Friday, March 7, 2014

Let's Talk About Dialogue by Rita Karnopp

 “Stop describing every little thing.  I get it.  I do have a voice and the reader has an imagination,” the character said.
“Well, that’s rude. I just wanted you to feel the hot, dry, skin-cracking, desert air.”  The writer clenched her teeth and swallowed hard.
The character shook her head.  “I get it, but why don’t I just say, ‘This desert air is killing me.  Look, my lips are bleeding.’ Dialog is active and involves the reader. It falls in that overused line, ‘show - don’t tell.’

Okay – so you get my point, right?  Don’t you just hate reading paragraph after paragraph of description or information?  If you’re like me you start skimming until you find dialog.  That should never happen.

Let’s face it – a story is all about interaction – which is dialog.  And if you’re honest, you know when you’ve gone on too long with descriptions, flashbacks, or even thoughts.  Dialog is the action maker.  Dialog keeps us connected with the characters.  Dialog reveals personality and exposes what is going on around him/her without author intrusion.

We can feel our story slow down when there isn’t enough dialog.  Your story should flow with a consistent amount of thoughts or descriptions.  Long paragraphs of filler creates a great place for the reader to ‘stop’ reading.  Boy – you don’t want that.

Use ‘dialog’ to describe a scene, rather than narrative to describe it.  Every chance you get – use dialog.  Don’t tell how angry your character is – show how angry he/she is with dialog.
Do the same with happy, sad, scared, depressed, etc.  Use dialog as your shining light – leading the reader down the dark hall, revealing what’s ahead with each step and each word.

I went to a RWA conference many years ago and an actress shared with us how she works out a scene by physically going through the actions before writing the scene.  Once you feel the actual action, use dialog to share what you experienced and the scene will come alive.  Let’s compare for a minute -

            Lily stepped into the crime scene noticed her partner nearly vomited.  She took the scene in.  It wasn’t a pretty sight. The small bathroom appeared to have been painted in blood.  The naked victim lay in the dry shower.  It was impossible to count how many times he’d been stabbed. He’d been shot in the head once. It had to be a crime of passion.
            “It’s going to be one of those days, Jordan,” she said, moving toward the victim.

Let’s rewrite this scene – using dialog to learn what’s going on.
            Jordan stepped beside her, a cloth to his mouth.  Lilly gave her partner a stern glance and shook her head.  “Damn, what do we have here?”
            “A stinking mess, if you ask me.” He cleared his throat and swallowed hard.
            “What are you trying to tell us, Lance Johnson?” She inched toward the naked victim lying on the dry shower base.  “I’d say the doer used that towel and smeared the victim’s blood on all four walls. Why?”
            “You asking me?  Hell, I don’t know.  Killer is making a statement.”
            “I agree, but what is that statement?  He means nothing.  Maybe he smeared someone’s name, demeaning them.  This is payback.”
            “Could be.  Head shot looks after-the-fact.”
            “I noticed there wasn’t any blood near the wound, I agree.  Another reason it’s a crime of passion.  I’d say the killer’s a woman.”
            “Doesn’t look like a woman’s MO.”
            “Normally I’d agree, but this one reads a woman scorned.”
Nothing – absolutely nothing can replace dialog.  It’s better to share information in dialog than in the character’s thoughts.  But, don’t get caught up creating short back-and-forth exchanges.  If your dialog doesn’t advance the story – you’re stalling. Don’t do the;
            “Good morning, Jana.”
            “Good morning, Sue.”
            “Have a great day.”
            Sue smiled.  “You have a great day, too.”

Boring for sure.  It doesn’t add anything to the scene or the situation.  Of course had you written something like this – it changes everything.

            “Good morning, Jana.”
            “What the hell’s good about it?  Johnson just fired me.”
            “No possible way.  Did you tell him you were being harassed?” Sue leaned over and hugged her friend.
            “He didn’t believe me.  Said either I could forget about the whole damn thing or I was fired.”

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Give Your Character A Meaningful Name

This is a post Rita shared on "Dishin' It Out.  I think you'll enjoy it. 
I don’t know about you, but I think choosing a name for my character is one of the most exciting steps of writing!  It’s like naming a child.  I’ll admit, I’ve chosen badly a time or two and just had to change it.  If you name your character Bob . . . and he behaves like a Heraldo . . . you must change it.  Bottom line – a name must ‘fit the character.’

A few things to keep in mind when picking names;
1.   nationality
2.   Personality
3.   Name meanings
4.   Time-frame of story
5.   Genre
6.   Research – research - research
7.   Don’t name characters starting with the same initials (Lisa, Lora, Lana…)

If I’m writing a Native American 1800s story I know my names must fit the nationality and the time-frame I’m writing.  Names mean something, and in the Blackfeet world, a man can perform a great coup and change his name each time.  Tribe members can also give someone a new name.  Puts a whole new perspective on naming conventions, doesn’t it?  You have to know the history of the person you’re naming.  If you don’t, be prepared for a savvy reader to point out your mistake.

Popular mystery writer Elizabeth Sims (the Rita Farmer Mysteries) shared seven great rules for choosing character names.  I read this checklist to remind myself of the importance of naming my characters.  Consider each of these rules before you start naming your characters.
1. Check root meanings.  It’s better to call a character Caleb, which means “faithful” or “faithful dog,” than to overkill it by naming him Loyal or Goodman—unless you want that for comic/ironic purposes. Some readers will know the name’s root meaning, but those who don’t might sense it.

2. Get your era right. If you need a name for an 18-year-old shopgirl in a corset store in 1930s Atlanta, you know enough not to choose Sierra or Courtney, unless such an unusual name is part of your story. Browse for names in the era you’re writing. A Depression-era shopgirl who needs a quick name could go by Myrtle or Jane; it will feel right to the reader. Small public libraries will often have decades’ worth of local high school yearbooks on the shelves. Those things are gold for finding name combinations from the proper era.

3. Speak them out loud. Your novel might become an audiobook or an e-book with text-to-speech enabled. A perfectly good name on paper, such as Adam Messina, may sound unclear aloud: Adam Essina? Adah Messina?

4. Manage your crew appropriately. Distinguish your large cast of characters by using different first initials, of course, and vary your number of syllables and places of emphasis. Grace Metalious (a great name right there) demonstrates this in her blockbuster Peyton Place, as do any of the successful epic writers like James Michener and Larry McMurtry.

5. Use alliterative initials. Employ this strategy to call special attention to a character: Daniel Deronda, Bilbo Baggins, Ratso Rizzo, Severus Snape.

6. Think it through. You might notice that in most crime fiction the murderer rarely has a middle name or initial. Why? Because the more you explicate the name, the more likely there’s a real person out there with it. And reading your story they might become upset and try to sue you or come after you some night with a bayonet.

7. Check ’em again. When writing my novel The Actress, I needed a name for a Japanese-American criminal defense attorney, and the name Gary Kwan burst upon me. I loved the name and used it in the book. Only thing was, as soon as the thousands of copies of hardcovers were printed and shipped to stores, I heard from a reader who pointed out the simple fact that Kwan is a Chinese surname. I cursed loudly and decided: a) that I would ALWAYS check name origins, and b) that Gary Kwan had a Chinese grandfather who adopted a Japanese orphan who became Gary’s father. Or something like that.

Naming characters just right is a challenge, but give it some time and thought, and you’ll start to find the fun in it. Study the names great authors have come up with, let your mind loose to play, do your research, and above all, trust your ear.
And if worst comes to worst, here’s hoping you’re like Oates and lucky enough to just bump into your character in a dream—where you can ask him yourself.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Logic? Sure Thing!

Do You Really Understand English  

Everyone who reads my blog knows I love Reader’s Digest.  
In their September 2010 issue, they presented an article by 
Melissa Demeo and Paul Silverman that resonated with me. 
Although I like to think I’m literate when it comes to speaking
 and writing, I honestly had to pause after each example and 
consider if I’m an offender.

I’m going to share some of their tips with you today.  I suppose as
 long as I’ve credited the magazine and authors, I won’t be brought 
up on plagiarism charges.  I’ve “bolded” the correct examples
 below,and in some cases, both are appropriate when used in 
the correct situation:

Could care less versus Couldn’t care less:  Because you care so
 little already, you couldn’t care less.

Less versus Fewer:  Recommend the use of fewer when you
 specify a number of countable things (50 words or fewer).  
Less is appropriate when speaking of mass amount (less than half.)
 hand as guilty on this one.*

Hone in versus Home in: Since hone means to sharpen, Home in
comes from “homing pigeons.” which indicates being single-minded.  
You either want to home in on something or, if you’re confused,
 zero in on the topic.

Brother-in-laws versus Brothers-in-law:  Form the plural by adding 
an s to the thing there is more than one of.  Of course an ‘s would
 indicate possession by one brother-in-law.  (applies to runners-up
and hole in ones, too)

Different than versus Different from: If you can substitute “from: 
for than, then do it.  Use “than” for comparisons.  Example:  My office 
is different from any other in the building.  My office is bigger than 
any other in the building.  *Raising hand as guilty on this one.*

Try versus Try to: If you are planning to do something, then try to
do it.Of course, try and try again makes sense, but remember the rule.

Supposably versus Supposedly: Although spell check tells me that
 supposably is not a word, it is one—meaning “conceivably.”  But, if
 you’re trying to relay, “it’s assumed” than supposedly is what you
 want to say and what most people recognize as correct English.

All of versus All:  Drop “of” whenever you can, but not before a pronoun.
 Examples:  All the children were in their seats.  All of them were in
 their seats.

Outside of versus Outside: Both are prepositions and weren’t meant
 to be used together. 

Each other versus One AnotherEach other is appropriate when
 speaking of two people or things. Example: Ginger and Barbara
 present each other with a gift for the occasion.  One another is used
 when more are involved. 
 Example:  The debaters argued with one another.

Now for some confusing pairs:

Wary = suspicious
Weary = tired
Farther = physical distance
Further = metaphorical distance or time
Principle = rule
Principal = School official
Compliment = saying a nice thing
Complement = match
Continual = ongoing but intermittent
Continuous = without interruption
Stationary = doesn’t move
Stationery = paper
Imply = suggest a meaning
Infer = draw meaning from something
Affect (v) = to act upon. (n) = an emotional response
Effect (n) = something produced, but as a verb) to bring about  

If you’re like me, you’re still confused about affect versus effect, 
so here are some examples: His bad behavior affected the entire
classroom.  His bad behavior had a negative effect in the classroom.

I still don’t get the “emotional response” usage of affect as a noun.

A few last helpful hints:  Did you know that saying “at this point in time”
is redundant?  Point and time have the same meaning in this instance.  
At this time, at this point…

Past history?  Isn’t all history past?

Be careful where you place your modifiers…if you even need one.  
If you read this sentence with “even” placed after “need”, the meaning
of the sentence is changed.  “Only, also, and even can impact your story
if you aren’t careful.

And one of my favorites,  I versus me:  When comparing yourself to 
someone or something, use I.  “Am” is implied so consider that “me am”
is not apppropriate. Meow is, if you’re a cat.  J

The rules continue to grow the more I write.  Just when I think I have
grasp on something, one house claims the rule inappropriate and 
I have to change my logic.  What logic, I say….there is none in writing. 
But just in case you want to check out my accomplishments, please
visit my website at and see if you think
I understand English.  Now don’t forget, we’re talking U.S. English, 
not The Queen’s English. You won't find any unnecessary "u" instances,
 such has favour or favourites.

Shouldn’t English be English?  See, I told you…no logic.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Interview with Tyler Bishop from Ellie's Legacy

We’re very pleased to have Tyler Bishop with us today.  Mr. Bishop is the hero in
 Ginger’s Simpson’s western historical romance, Ellie's Legacy.  So, Mr. Bishop, 
welcome to BWL Author's Blog.

TB – “Ty, please.  Mr. Bishop was my father.  And thanks for the welcome,
 but I’m here under duress.”

INT  - “Really.”

TB –“I have things waiting to be done.  Cows need to be moved to another pasture,
fences need mendin’ and the longer I dawdle, the more I stand to lose favor with 
my boss, Ben.”

Int – “Ben?  Would that be Ben Fountain, father of the heroine, Ellie Fountain?”

TB – “Yep, that’d be right.  There’s another reason I need to get movin’…Ellie.  
For some reason, that little filly is out to get me.  Seems every time I chew the fat with her pa,
she gets her nose out of joint. I never met someone so… so…what’s the word I’m looking for. 
You know, someone who wants to prove they can do everything better than the next feller?”

INT – “Oh, you mean competitive.”

TB – “That’s her in a nutshell.  Just wait till you read the story.  She even went out, 
bought a gun and learned to shoot.  She’s says it’s because of the polecats next door, 
threatening to trespass on Ben’s and, but I say different.”

INT – “Really?  Why do you think she bought the gun?”

TB – “To try to show me up.  She already thinks she can ride and rope as good as any man, 
and lord knows, she could stand to dress up a bit.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell there’s a girl under
 that big ol’ hat and the layer of dust.”

INT – “Does she always dress in men’s clothing?”

TB – “Well she did until I invited her to a dance.  Ben sort of pushed me into it, 
but down deep I wanted to go with her.  She looked mighty pretty, all fancied up, but instead
 of the evening turnin’ out like I planned, she went and got herself in trouble again.  
She should have listened to me about those pesky Bryant boys.”

INT – “What kind of trouble did she get into?”

TB – “I may be greener than most folks you know, but I ain’t about to divulge Ginger’s
 whole story.  Ellie is a real tomboy, and she stays madder than a wet hen at me most times,
 but I’ll just say, I think she finally realizes there are just times a woman can’t match a man’s strength.”

INT – “Well it sounds like I’ll have to buy my own copy if I want to see how this turns out.”

TB – “You’re right welcome to visit  That’s where Ellie and my story is being sold. 
I’m not real savvy when it comes to the Internet, but I wrote this down.  *fishes in pocket*.  Let’s see,   Ain’t got no idea how you get there, but Ginger said to
 hare the name with ya’ll.  I thank you for the time, but I best get going.  
I fear Ellie's Legacy is going to change my life.

INT – “Thank you, Ty, and please visit us again.”

Titillating preview by J.C. Kavanagh

WINNER Best Young Adult Book 2016, The Twisted Climb I've been prepping for Autumn book signings and excited to meet new and...