How to Write Gripping Dialogue

I don't know about you, but I love it when I get into a book and find that the writer can write killer dialogue. When an author has what it takes to write great conversations, I find myself immersed in their work. It's like listening and watching the characters on the T.V. of my mind.

Dialogue is important in writing, but it can easily become flat and boring. According to Adam Sexton's book Master Class In Fiction Writing, there are several things writers can do to improve their dialogue. After reading this book and others, I've compiled a list of things that help me stay focused when writing dialogue because none of us wants our readers to think this ^.


DO's

1.) Dialogue should propel the plot. It should push the characters and scene forward, dragging readers behind.

2.) Dialogue should increase tension. I especially like what Sexton said about conflict. I often have my characters bickering about one thing or another in order to introduce drama and character flaws.

3.) Dialogue should convey information. There has to be a point for the dialogue. What are we, as writers, trying to say by having our characters speak?

4.) The syntax and diction should match the character’s status (economically, regionally, educationally, etc.).

5.) Dialogue should add veracity. Characters should talk the way every-day people talk. It causes the reading to be more believable.


DON'Ts

1.) Do not stuff your dialogue with too much exposition. It’s not believable.

2.) Do not repeat known information to reader through dialogue. If they already know it, leave it out.

3.) Our dialogue should not be unclear or lack eloquence unless it adds to the revelation of character.

4.) Do not be melodramatic. People don’t always say everything they feel. Leave a little mystery.

5.) Don’t use accents or phonetic spelling. (This was the advice in the book. In my opinion, a little accent goes a long way. Just keep it to a minimum.)

6.) Don't use fancy attributives.  If you're trying to be funny, don't add "he joked." If it's really funny, readers will get it. If not, then it wasn't really funny. Just don't try too hard.


When I think great dialogue, I cannot help but think Gilmore Girls. I love the witty comments and rants. Click here for a video of some rants and ravings of my favorite girls. lol
When you think great dialogue, what book/show/etc. do you think about?

Photo by Favim.

Blog Awards and other Monday Musings

I received a blog award! Sending a special thanks to Jeff over at Strands of Pattern. He has an amazing blog. If you're not a follower, you should be. :)


According to Jeff, Liebster means "favorite" or "beloved," and the award is known to be given to bloggers with under 200 followers which are considered "the best kept secrets."

Now's the fun part. I get to pass the award along to five other brilliant bloggers. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Emily Wood at Quill and Parchment
  2. Ashley Chappell at Notes from a Canvas
  3. L. Shanna at A Woman in Her Thirties
  4. RD Meyer at RD Meyer Writes
  5. Elisse9 at DogEarin' It

Winners, here are the rules to participate:

  1. Thank the person which nominated you in a blog post.
  2. Nominate up to five other blogs.
  3. Let them know via comment on their blog.
  4. Post the award on your blog.

Other Monday musings:

  1. The frustration mounts as I have had no time to write in the past week and a half. A big "boo" to that.
  2. New character, Brooks, is slowly evolving as a new (and first for me) YA genre piece.
  3. I saw The Hunger Games Friday. I liked the movie. I didn't love it, but that's to be expected from book to movie translation. I also received the other two books in the mail today. Woohoo! :)
  4. Psalms of Me and Collecting Light have both been released on Barnes and Noble's website which is very exciting for me.
  5. The Writer's Block reached 150 followers last week, for which, I am thankful.

I hope that today has brought you blessings and inspiration. Happy writing and reading, dear friends. And happy Monday. :)

Enter for a Chance to Win a Copy of 'The Hunger Games'






In honor of the release of the movie The Hunger Games, I've decided to have a little contest. I am going to be giving away my personal copy of the first book. It is a paperback that has been gently read. If that's okay with you, then you should enter. :)

Here are a few things you should know:



1.) You must be a follower of The Writer's Block.
2.) You must live in the U.S. (because of shipping costs).
3.) The deadline to enter is 3/29/12.
4.) Please only enter once.
Enter HERE.

Author Interview: M.C.V. Egan

It was my pleasure to interview M.C.V. Egan the author of The Bridge of Deaths. More about Catalina and her book can be found here and here                     

Brief Bio: 

M.C.V. Egan lives in South Florida with her husband and teenage son. She is fluent in four languages, Spanish, English, French and Swedish. She enjoys travelling, cooking, dabbles in Astrology as well as a wide variety of crafts. 

She loves to read a wide variety of books. She likes films and never compares them to “the book” as she feels these are two very different ways to “tell a story”.

She plans to make the second half century of her life as enjoyable as the first one, bit perhaps a little more exciting.

1.) What made you want to be a writer? 

I always knew I had many strong opinions and I wanted to communicate them. I am the 6th of a family of eight ‘children’ and it was not easy to have one’s voice heard over the 5 older louder siblings, the younger ones were pretty loud too! I cannot give you a precise person, book or moment, but I can say that whenever I turned in a writing homework, the teachers reacted in a positive manner and made me feel like I had “created” something that impacted. In my 30’s when I began to take an interest in Astrology I found that the position of my natal moon in Gemini made it an intrinsic part of who I am.

2.) How long have you been seriously pursuing a career in writing? 

 It took me 18 years to put The Bridge of Deaths together, but I feel like I cannot say that I was “seriously pursuing” the career as a writer. I knew I would eventually get there, but I had to make a living and at the age of 39, I had my one and only child. I put my writing aside when motherhood beckoned, and I think I can honestly say I really took it seriously in 2010. So the short answer is very seriously two years!

3.) If you had to choose three words to describe your writing nook/office, what would they be? 

Cozy, practical and bright.

4.) Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?  

I feel that everything inspires me, but the MOST inspiration must surely come from all the great writers I have had the privilege to read.

5.) Give us a one sentence pitch for your first novel.

Visit the true events surrounding the mysterious crash of the British Airways Ltd passenger plane in pre WWII Denmark through the eyes of a modern day couple researching their past lives.


6.) What are some of the projects that you are currently working on completing?  

I am working with a very interesting woman Jolie DeMarco author of The Second Big Shift: Meditation book of Higher Knowledge, Channeled Messages &life Advancement.  We are writing a short novel entitled 4covert2overt it is full of fun and interesting characters, interesting paranormal twists and some history.

7.) What are some of your recent publications?

I self-published The Bridge of Deaths, and I post from time to time on my blog and guest post in other blogs. I like to write short stories but so far I only posted one in a couple of blogs. I re-read it a few days ago, and cringed at several mistakes, but my little ghost story Over Dinner one night in 2008 had a nice response.

8.) Are you an outliner or a seat-of-your-pantser?

What a fun question! I am actually a combination of both. I do outline, I also make long lists and tick off the items as I cover them, but I am flexible and willing to deviate from my outline, after that happens however, I end up creating a new outline, especially now that I need to communicate with a co-author.

9.) If you could only own one book, what would it be? Why?

It would have to be a “complete works” of perhaps Shakespeare, or something more modern, but I cannot imagine just ‘One Book” that had only one story, but if it had to be one, Maybe Tolstoy’s War And Peace. It would have to be something very long, very well written and with a diversity of characters. I just re-read the question and I can imagine that owning one book is not like being alone with one book on a desert island; I could always go to the library…in that case W. Sommerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge.

10.) Favorite childhood book/books?

At the age of 10 that would have to be all of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, as I got a little older I fell in love with Jules Verne. I also remember enjoying Aesop’s fables, it made sense there was a message to the stories. I was raised in a very Catholic household and I was very familiar with all the biblical stories, but I must say they were not my favorites at all.

11.) If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

I thought about this question and my standard answer is W. Sommerset Maugham, because I really enjoy the way he writes, but frankly I think it would be far better as a modern writer to meet a successful modern writer, and with that in mind I would Choose John Irving, I find his writing style very entertaining and I love to get lost in his books. The truth is that I could very well give you a different answer tomorrow as there are so many fantastic writers to choose from.

12.) If you could meet one character in a book, which would it be? Why?

This too is an answer that could easily change according to my mood. Today I would like to meet Magnus Pym of John Le Carre’s A Perfect Spy. Lately I have great curiosity over the complicated personality of a spy, and this book explores the complexities of such a personality. Tomorrow I might want to meet Peter Pan and tap into my inner child.

13.) Where do you hope to be as a writer in five years? 

In the spirit of admiring W. Sommerset Maugham, I’ll quote him, “It is a funny thing about life, when you expect the very best you often get it.”  As such in five years I would like to have written and published several books, including a book of short stories. I would very much like to be making a GREAT living as a writer and enjoying knowing that my books are translated to many, many languages!

 14.) Favorite quote/personal motto:

My favorite quote is from Carl Sagan (1934-1996):

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

My personal motto is:

“Be realistic, expect a miracle.”

(I adopted this motto in 1991 and it has worked wonders for me.)

15.) If you could give any advice to other writers, what would it be?

Trust your own voice. The grand cliché that all has been written and all has been said may have some weight to it, but it has not been said from YOUR perspective nor in your unique mode of expression.

Author Interview: Ashley Nicole Chappell

I am happy to have had the chance to interview Ashley Chappell the author of Alice Will. For more information about Ashley, please visit her wonderful blog Notes from the Canvas.


Brief Bio:

Ms. Chappell currently resides in Huntsville, AL with the love of her life. She is a contractor for NASA in the Rocket City and during her writing time her cats sometimes share her lap with her computer, should they choose to allow the usurpation at all. She is an avid lover of nature who enjoys climbing, camping, hiking, and sailing.

1.) What made you want to be a writer?

It probably wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that my love of books began in utero. My mother read constantly throughout her pregnancy and then read her books to me from the time she brought me home to the moment she handed the reading reigns over to me as a kindergartner. I probably learned more about reading from Danielle Steele than I did from Dr. Seuss. However, I can’t say that there was a single moment in my life that I decided, ‘Hey, I should write one of these things.’ For me, writing was a natural step from my love of reading, although my motivations for writing have evolved over the years. Initially the point was only to tell a story; later it became to share a point of view through story-telling. Talented authors change the way we view the world and I believe my greatest teachers have always come from the library shelves. My dream is to share my own perspective on the peculiarities of human nature through the twists of the characters and the stories that I create - not to preach to a reader, but to guide them through the learning experiences and growth of my characters.

2.) How long have you been seriously pursuing a career in writing?

I first dreamed of being an author when I was in grade school. I wrote short stories, poetry, started books, started other books, then forgot to ever finish them. It wasn’t until about five years ago that I really started focusing on switching the dream into an action plan. Since then I’ve finished numerous short stories, a screen play, and three full novels - the most recent of which will be published by Center One Publishing this fall.

3.) If you had to choose three words to describe your writing nook/office, what would they be?

Cat-filled; Open; Zen

4.) Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?

I’m tempted to say from late night snacks and caffeine, but that would only be partly true. Most of my inspiration comes from everyday life - A news header from the radio, a tradition, habits into which we fall... any of these. How they inspire me is when I can turn my head just slightly and take a look at them from a different angle. Sometimes finding perspective and inspiration just requires asking the question ‘Why?’ of the things we take for granted.

5.) Give us a one sentence pitch for your first novel.

Despite her out-of-control magic, teenage demi-goddess Trotter takes on dark gods and chatty demons while fending off the very apocalypse that everyone thinks she caused.

(Tagline for Alice Will - Website coming soon)

6.) What are some of the projects that you are currently working on completing?

In addition to honing my blogging skills, I’m working on two novels concurrently - Tilt and The Hotting - both of which take place in the same world of Aevum I introduced in Alice Will. The most fun I’ve had with this series has been the evolution of the pantheon for this world. Trotter isn’t your average Percy Jackson-style demi-god and these aren’t your average Olympian gods. The gods of Aevum are exactly what we would be if we were forced to live forever with no sense of our maker or meaning in our life without Prozac.

7.) What are some of your recent publications?

Alice Will is my first published novel, but in the past I’ve had poetry in anthologies and short articles in local press. Most of my focus has been on maintaining my blog, Notes from the Canvas, the ‘canvas’ being an extension of a concept I introduce in Alice Will. For my stream of consciousness updates and more frequent nose-thumbing, find me on Facebook.

8.) Are you an outliner or a seat-of-your-pantser?

I think I’m a hybrid. I outline with the knowledge that my outline will be different every time I sit and complete another section. Somehow, my characters always know better than I do what should happen next and I find that they lead me in new directions every day. Who am I to argue? It’s their world, after all.

9.) If you could only own one book, what would it be? Why?

Ohhhh, a toughie! If I have to answer this question I think I’ll have to cheat: One of Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching novels. Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, and I Shall Wear Midnight. But if I were forced to choose, I would have to do it blindfolded and spun around until I was too dizzy to do anything but fall down and point randomly. Any one of those four novels can inspire me, engage me, and thrill me no matter how many times I’ve read them.

10.) Favorite childhood book/books?

I chose books as a child much the way I do as an adult: by the series. When I find characters with whom I simply fall in love, I don’t want to give them up after a single book, so finding a series devoted to my favorite characters was always a passion. And some of those favorites that I had as a child are still my favorites now. L’Engle’s Time Quartet was always a favorite; Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series (I swore I was going to marry Captain John Carter of Mars when I grew up. Instead, I finally found the real thing J); R.L. Stine’s Fearstreet. On birthdays I would ask for the same gift each year: One box of books, please.

11.) If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Finally, an easy one! Without a doubt, that author would be Sir Terry Pratchett. When the long nights and weekends of studying manuscript preparation, revising, editing, re-revising and editing my edits exhaust me while the characters for new stories are jumping on my back to get my attention it is always a dog-eared Pratchett novel that I pull down to restore my sanity. And let me tell you, restoring my sanity is no small task, either.

12.) If you could meet one character in a book, who would it be? Why?

Quite probably, I’d have to answer Captain John Carter of Mars from the Barsoom series mentioned previously. This series was written back in the 20’s, when heroes were perfect heroes, men of perfect principle, and men of perfect action.

13.) Where do you hope to be as a writer in five years?

In five years I hope to have finally attained that elusive dream of all writers everywhere - to be fully self-supporting doing the one thing I love above all else. Spending my time between author events sipping tea and working in my little writing room (also known as the Catio). In the meantime, I’ll spend some time every day trying to craft the best novels that I can to see that it finally happens.

14.) Favorite quote/personal motto:

“I never learned from a man who agreed with me” - Robert Heinlein

15.) If you could give any advice to other writers, what would it be?

The primary advice you see given to writers is paramount to all other advice - “Write!” It says in blogs, articles, forums, everything that writers write, write, write, and write. And that advice is 100% wholeheartedly true.

But I would go one step further to add what should probably be the most understated aspect of writing: “Read!” Read everything and be open to different styles, genres, and voices that you wouldn’t normally pull off the bookshelf. Each of those things will offer you a new perspective, and perspective is one of the most important items in a writer’s tool kit. That is why I started considering the enormous time I spent reading as Writer’s Aerobics. If yet another rule for writers is write what you know then one area where you can’t go wrong is to make sure the biggest weapon in your arsenal is, in fact, what you know.


Your Novel Soundtrack: Create a Playlist

Sophie- My MC


Happy Tuesday, folks!

I've been trying to stay focused and do a bit of writing while on my Spring Break, but I have to be honest, it's been a challenge. I have a ritual when I sit down to my computer. I check e-mail, Facebook, and the other social networking sites, and then I can (finally) get to what I really sat down to do. Today, that was writing. I did write 1,000 words, but then I was interrupted by my stomach calling for lunch. While I was doing dishes, I decided that I'd listen to my novel playlist to get me back into character. BUT then I started to wish that I could share my playlist with all of you. After an hour of searching, creating, and giving into distraction, I finally have a playlist that you can listen to, if you're so inclined. :)

A couple of reasons why everyone who's writing a novel should have a musical playlist:

1.) Playlists help get you into the character and tone of your novel.

2.) Music inspires. It gets our creativity flowing and finds the voice that we need to write.

3.) It helps paint the pictures of intense/pivotal scenes in the novel. If you are writing with a song playing in the background of your mind, the scene becomes more vivid for you and your future readers.

4.) All movies need soundtracks. Your novel is your movie. Give it some sound.

5.) Playlists are just great. They're fun. You should get one... right now. :)

Listen to the soundtrack of Realm of Desire here and Georgia here.

Happy writing or happy distractions, whichever you find today.

Photo from Favim.

Author Interview: Sarah Allen

I am proud to have had the opportunity to interview the talented Sarah Allen. More about Sarah can be found on her fabulous blog From Sarah with Joy.


Sarah is a (23 year old, blond, fanatical, insomniac, not-as-naïve-as-you-think uber-dork) aspiring writer who loves all genres, though for some reason she tends to write about middle-aged men. Working on finishing her second novel and putting together a short story collection. When she’s not writing she is probably obsessing over a movie or show with painfully stunning acting. She’s a Slyther-puff, Anglophile, and Jane Austen groupie. Secret lover of jazz and post-grunge rock, not so secret lover of Colin Firth, white chocolate, cavalier king charles spaniels, and Frasier.

1.)   What made you want to be a writer?

I’ve always been the dork who is way more comfortable with a book then at parties. So I’ve been reading voraciously as long as I can remember, which I think is my main motivation. Then in high school I had an incredible English teacher who had us read everything from the typical Huck Finn, Crime and Punishment and Shakespeare to less typical stuff like Ceremony and A River Runs Through it. I adored it all, learned a ton, and only solidified my knowledge that this what I wanted for my life.

2.) How long have you been seriously pursuing a career in writing?

I’ve known I wanted to write for as long as I can remember, made it my career decision when I was about 14, and started seriously writing and marketing etc. once I got to college.

 3.) If you had to choose three words to describe your writing nook/office, what would they be?

Messy. Comfortable. Effervescent.

4.) Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?

There are two main places from which it seems I draw most of my inspiration. The first is real life people. I’m not so good at seeing stories in real life and translating them into book ideas, but I see or know someone I think is interesting, or who has an interesting back story, and a character starts forming in my head. The other is movies. When I’m stuck, nothing helps me more than taking an evening off with kettle corn, Fresca and a really good movie.

5.) Give us a one sentence pitch for your first novel.

George Shepherd is the bear keeper at the local zoo and (much harder) guardian of his sixteen year old niece, who could be in danger from a power he doesn’t comprehend, unless, by some miracle, he can find a solution (and confront his past) in time.

6.) What are some of the projects that you are currently working on completing?

The main thing right now is edits on my first novel. Hopefully I’ll get that out to beta readers and start submissions on that one soon. I’m also working on indie publishing a collection of short stories, and brainstorming ideas for my next novel and a screenplay.

7.) What are some of your recent publications?

I recently had a poem published ……, and I have a few other poems published in online journals that you can check out here.

8.) Are you an outliner or a seat-of-your-pantser?

I’m definitely on the outliner end of the spectrum. I need to have the general idea in my head before I start or I get overwhelmed. However, my outlines are pretty sparse and always change and fill themselves in as I go.

9.) If you could only own one book, what would it be? Why?

 Ah! This is impossible, like asking which sibling I like best. I have my Complete Works of William Shakespeare, which is beautiful and I love it. Then there's Harry Potter, which I can't imagine living without. Then there's my Victorian women literary trifecta, which is Persuasion by Jane Austen, Middlemarch by George Eliot, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Maybe one of those?

10.) Favorite childhood book/books?

So many! Dr. Seuss and Don and Audrey Wood were my favorite when I was little. Then I got into the Beverly Cleary books, The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The Giver, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck and Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer.

11.) If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

There are so many writers who I admire and whom I seek to emulate. However, based on what I know about them as a person and the way I feel like they know me better than I do myself when I read their books, I would have to pick C. S. Lewis.

12.) If you could meet one character in a book, who would it be? Why?

This might be slightly odd, but I would love to be able to have a conversation with Severus Snape, and tell him how many fan-girls he has, that we all love him and there’s no need to be down on himself. Tell him to be happy, basically.

13.) Where do you hope to be as a writer in five years?

Published, first of all. Perhaps two or three times over, if I’m lucky. I would love to be able to have a large enough readership to support myself on my books. I’ve also always been fascinated by film, and would love to start the process of submitting screenplays.

14.) Favorite quote/personal motto:

Like I said before, C. S. Lewis just makes sense to the deepest parts of me (though I know he rubs many the wrong way), so my two favorite quotes come from him:

“We read to know we’re not alone.”

And

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

15.) If you could give any advice to other writers, what would it be?

Read. There is no better way, almost no other way, to learn how to write. Read everything, but especially the “classics.” They’re called classics for a reason. If you’re serious about writing, read seriously. No matter what genre you write, YA, SciFi, romance, whatever, having these under your belt will make all the difference.

Also, keep a good dose of humility. I’ve seen many writers fail before they even start because they’re unwilling to learn or listen to what others have to say. You won’t get anywhere by doing that.


I Want to be the First Cow



Ha! Gotcha! I know you just wanted to know what the heck I was talking about "being the first cow." O how I adore your curiosity. :)

I hope that I shall not disappoint.

Last week I was sitting in one of my classes and my professor was covering Matthew Arnold's thoughts on good literature. He believed that good art is developed by independent thoughts. True enough, right? I agree. Arnold went on to give specific examples of passages from the masters like Shakespeare and Dante, but the passages weren't your ordinary beloved ones. They were interesting descriptions using unusual words and/or syntax.

My interests were peaked. I had been working on (now completed) a paranormal short story where I focused on pulling every unique description that I could. It was a bit of a challenge. But I enjoyed it, and it turned out well.

Arnold ended up not being able to tell his readers what exactly makes good literature, but my professor believes (and so do I) that Arnold just wanted something different. He thought a sign of good writing is something that he had never read before. No cliches. Nothing reminiscent of another work. Now that's good writing.

My professor said that Arnold was against the herding mentality. You know, where one cow sees a couple of delicious looking blades of grass and wonders over to this beautiful patch and takes a bite, but then the other cows get wind of the greener grass and want a piece of it too. It sort of reminds me of how after the Twilight series, suddenly vampire books were being written and submitted at incredible volume. Everyone wanted a piece of the phenomenon. I remember reading agents' submission guidelines and them specifically saying they didn't want the next vampire book. It had gotten that bad.

As writers, we don't need to piggy back on someone else's creative ideas. We need to be the first one to have them. We need to see the potential and greatness in something that we've never heard or seen before. We need to embrace the unusual/independent thoughts that cross our minds daily. No one is void of weirdness, so embrace it. Write it. Live it, for goodness sake. Be who you are and write your ideas. Be inspired by your life which is unique to you.

And BE THE FIRST COW! :)

Happy writing, friends.