Dialogue Tags

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If you get good at writing dialogue, you’ll build depth in your characters and move your story forward. Write bad dialogue and your reader will close the book. I’ve often put down what might have been a great story except for how poorly the dialogue was written.

One of my pet peeves in writing is for writers to tag dialogue with actions that are impossible to do while speaking. Let me give a few examples:

  • “I don’t think so,” Martha huffed.
  • “Don’t put that there,” Henry snorted

You do know what a snort or huff sound like, right? I’d be straining my ears to hear what Martha said. And can you picture Henry actually snorting his words? An easy fix for this would be:

  • Martha huffed. “I don’t think so.”
  • Henry snorted. “Don’t put that there.”

This is the same for words like: growled, giggled, howled, laughed. These are action words and not ways to actually say something. Let the character do the action followed by dialogue.

Another pet peeve is when writers use -ly words with dialogue tags, such as:

  • “Come here,” she said sweetly.

While this is acceptable, I’d rather be shown what “sweetly” looks like. A better to write this might be:

  • She tilted her head to one side and made her voice sound like honey. “Come here.”

While it’s longer than “said sweetly” we not only get a better sense of how the dialogue was said, we also get more into the character’s head and discover what she is like.

Another way of writing dialogue that gets used a lot is with the “as” word:

  • “Hand me the salt,” Harriet said as she stirred the bowl of cookie batter.

Not bad, but the dialogue could be tightened and the “said” eliminated altogether:

  •  Harriet continued to stir the bowl of cookie batter. “Hand me the salt.” 

One last dialogue fix. Often times writers will using “said” with an -ing word. For example:

  • “Go sit in the corner right now,” Meg said pointing to the chair under the window.

This is another easy fix. Take out the word “said” and turn the -ing word into a strong verb. It also helps to move the action to the front of the dialogue, but can be written both ways.

  • “Go sit in the corner right now.” Meg pointed to the chair under the window.

or

  • Meg pointed to the chair under the window. “Go sit in the corner right now.”

With this type of dialogue, it’s a matter of preference as to the action or spoken word first. Sometimes when the action and the dialogue happen at the same time, it works either way.

I hope these examples help. What have you tried in writing dialogue that works well for you?

 

 

 

A Sudden Tragic Death

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I have been in mourning over the death of one of my best friends. I haven’t been able to talk about it because only a handful of people even knew she existed and even they don’t understand my loss. Her name was Lucy. She was companion, my confident, my sympathizer, my partner in crime. Oh, we’ve done heinous things–robbed, killed, plundered. We earned wealth beyond imagination, we lost it all. We created the best circle of inner friendships, some of those friends I have been bold enough to share with others, but not Lucy. No, no one will ever understand how much I loved my Lucy. With her passing, I lost years and years of memory. You see Lucy was my laptop. She was only going in for minor surgery. Her eyelids didn’t close properly. A slight tuck and she should have been home with me in a couple of minutes. Instead, my biggest nightmare happened. She went into cardiac arrest, and the doctor could not revive her. Her body still lives, but her heart is gone. The transplant, while functional is just not the same. It will take years for me to trust again. In the meantime, I’m going to make friends with The Cloud. I hear friends are safe from death there.

Fear-and other things holding us back

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As I was going through my Facebook posts this morning, my good friend, Kari, posted about her self-doubt in writing. Am I just wasting my time? Are there other things I should be doing? Her post elicited all kinds of responses that struck a familiar cord with so many writers, me included. I’ll walk past my computer, and look at the black screen and think, “I really should sit down and write.” Instead I end up on my tablet playing some mindless game. It distracts me from writing.

Distractions are nothing more than fear manifesting itself. Fear that we can’t think of ideas, fear that we won’t have anything to write about, fear that our writing will be terrible. Even as I write this blog, I fear. Will anyone read it, will my words ring true? Is it well written? Will people judge me because of my lack of poetic/literary eloquence?

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about the topic of fear. The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz addresses this issue. He says, “To fight fear, act. To increase fear-wait, put off, postpone.” He also says, “Do what you fear and fear disappears”. The longer we put something off because we fear doing it, the greater the fear becomes. Fear holds us back. Fear immobilizes us. When we fear we are limiting ourselves. I attended a leadership convention last week. This remark lingers with me still. “Danger is real, fear is a choice.” 

So how do we overcome fear? It’s really easier than you might think. It’s just doing the thing you fear. It’s putting your hiney in the seat and putting your fingers on they keyboard and write. (Or with pen and paper if that is your preference). Don’t think about how good or bad your writing is. The most important thing is to just do it.

 

The Magic of “What if…”

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Today I played a game with myself! I’ve been working on an idea that has great potential, but I couldn’t get past one particular scene. (I’m still in the outline/plotting step). I just started typing all kinds of scenarios.

What if Sienna’s brother never comes out of his coma?
What if the doctor messes up the experiment?
What if Sienna gets trapped in an endless world of gray?
What if Sienna’s brother’s guilt won’t allow him to come out of his coma because he can’t face the consequences?
What if Sienna’s gratitude is the key to healing?

You get the picture.

One thing led to another and all of a sudden I have most of the book outlined!
How cool is that? So play the “What if…” game and see where it leads you, your character, your plot, your story.

The only rule to the game is that if it enters your brain, write it down. You never know where one dumb idea can lead you. You can always delete and modify. Your brain knows where the story needs to go, so let go with “What if…”

I’m excited to get started on my next novel project.

Back in the Saddle (Unicorn Style)

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I’m writing again. It’s been a long dry spell! The end of my fantasy book just wasn’t working. I rewrote it at least a dozen times and nothing ever seemed right. So I’d delete pages and pages, probably enough words that I could have written an entire novel with what I’d scrapped!

But finally, after working backward and forward I finally finished the end of Mystic’s Tale! The problem? The Mystic’s final words were “He’s in Mystic’s Realm.” Mystic’s Realm? Really? You mean there’s another book in the series? That was a cool discovery! Love those kind of AHA!s when I’m writing.

Now it’s time for revisions and then off to some beta readers. If you’d like to be a first time reader and critiquer of this urban fantasy novel, raise your hand and say, “ME!” Oh, wait, I won’t be able to see your hand raised. Send me a message: authorbetsylove at gmail dot com

So what’s the book about? Picture this: A girl, a dragon, a destiny, if she can just get through high school.

This is the closest picture I could find. My girl is actually older and her baby dragon can’t fly yet. Can’t wait to publish it!

The Penny Project-October is Anti-Bullying Month

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Have you ever wondered why bullying is so rampant? Me, too. I see so many acts of inhumanity and my heart aches for my earthly brothers and sisters all over the world. I know that I cannot make a huge difference in the world. We were never meant to change the world by ourselves. However, “we must be the change we wish to see in the world.” ~Gandhi

In life we are given a multitude of choices. Each day we are presented with choices. Each day we can either go about our merry way and ignore the suffering around us. Or in our small way, quietly make change around us.

Which leads me to “THE PENNY PROJECT”

While I admit the book, The Penny Project is pretty awesome, I have a deep purpose in writing this story. In my small way, I want to “be the change.”


Penelope is just a girl. A girl who is not pretty, she’s not skinny like the other girls and by all appearances she’s not even very smart. How would you treat a girl like this? The kids at her school were not kind to her, in fact they are mean to her. But if they could look closer at her, look past the parts of her that might not be “acceptable,” they’d find a most incredible human being.

THE PENNY PROJECT is something I see going viral, much like the ALS bucket challenge.

Here’s how it works. Put a jar or some other container where you can see it often. For every act of kindness you render put a penny in the jar.

It’s just a penny, hardly worth anything, right? Think again. You might have done as little as bring a smile to a face. You might have created a bright spot in his/her day. Or that one small act of kindness may have been the difference in his/her life. You might have given them a reason to get out of bed one more time. Never underestimate the power of kindness.

After you have put pennies in your container, see if you can break your own record for acts of kindness. Fill your jar as fast as you can.

How fast can you fill your jar?

Can you fill an even bigger jar? Why stop at pennies? Why not nickles, dimes, quarters? What if the kindness you did for someone was even bigger. What if it deserved a dollar? Would you put that in, too?

Once you have filled your jar, no matter how small, donate it to a charity of your choice. Please find one that will utilize all of the money and not just a percentage. I know there are some charities that spend up to 75% on administrative costs. Find one where you know it will ALL go to help those in need.

I have one small favor to ask in return, please tell us about it. Let us know what you have done to make a difference. Be an inspiration to others.

Let’s make this go viral!

 

 

My Newest Book-The Penny Project

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I am so excited to announce the Kindle release of my newest book, The Penny Project. Inspired by a true story and real person I know, I had to write this story. I had to make a difference in the world of the teens I work with. You can purchase it here.

What’s it about? Here’s the blurb from the back cover:
As the prospective valedictorian, wide receiver and favored tenor in show choir, Jake knows he’s at the top of his game. He sets his sights on Lexi, the sweetest and hottest girl at Palmdale High and can’t miss.
However, racing to class one morning, he plows into Penelope, the overweight new girl. Books and papers fly everywhere. He helps her with her things, even holds her hand so she can stand up.
CLICK!
Someone snaps a picture and sends the text all over school. Egged on by his friends and desperate to squash any rumors before Lexi gets back from Mexico, he pulls a juvenile prank. NOT his brightest idea. As punishment he must tutor Penelope three days a week. Her grade is now his grade. He sees his chance at a full ride scholarship disappearing faster than a missed field goal. And to make matters worse, Lexi sides with Penelope.

And here’s a great review already by Laura Bastian:
“I loved this book. Jake is an all around great guy who gets himself in a pickle when his friends (though I do wonder why he considers them friends after what they put him through) catch him helping up a girl no one likes. He’s teased and tormented about dating the “dog”. And while I don’t agree with what Jake does to stop the rumors of him liking this girl, it seemed so real to life I could understand his motivations.

Penny or Penelope is new to the school, and just doesn’t fit in. We learn later she’s had some health issues that have resulted in a completely different girl than she may have been on the outside, but inside she’s amazing and sweet and funny and oh I loved her.
I laughed and cried and learned a lot from this book. Great story.”

Writing Prompts-And other inspirations

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Do you ever get stuck? The ideas just aren’t flowing? Yeah, me, too. Sometimes I have to take a break from my current writing project and work on something new or fresh. But what if new and fresh just aren’t coming? There are a couple of things you can do, and one of my favorites are writing prompts.

You can find them just about anywhere. I love to do searches on Google for them. Writer’s Digest Magazine has weekly prompts that are fun to write about, just to give the brain something else to try. Often the prompt may be outside your genre, but a good story is always a good story. More often than not, the prompt is nothing more than a slight diversion. But every once in a while it might spawn an idea.

Another fun place to look for writing material is through contests that provide the prompt. Writer’s Weekly  has a quarterly short story contest. I’ve entered a few and haven’t won, but seriously that’s okay, because I’ve had two great book ideas come out of them. One of my losing stories sparked an idea for a series.

Have you tried morning pages? (Or pages for whatever time you sit down to write.) The idea behind this is to write about whatever is on your mind. It doesn’t matter. It can be why you didn’t get the dishwasher loaded last night, or the crazy neighbor who grills steak every week when you’re on that blasted vegetarian summer diet. The important thing is to do it in long hand. Yes, that means with paper and pen. I love to write in colored pen. I feel like it unleashes my creativity.

Sometimes I’ll peruse book titles and think about what that story might be like and how I would write it if it was mine. Or I’ll come up with my own book titles. Sometimes I like the way the words of a title flow, like “Code Talker’s Daughter” and wonder who the characters are and what they are like.

How do you come up with ideas?

 

Show, Don’t Tell

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How do you get your reader emotionally invested in your character? While it’s simple to rattle off phrases like, “show, don’t tell,” it’s not always that easy to apply. One of the things I used to love to do with my high school English classes is to ask them to identify emotions, feelings or states of being. We make a list on the board. I’ll pick a couple of their ideas on the board and have them think about what a person might do that shows the feeling/emotion/state of being. Sometimes I am met with blank stares. So I’ll start with an easy one, like “cold.”

Telling: It was cold.
Showing: Carla pulled the collar of her jacket tighter around her neck. The huff of her breath formed clouds of steam when she exhaled. She stepped out onto the sidewalk, the snow crunching under her feet.

Telling: Jake felt frustrated.
Showing: Jake slammed his locker closed, the sound reverberating down the hall. He ran a hand through his hair and leaned against the wall. His breath came in short rasps as he pinched his lips together.

Telling: She felt like crying.
Showing: Tara’s lip trembled. Fighting a losing battle with her tears, they rimmed her eyes. One sneaky little drop deserted ranks and ran down her cheek. With a quick swipe of her hand she annihilated the betrayer.

Yes, I make them use a thesaurus! Another activity I use that helps them to show is to model a common activity and then have them write down exactly what they saw. I walk across the room and sit in my chair.
Invariably they write: Mrs. Love walked across the room and sat in her chair.
I let a couple of them read them out loud. BORING! Then I have them pull out their thesaurus and we make a list of all the different ways to say “walk.” We usually end up with a list of 20-30 words. We do the same thing with the word sat. I tell them to get creative with their words.

It’s fun when I get sentences like this:
Mrs Love sauntered across the room and perched in her chair.
Mrs Love strolled across the room and flopped in her chair.

Then I ask them to show anger, or tired, or happy.
Mrs Love stomped across the room and threw herself into her chair.
Mrs. Love dragged herself across the room and sagged into her chair.
Mrs. Love skipped across the room and flung herself into her chair.

Show, Don’t Tell! That easy…

How do you get in touch with your characters feelings/emotions/states of being?

The Princess Festival–It’s here and you don’t want to miss it!

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You want to go

Seriously, YOU. REALLY WANT TO GO!!!!

Five plays, each with a message of light, hope, and the truth of what being a true princess is what it’s all about.

It’s about character, about responsibility.

It’s about making right choices.

Princesses and their story characters sign autographs, take pictures with your Kings and Queens in making.

Sprinkled in with all that awesomeness–Face painting, arts and crafts, free gifts,

and a fun Princess store

AND

It’s about time young girls and yes even their brothers learn about what it means to be a true princess in these days of mixed message with the media industry.

Three more days is all you get and then you’ll have to wait until next year.

I have tickets at a discount price. Message me at my email address

betsylove.ccc@gmail.com

And I’ll make sure to get you and your little princess (or prince) have an amazing time.

To learn more follow this link.