Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Old Words Can be Recycled


Verb intr. – “To move swiftly or nimbly” – I can think of a lot of ways to use this one: “I hate it when I’m frecking through the airport and other people are turtles.” “You are so frecking dumb.” I.e. an alternative to “freaking.”


Verb – “To quarrel about trifles; esp. to quarrel noisily, brawl, squabble” – Basically means to argue loudly about something that doesn’t matter, as in “Why are we still brabbling about who left the dirty spoon on the kitchen table?” Use it as a noun: “Stop that ridiculous brabble and do something useful!” “Brabble on, no one’s listening.” I.e. an alternate to “babble.”


Verb intr. – “To laugh loudly” – This Middle English word sounds like it would do well in describing one of those times when you inadvertently laugh out loud while reading a text message in class and manage to thoroughly embarrass yourself: “He’s a kenching idiot.” “He who kenches last kenches best.”


Noun – “A drinking bout; a spree or ‘binge’” – Originally a North American slang word, but is now rarely used. “Shall we go for a brannigan on Friday?” can be a more sophisticated way to discuss such activities.


Noun – “The action of shaking to and fro” – Also used in verb form, to quagswag. Pronounced like “kwag swag.” It could work as the name for a new type of dance, or such: “Your quagswagging me will not make me change my mind.” “The couple quagswagged under the blankets.”


Adj. – An Old English/Middle English word meaning “careless, heedless, negligent” – Pronounced as “yeem-lis,” – another word that could prove useful : “A yemeles idiot like you is worthless.” “He means nothing by his yemeles actions.”


Noun – “Twilight” – Used in the early 17th century, “twitter-light” – a romantic way to refer to the hours as the sun goes down:” Let us smooch in the twitter-light.” “In the twitter-light, everyone looks better.”


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Draw the reader in. Readers need to identify-with/love/relate-to your character. Then they will keep reading to find out what happens to the character.

What’s your character’s name? Names are important. A name must ring true to your character without drawing attention from the story. With children, be aware of name styles. If your character is 5, some names are no longer in vogue.

What’s your character look like? Size, age, hair, health issues etc. are vital to give the reader a mental image.

How does your character speak? Slowly, bass/treble, formal, uneducated etc. Accent is important, but just give the readers hints about the dialect or slang.

How does your character behave? Emotional, mental, & anger states are important, if only to give the character reasons for their behavior.

How about clothes? Don’t ignore clothes/lack of clothes, as they can give the reader an idea of the character’s appearance.

Gives us the specifics. Giving your character specific interests/likes/dislikes personalizes them, makes then unique.

You must eat. What/where/when does your character like to or have to eat. Food can be regional or it can reflect a child’s whims.

Location? Where your character lives or visits can be important to the story line.

What’s your character’s past? Even if you don’t include the backstory in the manuscript, it can be important to the plot.

Put it together. Once you have built your character, write his/her story.


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I have a manuscript I call a sci fi thriller. Dream Flyer. Dean receives neurotrophic drugs & dreams of Tesla’s lost papers. Cindy helps him escape. Whose side is she on?

An editor from a large publisher read it & liked it, but he had to reject it because I wrote it like a thriller (which I did).

My question is how do I write science fiction so that it doesn’t read like a thriller? Less action & intrigue, paying more attention to the scientific details? In other words, would I need to explain the science, rather than keep the plot running fast?


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Just Saying

Writing Dialogue


When I do character sketches, I include voice:

How do they speak? Soft, deep high-pitched, raspy, fast/slow talker/child’s voice mumble etc.     [just a hint is all that is needed]

Do they speak with an accent? foreign/Southern/educated/teen/child etc. [a little accent goes a long way or the reader might get lost]

Do they speak differently under different circumstances? Happy/sad/scared/bored/angry   [emotion affects speech]

Do they speak differently in different places? School/home/public/work [the vocabulary will also  vary]

What kind of vocabulary do they use? Large/simple/slang/work places terms. [age affects this, too]


Use these as you write/edit. Read aloud, try to imitate each character. If a character speaks more than once, Include their voice in a character sketch. When using slang, dialect etc., find a native speaker (E.g. A teen for high school slang), read it aloud to them.

Dialogue is not just voice or sound:

What are your characters doing while speaking? Washing dishes. Hiking, etc. [but use   moderation]

Silence is a form of communication. (AKA the silent treatment) [wife called it passive-aggressive]

If the POV character chooses to think rather than speak, it is a form of dialogue because it  informs the reader the way speech would.

Facial expressions, body language, movements can communicate as much as words.

What is dialogue for?

It either propels the story forward or tells the reader something about the characters. If it doesn’t do either one of these, what is the dialogue for?

Things to forget:

Grammar. Complete sentences.

Answering questions: characters often ignore questions and change the subject, which often tells more than answering the question.


Don’t try to write dialogue that is too real-to-life. The reader doesn’t need every huh, um, etc, speakers say. Writing dialogue is a trick to convince the reader the speech is real. When using dialect, a few hints work better than dialogue that is difficult for anyone to read.

Using exclamation points (let your word choice indicate excitement). Using caps for emphasis (use italics).

Read it aloud:

Dialogue needs a rhythm. Angry or scared words need a faster, frantic pace. Conversation or  romance might take a slower, relaxed pace.

People interrupt each other, breaking the rhythm. People are rude to each other.

Beats, tags, or neither?

Beats are actions or gestures that either interrupt or add to the dialogue. Use them occasionally.

Tags should be used ONLY when leaving them out it will confuse the reader. Try to use either  said or asked.

Neither. If it is clear who is speaking, and no action or beat is required, then just dialogue is fine (hard to accomplish with more than 2 speakers).


Three Ways of Dealing with Non-dialogue for Intense POV’s

E.g. The character breaks a piece of chocolate candy.

Narrative description: The brown candy broke in his hand, releasing a vanilla scent.

Thought: Brown candy. Vanilla scent. Breaks right in my hand.

Active: He broke the brown candy in his hands, the vanilla scent making him smile.

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  1. Clichés are old hat

Perhaps in dialogue, otherwise avoid them. Instead find metaphors, similes, etc.
2. Writing dialogue that sounds like it’s written

Listen to people speaking, write what you hear. Read it aloud & change it until it sounds like speech.

  1. Hurrying that plot (are we there yet?)

Find that sweet spot between writing too much & boring your readers, or ending the plot too soon, frustrating & mystifying readers. Pantsers plot as they write, outliners know in advance where their plot is headed.

  1. Not making the ending (and beginning) authentic & exciting

Waking up from a dream at the end is one example of a way to cheat or trick the reader. IThe ending must be unexpected yet necessary to your plot & story arc. I.e. the ending should be a surprise yet feel as if it was the only ending possible.

  1. Keeping your characters consistent

A character must make choices appropriate to the traits you gave them, or your readers will be confused. Point of view is an important consideration—first-person can help you get deeper into a character’s motivations, but a close third person can also work.

  1. Not varying sentence structure

Don’t make every sentence subject/verb/direct-object. Imperatives. Incomplete sentences. Interrogative sentences. Sentences with inverted word order. Complex. Compound. Complex/compound. Cumulative sentences. This is especially important when revising.

  1. Failing to trust the reader’s intelligence

Learn how much to tell the reader. Too much info can be as bad as not enough. And don’t talk down to the reader no matter what age the reader is. Allow the reader to develop connections to you and your writing.

  1. Changing the time & place without good reason

Only change the setting, time & place, if it furthers your story. Frequent changes can impair story flow & lose the reader.

  1. Being lazy

Do your research, double-check even if writing about what you “know.” Use reliable sources!

  1. Forgetting who your audience is

Know who you’re writing for, both genre & age group. For example, if writing romance, don’t write for the mystery buff. Write a& win-over the romance readers. When writing for children, they don’t like to read about main characters younger or much older than them.

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These are not originally my notes, but I believe they can help novelists, so I decided to post them. I.e. this is one way to write your novel.

1) OPENING IMAGE: (1 minute) the scene that sets the tone and type of the story. A “before” snapshot and opposite of the Final Image.  (Opening scene) Mike is sitting surrounded by other kids yet alone at his grade school cafeteria. Not sad, just alone. Flash forward to the bar, Mike is still alone although surrounded with others [intro]

2) THEME STATED: (5 pages & minutes) Usually stated to them in character, often without know what is said will be vital to his surviving the tale. It’s what the story is about. [Foreshadowing]

3) THE SET-UP: (1-10) The first 10 pages of a script or first 10 panels of a comic must not only grab our interest but introduce every character in the “A” story. Something needs to change. [stasis equals death]

4) CATALYST: (12) The telegram, the knock on the door, the thing that happens to the hero to shake him. It’s the story’s first “whammy.” [boom]

5) DEBATE: (12-25) The section of the story where the hero doubts the journey he must make. [a mild version of the Dark Moment]

6) BREAK INTO TWO: (25) Where we leave the “thesis” world behind and enter the upside-down “anti-thesis” world of Act Two. The hero makes a choice …and his journey begins. [the plot develops]

7) B STORY: (30) The love story, traditionally, but actually where the discussion of the theme of the movie is found. [can be love or philosophy]

8) FUN AND GAMES: (30-55) Here we forget the plot and enjoy the “set pieces” and “trailer moments” and revel in the promise of the premise. [sex, action sequences or main characters interacting]

9) MIDPOINT: (55) The dividing line between the two halves of the story. It’s back to the story as stakes are raised and “time clocks” appear. We are beginning to put the squeeze on our heroes. [the main characters get stressed]

10) THE BAD GUYS CLOSE IN: (55-75) Both internally (problems inside the heroes team) and externally (as the bad guys tighten their grip) real pressure is applied. [focus on antagonist]

11) ALL IS LOST: (75) The false defeat and the place we find “the whiff of death” – because something must die here. [things sour]

12) DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL: (75-85) “Why hast thou forsaken me, Lord?” The part of the story where our hero has lost all hope & gives up. [known as Dark Moment]

13) BREAK INTO THREE: (85) Thanks to a fresh idea, new inspiration or last-minute action or advice from the love interest in the B story, the hero decides to fight. [this is where Popeye always opened his can of spinach]

14) FINALE: (85-110) The “synthesis” of the two worlds; from what was, and that which was learned, the hero forges a third way. [climax]

15) FINAL IMAGE: (110) The opposite of the Opening Image, proving a change has occurred. And since all great stories are about transformation, that change had better be dramatic! [denouement]

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Seven W’s for a novel’s beginning:

WHO is the main character: Bring the main character out ASAP. Starting with a secondary character confuses readers.

What does the character WANT: Problem, goal, or conflict (with oneself, outside world, nature).

WHEN does your story take place: If in the present time, is often unnecessary. If not the present, hints are usually enough.

WHERE does your story take place: The reader needs to know where, but hints are sometimes enough. “Farmer Jones” tells the reader it’s on a farm.

WHAT is the story’s tone & what obstacles does the character face: Funny, serious, sad, etc. Word selection & rhythm are important. Make the main character suffer until the climax.

WHY the character does what they do: The main character reacts for certain reasons, possibly back story the reader never sees.

WOW! Hook the reader!

Finishing a novel: Seven plot points for the story arc

GOALS: What the main character wants to achieve.

OBSTACLES: Hurdles to overcome or to make the main character suffer.

MOTIVATION: Why does the main character want/need it? Or not want/need it?

FEARS: What fears must the main character overcome? Or live with?

STAKES: What if the main character doesn’t get their wishes? Do the stakes get higher?

REWARDS: If the main character gets what they want, how does it affect them?

BLACK MOMENT: Toward the end of the story arc, the main character should have a crisis of faith that causes them to give up all hope. (just before the solution appears)

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