Realistic Dialogue is a Must

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By Hallee Bridgeman, @halleeb

Before I started writing, I was a reader who could never stop reading a book – meaning, if I started it, no matter how much I didn’t enjoy it, I had to keep reading to the end; even if it meant that I had to skim my way through it.

That changed one day when reading some historical romance by an author I can’t remember. The book started well enough. The heroine was a widow, alone on the estate, afraid. A storm had picked up and lightning flashed in the night sky. A loud cracking sound of a door banging had her leaving the warmth and safety of her home to go out to the barn to make sure a door hadn’t blown open.

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Okay, so we have a young woman who was afraid, and she goes to the barn and finds – a man. A stranger. (A tall, dark and handsome stranger, but I digress.)

And she’s alone. And afraid.

What do you think she does?

She doesn’t run back to her house and lock all the doors and windows and get the shotgun and make sure it’s loaded. No. She begins this long expository on the history of the area and the history of the house and how it was built by her grandfather and left to her father and left to her and her now late husband. You’re going to think I’m exaggerating with this next part, but I’m not. This dialogue took up FOUR PAGES. FOUR. It would have been agonizing to read four paragraphs, much less four pages. If I’d been that tall, dark, handsome stranger, I would have re-saddled my horse and took off back in the storm.

Now, I was a voracious reader and had read my share of not great books in my lifetime. However, this was truly the first book I ever threw across the room.

Writing good dialogue is important. Do you know why? Because the reader needs to hear the dialogue in his head. It needs to ring true to him, to sound like something people will actually say. If it doesn’t, then your book might get tossed across the room. Or, it might get deleted off of an ereader. And that reader will never come back to your books.

How do you make your dialogue realistic?

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If it doesn’t sound right and normal and natural to you, then it’s not going to read normal and natural and right to your reader.

Make sure the dialogue is organic to the scene and not just used to drive the story – or to show off your research abilities. Picture the scene in your head, the movements of the characters, the lighting, the noises. Then, speak the words your character would say. Do they fit that scene? Does it make sense that your character just said that? If the answer is no, then find something else to do other than that dialogue.

If you said yes, then, wonderful! Put it in there. Continue the conversation until your characters have said exactly what they need to say before they end the conversation.

In the self-editing phase, make sure that all of the dialogue is tight and right. My number one trick to that is to read it out loud. I know it feels silly. Trust me, I’ve written 24 novels, and I’ve sat at my computer and read every single one of them out loud. The silliness doesn’t ever go away when you start with chapter 1, but by the end of the book, you’re in a flow and it feels less awkward.

What you benefit from that is the ability to hear your dialogue – and you use a different part of your brain when you hear versus when you read. So, if it sounds right to you reading it out loud, it will definitely sound right to the reader who is reading it.

Read More Writing Tips

Numbering Your Days with One Word by  Beth K. Vogt

How Christian is Your Fiction? by Dan Walsh

How to Show and When to Tell by Susan May Warren


Jade’s Match

Two Olympians are matched in a media campaign that turns into something more than a game.

Rio Games silver medalist and social media darling CORA “JADE” ANDERSON is approached by a popular cell phone company to launch a flirty but fake media campaign with ice hockey star DAVIS ELLIOTT. When things get off to a rocky start, Cora and Davis both wonder what they’ve gotten into and how they’ll get through the months until the Korean games.

It’s not long until things start to warm up between the athletes and soon this fake romance becomes something much more real. Cora knows just how to work social media and engage her fans, and as the world watches and interacts with them, their love grows. When Davis is selected for Team USA, the opposition starts. As a Korean American, he’s already facing odds Cora can never comprehend, but he takes his frustration at the racism to the ice and lets the puck take the beating.

Things come to a head just weeks before the games begin. Can Davis and Cora’s very public relationship survive the aftermath of a very public confrontation, or are they going to have to let their love go when the Olympic flame is extinguished at the closing ceremonies?

With more than half a million book sales, Hallee Bridgeman is a best-selling Christian author who writes action-packed romantic suspense focusing on realistic characters who face real world problems. Her work has been described as everything from refreshing to heart-stopping exciting and edgy.

An Army brat turned Floridian, Hallee finally settled in central Kentucky with her family so that she could enjoy the beautiful changing of the seasons. She enjoys the roller-coaster ride thrills that life with a National Guard husband, a college sophomore daughter, and two elementary aged sons delivers.

A prolific writer, when she’s not penning novels, you will find her in the kitchen, which she considers the ‘heart of the home’. Her passion for cooking spurred her to launch a whole food, real food “Parody” cookbook series. In addition to nutritious, Biblically grounded recipes, readers will find that each cookbook also confronts some controversial aspect of secular pop culture.

Hallee is a member of the Published Author Network (PAN) of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) where she serves as a long time board member in the Faith, Hope, & Love chapter. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the American Christian Writers (ACW) as well as being a member of Novelists, Inc. (NINC).

Hallee loves coffee, campy action movies, and regular date nights with her husband. Above all else, she loves God with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength; has been redeemed by the blood of Christ; and relies on the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide her. She prays her work here on earth is a blessing to you and would love to hear from you. You find Hallee on her blog at halleebridgeman.com.

 

5 Tips to Polish Your Manuscript

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by Michelle Griep, @MichelleGriep

Most folks around here—the frozen tundra of Minneapolis—currently are hibernating because of the cold. I don’t blame them. It’s warmer in Siberia than here. Not even exaggerating (this time).

But I’m not hunkered down because of a nippy windchill. Currently I’m squirreled away because I’m in the middle of edits. It’s the ol’ pedal to the grindstone, nose to the metal time . . . or something like that. Yeah. Editing is very important, and there are a few tricks I’ve learned along the way to help the process go a little easier.

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5 Tips to Polish Your Manuscript

  1. Have 3 or 4 other sets of eyeballs read your work and offer notes.

This step is essential. You need to know what you’re really dealing with because at this point you won’t be able to see the trees in the midst of that godforsaken forest you call a manuscript. Is it a masterpiece or a piece of manure? Nab some honest Joes by the collar and ask them for their unadulterated opinion.

  1. Read those notes and decide which ones you’ll use.

Some comments on your writing are 100% awesome. Others? Not so much. How do you decide which advice to listen to and which to shove down the garbage disposal? You’re the author so go with your gut. If adding or cutting something is a hill that you’d die on, then ignore the advice. But if you’re not willing to fight to the death over some words, then change them.

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  1. Decide on a plan of attack.

Now that you’ve heard back from your beta readers, how are you going to implement those changes? Biggest changes to smallest? Easiest to hardest? Front to back, plow right through, beginning to end? There is no “right” way to do it. The point is that you pick a way and just get ‘er done.

  1. Be a hoarder.

More than likely you’re going to be cutting a lot of unnecessary description, maybe even some dialogue or action, to make the story flow better and trim it down to a svelte form. Open up a blank file and save all that cut verbage. Why? A few reasons . . . you might want to put it back in later when your editor notices a gaping hole. Or you could use the copy as “extras” — tidbits to toss to your raving fans. Or you might even have a brilliant bit that could go into a different story later on.

  1. On your last pass edit, read it out loud.

Sure, you may feel like a babbling idiot reading your entire novel out loud, but trust me on this, it’s worth the embarrassment. Your tongue will stumble over phrases that your mind skips over like a freaking little lamb. Why does it matter? Because believe it or not, changing those mouthfuls will help with the pacing and rhythm of the words, if even subliminally.

Once you’ve completed these steps, it’s time to unleash that puppy into the world. At some point you have to call it quits and move on to another project.

 


12 Days at Bleakly Manor

Imprisoned unjustly, BENJAMIN LANE wants nothing more than freedom and a second chance to claim the woman he loves—but how can CLARA CHAPMAN possibly believe in the man who stole her family’s fortune and abandoned her at the altar? Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters . . . and what matters most is love.

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the author of historical romances: The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, Undercurrent andGallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at www.michellegriep.com or stalk her on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.the next level.

How to Simplify and Focus the Scenes of Your Novel

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by Susan May Warren, @SusanMayWarren

Why can’t readers just be inside my brain? That’s the problem, isn’t it? Trying to help the reader grasp a scene without giving them too little information, or also overwhelming them.

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So often, I have my cast of characters, and I want to throw everybody into the first scene, treating them as old friends (which they are to me), without remembering that my reader hasn’t met them yet. Here’s a scene of my book, Reclaiming Nick. I wanted to portray Nick as the hero he is…but with all the players in the scene, it became clunky, and hard for the reader to follow. Let’s take a look. (My comments are in italics)


When the lanky form of Saul Lovell walked into the Watering Hole Café, dragging with him the remnants of the April chill, Nick Noble knew that his last hope of redemption had died. (SMW: I don’t know why, but I felt that this sentence needed a beat. Also, I wanted to pinpoint what time of year – early April or late April. )

Nick didn’t have time to deal with the arrival of his father’s lawyer. Not with one fist wrapped in the collar of Stinky Jim’s (SMW: Stinky Jim sounds like a caricature, let’s dump that) duster and a forearm pinning his cohort Rusty to the wall.

“We were simply offering to buy her lunch,” Rusty snarled.
“I’m not stupid. I know exactly what you were offering.” Nick motioned for the girl (SMW: because there are so many names, esp. in this first scene, let’s focus on just the main players) to move away from the pair as he upped his pressure against Rusty’s Adam’s apple. “It’s okay, honey. They’re just fresh from riding fence. You go home now and say hi to your folks from me.”

He didn’t comment on her low-cut shirt or the way it seemed to have material missing at the waistline, either. And a run into Miles City (SMW: ditto on all the places referenced in the first chapter. Focus on where they are, and why it is important) for looser fitting pants might be in order. He’d have to swing by the Carlisle place tonight, warn Erma and Bill (SMW: cut out this name, and just put in the place holder – her parents) about their daughter’s recent bent toward trouble.

Only, that wasn’t his job anymore, was it? He had to stop thinking like a cop before it landed him into more hot water.

She glanced at Rusty, as if hurt, then turned on her boot heel and flounced toward the door, followed by her best friend, blonde and dangerous Carla Wainwright. (again, cut out the names to make it smoother)

Nick didn’t like the way Stinky watched them leave. “If I see you within ten feet of them, I’ll run you all the way back to Rapid City.” (SMW: Now I’ve mentioned both Miles City AND Rapid City…and they’re actually in a town called Wellesly! Too confusing)
Stinky shoved him away, and Nick let go, not interested in swallowing one more whiff of day-old whiskey breath.

Now, let’s look at the changes I made to smooth it out:

When the lanky form of Saul Lovell walked into the Watering Hole Café, dragging with him the remnants of the late April chill, Nick Noble knew that his last hope of redemption had died.

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Nick didn’t have time to deal with the arrival of his father’s lawyer. Not with one fist wrapped in the collar of Jim’s duster and a forearm pinning his cohort Rusty to the wall.
“We were simply offering to buy her lunch,” Rusty snarled.

“I’m not stupid. I know exactly what you were offering.” Nick motioned for the girl to move away from the pair as he upped his pressure against Rusty’s Adam’s apple. “It’s okay, honey. They’re just fresh from riding fence. You go home now and say hi to your folks from me.”

He didn’t comment on her low-cut shirt or the way it seemed to have material missing at the waistline, either. And a run into Miles City three hours south for looser fitting pants might be in order. He’d have to swing by her parents’ place after closing tonight to warn them of their daughter’s recent bent toward trouble.

Only, that wasn’t his job anymore, was it? He had to stop thinking like a cop before it landed him into more hot water.

She glanced at Rusty, as if hurt, then turned on her boot heel and flounced toward the door, followed by her blonde best friend.

Nick didn’t like the way Stinky watched them leave. “If I see you within ten feet of them, I’ll run you all the way back to the border.”

Better, huh? Rule of thumb – only name the characters and places essential to the scene, streamlining it so that readers can capture the conflict, and aren’t bogged down on names that they will only forget. (Because the point is for them to remember — the hero!)

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READ MORE WRITING TIPS

Sparking Emotions in Your Readers by Kathleen Freeman

5 Types of Rough Drafts by Michelle Griep

The Rhythm of Rest by Allen Arnold


Troubled Waters (Montana Rescue Book #4)

Billionaire Ian Shaw can have everything he wants–except a happy ending. Or at least that’s what it feels like with his fortune recently liquidated, his niece, Esme, still missing, and the woman he loves refusing to speak to him. In fact, he doubts she would date him even if they were stranded on a deserted island.

Despite her love for Ian, Sierra Rose knows he has no room in his life for her as long as the mystery of his missing niece goes unsolved. The only problem is, Sierra has solved it, but a promise to Esme to keep her whereabouts secret has made it impossible to be around Ian.

When the PEAK chopper is damaged and Sierra lacks the funds to repair it, Ian offers a fundraising junket for large donors on his yacht in the Caribbean. But the three-day excursion turns into a nightmare when a rogue wave cripples the yacht and sends the passengers overboard. Shaken up and soaked to the bone, Ian finally has a chance to test his theory when he and Sierra do indeed find themselves washed up on a strange, empty shore.

It will take guts and gumption for the PEAK team to rescue the duo. But it will take a miracle to rescue Ian and Sierra’s relationship.

Susan May Warren is owner of Novel Rocket and the founder of Novel.Academy. A Christy and RITA award-winning author of over fifty novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill, Summerside Press and Revell publishers, she’s an eight-timeChristy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, and a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award and the ACFW Carol. A popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation, she’s also the author of the popular writing method, The Story Equation. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: www.susanmaywarren.com. Contact her at: susan@mybooktherapy.com.

Quick, Down & Dirty Edits

by Lisa Carter, @LisaCarter27

So here’s the thing—

You’ve written this article/blog post/novel. And like writing mentors recommend, you allowed your “baby” to take a little nap before you returned with fresh eyes and ever-evolving writer-ly skill to complete your edits. It’s been on the back burner for a while due to too many items on your plate.

(Proceed at your own risk because I’m throwing cliché rules out the window with this one.)

You had the best intentions to return to this “darling” in a few weeks/months—ahem, coughing—years. But life intervened—like you had a real baby; your aging parents required more care; other writing projects took precedence or . . . You fill in the blanks.

Then out of the blue, an agent/editor is interested in this rough draft of yours. “It’s very, very rough,” you stammer. But they want it yesterday.You can’t let such a marvelous opportunity slip through your fingers. But what’s a writer to do?

Some of you dread the editing process. And at the risk of sounding masochistic and weird, I’ll admit I actually enjoy editing. I’m a brutal self-editor of my first drafts. Often I comb through multiple revisions before my editor insists enough is enough and pries the manuscript from my cold,write-sore fingers.Yet I crave one more look-see, one more run-through. Just to be sure. Just to be thorough.

But for those situations where speed is essential, I’ve come up with a last minute editing checklist. This approach is similar to the quick cleanup I utilize for occasions when unexpected guests are en route to my house.As in—you’ve only enough time for a spit and polish. Only time to clear the deck.To remove the heavy debris. To wipe down counters and toilets. Take out the trash. You get the picture.

Here is my own down and dirty checklist for chapter edits—

  1. Scan scenes for white space. Too much narrative? Too little dialogue? Are you telling or showing?
  2. Did every scene portray emotive conflict between the characters?
  3. Does the dialogue follow FAS—feeling, action and then speech?
  4. To bring each scene to life, how many of the five senses have you included?
  5. Have you varied each paragraph opening or do they each—three paragraphs in a row—begin with the same letter “A” or “T”, etc . . .?
  6. Have you varied your sentence structure/opening sentence/closing hook? Can you simplify and avoid any complex compound sentence structures?
  7. Have you searched and replaced all redundant, weak weasel words?
  8. Did you maintain deep POV? And maintain POV realism? A cop will never use words like, “beauteous fragility” to describe his love interest or a Southern character say, “You guys.”
  9. Did you spell check?
    You can guess my final piece of advice—
  10. Last but not least, did you eliminate all clichéd phrases and untangle mixed metaphors?

I liken the editing process to that of a sculptor. By chipping away at this ungainly lump of stone, your editing chisel slowly releases the beauty hidden within the pages of your novel.

Happy editing,

Lisa


The Christmas Baby

Mistletoe Mommy

Anna Reyes is pregnant and widowed, and a Christmas homecoming isn’t so simple. Reuniting with her best friend, Ryan Savage, makes it easier—even though she knows he’ll soon be leaving their small coastal hometown. After putting his career on hold for his family’s business, Ryan’s finally ready to pursue his goals. But as he and Anna work to make the holidays special for a group of at-risk kids, Ryan wonders if he can give up one dream for another. They’re determined to make this a Christmas to remember, but can Ryan and Anna also make their holiday family last forever?

Lisa Carter is the bestselling author of seven romantic suspense novels, four historical novellas and a contemporary Coast Guard series. The Stronghold won the 2017 Daphne du Maurier. Under a Turquoise Sky won the 2015 Carol Award for Romantic Suspense. Beyond the Cherokee Trail was a 4 1/2 star Romantic Times Top Pick. Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales and researching her next exotic adventure. When not writing, she loves spending time with her family and teaching writing workshops. A native North Carolinian, she has strong opinions on barbecue and ACC basketball. http://www.lisacarterauthor.com

Connect with Lisa on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.