Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Stuff In Between Dialogue

Sometimes when you’re writing a scene, you need to avoid the “talking heads” syndrome where 2 people are chatting on the pages but doing absolutely nothing to further the plot. They need to have this conversation—but what do you have them do while they’re discussing?

1. Absolutely nothing. Don’t be afraid to have a simple back-and-forth with no action, or even (gasp!) no dialogue tags like “he said” and “she said.” Just be careful not to go on too long or your reader may lose track of who is saying what. It depends on the interchange, but 6-12 non-tagged lines are usually long enough before you have to tag or identify:

A looming presence appears beside my desk, like a specter of doom. “Curtis.”
“Yes, Mrs. Taylor?”
“Your assignment was due last week, and I don’t see it in my homework box.”
“Um…this may sound hard to believe, but my dog ate it.”
“You’re right. I don’t believe that for one microsecond.”
“No, really! I know it’s a freakin’ cliché, but Rambo was locked inside my room while my mom was doing some girlie hair dye thing with my sister—”
“I’m going to need a note from your mother about that, then.”
I slouch in my desk. Oops, definite snag. Used the wrong alibi for that one.

2. Have the character think or do a simple action. Especially useful when writing in first person, this Shows the reader the character’s personality rather than Telling what someone is like. For instance, the last 2 lines of thought in the previous example. Actions also work, such as Curtis slouching in his desk—just be careful not to overdo it and have an action for nearly EVERY single line. That gets old and tedious, fast.

3. Actions that actually propel the scene forward. Integrate the actions into the dialogue so that something is happening to get the characters from point A to point B. Be careful of doing a lot of overused actions such as sighing, glancing, blinking, lip pursing, and hair smoothing. Use these sparingly and make sure they fit the character you are describing.

Also, don’t have EVERYONE have a habit of twirling strands of hair or biting his/her lower lip whilst thinking under pressure. That’s unrealistic. Keep it to one character as his/her specific trait.

How long have you gone on with a dialogue, with no tags in a scene?
Do you find writing dialogue difficult, or fairly easy?
Do you have trouble figuring out what actions your characters should be doing while they are in a conversation, so they don’t sound like “talking heads”?


Tuesday, September 1, 2015


The day has finally arrived, at loooong last! It’s been a 5-year journey, people. My YA sci-fi novel, THE BODY INSTITUTE, is now available for anyone to read. It’s both thrilling and scary to think about.

Thanks to all of you, my loyal blogging friends, for riding along with me on my trip into publication. As a group, you are mentioned in the acknowledgments at the end of my book! I appreciate your encouragement, support, and word-hugs throughout the past years.  

The Body Institute
When 17-year-old Morgan Dey joins up as a Reducer at The Body Institute, her job is to take over another girl’s body, get her in shape, and then return to her own body. It’s innovative weight loss at its finest. Only there are a few catches…it’s not long before Morgan must decide if being a Reducer is worth the cost of her body and soul.
Are we our minds...or our bodies? 

Preorder links:   Amazon  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  Indiebound Powell's Books  

Fun Facts While Writing The Body Institute
1. BUGS. I was writing the rough draft and my grown daughter was visiting. She sat out on the back porch, sunning like a cat, and soon came whipping back in—squawking that some sort of insect had flown into her ear. So, since I happened to be writing a scene where my main character was outside, I incorporated that bug-in-the-ear experience right into my scene. Fun!
2. BEFORE and AFTER photos. I adore them! Even when I was around 9-10 years old, I was fascinated by articles about people who had lost weight, carefully studying the Before and After photos. As I got older, I was also intrigued by before and after photos of women who applied makeup…photos of house renovations and improvements…photos of pictures drawn by people before they read the book Drawing On The Right Side of The Brain (by Betty Edwards) and then after they did the book’s drawing exercises—and so on.

Have you read other YA books that deal with weight and body image?
What do you think of Before and After photos—are you as entranced as I am?
Have you ever incorporated something that happened in real life into your scenes, from either your memories or from something that happened while you were writing?