Can we talk? Dialogue, and how to get it right.

ConversationWriting realistic dialogue is tricky. It’s a skill that  comes naturally to those lucky people who have an ear for convincing dialogue and can produce it effortlessly, but most of us have to practice, listen, then practice some more. This is a common problem for new writers (and some more experienced ones, too) who want to produce natural and lifelike exchanges between characters without sounding clunky, over-dramatic or plain wooden. I’ve talked about this before but some things bear repetition, so a revisit might be useful. Continue reading

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Verbification, or how to tighten up your writing

DaisyThere’s no doubt about it, the current trend for verbification – using nouns as verbs – can have a profound effect on our writing. We have social media to thank for some of this – the requirement to express complex ideas in 140 characters was bound to have a minimising effect – though verbification has been around a lot longer than Facebook and Twitter. The knock-on effect is that our use of language has changed subtly to accommodate this phenomenon. We parent, we text, we friend. We used to set a trend, now we are trending. Our writing group used to offer criticism, now we critique. Once, I wrote pieces for this blog. Now I simply blog. The noun has become the verb.

Worryingly, hunting for antiques has become antiquing, in the USA at least. I’m happy to report that we haven’t succumbed to this practice yet in the UK. Continue reading

Short Story Writing

We’ve been doing a lot of work on what makes a satisfying short story at the writing group, and here’s an easily digested summary of what we’ve discussed.

A memorable short story will say something about the human condition, encapsulating one idea succinctly, with each scene building towards a crisis point, followed by a point of realisation or moment of clarity. The issue you address at the start of the story should be the issue that is resolved at the end.

A good short story starts in the middle of the action and as close to the climax as possible. At the end of the story, the main character should be in a better place than at the beginning, enabling them to move forward.

Once you’ve chosen an idea, remember these basic steps: Continue reading

But I thought you just said….?

Like most things in life, the more you write, the better you get. You discover your personal writing style, your voice. As you progress you hit some tricky issues. Should you always consign adverbs to the recycle bin or can you use them sparingly? What about clichés? You want to improve, so you check it out, see what the current thinking is. Then you find there’s actually a bigger problem. As if writing wasn’t difficult enough for the novice, the huge amount of conflicting information available doesn’t always make things any easier. Like the bible, writing advice reveals lots of contradictions. Take these examples: Continue reading

Once more, with feeling

First of all I must apologise for not getting around to everyone’s blogs this week. It’s been a bit manic, here, what with friends staying, with children to entertain and all the extra cooking etc that this entails. Not an excuse, I know, but we’ve also had the Olympics to watch. I was rather cynical to start with, not being an especially sporty person, but I’ve been won over by the sheer excitement and exuberance of it all. And Team GB has done us proud with a great collection of medals. We’ve been glued to the TV in this house, even delaying going out to a party last night so we could watch Jess Ennis get her gold in the heptathlon. Sorry, I’m gushing now.

But it does lead me on to my subject – feelings and emotions. Touchy-feely writing isn’t the sole preserve of romantic fiction; it should figure in all our writing, whatever the genre. In short, if we want to produce well-rounded narrative description, we shouldn’t neglect our feminine side.

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Starting Out

When I first started to write a novel, I thought I knew what I was doing. After all, I figured, I’d read lots of them. What could possibly go wrong?

Just in case there was something I might have missed, I enrolled on a 5-day residential novel-writing course. I won’t mention the name of the organisation. Suffice it to say it is very highly regarded in the field of literary endeavours. Maybe I just hit a bad week, but it was a pretty expensive waste of time and I won’t dwell on it, except to say that I’ve since heard an interview with one of the tutors where she actually admitted how bad she’d been that week. (I think she only did it once; she wasn’t temperamentally suited to the concept of coaching at all.)

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Actions speak louder than words

Non-verbal communication is usually understood to mean the process of creating or representing meaning by sending and receiving wordless, usually visual messages. These can include facial expressions, gestures, body language and eye contact. But how, I hear you ask, can this possibly help the writer? We need to examine the concept in a little more detail.

Previous posts have discussed the art of showing, not telling. Non-verbal communication falls firmly into the ‘showing’ category. Our characters don’t have to say anything to convey how they are feeling. The postures they adopt, their facial expressions and unconscious actions or tics will all reflect their moods and tell the reader more about the characters’ thoughts and feelings than long paragraphs of description, speech tags and adverbs.

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