Thursday, October 8, 2020

 What the heck can we say about dialogue?

 Exert from "Tools Not Rules" what to write and how to write it. Information and workbook for beginning writers. Coming November 2020

Dialogue is a conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or movie. It is the conversation between your characters, the discourse by officials, and arguments when characters disagree. This is sometimes referred to as “external dialogue.”

         Dialogue can accomplish almost anything for your story and often with greater immediacy and freshness than narration.

         It can crate mood, describe setting, fill in background, reveal motivation and plot, heighten emotion, and add characterization.

         Dialogue is comprised of words, and the tags and actions that identify the speaker and is harder to write than narration.

         Dialogue must have a purpose in the plot or story. If it doesn’t add something new, it isn’t needed.

Dialogue in Your Book


These are used to correctly identify speakers. Simple is always better. Use only sufficient dialogue tags to clearly indicate who is speaking. Remember these tips when using dialogue tags.

  1. Keep them unobtrusive. The dialogue itself is what's important. The only function of a tag is to let the reader know who is speaking.
  2. Therefore, use a tag whenever it's unclear who's speaking.
  3. Vary the position of your dialogue tags.
  4. Simple is always better. Said, Asked, answered are often all you need for a tag. They tend to be almost invisible to the reader.
  5. When using said, asked, answered, put the character’s name before the tag, not after


NOT – “I invited four people to Saturday dinner,” said Susan.

BUT - “I invited four people to Saturday dinner,” Susan said.

OR – Susan said, “I invited four people to Saturday dinner.


“A beat is usually a minor action that breaks up dialogue when a pause is needed to keep the scene visual.”  Sol Stein, How to Grow a Novel, p131


Beats can also be used to identify speakers.

Here you put the dialogue beside a sentence or phrase in which the speaker is mentioned. The phrase or sentence is the ‘beat.’

“Oh no.” Jade glanced over her shoulder. “Are you sure they are following us?”

Gestures, body language and character action can all be used as beats. But don’t get carried away. Limited use is recommended. And watch out for redundancies. In the two examples below, the action and the words do the same job. Use one or the other.

She shook her head. “No.”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Beats me.”

Beats and tags are used to break up exchanges that might otherwise cause confusion. Having a character ask two questions and then the other person answer them both muddles the information. Break them up.

NOT John rushed into the room “What is he doing with the medal? Where did he put it?”

BUT John rushed into the room. “What is he doing with the medal?” He glared at her and she shrugged. “And where did he put it?”

A new paragraph is used when there is a new speaker. This is especially important when you are omitting dialogue tags and writing several lines of conversation. Make a new paragraph even if the speaker has had only one line.

In this example it’s easy to know it was Sam who asked the question and Edie who answered it.

Edie turned to greet Sam. “Thought you might want food.”

“That smells delicious. What is it?”

“Beef stew, fresh rolls, and rice crispy squares for dessert.”

Know when to summarize dialogue:

When the exact words don’t matter to the story.

Jane waved her hand at the kitchen. “That darn expresso maker is terrible to use.” (no need to explain what it does to make it terrible.)

When dialogue is mundane.

“Boy, it rained all day and I got wet.”

When a character says something routine – like ordering in a restaurant. Just say “they ordered salads.” Don’t have them actually say all the needed words.

Summarize when one character tells another one what the reader already heard elsewhere.

“As gently as he could Jake told Sarah what the doctor had said.”


Sunday, April 12, 2020

What tag line represents who you are?

Identity - we all have one - who are you?

We present faces to the world that match our roles: mother, friend, sister, boss. But in truth, who are we? Behind all your faces, who are you? What do you care about? What do you want? What cheers you, what causes you harm, or drives you?

What tag line sums up who you are?

I've thought about those questions. I've searched for answers, direction, and inner peace. In the distant past, I thought I was the only one searching for these answers. Turns out I do not have a monopoly on the questions. Everyone I've met has asked these or similar questions more than once in their lives.

We start as babies with a clean slate. People we meet, the circumstances of our lives, and all the actions we take, inscribe indelibly on the slate that represents who we are. But do we let the writing of others define us? Or do we search out our own identity? Can we learn from our histories?

 Each of us is unique and our answers will be ours alone.

 I don't pretend to have answers for you. I have found a few for me. However, those answers shift with my mood, my circumstances, and my heart. I continue to redefine. At seventy years old, I know certain truths about myself and have tag lines to match.

In stories, I like a puzzle, struggling characters, and hopeful endings. In my writing, I strive to offer those ingredients to my readers.

For stories, my tag line is:

 Stories that set things right.... characters that find their way.

Here’s a life tag line my mother taught by example.

 Leave everyone and everything better than you find them.

  • When we ate at a campground on a road trip, she picked up trash left by others.
  • When we used a public washroom, she wiped down the sink she used and the others as well.
  • She picked up children who had fallen, held doors for seniors, and smiled at people she passed.

Small actions, that left things better than she found them. They may seem trivial, but like sands make a beach, small actions make a good life. Her life might have also had this tagline.

When you fall, get up and try again, and never turn down a good laugh.

For me, this line helps me stay focused and to make daily decisions.

Do you have a tag line for your books?
Do you have one for your personal life story?
  • Is your purpose to help? Teach? Create? Fix? Build?
  • Which of your actions leave you smiling and joy-filled?
  • What is your daily intent? Can you sum it up in one line?

 Using a tag line focuses your intent and purpose for your life (and your books).

Friday, March 27, 2020

Teaching to Learn- what we learned

Teaching to Learn

ARWA workshop, March 26, 2020 video  presentation

The very first attempt at a video workshop or presentation.
We are finally digital.

Basically, re workshop content, I listed multiple parts of a "book" (see list at end of article) and talked about learning the pieces and then combining them to write a book. That breaking it down, learning parts, and then combining into a whole is one of the most recommended ways to learn a complex subject.

Additionally, we looked at how ARWA members have done just that, and used teaching to learn over 30+ years.

In order to teach to learn, we looked at the following: 

The suggested process:

1) Pick a topic (specific and narrow)
2) Research the topic and collect points etc you find appropriate.
3) Write down how you would explain what you have learned.

 The format:

 Shape your material into a presentation covering these parameters.

Why is it important?
Who uses it?
What does it look like on the page?
When is it especially important?
Where do you use it? (narration, dialogue, description?)
What does it do for your writing? 
How can you use it on your current MS?

    OR in other words:


    •        What is it? state the topic
            e.g. show not tell ( as Pam put it - tell them what you are going to tell them.) Explain
    •       Why is it important?
           e.g. showing draws your reader into the story, engages the reader)
    •    Who Says so? (ie validity) 
    e.g. Multipublished authors, editros, readers
    •        What does it look like on the page?
     e.g. give an example of a telling sentence and turn it into a showing sentence * ( you tell them what you want to tell them) 
    •         Suggest exercises for practice - this might be:
    •          questions on a Power Point slide for the group to do orally 
    •          a hand-out with examples to work on followed by discussion
    •          a task to do at home - taking pages of their work in progress and testing the lesson
    •          all of the above
       Tell them what you have told them.


    •      There are times when reinventing the wheel is counter productive. There are hundreds of articles and videos with advide and instructions and tips for preparing, organizing and giving presentations in person or on video. 
    •        ARWA has had a workshop on Research and Teaching to Learn. If you combine the topics, you have the way to find out how to give a presentation. See links below to get you started..

    (Note some of the videos open with an advert - skip the ad - to get the real topic)

    Videos / Articles

    How to give a presentation:

    Learn to teach what you know.

    Templates for designing workshops

    How to organize a presentation:

     5 Quick ways to organize your presentation

     Presentation Skills

    Possible topics - whatever you want to learn about writing and the book industry can probably be turned into a workshop because the rest of writers want to know as well.

    • - titles
    • - three acts (Content)
    • Introduction – 25%
    • Middle – 50%
    • Climax and resolution – 25%
    • Whose story?
    • What is it about?
    • First drafts
    •  Common words
    • Overused words
    • Verb structures
    • Qualifiers
    • Prepositions and their misuse
    • Specific nouns
    • Colloquial sayings
    • Dialect in dialogue
    • Participles etc
    • Narration
      Openings and closings

    Tuesday, January 7, 2020

    Great news-Brains can change

    You can't teach an old dog new tricks. 

      How many times over the years have you heard that? If you're like me - plenty. Imagine my surprise and delight when I learned IT IS NOT TRUE. We have no reason to avoid learning new habits, methods, languages, or life-skills. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

      The research and proof

    Norman Doidge,M.D.'s first book is The Brain That Changes Itself. This book featured on PBS'S The Brain Fitness Program (Youtube Link here), offers amazing stories about, and strategies for, brain flexibility. A five-star book if there ever was one. If you, or someone you know, has had a stroke, brain injury, or motor difficulties, read this book. It offers hope for recovery.

    An astonishing new science called "neuroplasticity" is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the human brain is immutable. In this revolutionary look at the brain, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, M.D., provides an introduction to both the brilliant scientists championing neuroplasticity and the people whose lives they've transformed. From stroke patients learning to speak again to the remarkable case of a woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole, The Brain That Changes Itself will permanently alter the way we look at our brains, human nature, and human potential.

    Norman Doidge MD is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and the author of The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain's Way of Healing.

    We can learn at any age. The stories in this book will make believers out of doubters. The hope offered to stroke patients, brain-injured, and others is remarkable.

    For the rest of us, we can learn about our brains and put them to even better use. Knowing HOW our brains work lets us figure out the ways we can maximize the ways to use our brains.

     For writers

    I like the possibility for writers to create characters with amazing skills. Extrapolate from Doidge's research and who knows how your next character will turn out. My 'what-if' brain is running rampant through the possibilities.

    One of the many positive reviews

    “The power of positive thinking finally gains scientific credibility. Mind-bending, miracle-making, reality-busting stuff...with implications for all human beings, not to mention human culture, human learning and human history.”
    -The New York Times

    Read it or watch on Youtube