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I have experienced many challenging writer situations in my time; getting so emotional whilst writing the death of a character that I could no longer see the laptop screen, failing to control my obsession with clichés, struggling to keep a lid on a fictional character crush and fighting a powerful urge to dance in the aisle of my local supermarket, after receiving a positive comment on Wattpad.
There is, however, one writer situation which has the potential to ruin a romantic weekend away with a loved one, put a dampener on a relative’s birthday party and mess up your house tidying plans. When a book idea is desperately trying to come out of your brain, urging you to write it and crying out to you in the small hours, all hell can break loose.
You can try to ignore it all you want, feed yourself silly excuses and go about…
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I have mentioned my author friend John Logsdon a number of times in this blog. Not only is he a book marketing guru who has helped me a lot with my own books, he has also been developing ReaderLinks; a website to help Indies in their everyday struggle to sell more books.
As John is a hugely successful Indie author himself, he has developed ReaderLinks to cover all of our needs: It includes a Book Calendar; a Sales Tracker; Tweet Management; a Global Links tool; and many more tools.
I’ve been part of his beta-testers for the past few months and I’m excited that the project has now reached the point where the launch build is ready. Check it out and subscribe to be notified when it launches! You can find out more by watching the video below.
Except for developing ReaderLinks, John has also…
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i am just CRANKING out the masterposts. linked to original posts whenever possible. enjoy!!
- 100 beautiful words
- name generators
- plotting made simple
- places to put character descriptions
- guide to fantasy
- how to passive voice
- research resources
- regular masterpost i’m including bc of all the writing/grammar links
- for writers creating their own worlds/characters
- who and whom how to
- ways to avoid saying the word ‘very’
- several ways to find the word you’re looking for
- look up illegal stuff in a legal way
- deflate inflated phrases
- rhymes made easy
- start the story
- good character traits ref sheet
- character traits generator
- write real people
- limits of the human body
- best yet most infuriating writing advice
- seven steps to the perfect story
- 100 ugly and beautiful words
- quick guide to myers briggs personalities
- eye shapes for writers
- four temperaments
- tip top writing tip
- visualize your character’s house
- random writing tips
- castle terminology
- kurt vonnegut’s rules for writing fiction
- words that describe a voice
- surnames/last names masterpost
- random city/name generators
- character building stuff
- size comparison
- build a realistic character
- here’s why every word is important
- hemingway writing checker
- ideas for character flaws
- if you think writing a book is easy, read this
- cis person writing trans character? read this
- stages of deterioration in the human body
- resources for writing character bios
- stuff u should know about all ur characters
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Got any feedback/advice/links for someone who wants to make lengthy, relatively action-less dialogues between characters more than just “‘Loren ipsum,’ he said.” “’Ipsum lorem’, she replied.” for forty paragraphs?
No problem! I love dialogue, so I’m happy to be of assistance in this department.
Here are my personal rules of thumb:
1. Allow the dialogue to show the character’s personality.
If you really think about your conversations, it can be telling exactly how much of someone’s personality can shine through when they speak.
Allow your character’s persona, values, and disposition to spill over when they speak, and it will make for a significantly more interesting read for you and your reader.
For example: let’s take a look at a mundane exchange, and see how it can be spruced up by injecting it with a good dose of personality.
“How was your day, by the way?” asked Oscar, pouring himself a drink.
“Not too bad,” replied Byron. “Cloudy, but warm. Not too many people.”
“How was your day, by the way?” asked Oscar, pouring himself a drink.
“Ugh. Not too bad,” groaned Byron, draping himself on the couch. “Warm, but dreary. Gray clouds as far as the eye could see. Not anyone worth mentioning out this time of year.” A pause. “Well, except me, of course.”
“Hmmph,” said Oscar, glancing over his shoulder. “If it were me, I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Isn’t that better? Already, the audience will feel as though they’ve gotten to know these characters.
This works for longer dialogue, too: allow the character’s personal beliefs, life philosophy, and generally disposition to dictate how they talk, and your readers will thank you.
Of course, this example is also good for giving the reader a general sense of what the characters’ relationship is like. Which brings me to my next point:
2. Allow the dialogue to show the character’s relationship.
Everyone is a slightly different person depending on who they’re around. Dynamic is an important thing to master, and when you nail it between two characters, sparks can fly.
Work out which character assumes more of the Straight Man role, and which is quicker to go for lowbrow humor. Think of who’s the more analytical of the two and who’s the more impulse driven. Who would be the “bad cop” if the situation called for it.
Then, allow for this to show in your dialogue, and it will immediately become infinitely more entertaining.
“Alright,” said Fogg, examining the map before him. “Thus far, we’ve worked out how we’re going to get in through the ventilation system, and meet up in the office above the volt. Then, we’re cleared to start drilling.”
Passepartout grinned. “That’s what she said.”
“Oh, for the love of God – REALLY, Jean. Really!? We are PLANNING a goddamn bank robbery!”
Some more questions about dynamic to ask yourself before writing dialogue:
- Who is more likely to talk and who is more likely to listen?
- Who would talk with their mouth full of food and who would politely wait to swallow?
- Is their relationship fraternal/sororal? If so, who would be the “little sibling?”
- Is one of them a bit of a mother/father figure to the other?
- Who more frequently gets irritated with who?
- Who has the more understated sense of humor? Who’s a bit more juvenile?
- Who’s better educated? Does it show when they speak?
- Who’s a bit more pretentious/full of themselves?
- Who interrupts more?
- Who swears more?
This can also be a valuable tool to cluing your reader in on who the characters are as people:
3. Think about what this dialogue can tell the reader.
It’s better to fill the reader in more gradually than to waist your valuable first chapter on needless exposition, and dialogue is a great way to do it.
Think about what your characters are saying, and think about ways in which you can “sneak in” details about their past, their families, and where they came from into the discussion.
For example, you could say:
Tuckerfield was a happy-go-lucky Southern guy with domineering parents,
and bore everyone to death.
Or you could have him say:
“Sheesh. All this sneakin’ around in the woods late at night reminds me of being back in Kansas. Good times, man, good times.” There was a pause, before he added, “‘Course, it wasn’t nearly so fun when I came home late for curfew and had to sleep on the front step, but y’know. Life happens.”
Isn’t that much better than the omnipresent monotone?
Dialogue is also a great way to fill in potential plot holes early on, by having your characters talk them out and explain them.
Moreover, dialogue can also be used to foreshadow, offer relevant hints about the climax, or provide information necessary for the resolution.
So use it wisely!
4. Sprinkle in mini-actions throughout.
Even in actionless dialogue, no one actually does nothing. In my case, for example, I stim a lot. I play with my hair. I play with eating utensils. It’s probably very annoying for those around me, but you get the point.
Less fidget-y folks might not do this as much, but they rarely sit totally still during conversations, either. So occasionally add in these mini-actions, and it will make your characters feel a bit less like disembodied voices or floating heads.
Jo leaned back in her chair rolling her stiff neck from sitting still for so long. “…So the way I see it,” she continued. “Even if Pheris Beuller’s Day Off didn’t take place in Cameron’s imagination, Pheris was clearly a sociopath whose behavior shouldn’t be glamorized.”
“Ha. As if.” Avery paused to sip her root beer. “Pheris,” she began, raising an index finger. “Was clearly emblematic of counterculturist movements such as the Beat Generation, and his disregard for the capitalistic dogmas imposed upon younger generations is something to be admired.”
“For Christ’s sake, will you two lighten up?” scoffed Leo, counting out bills for the pizza. “We were talking about which movie we wanted to watch tonight. Jesus.”
5. Remember how people actually speak.
In real life conversations, people don’t speak in paragraphs. Alright, some people might, and this can actually be interesting as the personality aspect of a certain type of character.
But generally speaking, people don’t speak in paragraphs, or as though they’re writing thought-out prose or letters.
In real conversations, people stutter. They laugh at their own jokes, repeat words or phrases, and lose their train of thought.
Naturally, you don’t have to illustrate in your writing exactly how chaotic and mundane human speech can be, as writing would be pretty boring in general if it was strictly limited to miming reality. But it’s good to keep in mind that your characters are talking, not writing in purple prose.
“When I was a young boy, my mother and I had a most tumultuous relationship,” said Marcus. “She saw me as a hallmark of her past failures, and took every opportunity to remind me as such.”
“My mom, when I was kid, we had what you’d call a sort of tumultuous relationship,” said Marcus. “Nothing I ever did was right for her. She, uh – I think she saw me as sort of a hallmark of her past failures. Took every opportunity to remind me of that.”
Which of these is more organic, more easy to visualize, and more telling of character? Unless the point of this dialogue is to illustrate that Marcus is a gentleman crook of some kind with pristine speaking mannerisms, I’m going to say the latter.
Best of luck, I hope this helps, and happy writing! ❤
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Now first, I have to say, that the plot you’re able to come up with in one day is not going to be without its flaws, but coming up with it all at once, the entire story unfolds right in front of you and makes you want to keep going with it. So, where to begin?
- What is your premise and basic plot? Pick your plot. I recommend just pulling one from this list. No plots are “original” so making yours interesting and complicated will easily distract from that fact, that and interesting characters. Characters will be something for you to work on another day, because this is plotting day. You’ll want the main plot to be fairly straight forward, because a confusing main plot will doom you if you want subplots.
- Decide who the characters will be. They don’t have to have names at this point. You don’t even need to know who they are other than why they have to be in the story. The more characters there are the more complicated the plot will be. If you intend to have more than one subplot, then you’ll want more characters. Multiple interconnected subplots will give the illusion that the story is very complicated and will give the reader a lot of different things to look at at all times. It also gives you the chance to develop many side characters. The plot I worked out yesterday had 13 characters, all were necessary. Decide their “roles” don’t bother with much else. This seems shallow, but this is plot. Plot is shallow.
- Now, decide what drives each character. Why specifically are they in this story? You can make this up. You don’t even know these characters yet. Just so long as everyone has their own motivations, you’re in the clear.
- What aren’t these characters giving away right off the bat? Give them a secret! It doesn’t have to be something that they are actively lying about or trying to hide, just find something that perhaps ties them into the plot or subplot. This is a moment to dig into subplot. This does not need to be at all connected to their drive to be present in the story. Decide who is in love with who, what did this person do in the 70’s that’s coming back to bite them today, and what continues to haunt what-his-face to this very day. This is where you start to see the characters take shape. Don’t worry much about who they are or what they look like, just focus on what they’re doing to the story.
- What is going to change these characters? Now this will take some thinking. Everyone wants at least a few of the characters to come out changed by the end of the story, so think, how will they be different as a result of the plot/subplot? It might not be plot that changes them, but if you have a lot of characters, a few changes that are worked into the bones of the plot might help you.
- Now list out the major events of the novel with subplot in chronological order. This will be your timeline. Especially list the historical things that you want to exist in backstory. List everything you can think of. Think about where the story is going. At this point, you likely haven’t focused too much on the main plot, yeah, it’s there, but now really focus on the rising actions, how this main plot builds its conflict, then the climactic moment. Make sure you get all of that in there. This might take a few hours.
- Decide where to start writing. This part will take a LOT of thinking. It’s hard! But now that you’ve got the timeline, pick an interesting point to begin at. Something with action. Something relevant. Preferably not at the beginning of your timeline – you want to have huge reveals later on where these important things that happened prior are exposed. This is the point where you think about what information should come out when. This will be a revision of your last list, except instead of being chronological, it exists to build tension.
- Once you’ve gotten the second list done, you’ve got a plot. Does it need work? Probably. But with that said, at this point you probably have no idea who half your characters are. Save that for tomorrow, that too will be a lot of work.
Disclaimer for this post.
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So, let me guess– you just started a new book, right? And you’re stumped. You have no idea how much an AK47 goes for nowadays. I get ya, cousin. Tough world we live in. A writer’s gotta know, but them NSA hounds are after ya 24/7. I know, cousin, I know. If there was only a way to find out all of this rather edgy information without getting yourself in trouble…
You’re in luck, cousin. I have just the thing for ya.
It’s called Havocscope. It’s got information and prices for all sorts of edgy information. Ever wondered how much cocaine costs by the gram, or how much a kidney sells for, or (worst of all) how much it costs to hire an assassin?
I got your back, cousin. Just head over to Havocscope.
((PS: In case you’re wondering, Havocscope is a database full of information regarding the criminal underworld. The information you will find there has been taken from newspapers and police reports. It’s perfectly legal, no need to worry about the NSA hounds, cousin ;p))
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