No Wasted Ink Writers Links

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Welcome to another No Wasted Ink writers link where we explore my top ten writing articles of the week. This time I have plenty of general writing tip articles for you to choose from. Enjoy!

On Writing Narratives, Questioning Standards, and Oral Traditions in Storytelling

Six Character Archetypes for Sidekicks

Use Awe to Spark Creativity

On “Significant Authorship:” Writing as a Team

A Call to the Children’s Publishing Community: Join the Fight for School Librarians

Short Story Plot: How to Use Ideas and Structure to Plot a Short Story

Stories Will Save You

How To Use Sound To Make Your Writing Memorable

7 Steps for Tackling a Revise & Resubmit (R&R)

On the Most Adapted Ghost Story of All Time

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

Happy Monday! It is time for the top-ten writing articles from No Wasted Ink. I admit, I needed to surf twice as long for articles this week. Writers were taking a vacation or doing holiday related articles for the most part and I wanted to find things with more useful content. I found a good batch and I hope you’ll enjoy them.

International Interactions with Tolkien – A Roundtable

Breaking Into Publishing Isn’t Easy, but if You’re Not in America, It’s Even Harder

Writing Goals: Clearing Your Path For Creativity In The New Year

Why Book Reviews Are Important and Where to Find Them

How to Write When You’re Not Writing

Five Unnecessary World Additions in Popular Stories

How to Write a Compelling Antihero

2022 Publishing Predictions

Journals adopt AI to spot duplicated images in manuscripts

Trusting the Reader

Three Tips For Writing Compelling Dialogue by Rita M. Reali

Photo by Julia Kicova on Unsplash

When folks in the writers group I belong to comment on the work I submit each month, the most frequent comments I hear are how spot-on my dialogue is, how I seem to have captured the essence of each character through his or her words, and how the dialogue really rings true.

I’m often asked how I manage to write such realistic and compelling dialogue. It boils down to a few key elements, which I’ll share with you here.

First, it’s important to realize how real people speak. You probably wouldn’t ever hear anyone have this conversation:

“Where are you going this weekend?”
“I am not sure where I am going this weekend. I think I might go up to the mountains. They are really pretty at this time of year.”
“Yes. I understand the mountains are pretty this time of year.”
“I would also like to stop in to see my cousin. She is going to be having surgery next week and she is pretty nervous. So I thought I would pay her a visit.”
“That is nice of you. You are always so considerate.”

This exchange is stilted and awkward. Folks just don’t talk that way. If you listen to conversations around you, you’ll realize people tend to use contractions – and speak in sentence fragments. A lot. Here’s how this bit of conversation would sound if two real people were having it:

“Where you going this weekend?”
“Dunno. Maybe the mountains – they’re really pretty this time of year.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that.”
“I’ll probably stop in to visit my cousin, too. She’s pretty nervous about her surgery next week.”
“That’s nice of you. You’re always so considerate.”

It’s 50 percent shorter, it’s more direct and it sounds more natural. People rarely reply to questions with full sentences – or by including the wording of the original question; they respond in fragments. I also used contractions. Not including contractions in speech sounds wooden and unnatural.

Second, be aware of what your characters are doing while they’re speaking. Include beats that give readers a visual on what’s happening. Here’s part of an exchange between two characters in my work in progress, Brothers by Betrayal. Gary is talking with Erin, his teenage daughter, who’s been grounded for two weeks (but who wants to go out with her friends for her birthday tomorrow):

Gary leaned against the doorjamb, his arms folded. “Look, Erin, you keep saying you want me to treat you like an adult. Then act like one. Children whine. Grownups accept the consequences of their actions without complaining.”
“But it’s not fair.”
He shook his head. “I’m done discussing this, Erin. I told you no and that’s final.”
“But Daddy…” she whined.
“Punkin, I gotta be up early in the morning. I’m going to bed. Talk to me again on Monday.”
“But the party’s tomorrow night.”
“I’m aware of that. And we’ve already established you’re not going.”
Erin thrust her lower lip out in a pout. She kicked at the leg of her desk. “Then what’s the point of talking on Monday?”
Gary gave a weary sigh and shoved away from the doorjamb. “I’m not having this discussion with you now, Erin. Goodnight.”

Note the absence of “he said” and “she said.” The only attribution is “she whined,” which tells the reader how the line gets delivered. The rest of the excerpt uses beats – snippets of narrative that precede, follow or are interwoven amid dialogue – to clue readers in to action taking place with the dialogue. Sometimes, when action is concurrent with dialogue, the author will interrupt the dialogue with a beat. Like this:

Inside, Gary approached Paula G., the woman who was serving as leader for the meeting. “Hi Paula, I’m Gary” – he laid his hands on the teen’s shoulders – “and this is my daughter Erin. This is her first meeting.”

I tend to get pushback from the writers group denizens about my use of en dashes with spaces to offset beats within dialogue. As it turns out, it’s a U.K. style. U.S. style favors em dashes (—) with no spaces. For a fine discourse on use of the various dashes (en, em and 2em) in your writing, read this blog post.

Third, run your dialogue aloud to hear the cadence of the words instead of simply seeing them in print. Often, we write what we think we want our characters to say, only to find, when reading it aloud, it’s clunky or awkward. And if it sounds off to you, think how it’ll sound in your readers’ heads. And no matter how fond you may be of a bit of dialogue, sometimes it has to go. The difference between a good writer and a great writer is often the willingness to excise those bits of dialogue that don’t sound right or advance the story.

For more tips on ways to improve your dialogue, check out this helpful article from the folks at Writer’s Digest.

When you’re tackling a tough bit of dialogue, what advice do you find works best for you?

Author and Editor Rita M Reali

Rita M. Reali is an international award-winning author and longtime editor who most enjoys editing memoir, general fiction and romance, along with inspirational writing. She’s self-published four novels: Glimpse of EmeraldDiagnosis: LoveThe Unintended Hero and Second Chances – the first four in the seven-volume Sheldon Family Saga. Her fifth novel, Tender Mercies, is due out this June. As a former disc jockey in her native Connecticut, Rita used to spend her days “talking to people who weren’t there” – a skill which transferred perfectly to her being an author. Now she talks to characters who aren’t there on “a little chunk of heaven in rural Tennessee.” Contact Rita.

Rita Reali Books

Happy New Year from No Wasted Ink

At the start of each year, I like to post a retrospective of the previous year. For many, 2021 meant isolation and difficult times. A fact that I’m painfully aware of and feel compassion for those experiencing this. But for me, life turned out to be the opposite. I soared with new opportunities to teach, read my poetry and prose at major conventions, and discovered online writing and critique groups that helped me stay focused and replaced the in-person venues I used to attend.

It was a good year for my husband as well. His firm shifted him to home-based work at the start of the pandemic and toward the end of 2021, that shift was made permanent. It makes my life easier knowing that he is gainfully employed and able to stay safely at home while we ride out the adventure that is Covid 19 together. We are now a household with a dueling office and studio, each at one end of the house, and it seems to work for us. Zoom is vital for our work and being able to connect at will in a private location has been helpful to us both. Our two fur babies are at constant play, a smug yellow tabby and a sweet wirehair dachshund who follows my husband everywhere. They keep us smiling.

The first quarter of 2021, I returned to virtual conventions where I had established myself as a panelist during 2020, and attended a few additional writing conferences. I made the level of “featured guest” at one convention due to setting up a complete poetry performance track at the venue, which is one step below guest of honor. I also taught my scifaiku poetry workshop at several of the conventions and due to this, was hired by a museum to teach the same class for their program in the fall.

During this quarter, I managed to complete a full revision of my Austen Regency book and made progress on tying new characters and story threads to the 3rd and 4th book of the series. I am not quite ready to publish book two, but it is close. I am working on getting covers for the entire series of four books and setting up an imprint for them. This takes capital and time, but I feel that in the end, it will be the correct move for my regency and science fiction books of the future. While I realize there are readers waiting for book two, I’d rather put out something that I’m proud of than rushing to market and “fixing” it later.

My first quarter also saw me become the editor of “Eccentric Orbits”, an anthology of speculative poetry put out by Dimentionfold Publishing. EO2 is the first anthology that I have edited and I feel proud of the project. I had poets submit from all over the world and had a good range of diversity, age, and gender included. I have been invited to return as editor of “Eccentric Orbits” for 2022 and also will be editing an edition of “Eye to the Telescope” for the SFPA next fall.

The second quarter of 2021 I tried to take a short break from speaking and took a poetry writing class instead. I wanted to create more long form poetry instead of the science fiction haiku I’m known for. I ended up writing literary pieces in the class, which I found surprising considering my speculative background, but also invigorating to explore a new side to my creativity. I have a future literary project I wish to pursue, a hybrid poetry and prose book that I plan to illustrate, and this class helped me decide on the format and tone of this future book.

The third quarter of the year, I was invited to be on the admin team of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association. They created a new job title for me as their inaugural Con Coordinator. As it was put to me, I’ve been out there for the past two years creating panels for speculative poets at conventions all over the United States, I might as well be official! I started in September and I’m looking forward to a busy year in 2022 coordinating events for myself and my fellow SFPA poets.

The final quarter of the year, life took off like a rocket. The conventions switched from being totally virtual, to being hybrid. I flew to Denver to attend an in-person MileHiCon. My illustrated poetry appeared in their artshow, I had an author table, and appeared in a large number of panels as a speaker and reader. It felt very good to be back among people once more. We were all careful to wear masks and I ended up eating in my room for the most part, but even so, I was glad to be back to semi-normal at a convention. This quarter, I attended a week long writing conference in Las Vegas, taught an in-person poetry workshop in San Diego, and attended WorldCon virtually in December. The convention was hybrid with the physical part of the convention in Washington, DC. It felt strange to have a major convention the week before Christmas, but we all made it work.

And now, here we are at the New Year! I am grateful to have a solid roof over my head and the health to continue to create the poetry and stories that I love to write. I’m diving more into watercolor, gouache, and color pencils and hope to have new colorful mixed media offerings at the upcoming 2022 art shows.

Happy New Year! I hope you all can look forward to positives in the upcoming year and that the world as a whole can continue to move to a more normal life.

Author Interviews * Book Reviews * Essays * Writer's Links * Scifaiku

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