Writing Dialogue by Janice Seagraves

Writing Dialogue

by Janice Seagraves

 

Hi, I’m Janice Seagraves. Today, we’re talking about writing dialogue.

I understand how frustrating it can be to revise one’s own work. I’ve been there myself and I’m doing it now.

For dialogue tags, I turn to Shrunk and White. Place he/she or name first:  it’s he said or Mike said.

If you’re writing a question the same rule applies: he asked, Mike asked.

Never substitute said for asked.

If you have a question mark and it’s clear who doing the asking, then you don’t really need the ‘asked.’ In fact, if it’s clear who is speaking, then you don’t need a dialogue tag at all.

Example: Lynda turned on the light and looked at Mike. “What’s this about?”

And be careful that you don’t over edit your manuscript, which can lead to dropped words.

You’ll find “Editor do not use word lists” However, if you’re overzealous with deleting these words you can also have an issue with dropped words. I’m not saying to ignore these lists, but maybe take them with a grain of salt. Editors only have issues with these words if you overuse them.

Its clarity—that’s key to a good strong manuscript and a lot of this has to do with how it sounds.

Our ears catch a lot more than our eyes do.

Here’s a helpful hint: Read your manuscript out loud or better yet have someone read your manuscript to you.

Something else to try is one of those text to speak programs. A friend suggested one and I found it useful.

Where can you find inspiration for realistic dialogue?

Nearly anywhere.

Here’s examples I wrote myself by keeping my eyes and ears open. Mostly I observed mothers and their children just a few days before the holidays and the mothers seemed tired and the children antsy.

  1. At a store in town, a little girl about seven, stood in the front window display with her back to the glass. The front door was opened by a little boy no older than five. “Cindy, Cindy?” He looked around and went back inside.

When I entered the store, the little girl peeked at me from between the manikins with an impish grin.

“There you are,” said the little boy. The two children giggled and chase each other around the clothing racks.

“Ma’am,” called out the eighteen-year-old clerk. “Can you please tell your children that this isn’t a playground?” She sighed and shook her head, as if she’d been saying this all day.

A dark headed woman looked up long enough to say something in a sharp tone in Spanish to the two children, before returning to the clothes she was looking through. The kids skidded to a stop, their shoes squeaking, and ducked their heads.

  1. At Wal-Mart, a woman reached for her baby that her older child held. “Here, give him to me. There’s people trying to walk here.” The woman frowned, and her voiced had a hard edge.
  2. At Panda Express, a tired woman leaned toward the clerk over the glass display. “I want the chow mien with honey walnut shrimp, and for my son I want…”

Her son, who looked eight, stood behind her. He poked her in the butt with his spider man doll and laughed.

As her face turned red, the woman turned and swatted at him. “Stop that. We’re in public.”

Now, if you prefer dialogue that pops, I suggest doing some research. Watch those old 1930 and 40’s films that had snappy dialogue. I suggest anything with Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, and William Powell.

  1. Ball of Fire (1941)
  2. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
  3. Libeled Lady (1936)
  4. Holiday (1938)
  5. Twentieth Century (1934)
  6. The Thin Man (1934)
  7. To Be or Not to Be (1942)
  8. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1943)
  9. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
  10. Topper (1937)

 

Thank you for dropping by. Please like and subscribe and I’ll do another vlog next week. 🙂

 

Daydreamer a Vlog by Janice Seagraves

 

Daydreamer

By Janice Seagraves

 

Hi, I’m Janice Seagraves a writer and a proud Daydreamer.

I wrote this a while back. After I was triggered by a memory about one of my grade school teachers. She caught me daydreaming while I sat gazing out the window. She got in my face and shouted, “No daydreamer has ever gotten anywhere!”

Now that I am older, I beg to differ. If this woman was still alive today, I would like to ask her why? Why did she feel it necessary to crush a young girl’s spirit?

Why?

Crush and embarrassed—I was, but it didn’t stop me. I am to this day a daydreamer.

If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be an artist or a writer. I proudly proclaim myself to be a stubborn daydreamer.

As a child, I watched too much TV.  I can only blame Gilligan’s Island reruns and as a grown up becoming addicted to the Survivors show which led me into the what if’s that inspired my writing.

What if a person could survive alone on a deserted island, and found another person washed up on shore? What if they fell in love?

My what if’s turned into daydreams then led me to write a manuscript called Windswept Shores, which became my first published book.

My Daydreams helped create it, the rest was hard work. I kept my butt firmly planted in my chair keep my fingers moving.

Here are 8 more daydreamers:

  1. A daydreamer went on vacation in Spain and dreamed about the speed of light, his name was Albert Einstein.
  2. A daydreamer dreamed about perfecting the bulb, his name was Thomas Edison.

 

  1. A daydreamer dreamed the last movements of The Messiah oratorio, his name was Frederic Handel.
  2. A daydreamer dreamed about a mocking crow and wrote a poem. His name was Edger Allen Poe.
  3. Two brothers dreamed about flying, their names were Orville and Wilbur Wright.
  4. A daydreamer dreamed of being a kid again and floating down the mighty Mississippi on a raft. His name was Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain.
  5. A bored socialite daydreamed of being in the South before and during the civil war, her name was Margaret Mitchell. And you may remember her big hit, Gone with the Wind.

 

  1. A Baptist minister went to Washington and gave a speech called “I have a Dream,” which prompted the 1964 Civil Rights Act. His name was Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Where would we be without our daydreamers?

 

Are you a daydreamer? Leave a comment and let me know if you are.

 

 

 

Revising An Old Manuscript

 

Revisiting an Old Manuscript

By Janice Seagraves

Hi, this is Janice Seagraves. I’ve the author of nine books and six short stories.

I wrote lots of stories before I was ever published. A lot of those book-length manuscripts were what I learned on. When you first start out you have to write and write and write so you can learn. And I was no different.

Twin Heart is an early book-length manuscript that I had learned on but had never forgotten. The characters in it feel like old dear friends.

Feeling nostalgic one day, I pulled Twin Heart’s file out and started revising it. I’ve learned a lot over the ten years since I wrote the manuscript and though I should be able to fix it, no problem.

It was a mess!

Missing punctuations, run-on sentences, and drifting POVs. Just to name a few.

I have a lot of work to do if I’m ever going to get my dear old friend up to snuff.

The first two chapters weren’t so bad, but the further along I dug the worse it got. Some chapters read like filler and didn’t further the plot or add anything to the storyline. And there are thirty-two chapters in my manuscript.

Thirty-two.

And over 115,000 words. My manuscript can certainly use some trimming.

Things I’m looking out for as I revise my manuscript:

  • Fix common mistakes: errors in punctuation, repeated words, drifting POVs.
  • Do the sentences make sense?
  • Are too many sentences started with a -ing word?
  • Do the sentences use it as a subject of the sentence instead of a noun?
  • Are words spelled right or an I using a wrong word choice?
  • Break down run-on sentences into smaller sentences.
  • Delete unnecessary words.
  • Kill my darlings.
  • Read the manuscript out loud.

Once I get the problems taken care of, I’ll have to write out the manuscript chapter by chapter as if I was writing a synopsis so I can figure out what can stay and what can go.

The delete button has already become my friend.

Now, why did I start this project again?

Oh, yeah, dear old friends that are the characters in the manuscript.

*sigh*

At least the bones of the story are good. I just have to delete, rewrite, and make stronger a bunch of the bad sentences to make the good shine through.

Have you ever dragged out an old manuscript with designs on fixing it?

What happened?

 

Write Time in scenes by Janice Seagraves

 

Writing Time In Scenes

by Janice Seagraves

 

Hi, my name is Janice Seagraves.

Today, I thought I’d talk about time in writing. I don’t mean the day or week or month, but the speed in which things happen. Have you ever had someone tell you that your scene went too fast or maybe the opposite, your scene was very slow? And not in a good way.

Here’s some tips on how to fix that.

First, if your scene is going fast, you can odd more detail to slow it down. Believe me this trick works. Don’t know what to add in? Then I suggest describing what is happening in minute detail. Add in colors, textures, how things smell. Was the scent in the area nice, sour, or did it smell like something died? Maybe there is a background buzz that is irritating or soothing one of your characters? Add in details in all its glory: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Go deeper into your characters’ feelings. Add a pause as something else happens.

I had a scene that my critique partners said went too fast, so I added in more detail, more feelings, and more internal dialogue of one of the main characters. Then as they headed out, I wrote a pause. The heroine speaks to someone, while the hero is chumping at the bit to get her walking again then takes her arms and drags her down the road. And having one character wanting to leave the area, while the other is speaking to a secondary character can make the scene tense.

If you need to speed up a scene, then you’ll need to lose some of the detail. One time I added what in the business is called a ticking clock to speed things up. One of the characters is urging the others to hurry. His frustration shows whenever anything slows down. Have the characters speak in quick, short bursts.  One liners. No long dialogues. And if there is only two characters, you can leave off some of the dialogue tags. No one ambles anywhere in this scene. It’s all dashing, sprinting, and doing things fast.

Blog Post

It was my turn to post on Romance Books ‘4’ Us Blog.

I wrote about how I handled harsh critiques. And it has one of my vlogs attached to it.

Please like and subscribe.

https://romancebooks4us.blogspot.com/2019/03/harshcritiques-harsh-critiques-by.html

How to write a critique

 

How to write an honest critique

By Janice Seagraves

 

The first publisher I worked with suggest that I work with a critique group to help improve my writing. Since then, I’ve been working on critiques nearly every couple of weeks for the last ten years. And in that time, I’ve gone through five critique groups and I even took a workshop on critiquing.

Here are some things to consider if you have been asked to do a critique or are doing critiques or possibly beta reading someone’s work.

Please keep in mind that this is someone’s baby.

They most probably have slaved away at this manuscript for months if not years.

So be kind.

They may not have ever had any feed back on their work before this.

Say nice things about the pages or manuscript you’re working on.

If you find misspelled words, simply correct it within the pages and move on, or leave a comment in a comment bubble: “I think you mean this word.” Everyone at some point will have problems misspelling a word or using a word that spelled just a little different than the word that they mean to use. Or maybe it’s a typo. We all have those brain fart moments. Don’t make a big deal about it. Just correct the spelling and move on.

One of the moderators for a critique group I work with likes to say, “Sugar and spice. Mark what you like as well as what needs work.”

If nothing else, compliment the genre they chose to write their story in.

I find that if you compliment the writer first, then they are more likely to consideration the changes you are suggesting.

And remember, it’s suggestions. You are producing a critique and they didn’t hire you to be an editor.

All critiques should be in the body of the pages you’re working on.

Use the comment bubbles in edit format.

I always go through the story first before I write a note at the start of the pages.

The note will usually start with why I like their story.

For example: Vampires stories are a very popular right now. Or I love your characters. I can totally picture them. Or this scene was very exciting and really grabbed  me.

Next, I’ll drop down to a new paragraph and write: Good Job. 😊

And then I’ll start another paragraph that usually begins with: and now for the critique.

Sometimes I’ll write that their pages were well written, and I only needed to mark a few things here and there. That will relax and ease your critique partner. Up to his point they might be really tense.

And then I’ll go to things I noticed.

Things to watch out for.

Maybe it was: You used look and looked a lot so I highlighted all I could find.

And then I’ll finish the note with this disclaimer: This is my opinion only. Please take it with a grain of salt. Use what works and toss the rest. And with every critique your mileage will vary.

Janice~

 

Passive Writing

Turning Passive Writing into Active Writing

By Janice Seagraves

 

Since I’ve been seeing a lot of passive writing in the critiques I’ve been doing here lately, I thought I’d do a vlog on passive writing.

 

What do I mean by passive writing?

 

Have you ever heard of show and don’t tell?

 

Passive example: Rose was mad.

 

What’s wrong with the above sentence? Not much really. It does what it’s supposed to do, it tells us Rose is mad. But it doesn’t show us that Rose is mad.

 

Active writing example: Rose slammed the door closed then stomped through the room. “That jerk!” Picking up a flower filled vase, she hurled it against the wall where it shatters.

 

Not a real great example but you get the idea. Notice I used the words: Stomped and Hurled. These are active verbs. I wanted to show action and anger even in my word choice.

 

Passive writing is that, passive. It doesn’t show the reader anything.

 

Have you noticed while watching a movie that when an actor portraying a character that is mad, he doesn’t just frown. He stomps, shouts and will nearly always breaks something. He’s showing us he’s angry. And in writing, we need to show it too.

 

Another example: Rose was sad and wanted to cry.

Again, there is nothing wrong with this sentence, but it’s still telling up and not showing us how the character Rose feels.

Active writing example: She closed the door and leaned on it. A tear worked its way past her control. She rubbed the wetness off her face with an impatient swipe of her fingers.

You can see here that I’m conveying the feeling of sadness without telling you she was sad.