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