Realistic Dialogue is a Must

writing-dialogue-help

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.

writing-dialogue-help

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?

advanced-writers-toolkit

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.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Research Help

author research help

author research helpby Hallee Bridgeman, @halleeb

One thing about my personality – I’m an introvert. I realize, as I type this, that I’m writing to a group of mostly introverts, so you know my pain. I don’t know what it is about a writer’s mind that makes interacting with living, breathing human beings so hard. Give me my mind-full of characters any day!

As a part of that side of my personality, I hate asking for help mainly because I hate being told no, suffering from rejection, feeling like no one really wants to talk to me in the first place. I’m sure, since so many of you are likely introverts, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

However, as a writer, it’s imperative, sometimes, to ask for help – to reach out to other living, breathing human beings and interact with them in a way that you need for your work. And that’s in the form of interviewing people for research.

The first time I called someone to ask for help writing a book, it was a friend’s husband who was a fireman. When I realized that I needed the help, that what I wanted to know couldn’t be found in the research section of the library (this was 1999, friends – I didn’t yet have dial-up AOL to access me with online research), it took me days to approach him. I started to dial the phone probably fifteen times. The whole time it rang, I thought, “He’s going to laugh at me. He’s going to think I’m some silly girl.”

Want to know what actually happened? He was thrilled! He invited me to talk to another fireman who had worked in Chicago – the setting of my story – and connected the two of us together. That man asked if he could be in the book some way. Their entire firehouse became involved in my project and they beta read it for me as I produced it.

Fast forward sixteen years. At this point, I’ve become a very successful author. I had eight books published and most of my books ranked in the top 20 of their categories on Amazon. I sold thousands of books a month. The last two suspense novels I’d written, my amazing husband was my research point – one dealt in information security, the other dealt in special forces operations. My husband fits both those bills.

This time, I needed to speak to a prosecuting attorney in Richmond, Virginia. I stared at the screen with the contact information for a solid day. I hung up on the poor operator twice. Finally, I sent an email (instead of calling, because who wants to be bothered by me?) and got a phone call from the state attorney instead of the city attorney. He was fascinated with my story and connected me with the person I needed to interview. She invited me to her office and I was able to spend a morning interviewing her, looking through crime scene photos, looking through court exhibits, then spend a few hours in the courtroom watching everything happen.

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She wasn’t bothered. She didn’t give any impression that what I needed to know was “silly”. She just graciously shared her knowledge with me and offered to answer further questions I might come across as I wrote. The more we talked, the more excited she became about my upcoming story.

Now, with 25 books under my belt, reaching out for help is much easier. I’ve walked through a mega-church with the facilities director next to me carrying the blueprints for the church as we discuss the best way to blow it up. I’ve sat backstage at a major concert and interviewed stage hands as the took breaks between setup and tear down. I’ve sat down with a Federal Marshal and discussed witness protection and marshaling things. My current release, Jade’s Match, is about two Olympic athletes – one from the Rio Games, one from the upcoming Korean Games. I dug around Team USA’s website, found the hockey contact information, and had a back-and-forth email exchange with the Director of Communications – who was so gracious to fill in the blanks for me and give me what he could give me in the name of research.

My point to these stories, writer friends, is no matter how fearful it is to step out and ask for help – don’t be afraid to do it. Know that most people out there would love to be asked! But, know what you need to know before you go in.

  1. Have a list of questions ready.
  2. Have a notebook to write down anything you need to write.
  3. Be prepared to have more questions once you start getting information.
  4. Know that as you go back to write, you’ll probably come across something else you might need to know. Ask for an open door to email or call again.
  5. Ask permission to write an acknowledgement thanking the person in your book.
  6. Mail a thank-you card. If possible, attach a copy of the book with it.

It’s a scary world out there full of living, breathing people. As hard as it is, unless I wrote stories about a homemaker with an incredible husband and three amazing children who happened to start writing Christian fiction novels – which is what I know – then interacting with those people is a requirement to continue to do what I do, and to do it well.

READ MORE WRITING TIPS

How Christian is Your Fiction? by Dan Walsh

7 Tips for Writing With Young Kids at Home by Lindsay Harrel

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.

Charting Through Conflict

by Hallee Bridgeman, @halleeb

Happily writing away on my latest WIP, I came across a major road block. I knew what I wanted my conflict to be. I just didn’t know why it should be a conflict for my main character. Or, rather, I didn’t know how to make it a big enough conflict that the reader would understand why it was a big deal to my character.

I’d plotted out the book – a brief outline of what happened in each chapter, and had written about three chapters of the planned ten (this book is a 40K word novella.) However, this outline is just action presented as an answer to the question, “What happens in this chapter?” Most of the time, the characterization and conflicts and goals are already built in a solid form as I’ve built my characters. When writing this one, though, the conflict was just this vague conflict hanging out there that made sense to me in my mind because I knew the “whole” story versus what was being presented on the page — but in writing all of that down, I just found myself up against the wall that lead to the deepening of the conflict. For the first time ever, I was stuck — while writing my 24th book!

So, I took out a white board and a red dry erase marker and wrote the conflict in the center of it and drew a big circle around it. There was my conflict – in red and white.

I asked the question, “Why did it matter to her?” I wrote the answer, circled it, and drew a line to the conflict.

I asked the question, “Why did it matter to him?” I wrote the answer and circled it and drew a line back to the conflict.

Okay, so I had how the conflict affected my two main characters. Next, I asked for both answers, “What will it mean if —,” which produced two or three answers to that question as it pertained to each characters.

Working backward from the center, in an organizational chart format, I answered questions that directly related to conflict, character action and reaction, and motivations. The end result was that I had my conflict built in a way that I could present it on the page and make it matter to my readers — give them a conflict in which they could relate and root for the parties to overcome.

Suddenly, the wall I’d come across dissolved and I was able to go forward with the book. I didn’t even have to refer back to the organizational chart I’d developed. I think what I had to do was problem solve it in a concrete way that allowed me to see it. Which, in turn, further developed my characters in my mind and gave me the freedom to continue with the story as I’d originally plotted it.

Sometimes, it takes stepping away from the way “you’ve always done it before,” and creating a new way for your mind to work through a problem. What kind of creative solutions have you used to work through a plotting/writing problem?


Out of the Blue Bouquet

Five of today’s Best-selling Christian Authors weave five unique connected stories where misdirected floral deliveries lead to changed lives.

Courting Calla, by Hallee Bridgeman.
Ian knows Calla is the woman God has chosen for him, but Calla is hiding something big. Can Calla trust Ian with her secret, or will she let it destroy any possible hope they may have for a future?

Seoul in Love, by Alana Terry.
Love was lost a long time ago. A chance meeting in Seoul might change all that forever.

A Kærasti for Clari, by Carol Moncado.
Joel Christiansen delivered flowers to the palace and found his life turned upside down.
Clari Sørenson’s job as social media manager for Eyjania’s Queen Mother keeps her busy. An unexpected treasure hunt with a cute guy might be the vacation she needs.
Between clues and a snow storm, they’re drawn to each other. Her grandparents, and even the Queen Mother, have been after her to find a boyfriend, but is Joel the Kærasti for Clari?

Premeditated Serendipity, by Chautona Havig.
When Wayne Farrell hears about his niece’s floral fiasco, it sparks a plan to mix up his own orders in an attempt to play matchmaker. Reid has his reasons for not pursuing Kelsey… yet, and Wayne’s interference only makes an already difficult situation even more awkward. Premeditated Serendipity—because romance sometimes needs a little shove.

Out of the Blue Bouquet, by Amanda Tru.
When Brooke is left in charge of Crossroads Floral, she accidentally sends the flower deliveries to the wrong people. Unfortunately, some of those wrong people include all of the ex-girlfriends of the most eligible bachelor in town. Are Brooke’s mistakes a complete disaster, or can there be something beautiful in an out-of-the-blue bouquet?”

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.