Dialogue in fiction is essential, and good dialogue is crucial. Nothing kills a book for me like poor dialogue. The plot might be intriguing, the characters worth getting to know, and the setting gorgeous, but if the dialogue is stilted and poorly executed, I’m ready to put the book down. I want to read and write dialogue that sings.
Here’s my best advice on dialogue: Use it, but do not abuse it. All writing benefits from strong dialogue. It moves the plot along, and it develops character better than any other technique in the writer’s toolbox. However, many novice writers abuse it by not understanding how to write it.
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years about writing dialogue.
Learn the mechanics of dialogue. This helps the reader understand. Some contemporary authors are trying new techniques for displaying dialogue with novels, but it only confuses me and causes me to pay more attention to the punctuation or lack of it than to the pleasure of reading a story. Here is a correctly punctuated line of dialogue:
“Leave me alone,” she said.
Avoid dialect to characterize characters. It only detracts from the reader’s understanding. It’s been done superbly, but unless you know you can do it, leave it alone. I attended a writer’s workshop several years ago with Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek, a book set in the Appalachian Mountains one hundred years ago. He said rather than use the dialect of the time and setting, he had the characters use certain words that gave their speech distinction rather than using gonna, goin’, ‘bout. For instance, the character would most likely use the word “fetch” instead of “get.”
Do not put a “he said” or “she said” after every line. If two people are speaking, it becomes clear to the reader which character is speaking the alternating lines. Interject after several lines to remind the reader. Here’s an example of two characters, Simon and Caroline, in conversation in my novel Trails in the Sand:
“No easy days in sight,” Simon said.
“That’s very true, but we’ve weathered worse,” Caroline said.
“Like the time we capsized the canoe and lost our oars?”
“I have never been so cold in my life.”
“You should try ice fishing in Pennsylvania in January. Then tell me about cold.”
“That’s just unnatural and the very reason I live in Florida.”
“So you wouldn’t move back to Pennsylvania with me?” Simon asked.
“Not on your life,” Caroline said.
You can go for a bit without using the names and “he said/she said,” but don’t go too long without injecting it or the reader becomes lost. I read a novel recently where they didn’t use any designations about who was speaking. The reader was left to guess who was speaking. It guessed me right out of continuing to read the book
“He said” and “she said” are the best to use, if not overused. Do not add qualifiers, such as “he said with a smile on his face.” Also, don’t use adverbs to describe how it was said: “Leave me alone,” she said sternly. Write the dialogue so it is clear that the speaker is smiling or speaking sternly. Let your words show the story without you telling the reader.
Leave out interrupters such as “Well,” “uh,” “um,” etc. It slows down the reading.
Listen to others speak. We rarely speak in complete sentences. Listen to the differences in speech patterns with different speakers. Try to distinguish your characters by their speech. Perhaps there is a phrase they use or a way of speaking that not only distinguishes their speech, but also creates characterization. However, be careful with this technique. If it’s overused, you’ll surely annoy the reader.
Read your dialogue aloud. Would real people speak in the way that you have written it? Using the dialogue of real people is certainly easier than fictional characters, if you really listen to them. We usually create characters that come from composites of real people, so why not create dialogue that comes from real people as well.
Your goal in writing is to make the reader forget they’re reading. You want them lost in the story and if your dialogue sings, they won’t even notice the agonizing pains you took to make it so.
I know there are many other techniques out there. I learn every day I write, and I’d like to learn from you as well. What makes dialogue sing for you?
No, it’s not a typo. That’s deals, plural. I am beyond thrilled to officially announce the Option Agreement for the Eviscerating the Snake trilogy is completed and the ink dry. The three screenplays for Accountable to None, Zero Balance and Adjusting Journal Entries are currently underway.
I am still in shock!
In April of 2011, when I first unleashed Accountable to None on Amazon (unedited and with my own cover–gasp!) thoughts of Hollywood were nonexistent. I uploaded the book out of sheer curiosity, and to see if my college creative writing instructor was just blowing smoke when she gushed over the story. Never, in a million years, would I have dreamed Accountable to None would make it to the Top Ten in thrillers on Amazon (which it did in December of 2011–after undergoing a thorough edit). By the time the sequels, Zero Balance and Adjusting Journal Entries were finished and uploaded for sale, my knowledge of the publishing industry had grown by leaps and bounds. Credit for my newly learned information goes to the wonderful folks at Blue Harvest Creative. From their stellar cover designs, beautiful interior layouts and vast array of marketing knowledge, they helped me create polished pieces of work.
By the time I wrote the thriller novella, Number Seventy-Five, I was a full-fledged believer and staunch supporter of Blue Harvest. In fact, I named them my official book designers and haven’t looked back since. When I sent Number Seventy-Five to them for the creation of the cover, they outdid themselves when they created this:
After reading the story and creating the fabulous cover, they encouraged me to do two things that changed the trajectory of my career. First, they suggested I enter the book in the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards (where it won the BRONZE medal for fiction/suspense in 2013) and secondly, they suggested I have an audio version made.
I was only two years in to the whole new world of writing and the thought never occurred to me to look at the avenue of audio books. However, I heeded their suggestion and went to Audiobook Creation Exchange (better known as ACX) and listed Number Seventy-Five as a title looking for a narrator. I lurked around the site and listened to several voice clips of potential narrators until one slammed me in the chest when I heard it.
Actress Sabrina Stewart possessed the perfect voice to portray the main character in Number Seventy-Five, Mandy Russell. I immediately contacted her and sent her the audition sample. Within days, Sabrina was officially the voice of the story and within weeks, the audio version was completed and up for sale.
A week or so after the audio book was completed, Sabrina mentioned she felt the story would make a great movie and asked if she could pitch it to several producers/directors she knew in Hollywood. I was honored and quite shocked, but really didn’t give too much credence to her request. After all, the story is only 74 pages…
Audio book sales began to trickle in, so I decided to list the Eviscerating the Snake trilogy on ACX. Yet another actress, Sara Morsey, auditioned. When I listened to her beautiful voice, I knew she embodied the spirit and soul of the heroine, Audra Tanner, as well as the rest of the characters. Within a few months, Sara recorded all three of the books and we were in business.
During that time, Sabrina found the right partners and contacted me with news I never expected to hear: Number Seventy-Five had people interested in making it into a feature film. It took me a while to really ingest her words. It couldn’t be real! My shock was finally put to rest when Sabrina connected me with the Director of Photography and Executive Producer, Amir Jaffer, and the Director, Michael Regalbuto. When things began to come together and actors such as John Sarno, Dave Vescio, Rob Nelson and Susan Kay Thompson joined the project, the reality finally settled in that this was real!
The team at Blue Harvest Creative designed the movie website and things are moving forward. And it was the connection with Sabrina, Susan and Michael that landed the next option.
Below is a representation of how I felt when I found out:
In only thirty-eight months since I first dove into the crazy world of publishing and became an Indie author, my life has changed in ways I doubt I will ever truly fathom. I was overjoyed when the first book was optioned, but am beyond ecstatic at the addition of three more. Highly trained professionals with reputations made with each work they are a part of want to make my books a part of their collection of works. WOW!
If it weren’t for fans of the books who bought, read, reviewed and told others, I wouldn’t be typing this blog post. My heartfelt thanks goes out to each and every one of you who took a chance on an Indie and became a supporter. I also want to thank the team at Blue Harvest Creative for their guidance and belief in me and my thrillers. Of course, the incredibly talented Sabrina Stewart and Sara Morsey for infusing my books with their wonderful narrations, deserve huge kudos. And Sabrina! Not only am I excited to see you bring Mandy Russell’s character to life on the screen, but I can’t wait to attend the premier so I can hug your neck!
And last, but certainly not least, I want to thank Audiobook Creation Exchange for opening up the opportunity for Indie authors to have their print/ebooks turned in to audio versions. Because without that avenue, I wouldn’t be able to see on the screen…
Nice catchy title, and oh so true in my case. (Case in point – me writing this blog post is a good example – I should be finishing Winter’s Magic).
I also have a horrible habit of going off topic, (yet another symptom of procrastination), so I’ll try my hardest not to do this too much.
Let’s get straight to the point here. Writers generally drop into procrastination mode when either of the following conditions occurs:
Coming up to the point in their story where there is a difficult scene to plot out and write
Characters write themselves into a situation that the author does not know how to get them out of
Your Manuscript is in the editing stages of the second and third drafts (and everyone definitely wants to avoid that)
Any other situation that a writer can find themselves in that makes doing the dishes right at that very moment a high priority task.
Now, this blog is supposed to be about story avoidance. That means, whenever any of the above conditions occur, you must immediately go and find something as far away from the object of avoidance as possible.
Avoidance strategies can be either very simple or extremely extravagant. Strategies that I use regularly are:
House cleaning – it does help getting your mind off the hurdles in your writing and then gives you time to look at things from a fresh perspective and can actually be helpful in the long run.
Baking – This does the same thing as house cleaning except you get cakes, biscuits and cookies at the end of it.
Research – This can be anything ranging from historical to scientific or basically fact finding in general. This again can be helpful in both finding plots and ideas for future stories, or for finding examples that can get you out of your writing quandary.
Taking the family on a day trip – This also does the same thing as house cleaning, except that you also get to exposure to daylight and spend quality time with your family.
Television – Um, television really is the procrastinators’ friend. I never get anything useful done when the TV is on. Unless I’m watching something in connection with point 3.
Internet – Same point as Television. It is an incredible tool for procrastination. But it can also help overcome your issues by going to relevant blogs, websites, and friendly communities that might help you by discussing issues or reviewing the piece of work or idea that is troubling you. There are many of these writing communities around; it’s just a matter of finding one that suits you and your genre. Also be aware when trying to find a writing community that there is a difference between constructive criticism and being downright mean.
I could make this list a lot larger, but I think I have procrastinated long enough. I hope that I have given some good tips to successful procrastination methods and I would love to hear what works well for you and what doesn’t.
Every savvy solo/entrepreneur knows the importance of increasing the lifetime value of their customers, since it’s easier to sell to previous buyers than it is to get new ones, and the sensible way to do so is to create multiple items that fit their needs. Producing information products enables you to take your business to another level that ultimately leads to multiple income streams.
Let’s look at a scenario – you publish a book and instantaneously you become part of a community with instant credibility. Why? Because authors are seen as unique – it’s a societal thing. When you are introduced to someone as an author, the first notion is that he must know what he’s talking about to have written a book; therefore he must be an expert. This is the power of imparting knowledge in book form; you are automatically deemed an expert even if you don’t consider yourself as such.
And if you are perceived as an expert in a particular area, when people are looking for services, programs or products, you’ll be the person they will look to. Or if your book is recommended and the person wants to know more about you and your business, she will invest in your book. This is not to be underestimated; it’s incredible power and can provide many opportunities for you.
Let’s say your goal is to build a business around writing and publishing books – you want to launch a book empire. You churn out a series of books, along with setting up a website to promote and market those books, branding yourself as the go-to person in a specific niche, say wedding planning.
Your books are about selecting the picture perfect wedding gown, flowers, getting married abroad, honeymoon, etc. etc. Each micro niche gives you more selling opportunities, because instead of selling only your books, you can use them as leverage and create products that can be replicated and sold over and over again.
In fact, even if your goal is not based upon writing and publishing numerous books per se, you most certainly can write a book and still create multiple income streams.
How to Quickly Write a Book
The quickest and easiest way to write your book is to record it, have it transcribed and you have a draft. Audacity or Acoustica are popular recording softwares. In addition, most computers already have ‘Speech Recognition’ software that you can use to dictate text into a word-processing program. Dragon Speak Naturally software provides the same function. You can employ the services of a transcriptionist from www.idictate.com, www.voicebase.com, elance.com, or odesk.com.
Whichever method you use, all that’s left to do is to organize the material so that it has a structured beginning, middle and end.
Organize your material into chapters then sub-chapters. You can modify as necessary, as you may find that you need to transpose certain sections.
Do spend the necessary time to write the Introduction. This is really important, as the majority of e-book-selling websites, e.g. Amazon.com, gives readers the option to view the first pages and that naturally includes the introduction. If you lose readers at this point, you lose them forever. Here are three tips to bear in mind when writing an introduction.
Aim to inform and entertain by using informal language and avoid overuse of jargon.
Use facts and figures, quotes and, or, a case study that will let readers see that they are not alone. For instance, if a reader always wanted to write a book, you can quote writer Joseph Epstein, who said, “81 percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them — and should write it.” Or, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou.
Provide readers with a taste of what to expect to get them interested and excited to read on.
Be wary of writing fluff to make up words. If the information can be condensed or eliminated, do it.
Conclusions represent the end goal for the reader, so ensure that by the time he’s reached the end, he understands at least the fundamental principles about the topic you’re written about.
Review, revise and edit until you’re confident the readers’ goals have been met and the document is free of errors.
Format the document into an eBook and paperback, or outsource the process. You can find great outsourcers at eLance.com, odesk.com and Fiverr.com.
Creating Multiple Products From Your Book
Once the book is done, the magic begins, whereby you can create multiple products from that single book. For instance:
Home Study Course
How to Package Your Products to Create Multiple Income Streams
From the above, you can now package and sell your products to generate multiple income streams. Here are a few ways to do so:
Sell your Special Report, White Paper, eBook, Audio Book, Transcript and Mind Map as an individual entity.
Bundle and sell your eBook with the Audio book, along with your Mind Map.
Bundle and sell a workbook, Transcript, Action Plan and Templates.
Create an E-Course that’s delivered by email and include templates and, or cheat sheet as a bonus.
Create Podcasts and place on iTunes directory and charge a fee.
Create a multi-media system in a box that includes CDs, Workbook and Transcript.
Combine all three media elements (MP3 Audio, Video, CDs) and market as a high-ticket digital item.
Break up the content and drip feed it via a membership site and charge a monthly fee.
Break the content into articles and add to a paid blog.
Create video tutorials and include transcripts.
Many of these bundles can range from $17 to upwards of $1,500 for a single sale.
In addition, the ability to reach customers globally is easy with the Internet regardless of where you operate your business. But to reach them, you need to market your business and with the wonderful products you’ve created, you can use them for that very purpose as well, not only for selling. For instance, you can:
Use the book, special report, white paper, or mind map as a lead generator gift if you are partaking in a giveaway or summit.
Use a book chapter as a free gift with opt-in.
Use content from the book for your book description.
Select parts to use for your blog posts and guest posts.
Create a series of articles and submit them to article directories, e.g. ezinearticles.com. A fantastic resource for those who are curating articles on your topic, thereby giving you further exposure.
Extract sections and Tweet and use for Facebook comments.
Create quotes and share on any social mediums.
Extract a quote for your press release.
Add quotes on infographics (you can use PowerPoint for this) and place on slide share, Instagram, other social mediums, your blog, website etc.
Extract sections and use in your newsletter, speeches, presentations, teleseminars, webinars, sales letter, Internet/radio and TV interviews, online and physical magazines.
Use templates, workbooks, checklists, cheat sheets and mind maps for physical workshops, VIP Days and Retreats.
Upload videos to Youtube, Vine and other video distributions channels.
Create and upload podcasts on iTunes and other audio directories for free.
Include personal coaching, consulting and a mastermind group as a backend strategy and give relevant products to your clients.
As is evident, you can set your book up to create multiple income streams by disseminating information in many formats, while at the same time be of service to others, whether it’s to solve a problem, teach a new skill, including fun things such as, how to make an edible Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, to how to build a tree house, or share a message to motivate and inspire.
Selling on the Internet, especially, gives you access to global customers and the great thing is that people get to try your product without direct selling—great for those who shy away from face-to-face rejection. If they like it and wish to invest in your other services and programs, they are already pre-qualified.
Of course, one is not limited to cyberspace; products and programs can also supplement offline businesses, as well.
So in essence, a book is a vehicle that allows you the opportunity to maximize it in multiple ways to enrich people’s lives and give you multiple income streams to live your lifestyle.
Award Finalist & Bestselling Author, Cherry-Ann Carew | Book Coach | Editor | Founder of Writetastic Solutions helps Authors, Speakers, Experts & Service providers to bring out their creative expression to write, publish and market their books. Learn how her coaching and editing services can help you Write It, Work It, Publish It™ at: http://www.writetasticsolutions.com.
Among those of us who proudly call ourselves writing geeks, the topic of prologues can be like discussing the morality of the death penalty in other circles. I know authors who hate them, as well as readers who skip prologues and go straight to the first chapter. Personally, I love a great prologue. I think of a well-written prologue as a teaser pulls me in to the story right away.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely times to avoid the prologue. But when used appropriately, prologues can be a powerful tool to hook readers and add an extra layer of tension or depth to the first reading of a story. Below are some of my favorite prologues in YA fiction and the lessons I took away from them. Each of these authors used their prologues to achieve different ends, but they all created an opening that hooks the reader and enhances the story that follows.
Add dimension to your story by giving away a key piece of information. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
The prologue for Eleanor and Park sets up from the get-go that the two title characters in this teen romance are no longer together. By giving this away from the beginning, it makes the romance that follows all the more bittersweet. It also adds an element of danger – are they broken up because the heroine died? Constructing the prologue this way adds to the tension of the story in key scenes, and the payoff in the end is very satisfying.
Inform readers of key backstory. Paper Towns by Josh Green
Paper Towns was the book that got me thinking about the effectiveness of backstory. The author uses a prologue to introduce readers to a key scene that is telling about the two main characters in the story, a suicide that they witnessed as children. The scene is prologue-worthy not only because it reveals the personalities of the two main characters, but also because the incident has an impact on how they process the world for the rest of their lives.
Give readers a peek into the future. Timebound by Rysa Walker
A prologue can be the perfect tool to drop readers in the middle of action without frustrating them. It’s a great hook, and you can then back up and tell your story more slowly when you begin with Chapter 1. In Timebound, we quickly discover that the protagonist is time traveling, and is in incredible danger. The mystery of what’s happening in this scene become unraveled throughout the book, and we only discover how it is resolved in the climax.
Use your prologue to set the stakes. Sanctum by Sarah Fine
In Sanctum, the heroine goes to a kind of hellish afterlife to save her best friend from an eternity of limbo, while risking her own chance at finding heaven. To understand why she would go to these lengths, the reader has to understand the relationship. Fine skillfully uses her prologue to establish the roots of the friendship, as well as the roots of the problems that lead to the premise of the story. The prologue captures the reader’s attention and leads seamlessly into the story that follows.
Subvert expectations. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
The Twilight series has its detractors, but I thought Meyer did an excellent job with her prologues, particularly in the first book of the series. As the heroine explains that she is happy to die for love, it not only tells us something about her character, but also sets us up for the climax of the book. Throughout, we are sure that Bella will be sacrificing her life for her new soul mate, but in fact the prologue is talking about her love for her mother. The surprise was sweet and increased my sympathy with the protagonist.
Did you include a prologue in your story? If so, what purpose does it serve?
Did you know that millions of regular people are choosing to become authors since the creation and mass adoption of things like the Kindle, mobile devices and eReaders? It’s an amazing time for authors because now anyone who can tell stories (fiction) or solve problems/inform (non-fiction) can share their work with the entire globe through the power of the Internet; both digitally, and yes, still in print.
But what happens when a story-teller writes a novel about Vampires, or when a business person writes a book about real estate, and they don’t have the knowledge, skills, or time to market the book? That’s where we come in.
The Author Marketing Institute (AMI) mission is to advance the practice of author marketing for writers of any kind, in any genre, in any part of the world. We strive to provide a network of tools, training, data, learning and helpful insight and advice from today’s top selling authors and author services providers.
How Did AMI Get Started?
In 2009 our founder Jim F. Kukral signed a book contract with a large publishing firm for his first book. Shortly after his the book was released, Jim experienced with most authors experienced; that the marketing of his book was left primarily in his own hands, and not much help came from his publisher. So Jim set out to take his 18-years of experience as a Web entrepreneur and marketing consultant and create something that authors could turn to to learn how to market their books.
In 2010 the Author Marketing Club was born. A site dedicated to providing tools, advice and training for any author to use, free of charge. Over time, the AMC site grew to over 20,000 members, and has helped inspire and motivate authors from around the world to have more success with their books. Over 100,000 books have been submitted and promoted through the AMC network of sites, and thousands of authors have used the tools and training to turn their writing into full-time careers.
As the club grew, so did millions of new authors who wanted to take advantage of a world where the gatekeepers of books no longer existed. So Jim decided to create an event called Author Marketing Live! where authors from all over the world congregated to learn and network with some of the best-selling authors and publishing experts.
But the need for more from the author world continued to grow and grow. To feed that need Jim created the Author Marketing Institute, which will act as the flagship brand for all things related to helping the practice of author marketing.
We would love to hear from you!
If you have a question about author marketing, ideas you would like to share, or feedback on our educational tools and services, please reach out anytime.