Sunday, February 6, 2011


Avoid flashbacks if at all possible. A story should begin at the beginning and go to the end with few visits to the past. However, our characters do have a past, and their emotions tie into their past, happy or sad.  Therefore, if the information is necessary for your reader to understand your story then go for it. But be careful. 

The best way to use a flashback is through dialogue, action and/or conflict. If you don’t want to put your reader to sleep, narrative is a big no-no.  So make your flashback vivid with plenty of tension. “Stein on Writing” says it better than anyone. “Fiction should seem to be happening right now.” This is an important statement because a flashback can be obtrusive and stop the story dead. Before using that flashback, ask yourself if your story would read better without one.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Protector

a short story by marlene cronkhite
She tweaked my cheek with her diamond clad fingers and I stood in her living room and wondered what in hell I was doing there. I wanted to kick myself for agreeing to meet her. What was I thinking, I knew this babe was trouble the minute I laid eyes on her.

“You aren’t too bright, are you?” she said. “I like that in a man.” Slowly, she circled me, eying my body, left to right, up and down. She was gorgeous and she knew it. A little old for my taste, but I was there on business, not lust. She reached up and patted the top of my head like I was a tall four-year-old, then ran the tips of her long fingers lightly over my biceps.

She spoke just above a whisper. “Not bad, not bad at all. Tall, muscular—yes, you’ll do just fine. As long as you can protect me, that’s what counts. What does it matter that you’re a little young, or shall we say, a little un-ripened round the edges?” She snapped her apple-green eyes at me and smiled. “So, if you’re interested, the job is yours.”

I felt like saying, screw you, lady—I’d rather guard a cobra. But then, I never could resist trouble. “Mind telling me what’s with all the secrecy?”


“Yeah, secrecy. It’s time to drop the act, lady. For starters, what’s your real name?”

Ignoring my question she strolled over to the mini bar. After what seemed like a full minute, she shot an answer over her shoulder. “Ms. X will do for now.”

I decided to ask one more question before I hit the door. “Okay, Ms. X, maybe you can answer this one. How much are you willing to pay for a bodyguard? Can you afford me?”

She reared her head back in laughter. Her thick, auburn hair glimmered against a green lace pullover that fit snugly across a full-bodied chest. She was not only gorgeous but incredibly sexy.

“I wasn’t trying to be funny,” I said seriously. “Should I rephrase the question?”

“Oh, you are so naïve.” She continued to laugh and when she stopped she stared at me for a long moment, as if she were calculating my worth. The clink of ice cubes filled the silence of the room. 

“Care for a drink?” She finally asked. “Martini?”

“No thanks.”

My gut warned to get out. Get out now!

I eyed the door but remained glued to the floor. It was as if I were in some sort of trance produced by this mysterious woman.

She carried her martini across the room, graceful as a gazelle, and sat down on a sleek white sofa facing the San Diego Bay. She wore a colorful sarong and her legs were long and bronzed as she crossed one over the other.

“For goodness sake, Rob, don’t be shy. Please sit here next to me.” She smiled, then parted pinkish-red lips and took a tiny bite of a large pimento filled olive.

I followed her movements with my eyes. I was glad I wore baggy jeans—I didn’t want her to know what an effect she had on me. Working for this woman wasn’t going to be easy and keeping my focus shear torture. “Thanks, I’d rather stand.”

She smiled. “I like a man that’s all business.”

“In that case, three-hundred a day is my fee for general protection, expenses paid."

“Agreed,” she said. “If everything works out, you’ll get paid that, plus some. And in the end I may just see fit to make you a very rich man.”

“I would rather keep it simple, Ms. X. My purpose is to protect, not complicate my life.”

She took a sip of her martini and gazed out at the ocean view. For a moment there was silence between us and I thought I detected a watery glaze cast over her eyes. Perhaps it was reflected sunlight glistening through the large picture window, but underneath the façade of Ms. X, I sensed a sad, frightened woman.

Finally she spoke, her voice low and husky: “I was a fool to ask you here. You, nor anyone else can protect me from those men.”

I sat down next to her. “Who are they? Do you know what they are after? If you want my full protection, I must know everything.”

She closed her eyes, a slight tear squeezed out at one corner. She nodded. “Yes, I know.”

“Tell me about it then. Start from the beginning.”

Her face stiffened. “Before I tell you anything, I must warn you that these people—these men are very dangerous. Are you absolutely sure you want the job?”

Maybe she was right—I wasn’t too bright. I didn’t dare think too hard on the subject before I answered. 

© 2011 Marlene Cronkhite

Monday, January 31, 2011

Writing Dialogue – 7 Crazy Ideas That Work

by, marlene cronkhite
This may sound a little crazy, but as writers, when you think about dialogue as simply giving a voice to the different characters living inside your head, writing then becomes an exciting journey and very rewarding. 


The characters we create come from somewhere inside us, in all that we are, and all that we know. When we create our characters from within, the act of writing dialogue becomes uniquely individual. Usually the characters lead the way and help “show” what they are doing. By this I mean their actions express how they feel and what they’re thinking.  Another important aspect  is to not force characters to tell each other matters that each one already knows, just so the reader will be clued in. This is an obvious trick that the reader is sure to pick up on.


In order to write good dialogue, you need to hear those characters speaking in your head and capture their voices in your story. Make their voices unique by making sure that they speak according to their backgrounds.  Show how your characters react or feel by the using description of their voice quality and physical movements.


The use of “said” and “asked” are the only tags you need. The reader needs just enough information about who is speaking to be able to move ahead in your book.  The tags should melt into the background of narrative, not depict the scene or your character’s feelings.  Try to stay away from dialogue tags like: replied, voiced, expressed, vented, responded, cried, howled, bellowed, shouted, vocalized, asserted, declared, whispered, stated, uttered. These tags can botch up an otherwise wonderful, rich story. Make your character’s dialogue razor-sharp and you won’t even need tags.


You can easily create tension in dialogue when you create dynamic characters that are outspoken and driven.  Tension, one of the most important factors in fiction writing, gives the reader a sense of urgency and keeps him turning the page.


It’s probably best to avoid using dialect all together when writing dialogue. It is difficult to read and if it’s not done just right it may sound amateurish.


The  “umm’s” and “ahhh’s” in dialogue and what he bought at the grocery store can be pretty boring stuff. Stay focused on your exciting plot/storyline. Keep your dialogue vibrant and alive so you don’t put your reader to sleep in a state of monotony.


A good way to test your dialogue is to read it out loud.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Writing a Short Story – 5 Key Steps

I’ve found that writing a short story is a whole lot different than writing a novel.  There is the time factor and word usage to take into consideration. I’ve also discovered it takes discipline to keep your short story brimming with exciting life experiences in as few words as possible.   Here are five key steps I found that helped in writing a short story.

The theme is the supporting structure in your short story. The theme is what you glue your plot, your characters, and your setting to. This is kinda like a foundation that holds your story together. Conflict and how it gets resolved wraps itself around the theme of your short story.

Plot is the introduction and series of events that happens throughout your short story. It is the action and suspense. It is the romance and emotion. The plot involves some type of conflict that needs to be resolved and has a beginning, middle, and an ending. A good short story needs a hook in the beginning to draw in your reader in and keep him turning the page.  Then, remember to save the best for last–the surprise twist ending leave your reader satisfied.

Crowding your short story with too many characters can get messy. I’ve found two or three characters is enough. Most of your story will surround an important event that proves crucial in the life of your main character. Every word counts. Too much characterization and description can debase the affect of your short story.

Stick to the theme of your story. Make sure you don’t overpopulate your short story with unnecessary detail. Follow the narrow path of your theme. If you must digress, make it short, otherwise you will lose track of your purpose and get bogged down with a smorgasbord of trivialities that you don’t want.

Keep your short story alive and vibrant by using the five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. The five senses add depth to your short story. You will see your images more clearly. A character or a setting once flat now speaks to the reader and becomes real.  

Once I’ve written my short story, I go back through and delete unnecessary words or paragraphs that do not contribute to the theme or plot. I try to keep a rhythm and make every word count.
Marlene Cronkhite