposite. Here, we think character and plot are equally important.

Building character without a plot is a tad boring. Is the character doing anything? What’s the point of your story if there is no story?

On the other hand, building plot without character lacks depth. The story may be fun but it’s meaningless if your reader doesn’t identify with or care about the characters.

In order to create a compelling and even story, you must focus on both. You’ll find there’s a delicate balance between the two.

How to use character to push your plot

Let’s talk about how character can drive plot first.

Figure out what the character cares about. Forgive my cliche, but let’s use this example: your character met a girl at a pool party.

Figure out why the character cares about this. In our example, the character has fallen head over heels in love with this girl, and now he’ll spend the rest of the summer obsessing over how to get the girl to fall in love with him. That’s his motivation for your story.

Figure out why the character cannot have what he cares about. This is where you amp up the cruelty (or reality, as it seems), and throw obstacles in his path to getting what he wants. Perhaps he’s incredibly shy or a vampire or the girl has relocated to Antarctica, or all of the above.

Of course, this last part is your plotline. It’s hopelessly intertwined with the character’s motivation. As the character forces his way towards what he cares about (the girl from the pool party), he drives your plot forward.

That’s why it’s so crucial to focus on character. Your reader will not continue on an adventure with a character they don’t care about.

How to use plot to develop your character

Alternately, you can use plot to develop your character.

It’s important to make your character sweat and to reveal a chink in his armor. Some characterization can only be revealed during times of stress.

How does the character find out about himself? Character revelations, especially those of self-discovery, are wonderful in both fiction and nonfiction alike. Maybe the struggle (plot) shows the character something interesting about himself that he never knew.

By making the character fail to reach his goal but learn from it, you’re using plot to craft character.

How to create likeable characters

Now, let’s talk about creating likeable characters.

In real life, you know someone who makes you feel great when you’re around them and then you know someone else who you avoid like the plague. What makes one person likeable and the other one not?

Relatability.

You like people who share traits similar to your own, and you like people who have traits you admire. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of what a likable character has or possesses:

A sense of humor

Courage

Modesty

Honesty

Intelligence

To create a likeable but relatable character, model him after someone you know or want to know. But be careful not to build a “perfect” shrine. Your goal should always be to create a flawed human whose good traits are in constant opposition to the bad, and the good is winning.

Remember that no character should be saint, especially your likeable ones.

How to use other characters to create tension

Everyone comes into the story with their own motivation, and that motivation will not be the same for everyone. In fact, some characters will be diametrically opposed to each other.

Alternatively, they may all want the same thing but have different ideas on how to get it.

Allow supporting characters to stand between your protagonist and what he cares about. This will make him sweat and bring out his true personality.

How to use internal dialogue to create tension

Your character may, and often will, struggle internally about a choice before making it. Give the reader insight into this inner conflict.

Final Thoughts

Remember that creating a likeable character with flaws humanizes them. Pitting that well-rounded character against a struggle makes your reader root for them. It’s hard to watch good characters in pain, but it’s necessary for good storytelling.

Until next time!

– Natasa & the team at NY Book Editors

 

 

 

[Writer’s Bootcamp Lesson 1] Don’t Feed Your Internal Editor

I recently recieved the following in an email.

Do you have a little voice in your head that says:

Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound right.

Is that a run-on sentence?
There has to be a better way of saying that. Thesaurus.com?
Your fifth-grade grammar teacher would be so proud of you. Not!
Are you seriously going to ignore the squiggly line under the misspelled word?!
No one will understand this sentence. Reword it. NOW!

That little voice is called your internal editor, and it’s not just a terrible nag — it’s also a destructive force that can throttle your creativity.

What’s worse: giving in to your internal editor and correcting a sentence or conflict here or there only emboldens that internal editor. The soft nag becomes a forceful command that will not be ignored. You’ve heard “don’t feed the animals.” Now, I’m telling you “don’t feed the internal editor.”

Well, at least not during your first draft.

The truth is, the internal editor provides an important job during the editing process. However, it is unwelcome in the creative process. During the creative stage, you should allow yourself the freedom to brain dump.

This is what’s called “writing the whole.” Instead of creating a lean draft and then inserting content afterward, you should create a “fat” draft initially and then take away the unneeded content during the editing process.

But in order to do that, you must turn off the nitpicky part of your brain that’s constantly trying to edit and create the “perfect” story.

That sounds admirable, but the problem is, you won’t know what the perfect story is until after you’ve written it. By tweaking it here or there, you could be left with disparate, disjointed content. Instead of working on the next great American novel, you’re piecing together a literary Frankenstein. *cue thunder clap*

The internal editor needs something else to do during the creative process. Here are a few ways to shut off your internal editor, or at least distract it until you’re ready for editing:

Unconventional Advice

 

Type with the screen black. If you’re working on a computer, turn the screen brightness all the way down. It will definitely feel weird at first, but it’s extremely freeing once you get the hang of it. This way, with the internal editor in the dark, you won’t have the irresistible urge to re-write that sentence or passage until you’re in editing mode mostly because you can’t see it to correct it.

When you type this way, brace yourself: you will have typos. You’ll probably even feel yourself making those typos as they happen. Instead of correcting it (which is pretty impossible in the dark), just take a space and then type the word again, this time correctly, and carry on. Remember, you can fix all of these errors at the end of your writing session when the ideas are no longer flowing.

Dictate your words. Similar to typing in the dark, you can also speak instead of write. This method eliminates the itch to correct yourself until the editing process.

Why? Because you literally cannot “see” your words until they’ve been converted into text.

Dictation is quick, easy, and in most cases, free. If you have a smartphone, you probably have a built-in recording app. If not, you can easily download one for free like Voice Recorder(Apple) or Audio Recorder (Android).

The next step is just to speak. You’ll be amazed at how many more words you can “write” by speaking instead of typing. This strategy speeds up the creative process and quiets the internal editor. Two for one!

Distract your internal editor. For some writers, it’s difficult to write in complete silence. Having the radio or television turned on at a low but decipherable volume in the background can give your internal editor something else to focus on while you get some work done.

Give yourself a word limit. The internal editor becomes less vocal when you force yourself to write to a certain word threshold within a specific amount of time, for example 1000 words in one hour. If you tell yourself, I’ve got to get this amount of words written in this specific time frame, you’ll find that the internal editor becomes more of an ally than a foe.

Negotiate with your internal editor. If your internal editor has a strong personality, you may find that it’s better to negotiate. For example, promise yourself to edit your draft at the end of each writing session.

But be sure to keep your promise because you can’t fool yourself.

That’s all for today’s boot camp, but stay glued to your inbox. Next, we’re delving head first into character development.

Until next time!

– Natasa & the team at NY Book Editors

[Writer’s Bootcamp Lesson 3] Everything You Wanted to Know About Dialogue But Were Afraid to Ask

The following was posted by Natasa Lekic (natasa@nybookeditors.com)

Hi Friend,
You’ve probably heard this advice before: “Show don’t tell.” No doubt, it’s ingrained in your subconscious. But it seems like an impossible challenge to accomplish when you’re writing dialogue. How do you “show” with dialogue when you’re literally “telling” something?

Below, we have some techniques for how to show with your dialogue. You’ll find that adhering to certain “rules” will help you create a stronger narrative and dynamic between characters.

Let’s delve into the do’s and don’ts of dialogue.

The Do’s

+Do follow the rules of grammar

Start each line of dialogue as a new paragraph. This paragraph should be indented. Be sure to enclose dialogue with quotation marks.

+Do use “said”
I know. There are a thousand great words to use instead of “said.” Words like exclaimed, cried, vocalized, whimpered, nudged, opposed… I could go on and on. But unfortunately, for the most part, these words indicate lazy writing. Observe:

“The dog is hungry,” she nudged.

While the reader may understand what you’re saying, it’s not as effective as writing:

“The dog is hungry,” she said.

I know this may sound boring, but the point is to keep dialogue tags as unobtrusive as possible. “Said” is so unobtrusive, it’s practically invisible. By using dialogue tags other than “said,” you force the reader to notice it. That takes them out of the experience zone and into the reading zone.

+Do set the scene

The above doesn’t mean you can’t describe what’s happening. Set the scene so that when dialogue begins, it’s interrupted by too much expository.

You’ll find the dialogue tends to have a better pace when it’s not weighed down by descriptive tags. For example, instead of adding descriptive tags after a dialogue tag like, “he said as he…” do the work of setting up the scene before launching into the dialogue. That way, the reader will have a good understanding of what the characters are doing and where they are located in relation to each other.

+Do make each character sound unique

An 8 year old will sound different than an 80 year old. A man will sound different than a woman. Assign appropriate phrasing to each character to give valuable insight on the character.

+Do use realistic dialogue but don’t make it too real

It’s so important to use dialogue as a device that pushes the story forward. That’s why dialogue should move the characters and not be static. It should never be gratuitous. It’s a simulation of a real conversation but it doesn’t need to follow the entire conversation.

There’s no need to use small talk because that doesn’t propel the characters further into the plot.

The Don’ts

Now, let’s discuss the major dialogue don’ts.

-Don’t create monologues

Unless it’s a king speaking, who’s going to sit there and listen to one character drone on and on about any subject? Even if the character is particularly long-winded or verbose, you should break up extended monologues with insights on how the other character is non-verbally responding. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Without moving her head, Sally quickly glanced at Graham.

  • He softly tapped his fingers on the side of his arm like a trumpet, hearing only the music of the impromptu jazz melody.

-Don’t use more words than you need to

In both fiction and nonfiction, dialogue serves three purposes: to develop the story, to move the characters, and to explore internal motivations. While you may be tempted to write like you would speak to your buddy, that would be a mistake. A heavy one.

Wordiness kills drafts.

-Don’t go overboard with tags

“He said” and “she said” slows down and interrupts the reader. It takes them out of the present and into the mechanics of scene. The goal is to write characters with enough unique dialogue that there’s no need for identification tags… well, at least not a constant need.

At a certain point within your book, it should be fairly obvious to your readers who is talking, especially if you’ve set up the scene correctly.

-Don’t use fillers

Um, uh, er and similar hemming and hawing just don’t sound good in literature. You can create the same effect of one stuttering or seeming unsure through contextual description of how the character is acting within the scene.

-Don’t get fancy with dialect

There is rarely a reason to spell any word phonetically. At best, it slows the readers down by forcing them to read the word out loud. There are other ways to convey that someone is from a specific location. For example, a southern belle may use “bless her heart” and a British person may use “it’s sorted, mate.” There’s no need to use awkward spelling when there are several other devices and description tags at your disposal.

Final Thoughts

Dialogue is great when you get it right but it can weigh down your book if you don’t know what you’re doing. Implement these do’s and don’ts into your draft to create a lighter, easier read for your readers.

Until next time!

– Natasa & the team at NY Book Editors