Guidelines for Dialogue

This isn’t an exact guide to writing dialogue, there are always going to be unique situations. But as a guide it is pretty good, I think.

  • Use words and language which your characters would actually use. Give a character his or her own favourite phrases. Their own unique self expression. Please don’t try to mimic a dialect like a Scottish accent in your written words. The words are spelled the same way whether or not they are spoken with an accent. Let your readers know the character is Scottish (or has an accent, speech impediment, etc.) another way.
  • Get rid of dialogue that doesn’t have a point or advance the story in some way. Reveal character, add to the action, set up foreshadowing, change the pace, something that makes the dialogue work for the story rather than just ramble on.
  • Most of the dialogue should be about the speaker’s thoughts, beliefs or problems. Two or more characters enter into dialogue to discuss something, a plan of action, an argument, a change of heart. Dialogue adds drama because it is more immediate and action based than a written description.
  • Write the dialogue as people actually speak. People interrupt each other, ignore each other or just don’t hear each other.
  • Stop the conversation at a good point, build drama and leave something to the reader’s imagination. An entire conversation isn’t necessary and would be kind of boring.
  • Use punctuation in your dialogue, this makes it easy to read and understand. Punctuation is always an important part of written communication. Indent for each new speaker and identify who is speaking. Even during a long conversation between just two people you need to refresh the reader with who is saying what so they don’t become lost in the dialogue.
  • If you use dialogue in an interview (non-fiction) you always identify and exactly quote the speaker (your original source). If you paraphrase you use proper punctuation (quotation marks) to show what is quoted and what is paraphrased or added.  Don’t misquote, you don’t want to put words in someone’s mouth when it’s a real person you may need to ask for information again.

It Will be Over

Paraphrased from CBS News Online, January, 2010.

After her diagnosis with breast cancer, Jennifer Lyon (now deceased) told People magazine that her experiences on “Survivor” had given her strength that helped her battle her disease.

“‘Survivor’ taught me there’s an end in sight,” she said. “As hard as it is, it will be over, and you have to appreciate every day.”

I liked her quote, about there being an end (a final end) and appreciating each day while you have it. Today is just one day in your life, but here it is… what are you doing with it? Maybe you wore your hair in a new way? Maybe you noticed something interesting on your way to somewhere? Maybe you did someone a favour or helped them in a way they really needed? Maybe you learned about something interesting? There are so many things we can each do to appreciate each day. It doesn’t have to be something dramatic, just something to make each day a bit special, a bit different from yesterday.

The Sum of all Your Parts

“The home gardener is part scientist, part artist, part philosopher, part plowman.” – John R. Whiting

I like this quote because we are all so many parts of different things to make up the whole of who we are. When you write a character does he or she have a lot of parts? Can you name them all? If not, chances are the character is falling flat. Give them more, don’t keep them too simple or plain or focused on just one thing.

Try to describe a character who is a gardener, start there and see what comes into the description when you really think about who your gardener is.

Prose in Three Steps

Work on good prose has three steps: a musical stage when it is composed, an architectonic one when it is built, and a textile one when it is woven. – Walter Benjamin

I like this quote. It reminds me not to skip steps for one thing. It also makes writing feel like a dance, a process and something worth doing.

Look for Signs to Lead you to New Things

“Ignore your old life and look for signs that lead you to your new life”.

  • Quote from an episode of Charmed which I happened to leave on after The Gilmore Girls on Cosmo TV.

Isn’t it a great quote. I hope I caught it and wrote it down right. I was sort of watching the show and doing other things. But this registered in my brain. It is so much what I need to do right now. I’ve been on a losing life path for a long time, always going forwards (after awhile) to end up right back where I started. Feeling that I am only getting older and not any better. So this quote was pin pointed for me. Maybe it will be inspiring for others too. 🙂

Destination Unknown

Writing is mind traveling – destination unknown.

This quote comes from a book I picked up at the thrift store. Write Source 2000: A Guide to Writing, Thinking and Learning.  Written by Patrick Sebranek, Verne Meyer, and Dave Kemper.

In a practical sense this isn’t true. When you write you do have an idea of where you are going with it, a purpose, a goal. However, there are always going to be surprises along the way, new information comes along, a better idea than your original plan or a change in your life which alters your perspective and so on. As you begin to put your ideas into form (versus floating around in your head and the notes you may have from research) the writing begins to take shape. It seldom ever works out exactly the way you thought it would. It evolves. Like a living thing, the writing evolves and becomes something more. Final destination is never a fixed point, not until the very last time you proofread your copy.

Conquering Fear is an Art

The conquering of fear is the highest art.

This was quoted by a fictional character in a book (The Demon’s Daughter)  by Emma Holly. I think it’s a fabulous quote. I had a look for it on Google, to see if it was quoted by anyone else. I didn’t find it, at least not exactly the same. I know the basic idea is out there but I’ve never seen it phrased this way.

This is my dolly doodle for Doodle Week, this weekend – January 9th and 10th.

Alone… At Last!

Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer. – Barbara Kingsolver

I find it hard to really focus on writing something and then be interrupted and go back to it. It is especially aggravating to be interrupted over and over and over again. I like this quote cause I just love the idea of being alone when I write. It doesn’t happen very often.

Blogging with Discipline

Blogging with discipline doesn’t mean you have to blog every day or that you can’t ever take a break. It means blogging regularly–whatever that means for you. It means sitting down and trying to develop a blog post idea instead of waiting until a perfectly-written post is already floating around in your brain.

Blogging with discipline isn’t the only “right” way to blog. Some bloggers find that a less-structured schedule works well for them. But if the concept appeals to you, I invite you to join me. Blog with discipline…and be available for the inspiration, when it comes.

This is me! I like the structure of writing regular posts. I find daily and even weekly posts are better than trying to post once in awhile or a few times a week or anything else that leaves wiggle room. I am not the most organized and disciplined person. I’m easily distracted and get sidetracked all too quickly.

Although I use scheduled posts I still know I have to keep enough content going to make that schedule. One thing I like about writing for a blog/ site network is being accountable to stick to a schedule for posts too. You know you have readers expecting your content but the best situation is a writing network where the writers have a real community and THEY know your posting schedule too.

There are always going to be times when you have nothing to say. You’re just dry.

  • Quotations are good. You can find a quote that makes you laugh, makes you think or just amazes you. If you can find anything to add of your own, do so!. Although I have done so, it is not good to just post a quote and leave it there without any commentary from yourself.
  • Take a break from it. Come back when your mind isn’t pressured to write something. Go browsing online at other sites in your niche. See what topics others have been writing about. Anything you may have missed? Anything you can add your own slant, experience or information to?
  • Read other media, like the newspaper. Don’t get so caught up in your small corner of the world that you forget there is a lot out there, not all of it is online. Not all of it is even about blogging! Shocking, eh?
  • Brainstorm a list of topics you could write about. Don’t hold back. Write down stuff that seems stupid and offbeat even. Give yourself at least one minute to warm up. Once you start ideas tend to flow.
  • Best of all, keep an idea folder, stuff it full of things you want to write about, tidbits of ideas you get when you are doing something else, and stuff that has inspired you. Don’t rule out a topic just because your niche doesn’t directly relate to it. Think of a way that it does. Some really interesting posts have been created when someone combined unusual topics, giving new perspective to their topic.

Go forth and write. Let me know if you find blogging with discipline works for you too. (It work won’t for everyone).