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Using Dialogue in Scenes to Reveal Character

Dialogue is perhaps the best tool in the writer’s toolbox. Through it, writers can reveal things about character and plot, set up and amplify conflict and stakes, create mystery and microtension, and so much more—and this is why it merits a lot of attention.

Yes, dialogue always serves more than one purpose—more than merely conveying information. Fiction writers should want to learn skills and methods to help them pack dialogue with as much punch as possible.

Dialogue is also extremely difficult to do well. It has to be condensed and distilled to be effective. Great dialogue in fiction is hardly realistic or exact; it infers more than it states. In essence, it’s stylized for effect.

That’s why you can’t merely listen to people’s conversations and copy them down verbatim and use them in your scenes. Much of conversation is boring, repetitive, rambling, and full of extraneous words that clutter.

Use Dialogue to Reveal Character

What I want to talk about for a bit is the way dialogue can replace character description and create an impression without the narrative “telling” that is so often maligned (and usually for good reason).

When we both listen and watch someone speak, we pick up a lot of information that is inferred by the listener. With characters, not only can other characters infer and react to what the speaker is saying and what their body language is conveying (those can be and are often two wildly different things), the reader infers as well. Continue Reading…

10 Questions to Help Fiction Writers “Set the Stage”

One of the primary objectives and responsibilities of a fiction writer is to transport readers into the world of their story.

However, it’s easier said than done. You, the writer, must visualize your scene—where your characters are, what the place looks and feels like—with enough detail that you can play out the action in your head.

There are two potential problems here. First: if you don’t spend enough time truly bringing that stage to life, it isn’t going to come across to your readers. But, second, you have to decide how much detail to convey.

No reader wants six pages of furniture description. Yet, without some description, readers aren’t transported. So what’s a writer to do?

Only What She Notices

Here’s the best place to start when considering what to include in your setup of time and place: your POV character’s head.

Because every scene needs to be in POV—meaning shown only through the eyes and thoughts of one character who is “experiencing” and processing the action of the scene—it’s all about what she notices.

When you walk into a room, what do you notice? Continue Reading…

The 2 Key Elements That Make a Great Scene

Writing great scenes takes a lot of practice and know-how. There are so many elements that must work beautifully, perhaps magically, to draw in readers and get them hooked.

It’s crucial you deeply understand the exact genre you are writing in because those readers who pick up your book have expectations. And you must meet those expectations, or you are going to disappoint them.

It’s as simple as that.

Look Carefully at First Scenes

I’ve written thousands of words in my books and blog posts about first scenes. In fact, I have an entire book devoted to just first pages of best sellers—analyzing, tearing them apart, to show you what works and what doesn’t.

You should be doing this same type of homework, whether you write fiction or nonfiction. There is a target audience for your book, possibly hundreds of thousands of readers—readers who would love your book. Continue Reading…

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