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How to Write to Music (Without Ruining Your Flow)

There are two types of writers, where music is concerned—those who listen to it while they write, and those who do not. They either love it, or, while intrigued, they’re completely overwhelmed by the idea of actually trying it. And while I now find it so much easier to get lost in my novels when I’ve got the perfect playlist of mood music to write to, that used to be me: Little Miss Overwhelmed. Every experiment ended with a blank piece of paper, some ridiculous song stuck in my head, and a lot of frustration, because there was obviously something wrong with my brain, right?

That really bugged me. Why did all these other people have such a great creative tool at their disposal and I didn’t? And that was my problem. I’d found a ton of tips about how to boost your creativity juices through music, but there weren’t a lot of tips about how to go about this if you aren’t accustomed to listening to music while you work. So this is for everyone: ways to enhance your writing through music, and how to get there without driving yourself crazy. And that means taking baby steps.

  1. Get music:

(Don’t bootleg. It’s rude, and illegal. Don’t be rude.) Whether you possess a fabulous collection on iTunes, enjoy the randomness of Pandora, or have a floor-to-ceiling wall of CDs, tapes, records or whatever, the bigger your collection, the more inspiration you have at your fingertips. My personal favorite source: Spotify. Every time I log in, Ispotify-logo feel like I own every song ever made, and it’s 100% worth the ten bucks a month. You can listen to what you want when you want, ad-free, create multiple playlists, and they already have a “genre/mood” section for the days you’re feeling lazy.

  1. Watch your volume:

We’re getting comfortable listening while we write, not jamming, so keep it low. The more used to it you get, the louder you can go, but if it ever becomes a distraction, take it down a few notches. Bump it up again when you’re ready.

  1. Classical music:

Even operatic pieces and those featuring a choir are easier to fade into the background than catchy verses, complicated lyrics, and anything with too much movement. Soloist piano or violin pieces are a great first try. Once you’re comfortable, experiment with a full orchestra and choirs.

  1. Film and television scores:

The creepy, suspenseful beats before the victim meets her killer. The sweet, lilting notes as our sweethearts share their first kiss. Movies and television are basically the audio/visual version of books, and with music alone, composers are able to convey to us, as viewers, how to react emotionally—before we even know what’s happening.

Think about Harry Potter. I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t handle the opening of Deathly Hallows Part 2 without the waterworks starting. It’s not the dialogue or the picture on the screen…it’s that dang music. My brain automatically files it into the “this is the beginning of the end of my beloved Harry Potter” folder, and I’m finished.

The score is the heartbeat of the movie. Done right, they add the extra sprinkle of sugar needed to perfect the scenes they portray. Done wrong, at best, we feel cheated as viewers, and at worst, it can ruin our entire viewing experience.* Can you imagine watching a marriage proposal to the theme song from Jaws? (Actually, will someone do that, please? That would be awesome!)

  1. Get lyrical:

Once you’re comfortable writing to background music, you can start experimenting with more traditional songs. Send your characters on a road trip with your radio favorites, or amp up the metal when the fists start flying. Let them step back in time with some classics, or throw that dance music on and hit the clubs. Whatever puts you in the mood, whatever that mood may be.

A few things to try:

Soundtracks:

Most shows feature songs from our favorite artists, new and old alike (movies do this too, but there’s a lot more at your disposal from a 24 episode season than a 2 hovdiariesur movie). My personal favorite playlists are all from the CW (no judging! I write YA!). The Vampire Diaries is especially genius with their music. I choose key pieces that remind me of the scenes they’re connected to—the ones that have already made me feel something akin to what I’m working on, and with the mood set, the creativity flows. I keep my Soundhound (an app that records and identifies tunes you’re listening to in under ten seconds) handy when I’m watching TV (or anywhere, really), so I can tag what grabs me to find on Spotify later. When I forget, I prowl Heard on TV or TuneFind, which list songs featured in shows and films by season and episode.

Your character’s favorite songs/music genre:

This isn’t just for your M.C. Step inside the musical mind of those elusive side characters, or better yet, your villains (Because every villain deserve a good theme song. It’s like, a law). Bonus points if it’s something they’d listen to in the scene you’re working on.

Your book soundtrack:

Assign a theme song to each chapter or scene from your novel. This works especially well once you’re working through edits. Don’t aim for theme songs that go with what you have, aim for what you’re trying to achieve. Some of these are going to be identical to your initial choices, but the wonky scenes that aren’t where they should be don’t need their own theme song. They need a theme song to aspire to.

jaws1So pick your musical poison, tune those radios, find your rhythm, and get back to work. Inspiration is all around; all you have to do is listen.

Come back Thursday for another musical tip with your writing prompt!

*Not every musical tone needs to reflect the scene they represent. A juxtaposition of dark content with light tones can produce some of the most beautiful, emotionally charged scenes I’ve ever seen. (If you watch The Vampire Diaries or The Originals on CW, you already know.)

Feature Friday: Author David Powers King’s The Undead Road: My Zombie Summer: Part One

This week we interviewed author David Powers King about his newest book, The Undead Road: My Zombie Summer: Part One. David has also published Woven through Scholastic. Links to check out both books are below, but today, let’s talk about Zombies!

The Undead Road: My Zombie Summer

Nothing brings the family together like a zombie apocalypse …

Fifteen-year-old Jeremy Barnes would rather watch a zombie movie than shoot a real one, but he has no choice if his family wants to survive the end of the world. Their plan? Drive across the infected United States to a cabin in the Colorado Rockies without a scratch, but their trip takes a complicated detour in the middle of Nebraska when UndeadRoad_Cover copythey find Kaylynn, a girl who can handle a baseball bat better than Jeremy can hold a .45 Berretta. And when they stumble into a sanctuary, Jeremy soon learns that Kaylynn is stronger than she looks—a deadly secret lies inside her.

After the radio picks up a distress call from Kansas City about a possible cure, Jeremy’s parents go with a team to investigate. They never return. The only way to find their parents is for Jeremy and his sister Jewel to rely on a dangerous girl who might just turn on them at any moment.

Amazon | Amazon.CA | Amazon.UK | Amazon.AU | CreateSpace | Kindle Store

Our Interview:

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and what made you decide to become a writer.

A: I’m originally from California and am a devourer of all things science fiction and fantasy. I never imagined I would be a writer when I was a child, but it was during my brief period in pursuing animation that my storytelling was much stronger than my illustration. It’s taken a while, but my career as a writer is beginning to unfold, little by little.

Q: How did you get the idea for this book?

A: When my family went on a road trip to the Midwest, I imagined zombies chasing us outside the car. Zombies are my favorite monster, but I’d never had the right idea for making my own story about them. Then, after the first episode of The Walking Dead, I had it and I wrote it. Turned out better than I expected.

Q: Tell us about your protagonist and what makes him unique.

A: Jeremy is a 15-year-old who was about to enter high school and decided that girls are cute after all and was looking forward to dating–having all his potential dates turned into zombies changed all that. He’s also an alternate version of myself. In a way, this novel is semi-autobiographical. You’ll get a look at what my thinking process used to be.

Q: Which actor could you see playing the lead character? The bad guy?

A: That’s a tough one. He’s already in a zombie show, but Chandler Riggs from The Walking Dead, now as a teenager, would make an awesome Jeremy. And because I love Gary Oldman, he’d make a great Dr. Sanders.

Q: What draws you to speculative fiction? Do you write in other genres?

A: I like the freedom of exploring my possibilities rather than sticking to one genre. While I mostly enjoy Sci-fi and Fantasy, I would like to branch out and try contemporary fiction, and maybe adapt my grandfather’s western that he was never able to publish. I’m still young in my publishing career, so the options are wide open for now.

Q: What are your writing routines?

A: Creativity best finds me in the early morning. I’m usually up by 5am to get 1,000 words in before starting my day. Later on my brain just won’t work the same way, even though I can edit awesomely at any time.

Q: What is the hardest thing about writing?

A: For me at least, it’s keeping a consistent, daily word court. Some days it’s more or less than 1,000 words. There is also the battle of the mood, whether I feel like writing or not. It’s hard to get those words on paper sometimes.

Q: What is the easiest thing about writing?

A: That the desire is always there, even when I don’t feel like writing. That sticks with you, and placing the final period at the end of a manuscript is like making a hole in one. That must be why I keep coming back to it!

Q: What book/s are you currently reading? Who are your favorite authors?

A: I’m currently taking a break from reading since my new job will have me focusing on reading a TON of material for the better part of this year, but sci-fi and fantasy are my bread and butter. Gotta love Brandon Sanderson, Shannon Hale, James Dashner, and Tolkien, just to name a few.

Q: Are you traditional or self-published? What are the benefits you see to the publishing path you’ve chosen?

A: Both, or what’s being called a “Hybrid” author. I will always write my best story and work with my agent to find a good home for it in the traditional world. But if they all say no, self-publishing is now an option. For me, whatever I’m writing will get published one way or another, which will be great for those who like my style and want more.

Q: Any tips for new writers?

A: Don’t be afraid of sharing your work. Better yet, go to writing conference. It wasn’t until I started doing that and networking with authors (may of whom are NYT bestsellers now) when my writing truly improved.

Q: What is your favorite motivational phrase or positive saying?

A: “You are the conduit for a story that is yet to be told.”

Thank you, David! It was fun to get to know you, and we’re super excited about The Undead Road! Please take a minute to read a sample of David’s book. It might be a great fit for you!

DPK 2015About the Author:

David Powers King was born in beautiful downtown Burbank, California where his love for film inspired him to be a writer. He is the co-author of the YA fantasy novel WOVEN, published by Scholastic. An avid fan of science fiction and fantasy, David also has a soft spot for zombies and the paranormal. He currently lives deep in the mountain West with his wife and three children.

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Serial Podcast Storytelling: My New Obsession

headphones_davide_pesent_.svg.medOriginally, I was going to write about the top ten books that influenced me as a writer. But, a friend of mine asked me an interesting question the other day, “What’s keeping you alive right now? Or in the paraphrased words of The Little Flower (St. Theresa of Avila), what are you doing that makes life bearable?”

One of my answers came from recently discovering the rise of serial podcast dramas. People describe me as an old soul and that’s pretty much the truth. I love old movies, music and radio from the 1930’s and 1940’s. There is something about that era that really sparks my imagination.

This is especially true when it comes to the old school radio dramas. As they didn’t have Netflix then (shocker), they relied on the voices of dramatic actors to tell the story. This forces you to make up your own world in your head. To me, it’s much better than audio books, which very often sooth you to sleep.

I drive a lot to St. Louis where my kids live with their mother. That’s a ten-hour round trip, so I need something to prevent me from dying of boredom of Northern Illinois. Music works sometimes, but again, often relaxes me to the point of sleep. So, I started listening to podcasts, especially ones about the paranormal. The best one out there, right now, is Astonishing Legends. These guys are smart, do their research, give their conclusions while allowing you to draw your own.

Still, I wanted more stories. While scrolling through the iTunes podcast list, I discovered one called “Limetown.” When I read the description, I knew I had to download it immediately. Basically, Limetown follows the story of Lia Haddock as she investigates the disappearance of an entire town in Tennessee. The story is told through the format of NPRish investigative reports with each week presented as a “further development” of the story. It was utterly gripping and I listened to all the episodes in one round trip.

Since then, I’ve moved on to The Black Tapes File, which is right up my creepy alley. It’s about a radio show producer, Alex Regan who begins by wanting to focus on people with strange jobs, but ends up obsessed with the work of first subject, Dr. Richard Strand, who is a professional debunker of all paranormal claims. She discovers that Dr. Strand has a group of cases filed away in black VHS boxes (thus the name) that are completely unsolved. My favorite episode, so far, was called “The Unsound”. It talks about Satan finding a way to get back into the universe by making a sound that opens a portal. Anyone who hears it, as you might expect, dies after a period of time.

I find this “new” medium of storytelling utterly fascinating. From what I can tell, it has just started catching in the past year or so. I’ve loved it so much that I’ve considered doing my own, based on my own books. The beauty of it is, if you know the right people and have the right equipment, you can reach your audience without going through selling your story to Hollywood. Sure, that’s the goal, but let’s be real, how often does that happen?

Further, I can see how serial podcast storytelling could encourage people to hang out more. These stories engage the mind, and require you to listen closely. It’s not passive entertainment. So, gather some friends, family or assorted well-wishers. Make a fire and hot chocolate for the kids (bourbon or wine for the adults, if you are so inclined). And, start listening to these podcasts.

Or, even better, think about creating your own.

Thursday Prompt: What is Creativity (Continued)?

Hello once again, readers! I hope I haven’t scared you off with my novella of a blog post from Tuesday, because I have an activity for you to complete if you want to get more in touch with your creativity. Whoopee!

So basically, all you have to do is come up with a metaphor that describes how you view creativity. Is it this mystical being that you only chance upon once during the harvest moon? Or is it like a muscle that you simply need to work to strengthen? Professor Heywood says that a picture is worth a thousand words, and a metaphor is worth a thousand pictures. You do the math! Come up with a metaphor that means something to you personally. Once you have that metaphor, figure out some way to design it so that you can keep it near you for future reference. You never know when you’re going to need a little creativity boost.

Here’s my metaphor as an example (keep in mind that I had to use as few words as possible so don’t be shocked by the lack of text walls):

image       **EDIT: I realized that the original image from this post was NOT my example. I realize that it probably was very confusing. Please excuse the poor picture quality.

Now go find your own! If you’re having trouble, look to nature as an inspiration or start listing off words you would use to describe your creativity. You’d be surprised what you come up with.

What is Creativity?

(WARNING: Probably the Longest Post I’ve Ever Done)

… Certainly not the title of this blog post! Yuck. I’ve seen more creative titles in the Twilight saga than that—okay, maybe that’s a little harsh, but I like to be hard on myself, youtwilight know? It makes me strive for greatness. I want people to say, “She’s going to do GREAT things, this one! Great things,” as they twirl their dapper-ass moustaches and adjust their monocles. Mm-hmm, yes, quite. Though could this perfectionism be holding back my creativity? Wow! What a perfect segue into the topic of this week’s blog post: creativity and how it is defined verses what it actually is. I’m taking a class taught by William Heywood on this subject because: one, I think this is a fascinating topic in Psychology, and two, (like many of you reading this) I am an artist who relies heavily on creativity.

When most people think of creativity, their minds immediately jump to the arts:

drawing, painting, writing, acting, musicing (that’s a word—spellcheck will tell you otherwise, but don’t listen to it), and the like, but what if I were to tell you that creativity applies to everyone and everything, not just the arts? Learning to be open to possibilities like this change in perspective is part of creativity—this last point applies to everyone, like myself who didn’t already know this about creativity. If you did, you are a bloody brilliant person, so congrats to you! But I digress, openness is important to creativity, just like living in the moment, being imaginative, and most importantly being open to failure in the pursuit of a creative idea. You see, what most people think of as creativity is actually closer to the definition of imagination, which is defined as, “the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses,” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). That last part is key: “external objects not present to the senses.” What separates creativity from imagination is the act of doing something with an imaginative idea. Creativity involves solving problems in order to achieve your end goal. This is why it requires you to actually do something with your idea. For example, say you have an original character unlike any made in any book ever, but haven’t put him/her on the page yet; this would be an example of your imagination. However, if you wrote a story about said character, deciding the perfect setting, plot line, and goal for him/her, then sitting down and writing this newfangled vagabondage of a story, you would be using your creativity because you solved the problems in the way of you attaining your creative goal. In essence, coming up with a bunch of new ideas is great and imaginative, but unless you do something with those ideas, you will not become truly creative.

The characteristics of a creative person, according to Professor Heywoodsciencebitch, are as follows: flexibility, complexity, energy, openness, original, elaboration, motivation, moderate risk taking, curiosity, awareness of your creativeness, independent, and last but not least, humorous. Hoo-boy, that looks like a lot, but they’re all pretty simple concepts. Flexibility refers to your ability to deal with ambiguity, being able to take life as it comes, fully expecting things to be uncertain and open to change. Look at all of the strides we have taken in biology as an example: you know how 50 years ago researchers said, “Baka! You think you can open up DNA and screw around with it?! Impossible!” Well, with time we were able to make that impossible dream a reality. Now we can screw with our genetic makeup all we want. Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, Science!

Complexity, on the other hand, refers to our ability to create order from disorder and to not be overwhelmed in our lives. When you accept the uncertainty in this world, it’s sometimes difficult to take control of your life again, but with organization and a specific goal in mind, anything is possible. This is a skill that I have yet to learn, but my good friend is making me an absolutely gorgeous planner that will hopefully help me in that department. Friends, find your own Raveena’s. They are simply the best.

Speaking of which, having the energy to get all of this planning and goal achieving done is a must. Being a nigqft-sleepht owl (as evinced by the fact that I should be asleep right now but couldn’t help writing this article), I know it seems hypocritical of me to give advice on sleep, but please trust me. Your brain will be the most creative when it has enough energy to exert on coming up with new ideas. And on top of that, sleep is the perfect opportunity to let your imagination run free! You might be horrified by some of the things your subconscious plays on the projection screen that is your brain, but just sit back and watch with your bag of judgement-free psychoanalysis-corn.

That brings me to the next characteristic: being open—open to new ideas, open to new people, open to learning and doing new things. If you never try anything new, you won’t be able to achieve one of the most important aspects of being creative: originality. I mean, that’s the whole definition of originality, right? Doing something new. Didn’t need the dictionary for that one. And hey, look! Killed two explanations with one paragraph. Take that, writing!

Now, elaboration goes back to what I was talking about before when I said that creativity is doing something with your imagination. It means that you take an idea and you elaborate on it, and one of the most common ways of doing so is through stoqft-animerytelling. But a writer does not simply sit down and vomit up a stream of symbols that all pool together into a composed narrative, as all you writers no doubt can attest to. It takes motivation, but it’s hard to get motivated if you aren’t already. Nobody can motivate you but you, unless your form of motivation involves being beaten over the head until you finish something—which I will admit would be effective, but maybe slightly less enjoyable than, say, setting some goals and planning to meet them at your own pace. But hey, who am I to judge?

One of the leading causes of demotivation and procrastination is fear of taking risks, more specifically, fear of failure. I admit that I’ve fallen prey to this fear more times than I can count. When I sit down to draw something, I often have to convince myself that I shouldn’t worry about whether or not something will look “good”. I just have to remember that every time you take a risk, you could fail, but you learn more from failures than successes. I like to take every creative project I make and turn it into an opportunity to learn. Of course, I’m not perfect and I seldom follow my own sage-status advice, but that’s a challenge for another day. For now, I’ll focus on nourishing my desire to learn.

That brings me to the next characteristic: curiosity. Remember when you were a kid and you were so open to everything because you wanted to absorb as much information as possible? Well, in order to be creative, you need to regain that childlike sense of curiosity. Question everything! Challenge what you already assume to be true about the world. My drawing II professor said something very appropriate to this poinqft-cupcaket just the other day: “Drawing is like exploring a theory: you go into it with all of these preconceived notions that you soon discover are not as true as you thought they were, and hopefully after you’re done, you’ve learned something new.” In addition to questioning the world you thought you knew, refrain from judging anything before finding the truth. Try not to be judgmental of other people before getting to know them, or try not to judge something new without giving it a shot. For example, I read the whole Twilight saga with the preconceived notion that it was a laughable series. Reading it only gave me more reason to scoff and be a snarky-as-Snicket lemon. You see, I refrained from judging until I gave it a chance! Don’t ask me why I’m in a Twilight-bashing mood today. I don’t quite understand it myself. But basically, the more judgmental you are, the more closed-off you become to the world and all of its mysteries. So don’t do that. Be a kid again! Everyone wants that chance anyway, right?

Next, be aware of your creativity. Watch yourself passively as you go about your day, and find the times when you are most creative and account for those when you’re planning your goals. Find things that inspire you to pick up a pen, pencil, quill, obo, or whatever else you use to express yourself.

Next, and probably one of the hardest, is don’t be one of the sheople. Be independent of the masses. Be yourself! This goes hand in hand with originality, but even more so with being aware of your creativity. Most people go through their days not being aware of anything and living their lives in a zombie-like state of monotony. I confess that I have done the same. Professor Heywood claims that mindfulness meditation for 20 minutes a day will not only help to improve your focus, but also to make you more aware of yourself and others. I can’t attest to the success of this personally because I find it very hard to sit down and focus on anything for an extended amount of time, but I’ll have to give it a try and let you know how it goes! For now, I’ll just advise you to try your hardest to live in the present moment and don’t zone out for the rest of your life. If you do, you could miss valuable creative ideas!

Finally, and this one is my favorite, creative people are humorous. They laugh at the cosmic joke, meaning that they understand that we do everything in this world, every goal, every aspiration, every romantic pursuit, every everything, only to die. We work so hard to do so much knowing that we’ll be gone one day. If you find this as funny as I do, congrats! You’re a sick bastard! Nah, I’m just kidding. Kind of. But seriously, live life with a sense of humor. It’ll not only make you more creative, but it’ll make all of those little trivialities more bearable.

So I’ll wrap this up quickly because I know your poor eyes have to be exhausted from scanning and processing all of these letters. I know mine are. So, dream big, don’t knock anything until you try it, be open, and accept whatever your brain decides to throw at you. Then once you have an idea, DO SOMETHING WITH IT. And if you follow the advice that I’ve adapted from Professor Heywood’s lectures, you can nurture your creativity. qft-doit Keep creating, readers!

Son of a Pitch!

QFT is helping host a pitch contest! This is an excellent way to get your work noticed by a large group of professional writers, agents, and editors. If you’re a writer querying a novel or close to being ready, check out the details below!
soap-FINAL These instructions are cross-posted from the host, the lovely Katie Teller, at her blog. We’ll keep you updated as new information becomes available, and we hope to see you then!

 

Are you ready for the details for Son of a Pitch? It’s less that a month until the first round, so it’s time for me to give you the break down. But before I begin, for your information, here are the agents and the list of publishers involved. You will also find short blurbs on all of them by checking my archives. I have posted about one each Wednesday.

 

Now, on with the show!

 

Formatting:
Title: (Name of Manuscript)
Age and Genre: (YA/NA/Adult then Genre)
Word Count: (to the nearest thousand)

 

Query:
Insert query here. No bio please.
First 250 Words:
I don’t care if this is from a prologue or chapter one. That’s up to you.

 

Week 1 starts Feb 15, 2016:
A chance to refine your query and first 250 words. Post this on your blog then post a link in the comments of a post I will put up on my blog the week of Feb 15. Please leave feedback on a minimum of three other queries and first 250.

 

Week 2 starts Feb 22, 2016:
This week, published authors will give you feedback. The Son of a Pitch team, who are all published, will post your emailed in queries and 250 words on their blogs. Please use the formatting above and email to:
sonofapitchcomp@yahoo.com.au

 

Incorrectly formatted emails will be kicked off the island. The team will vote for their favorites to go onto the final round. They will cast five votes each, anywhere they want, and the top 20 will go onto the next round. Feel free to coax judges your direction however you want! But please, only you and the judges can comment on your entry, or the comments can get confusing for tallying votes at the end. Votes will close on Thursday 11:59 p.m. MST. To stalk the hosts/voting authors, click Here.

 

The first fifty entries will go into this round. So get your clickers ready to email at precisely 10 a.m. MST on Friday Feb 19th.
But don’t be discouraged! You will get good feedback to help you even if you don’t make the top twenty. So please go and query elsewhere afterward, and let us know your success story so it can be shared on the blog.

 

Week 3 starts Feb 29, 2016:
We have a fantastic line up of editors, publishers, and agents. They’ll swing by the final contestants to try to bribe you into subbing to them. The final Twenty will post right here on this blog, where agents/editors will come and make requests for you. If you make the top twenty, you will be emailed on Friday 26th, and all updated entries sent to the email address by Saturday 27th 11:59 p.m. MST. If you don’t make the deadline, the next highest voted entry will be emailed, and will have 24 hrs to get the entry into the inbox.

Writing Prompt: Dialogue Generator

Follow these steps for today’s writing prompt:

1.  After reading the 8 dialogue tips in this past Tuesday’s blog post, choose one you would like to focus on.

2. Once you have chosen a dialogue tip you would like to focus on, go and pay the Random Dialogue Generator a visit.

3. Write a scene that incorporates the line the generator gives you, but focus on the dialogue tip that you have chosen.

The Authors Speak: 8 Ways to Improve Dialogue

For this blog post, I really wanted to dig in and see what different authors had to say about using dialogue in fiction writing. So, I have scoured the internet for you and picked out some of the tips I felt were most helpful.

Author: Alice Kuipers 

  1. Don’t use dialogue to convey large chunks of information (exposition).  People don’t sound like this: “Since we arrived here at four, to watch for Martin Goodfellow, the murderer, I’ve felt hungry.”  It’s okay if readers don’t know exactly what’s happening at all times – trust them to understand the story because they are intrigued by the voices of your characters.
  2. Another technical dialogue tip:he saidand she said read just fine.  Don’t worry about repetition, most readers glide over he said/she said as if those words were punctuation.  Too many of these: exclaimed, gasped, screeched, postulated, reasoned, argued, pondered, mouthed, etc… and your dialogue will be overwhelmed by the words around it.
  3. Have people argue with people, or have people saying surprising, contrary things.  If everyone is agreeing with each other, your story will feel flat.
  4. Think about how each of your characters sounds.  Make each voice distinct – this can be subtle or dramatic.  Perhaps one character likes to use a certain word or short phrase, so make sure the other characters don’t use that same word or phrase.  It’s a small distinction, but useful.  More dramatic distinctions are up to you! (SOURCE)

Author: Joanna Penn

  1. Dialogue should reveal emotion through words, not through adverbs. Don’t say “angrily” when you can use angry words and describe the character/action portraying anger. (Show, don’t tell!). (SOURCE)

Author: Ali Luke

  1. Use silence as well as words. Sometimes, what’s not said is more powerful than what is said. If one character says “I love you” and the other person doesn’t say anything at all, that’s often stronger than a response like “Oh, okay” or “Yeah, right”. When a character refuses to respond to a particular question, or refuses to speak to a certain person, we immediately know that there’s something going on – without the author having to say “James didn’t want to talk about his marriage” or “Mary hadn’t been on speaking terms with her mother-in-law for years.”
  2. Punctuate your dialogue correctly. This is crucial if you’re going to be submitting your work to publishers, or if you’re entering writing competitions. It’s also vital if you’re self-publishing – you want your story or novel to be as professional as possible.

Dialogue should:

  • Begin on a new line for each new speaker
  • Have double or single quotation marks around the words (be consistent with which you choose – as a rule of thumb, the US standard is double and UK is single)
  • Have punctuation inside the quotation marks
  • End the dialogue line with a comma if you’re adding a dialogue tag, but with a full stop if you’re adding an action.

Here’s an example:

“Joe, please come here,” Sarah said. “We need to talk.”

“What about?”

“You know what.” She folded her arms. (SOURCE)

Author: James Scott Bell

  1. DROP WORDS. This is a favorite technique of dialogue master Elmore Leonard. By excising a single word here and there, he creates a feeling of verisimilitude in his dialogue. It sounds like real speech, though it is really nothing of the sort. All of Leonard’s dialogue contributes to characterization and story.

Here is a standard exchange:

“Your dog was killed?

“Yes, run over by a car.”

“What did you call it?”

“It was a she. I called her Tuffy.”

This is the way Leonard did it in Out of Sight:

“Your dog was killed?”

“Got run over by a car.”

“What did you call it?”

“Was a she, name Tuffy.”

It sounds so natural, yet is lean and meaningful. Notice it’s all a matter of a few words dropped, leaving the feeling of real speech. (SOURCE) 

Well, there you have it! Hopefully these tips give you some direction on your quest to improve the dialogue in your writing. Make sure to come back to the blog on Thursday to put some of these dialogue tips in action with our weekly writing prompt.

Writing Prompt: Expanding Characters

On Tuesday, I wrote a post about Multi-Dimensional Characters and why they’re good for your stories, even if your stories are under 10,000 words (as QFT submissions should be). At that time I gave the task to think about a story you’ve had an idea for with five or more characters.

If you don’t have a specific story idea, use a random character generator. It will give you a few ideas, and you can start fleshing characters out better from there.

Here’s the challenge:

Take your ideas for your characters and (more…)

More on Multi-Dimensional Supporting Characters

For today’s post, I wanted to sort of piggy-back off of Princess Peep’s preceding post, Character Development 101. It’s pretty safe to assume that if you see several QFT editors writing about the same aspect of short stories, it’s because the submissions we receive often struggle with that concept. It doesn’t always make them bad, it just seems to be a weak point.

Imagine, if you will, that you went to a play, or turned on a television show. You read a synopsis, it’s your favorite genre, and you’re very interested to see how the story plays out. About 20 minutes in, you realize that (more…)

Lick Harder

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Current Issue: Winter 2016

Editorial

Strange Charms: Here’s Lookin’ at you, New Year

Series

Time-Shmime: Give It Up For Entropy The Grinning Forest: Part Two

Fiction

Wings The Last Meal Hearts Like Ours Green Girl Damsel

Art

Winter Shadow Kharma Like He Wanted to Swallow the Whole Forest Apollonian Wight Nydra, The Collector Fear

Short Form and Poetry

Cream of Fool Ivan: A Recipe A Golem for Hanukkah Dust: The Awakening of Sleeping Beauty What Tried to Get In London Bridge

This Issue’s Contributors