Plot pitfalls + ways to avoid them


1. THE PLOT ISN’T ORIGINAL ENOUGH. Go through your pages and highlight anything that you’ve read in another book or seen in a movie. In the margin, write where you’ve seen it. Then list these sections and make a note for each one about how it could differ from its lookalike. A mental patient escapes by throwing something heavy through a window. Too much like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? Instead, the patient walks out with a visiting grandma after convincing her he’s an old friend. Quick notes like these can help you detach from unintentional imitation.

2. READERS ALWAYS KNOW EXACTLY WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN. This may be because you’ve chosen a plot point that’s overused, or because you keep giving away the answer in advance. Readers know the villain is going to whip out a picture of the hero’s son and blackmail her by pretending to have kidnapped the little boy because you showed the villain taking pictures of the child and driving away from the schoolyard. You could be less obvious by only showing the antagonist sitting in the car watching the boy on the playground, and no more.

3. THE PLOT IS BORING. Take each page and imagine what different writers might do with the same plot. Choose extreme examples. Would a comedy writer have the cab driver and the villain coincidentally be childhood friends with unfinished business? Would the mystery writer have the taxi pass a clue on a street corner that makes a new connection for the hero? Would the horror writer have the cab driver channel a ghost? Or, imagine the most surprising thing that could happen in a given scene. It doesn’t matter if these ideas don’t fit your story. You’re not going to use them. But often, after thinking of wild ideas to make the story more interesting, you begin to come up with workable ones that are just as stimulating, but better suited to your book.

4. THE PLOT IS ALL ACTION AND THE FRENZIED PACE NUMBS READERS. Let them breathe. Give the readers a little downtime now and then in your action story. Look back at your favorite action novels. Notice the conversations, summarized passages, meals, introspection and releases of emotions that are set in between the car chases, shootouts and confrontations. List them. Then give the readers a chance to breathe in your own manuscript. Find the dramatic respites that come from your characters’ needs, flaws and strengths.

5. THE PLOT IS TOO COMPLEX. Often, a complex plot can be trimmed into a sleek one by cutting out some steps. Does your protagonist have to visit her father in the hospital twice—once to bring him flowers and talk about Mom, and then again to find he has taken a turn for the worse? Couldn’t he take a turn for the worse while she’s still there the first time? Does your villain need to have three motives for revenge? Would one or two be interesting enough? To find the messiness in your overly complex story, summarize it out loud to yourself. When a section takes too long to explain, make a note. When you find yourself saying, “Oh, wait, I forgot to mention that …” you’re probably in need of a plot trim. When deciding whether or not to simplify the plot, ask yourself over and over again,

“Why does she do that? Why didn’t she just do this?” Making a plot less complicated doesn’t have to make it less clever.

6. THE PLOT IS TOO SHALLOW. Sometimes as writers we get caught up in the action. The symbolism. The metaphors. The witty dialogue. The great character names. The slick descriptions. Sometimes we ride these skills over the surface of the story and forget what’s really important. If you or your first readers (friends, family, agent) complain that the novel feels insubstantial, step back and ask yourself these questions: Why am I bothering to write this story? Why does the outcome matter to the characters? How do the characters change? How did my favorite book affect me the first time I read it?

7. SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF IS DESTROYED. Readers need to buy into the reality put forward by what they’re reading. You may go too far with a plot point or not far enough with preparing your audience for that plot point. If something that sounded right when you outlined it is coming off as farfetched even to you, look back at the stepping-stones that led to the event. If your murderer turns over a new leaf at the end of act two, make sure you’ve given her reason to.

8. TOO MANY SUBPLOTS MAKE THE PLOT OVERLY COMPLEX. If you start to feel weighed down by your numerous storylines, start cutting them. List the subplots (shopkeeper with a crush, neighbor’s dog that tears up the garden, accountant who threatens to quit every day), and then list under each title all the ways it’s necessary.

Only subplots that are so vital that you could not remove them without destroying your novel get to stick around. Be bold.

9. THE SEQUENCE IS ILLOGICAL. Sometimes the sequence set down in an outline starts to show its true colors when you’re writing the chapters. If you feel the order of scenes or events in your story is off, list each scene on a separate index card and, in red ink, write a question mark on every card that doesn’t feel right where it is in the story. Shuffle the cards. I’m not kidding. Mix them up completely. Lay them out again in the order you think they might work best, giving special attention to those with red question marks.

Something about these scenes tricked you the first time. This time, really look closely at the proper place for those tricky bits.

10. THE PREMISE ISN’T COMPELLING. If you fear that a mediocre premise is your holdup, take out a sheet of paper. Make a list on the left-hand side of everything that’s dodgy in your present premise. Then write a list down the right-hand side about all the things that work great in the premise of a similar favorite book, play or movie.

See where you might make the stakes higher, the characters more emotional, the setting more a part of the overall plot. Remember: The premise should make your readers curious.

11. THE CONCLUSION IS UNSATISFYING. Once again, write a list of what bothers you about your conclusion, and next to it, a list of what worked great about the end of your favorite novel. Do you have to create more suspense before you give the readers what they’ve been craving? Do you need to make the answer to the mystery clearer? Does the villain need to be angrier, or perhaps show remorse? Unsatisfying conclusions are usually lacking something. Whatever that is, make your story’s ending have more of it.


Hook your reader!


1. Surprise Us

Surprise gets our attention by defying our expectations. We’re wired to immediately start figuring out what’s actually going on, the better to gauge whether we’re about to get whacked or kissed.

That’s exactly how a story grabs the brain’s attention: by instantly letting us know that all is not as it seems – yes, beginning with the opening sentence.

The reader’s first question is: “What’s this story about?” What they’re really asking is: “What problem does the protagonist have to solve, and what will she have to overcome to do it?” This is what’s known as the story problem, and it defines the protagonist’s story-long quest.

Think of the story problem as the yardstick that allows readers to anticipate what will happen next. A story without a yardstick is just a bunch of random events – and how boring is that?

2. Make Us Feel It

Science has proved that the brain uses emotion, rather than reason, to gauge what matters to us and what doesn’t. Our feelings – not some “objective” logic — drive every choice we make. So it’s not surprising that when it comes to story, if we’re not feeling, we’re not reading.

In a compelling story the reader slips into the protagonist’s skin and becomes sensate – feeling what she feels, wanting what she wants, fearing what she fears.

This means that the protagonist must react to everything that happens, so we understand how she’s making sense of it. This is where the real story lies — it’s often reflected in the difference between what a character says (Yes, Reginald, of course I’ll marry you) and what she’s really thinking (as long as you promise you’ll never touch me).

3. Let Us In On The Protagonist’s Goal

Everyone has an agenda – you, me, and every protagonist worth their salt. We’re wired to be goal driven, and that’s a good thing. As cognitive scientist Steven Pinker so astutely says, “Without a goal everything is meaningless.”

Which is why we immediately need to know the protagonist’s agenda. In other words: What does he want? Even more important, why does he want it? And finally, what internal issue must he overcome to get it?

Why is this so important? Because everything that happens in the story gets its meaning and emotional weight based on whether it moves him closer to his goal, or further from it. If we don’t know what his goal is, we have no idea what anything adds up to, so the story idles in neutral.

4. Only Tell Us What We Need to Know

Over 11,000,000 pieces of information dive-bomb our five senses every second. Lest we be overwhelmed, our brain sifts through them at warp speed, separating what we need to know from what we can safely ignore. Thus, 99.9 percent of all incoming data is blithely discarded.

The same is true of a story. Your reader is wired to assume that everything you tell them is there on a need-to-know basis. That means if you introduce things we don’t need to know, we’ll read meaning into it anyway. And it will inherently be the wrong meaning, since there isn’t a “right” one. You can see where this is going. The most useful skill a writer can develop is the ability to kill their darlings, with gusto, if possible.

5. Give Us Specifics

We don’t think in the abstract; we think in concrete images. If we can’t see it we can’t feel it, and so it has no impact on us. For instance, when you think of “love” you don’t envision a concept, you envision images that, for you, evoke the concept of love. Each of us probably sees a very different, specific image (fantasies of Johnny Depp notwithstanding).

In short, we access the universal only through the very specific. Which is why, as I’m overly fond of saying, the story is in the specifics. Yet writers often write in vague generalities without even knowing it.

Like what, you ask? Take a simple sentence like: Freddy had a hard day at work. It’s a fine sentence, except we have no idea what Freddy considers a hard day, what actually happened, or even what his job is. After all, a hard day as a barista in Boise is very different from a hard day as a bullfighter in Barcelona. Be specific. Use the eyes-wide-shut test. If you shut your eyes, can you see it? If not, then neither can the reader.

6. Give Us Conflict

We don’t like conflict — in real life that is. Ever since kindergarten our goal has been to “work well with others.” So it’s no surprise that conflict can make us uncomfortable. As a result, writers are often way too nice to their protagonist. Instead of plunking him into a really thorny situation, they tiptoe up to it, and then deftly rescue him in the nick of time. Resist this urge.

It’s conflict that readers come for, so they can vicariously experience what they’ve been scrupulously avoiding in real life. They want to know what it would cost – emotionally – to take those risks. And, ultimately, what they might gain.

So be mean to your protagonist, make him face whatever demons are holding him back. It’s not just for his own good, it’s for the reader’s as well.

7. It Must Make Sense to Us

The brain analyzes everything in terms of cause and effect – indeed, we assume that causality is the cement of the universe. So when a story doesn’t follow a clear cause-and-effect trajectory, the brain doesn’t know what to make of it. This can actually result in a feeling of physical distress, not to mention the overwhelming desire to throw the book out the window.

The good news is, when it comes to keeping your story on track, it boils down to the mantra if, then, therefore. If I call in sick one more time (action), then I’ll get fired (reaction), therefore, I better get out of this cozy bed (decision).

Action, reaction, decision—it’s what drives a story forward. From beginning to end, a story must follow a clear cause-and-effect trajectory, so we see the consequence of each action. This tells us what things are adding up to, allowing us to eagerly anticipate what might happen next. Hello dopamine, hello reader!


How to start your novel


Here are 10 ways to do it.

1. Build momentum.

The first cardinal rule of opening lines is that they should possess most of the individual craft elements that make up the story as a whole. An opening line should have a distinctive voice, a point of view, a rudimentary plot and some hint of characterization. By the end of the first paragraph, we should also know the setting and conflict, unless there is a particular reason to withhold this information.

This need not lead to elaborate or complex openings. Simplicity will suffice. For example, the opening sentence of Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” tells the reader: “The grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida.” Already, we have a distinctive voice—somewhat distant, possibly ironic—referring to the grandmother with a definite article. We have a basic plot: conflict over a journey. And we have a sense of characterization: a stubborn or determined elderly woman. Although we do not know the precise setting, we can rule out Plato’s Athens, Italy under the Borgias and countless others. All of that in eight words. Yet what matters most is that we have direction—that O’Connor’s opening is not static.

Immediately, we face a series of potential questions: Why didn’t the grandmother want to go to Florida? Where else, if anywhere, did she wish to go? Who did want to go to Florida? A successful opening line raises multiple questions, but not an infinite number. In other words, it carries momentum.

2. Resist the urge to start too early.

You might be tempted to begin your narrative before the action actually starts, such as when a character wakes up to what will eventually be a challenging or dramatic day. But unless you’re rewriting Sleeping Beauty, waking up is rarely challenging or dramatic. Often, when we start this way, it’s because we’re struggling to write our way into the narrative, rather than letting the story develop momentum of its own. Far better to begin at the first moment of large-scale conflict. If the protagonist’s early-morning rituals are essential to the story line, or merely entertaining, they can always be included in backstory or flashbacks—or later, when he wakes up for a second time.

3. Remember that small hooks catch more fish than big ones.

Many writers are taught that the more unusual or extreme their opening line, the more likely they are to “hook” the reader. But what we’re not taught is that such large hooks also have the power to easily disappoint readers if the subsequent narrative doesn’t measure up. If you begin writing at the most dramatic or tense moment in your story, you have nowhere to go but downhill. Similarly, if your hook is extremely strange or misleading, you might have trouble living up to its odd expectations. As a fishing buddy of mine explains, the trick is to use the smallest hook possible to make a catch—and then to pull like crazy in the opposite direction.

4. Open at a distance and close in.

In modern cinema, films commonly begin with the camera focused close up on an object and then draw back panoramically, often to revelatory effect, such as when what appears to be a nude form is actually revealed to be a piece of fruit. This technique rarely works in prose. Most readers prefer to be “grounded” in context and then to focus in. Open your story accordingly.

5. Avoid getting ahead of your reader.

One of the easiest pitfalls in starting a story is to begin with an opening line that is confusing upon first reading, but that makes perfect sense once the reader learns additional information later in the story. The problem is that few readers, if confused, will ever make it that far. This is not to say that you can’t include information in your opening that acquires additional meaning once the reader learns more. That technique is often a highly rewarding tool. But the opening should make sense on both levels—with and without knowledge the reader will acquire later.

6. Start with a minor mystery.

While you don’t want to confuse your readers, presenting them with a puzzle can be highly effective—particularly if the narrator is also puzzled. This has the instant effect of making the reader and narrator partners in crime. An unanswered question can even encompass an entire novel, as when David Copperfield asks, “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

7. Keep talk to a minimum.

If you feel compelled to begin a story with dialogue, keep in mind that you’re thrusting your readers directly into a maelstrom in which it’s easy to lose them. One possible way around this is to begin with a single line of dialogue and then to draw back and to offer additional context before proceeding with the rest of the conversation—a rare instance in which starting close up and then providing a panorama sometimes works. But long sequences of dialogue at the outset of a story usually prove difficult to follow.

8. Be mindful of what works.

Once you’ve given some concentrated thought to your own opening line, obtain copies of anthologies like The Best American Short Stories and The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories and read only the first sentence of each story. As with any other aspect of writing, openings are their own distinct art form—and exposure to the masterwork of others is one of the best ways to learn. (Of course, the challenge of this exercise is to avoid being lured into a story with such a compelling opening that you aren’t able to put it down!)

9. When in doubt, test several options.

Writers are often advised to make a short list of titles and try them out on friends and family. Try doing the same with opening sentences. An opening line, like a title, sometimes seems truly perfect—until you come up with several even better choices.

10. Revisit the beginning once yo
reach the end.

Sometimes a story evolves so significantly during the writing process that an opening line, no matter how brilliant, no longer applies to the story that follows. The only way to know this is to reconsider the opening sentence, like the title, once the final draft of the story is complete. Often a new opening is called for. That doesn’t mean your first opening needs to be scrapped entirely; instead, file it away for use in a future project.


How to get inspired


Worries, problems, fears and thoughts of strange things are constantly spinning around inside your head, and you just can’t seem to stop them.

Does this sound familiar? More often than not, when I can’t write, it is because I am blocking myself. I’ve got a schedule to abide by here, and sometimes I’m in a crunch. I need to write, but nothing comes out.

The best way to get my writing done is if I do it well before my post goes live. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen, and I need to have a few tricks up my sleeve of how I can dip my toes in my own secret pool of inspiration.

What you are about to read is one of those sleeve tricks that I use. It’s highly effective, it makes you feel at peace, and it even improves your health (no, I’m not talking about exercising).

Let’s start!

What you’re about to do is sit perfectly still and observe yourself. It is sometimes called meditation, but in this case, I like to call it idea generation.

This will help calm you down and give your ideas room to make themselves heard. What I want you to do is set an intention, or a goal if you wish.

For example, I used it today to write an article that I already knew the headline for. I knew the topic I wanted to cover. My intention was to clear my mind and get the content flowing.

I sat myself cross-legged on my couch. I took a few deep breaths to get started, and I started focusing on my breath going in and out.

You can also focus on your body. I personally like to vary between feeling my whole body and my breath. When I feel my whole body, I can literally feel the energy in my body come alive.

When you first start doing this, you will have a lot of thoughts coming in. Here are a few examples:

*This is ridiculous, why am I doing this again?

*Hey, what should I have for dinner?

*Did I remember to feed the dog?

*Oh no, I have to pay the bills on Friday.
My leg itches.

*This isn’t helping me at all. Ideas, hello?

When it happens, just observe them without getting attached. This will become easier and easier with time.

In the beginning, you may feel resistance, because if you’ve never done this, you probably have a few lingering emotions and tensions hanging out in your body. As soon as you put your awareness on them, they disappear.

As I did this for less than 10 minutes, I felt clear, at peace and inspired to write. I opened my eyes, picked up my external keyboard (I don’t like to write on laptops), and I started writing, while feeling my body and being anchored in the now.

I don’t worry about editing at this point. My focus is on getting the inspiration down on paper.

The 5-Step Process Summarized

1. Quietude. Find a place where you know you won’t be disturbed. This doesn’t work for me at all if I know that anyone can come into the room at any time, so make sure you find a place where you can relax.

2. Intention. Set your intention or goal. It could be anything. Brainstorming a topic, clearing something you’ve been stuck on, or even feeling out what steps you should take next in your life. This process is about tapping into your core.

3. Breathe. Once your intention is set, sit down in any way you like, and close your eyes. On a chair, cross-legged or lotus, it doesn’t matter, as long as you are comfortable. Start with a few deep breaths, and then put all of your focus on your breath.

4. Observe. When thoughts and feelings start arising, just observe and accept them as they are. You will get caught up in them from time to time. When that happens, bring your focus back to your breath and keep going.

5. Write. Once you’ve done this for a few minutes, you will feel a sense of calm and clarity. Open your eyes, keep breathing, and start writing. If nothing happens, I usually close my eyes and go back to breathing. You will know when you’ve done this enough, because you will feel a sense of calm, peace and joy.

Good luck;-)


Kill your darlings!


When writing a series (or even just a really long novel), at some point, the characters become known, their dynamics set, and readers can almost guess how characters will feel about a given plot twist before it happens. Fans go beyond love for characters and form deep connections… and expectations.

Some readers love to simply love their characters and enjoy their next adventure. But don’t discount the fun of “killing your darlings” to shake things up.


“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” —Stephen King

Yes, that’s right, kill them. Both Joss Whedon and George R. R. Martin have reputations for breaking their fans’ hearts by killing off key characters who should have been “safe.” But while fans are heartbroken, they also can’t seem to look away at the train wreck that ensues after these tragedies.

And your stories can earn this undivided attention too, if you’re gutsy enough. You may even find yourself enjoying the freedom of all this creative freedom.

Here’s how to do it:

Don’t kill your darlings without purpose

This is the first rule of the Darlings Kill Club. Chaotic action is just chaos, tearing yourself and your fans apart for no reason. When looking to shake things up, look for the things that will force other characters to do things they never would have before, expose new aspects of themselves, or otherwise change the core dynamics in your story.

Identify established patterns

A problem with long-running series is that their behavior patterns within the dynamics of your story become too familiar. Who can always be counted on to behave a certain way, or handle certain problems? What challenges would removing that reliability present to your other characters?

Off the fan favorite

This may seem particularly cruel—or even risky, if you fear fan backlash. But if you understand not only who the fan favorites are in your story but why, stirring the pot can create a great emotional hook and big-time drama in your story, because as your readers struggle to cope, so do your other characters. How will they get through it? Who will step in to fill the void?

Fans may love the dependability of your victim, but that dependability also keeps your story predictable. And predictable just isn’t as much fun as unpredictable.

… Or the author favorite

Or put otherwise, who do you think this story absolutely could not exist without? Go ahead, imagine what happens if that character disappears. Sometimes the loss of the central character is exactly what your story needs to refresh and shift into a new gear. Keeping the story tied to your own darling may actually be holding you back.

Some of the most devastating and compelling moments in stories come when a character is unexpectedly lost. At first, killing our darlings is hard because we love our work by necessity, and we bring assumptions with us into it. But once you start looking beyond your feelings and consider the possibilities, you may be surprised to find you’ve opened up an entirely new world of options.

Be brave and kill your darlings!


The do’s and don’ts about writing erotica


1. Respect The Genre. Respect The Reader

Bring the same attention and regard to writing about sex as you would to anything else you’d write. Assume the reader wants — and is capable of appreciating — something beyond a jerk-off vehicle. There’s nothing wrong with getting off — I always hope my readers are getting off on what I write!

but I want to affect people between the ears as much as between the legs.
There’s nothing wrong with getting off – I always hope my readers are getting off on what I write! – but I want to affect people between the ears as much as between the legs.

2. Spare The Rod

The throbbing rod, that is, and all other coy euphemisms for body parts. Please don’t tell me about our hero’s member, or manhood, or hard hot tool or battering ram. Likewise, don’t refer to our heroine’s mound or tunnel or the center of her womanhood.

3. Dispense With Cliches

Don’t say that he pounded her like a jackhammer, or that she lay back, spent. Tell me something I haven’t heard before. Make me think about something that wouldn’t occur to me otherwise.

4. Less Is More

Stay away from blow-by-blow descriptions of sex acts. The mechanics aren’t what’s intriguing. The emotional dynamics between people are intriguing.

5. Keep It Real

Two flawlessly beautiful people having ecstatic sex is just about the least interesting thing I can think of. The key to any fictional scene is tension and conflict. It’s okay for characters to feel awkward or angry or afraid within a sex scene. It’s all right for a man to be short or to wear glasses (meet Laura Antoniou’s Chris Parker), fine for a woman to have a flat chest or ample proportions. We are drawn to each other’s darkness, strangeness, sadness, and vulnerability.

6. Draw On All Five Senses When You Write A Sex Scene

The curve of a hip. The scent of leather. The taste of boot polish. The sound of rain on the roof. The texture of the grass in a secluded field. A compelling fantasy demands a certain immediacy. Put the reader where your characters are.

7. Hone Your Dialogue

…and expect it to carry the scene. Again, the old in-out is not compelling in itself. What is the fantasy these lovers are enacting? What is the power dynamic between them? What secrets, longings, grudges, insecurities, memories are in play here?

8. Bring The Reader Into Another World

We read to be transported, and there’s no reason erotic writing shouldn’t demand the same original vision and creativity as any other genre. Laura Antoniou’s Marketplace and the Chateau of Roissy are richly imagined alternate realms with their own rules and rituals and hierarchies.

9. Avoid The Overwrought

I believe that the more extreme the scene, the more restrained the language should be. Both The Story of O and Nine and a Half Weeks bring a straightforward, understated narrative style to an outlandish tale and — I believe — take on potency and credibility for having done so.

10. Write Your Own Fantasy. Make It Authentic

If I’m working on a sex scene and I’m not turned on, I know it probably isn’t very effective. If you’re not hot and bothered while writing, chances are good that ultimately the reader won’t be either. Conversely, if you can bring yourself to write what genuinely excites you, no matter how strange or mortifying, readers are usually affected in turn. You can’t fake this. And you can’t play it safe. You have to be brave.


How to write a good dialogue (part2)


Dos and don’ts for writing dialogue


Pay attention to each character’s different speaking style.

Edit dialogue to trim off most of the fat. A lot of what people say is just blah-blah-blah, but you don’t want to bore your reader.

Show how the character speaks instead of telling it. If the character speaks angrily, you can make this come through in her words — it’s therefore often not necessary to add an expressive dialogue tag such as, “she said angrily.” The same if a character is shouting or crying, etc. Keep the reader’s attention on your character’s speech, not your explanation of it.


Don’t get too colorful with the dialogue tags. “Hello,” she shouted; “Hi there,” he cried; “How are you?” she queried,” “Fine thanks,” he shrilled”… too much of this stuff gets distracting fast. Put your thesaurus away. The basic dialogue verbs “say,” “tell,” and “ask,” have the advantage of fading in the background, letting the reader focus on what your character is saying.

Don’t feel obligated to add a tag to every bit of dialogue. If it’s clear who’s saying what without them, then you can leave them off.

Don’t let your reader get disoriented. Use dialogue tags when they’re needed to prevent confusion. There’s nothing worse than stopping in the middle of an exciting scene to retrace the dialogue and try to figure out who’s saying what (“Okay, it’s the killer speaking here, so this must be the detective who’s answering him, not his sister…”)

Good luck:)


How to write a good dialogue (part1)


I bet if you hung around on a random street corner and asked ten different passers-by how to get to the airport, they’d all give you different answers.

Okay, maybe if you’re lucky, they’d suggest similar routes. But they’d all use different words to say it. Even the, “Uh, don’t know,” answers would likely come out differently.

“I’m sorry, I really couldn’t say.”
“No friggin idea.”
“Get a map, man.”

How does each of your characters talk? The answer will depend on:

-Geographic background (a Texan doesn’t speak the same as a Bostonian)

-Educational level

-Age (Like, is your character, like, a total teenager?)

-Personality (Is your character nervous, impulsive, aggressive, flirtatious, shy?)

-Your character’s relationship with the person she’s speaking with. She wouldn’t talk to her boss the same way she speaks to a friend or to her five-year-old son.

-Your character’s attitude to the conversation topic. Does it make him nervous, proud, defensive? Would he rather avoid the subject all together?

All this will affect his speaking style.

1.Dialogue is when you let the reader listen in on a conversation between your characters. Just as every stranger you stop on a street corner will answer your question in a different way, every character involved in a dialogue will have a slightly different speaking style.

2.This may seem like a lot to manage as an author, but it’s simple to learn.

3.Get in the habit of really listening to how people talk (not only what they say). Take every opportunity to eavesdrop, on the bus, on elevators, in line at the bank.

4.Get to know your characters deeply. If you haven’t done so already, take a few minutes to read about character development.

5.Once you have a clear vision of your characters, you can play out their conversations in your head. Put the characters in an imaginary situation, and listen to what they would say. Try saying their lines out loud. And then write down what you hear.

6.Clean it up afterwards. Effective dialogue is not the same as the way people really speak. Repeat that three times. Then keep reading below for details.

Some reasons for using dialogue:

-To let the reader hear your character’s voice.

-When the conversation is a key event in the story. In other words, if your characters are chatting about the weather while they’re waiting for the bus, that might just be background. But if your story’s about a pregnant teenager, the conversation where her boyfriend proposes marriage is probably a critical event that will change the direction of the story. Show it.

-(In small quantities) As background, to set a scene.

-In other cases, dialogue’s not the best option, and it’s better to summarize the conversation.

For example:

“She repeated to her husband everything that had just happened. He listened to her for hours, until the sun started to come up.”

“We almost died of boredom as Aunt Bertha went on and on about her poodle’s weight loss program.”

Those are two conversations you probably don’t want to write out as dialogue.

Some dialogue no-nos:

-Information stuffing: “Hey, is that your sister Kate, who dropped out of college to become a welder, causing your father to have a nervous breakdown?”

-Extended incoherent babbling: “Like, I was, you know. Like. Right. Okay, well. Um. What’s that? Right. Anyway.”

-Putting YOUR words in their mouths: “My Daddy won’t let me play with Stevie’s trucks, which makes me cry because I’m only four years old and I’m already the victim of gender stereotypes.”


Pen name!


Hi guys!

Today I saw a post and it gave me a good idea!

If you were an author, what would be your pen name? And if you prefer your real name explain the reason.

Love you beauties:)