Writing 101: Location/Setting

 

 

 

Welcome to lesson 7 of Writing 101. This time we will be dealing with location/setting in your story. Location/setting is important in stories. It’s not as important as character or plot but it’s still important to authentically write your setting and in small ways,sometimes large mostly in poems, it can even add to your piece.

So without further ado, let’s talk setting and location …

 

1.      I’ve Got A Great Character And A Great Plot. Isn’t That Enough? Is Setting Really That Important?

 

The honest answer is that in comparison to character and plot your setting isn’t as important. However it’s a nice cherry on top. For example, if you write a character from Ireland, it isn’t enough to just say they are from Ireland. You need to show an overview of what it means to be Irish. That doesn’t mean an old man in a pub sitting at the bar saying, “That young one is running around with all the men. She’s a right little hussy.” That’s a stereotype but you could do it because there is people like that everywhere. But what I more mean here is something like how catholicism was a strong force in Ireland but now it’s becoming an increasingly secular society so your character for example could be an atheist and you might have their parents from older Ireland not agreeing with that or likewise a catholic scared to seem behind the times because they believe in God. In short, let your setting bleed into your characters’ stories because in real-life the circumstances which surround us do impact on our lives and our views in varying ways.

 

2.    Research, Research, Research!

 

I have heard of many writers visiting the countries where they are setting their novel. It’s well if one can do that but not every writer is financially able to do that. But thankfully we live in a world where all the information we need is on the internet and in books. You can even get a feel for what it’s like to be in a country or part of a country by watching YouTube clips of the country or part of the country. But do research places in some way whether that’s books, the internet or TV because it will make your writing so much more authentic and readers will feel like they are there with the characters even if the writer has never left their living-room.

 

3.     Be Unpredictable

 

There is many novels and their location is very predictable. So many romances for example are set in sunny climates that would work just as well in a small building of flats anywhere. They are done for glamour and there’s nothing wrong with it but if you do that, the story still needs to be down-to-earth, the characters still can’t be caricatures and the glamour of the location can’t take over. Likewise many thrillers are set in cities that are thought of as gritty. There isn’t anything wrong with this either but it would be interesting to see a lot of them set in a sunny climate. The predictable setting is fine but vary it up a bit. That way, you’ll see new avenues you can go now with the story that are fresher than many stories and help yours stand out.

 

4.     Time Is Setting’s Cousin

 

Going back to the example I said in the first section, 1950s’ Ireland would be completely different to today. So if you had an atheist in your story, they more than likely wouldn’t say they were openly. They might feel guilty about it or they might be ahead of their time and know it’s fine to be themselves but they more than likely wouldn’t say it out. Fast-forward to now and they could be as free to be themselves as they wanted to be. So time needs to compliment setting and vice versa. After all time is a huge part of your setting.

 

5.      Have Central Settings

 

This is good news. Yes, you’ll have to know these places very well but the good thing is you get to choose the places so pick places that you’ll be comfortable writing a lot about. Usually it’s the character’s home and work place/college/where they volunteer and somewhere they like to go like a pub or a cafe. Setting is not a major part of stories but it does add a consistency and a realness to your work. We all have certain places where we spend a lot of our time and your readers will get familiar with the places your characters spends most of their time in. In a sense their house, etc … are like very minor characters but still they add much needed detail to the overall story.

 

Key Points Summary

  • Location/setting is not as important as character or plot but it is important in it’s own right.
  • Your setting gives your story an overview and helps your readers understand the circumstances that your character faces.
  • Let your setting bleed into your characters’ stories because in real-life the circumstances which surround us do impact on our lives and our views in varying ways.
  • Research your setting/location very well. Use the resources which are at your disposal like books, the internet and TV to help you to write your setting authentically.
  • Predictable settings for genres are fine but unpredictable ones can also freshen your work up.
  • Make sure you factor time into your location.
  • Work hardest on your central settings. Your readers will begin to associate your characters with these settings.

 

 

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Writing 101: Plot

 

 

 

Well lesson 6 is very important as it’s about plot. And obviously without plot a story is dead on it’s legs. So us writers really need to get it right! 🙂

 

Plot is the lifeblood of your story. It’s the main reason that a reader gives your book a chance in the first place and continues to read it and be enthralled in it as it develops. Plots can’t be predictable so we need to avoid cliches. Most of us when we start have an idea about the story and an idea of where it may go but that’s only part of plot. Filling in the rest of the plot is where the hard work begins. So without further ado, let’s get cracking on what we can do to improve our plots …

 

1. Characters Drive Plot

I often hear people coming up with their plots before their characters. It’s a valid way of doing it but I think it’s easier if you come up with the two together or the character before the plot. If you think about real life the things that happen us in our lives are often because of our personalities and how we go about getting on in the world so your characters’ personalities, jobs, beliefs, etc … will help you to decide what kind of plot will work for them. Plot is your structure, your characters are the heart of that structure and in sync it can be a magical authentic combination. You’ll still have to work on the plot but let your characters do a bit of the work!

 

2.  Unpredictable Plots Are Best

Ok, this can be a difficult one because when you write in genres there tends to be a structure and readers who read that genre are expecting your book to follow that structure eg. Mysteries: crime committed, crime investigated, big reveal. So you probably should stick to that. But the way of doing the plot doesn’t have to be the same as everyone else’s. This comes down to your writer’s voice. When you allow your writer’s voice to flow your plot will never be predictable. Don’t copy other writers. Be inspired but never copy them. So if you have a mystery your killer may not be brought to justice, in a romance the couple might not end up together.

 

3. Plot Prompts

If you are struggling there is numerous sites online with plot prompts. They can be useful but take the bits you like to mould into your story, don’t take the complete prompt because then you will struggle to write it because we write stories rather unsurprisingly better that are our own ideas so make sure 2/3 of the idea is yours.

Plot Generator

https://www.plot-generator.org.uk/story-ideas/

 

4.  To Outline Or Not Outline, That Is The Question …

Personally I don’t really write outlines for my stories. Maybe some notes here and there. But every writer is different so you’ll need to determine what works best for you. But if you are doing an outline, be prepared to throw parts of it away if it doesn’t fit while you are writing a story. That is kind of the con of an outline. Where the pro is that outlines help a writer feel more organised and know where they are going better, the con is that many writers feel they must stick to the outline even when they really want to write something else into the story. To not outline doesn’t mean going into your story with no idea of where it’s going so have ideas for parts and then let the plot flow with freedom. If you want to go the more traditional outline route here’s an interesting article for you that might help:

https://www.nownovel.com/blog/write-a-plot-outline-infographic/

 

5.  Your Plot Must Come From Your Heart

Writers often say I can’t think of a plot. 99% of the time they can but they are scared to go with it and the main reason is usually that it doesn’t sound like other plots on the market. That’s the time to actually go with the plot. It’s original. It’s coming from you and no one else can tell that story and hasn’t yet. Maybe it’ll be liked, maybe it won’t but you’ll never know if you don’t give it a try. It’s much better than using a plot that has been used over and over to death before. It at least gives you a chance. Be brave. Believe in your writing, believe in your plot. If you don’t, no one else will.

 

Key Points Summary

  • Plot is the lifeblood of your story.
  • Characters drive plot.
  • Your plots shouldn’t be predictable. Your writer’s voice will help them not to be.
  • Plot prompts are a great help if you get writer’s block but most of the idea should still be your own.
  • There is pros and cons to both outlining and not outlining. The decision of which to do is your own personal decision of what works best for you.
  • Your plot must come from your heart. In order to convince others to believe in it, you must believe in it.

 

 

Writing 101: Writing Mysteries

 

Hello everyone and welcome to the 5th part of Writing 101. We have made the halfway point y’all. Today’s lesson is about writing mysteries.

 

Writing mysteries is very difficult. It’s actually one of the most difficult types of story to write. Mainly because you know who the killer/killers is and you have to conceal it all the way through the piece and the longer the piece of work is the more torturous that can be. Needless to say, when you start writing a mystery story you have to take your hat off to people like Agatha Christie who wrote over 80 mystery stories and still managed to keep each one fresh and interesting. But though it’s a hard form, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done so let’s look at some tips which can help you on your mystery writing journey …

 

Writing Mysteries

 

1. The Killer/Killers Need To Both Fit And Be The Last Person Or People Anyone Suspects

 

Mystery writers can sometimes go wrong either side of this situation. They might make it too obvious by it being who we thought it was all along because it fits or they might make it someone or some people that it doesn’t fit but are shocking. You need to balance it between the two. When it’s a very unexpected killer/killers you need to have dripped it into conversations subtly along the way. Thinking of Agatha Christie, she was a genius at this device. Cosy tea chats with Miss Marple were usually where clues lay. And yet they were the parts most people pass over quicker while reading a novel. On the other hand, your killer/killers can’t be obvious. It’s the surest way to lose readers in a mystery. The Whodunit, the guessing is the currency and selling point of a mystery novel. If it’s obvious, it’s not much of a mystery novel even if all the Is are dotted and it makes sense. There is ways mystery writers can shield a killer/killers until they want to reveal who they are. One is not to have them very much in the novel. Yes, it sounds slightly like cheating but it isn’t really. If you have given all the clues to suggest it is them then keeping them out of a lot of scenes while you cast the blame on everyone else is a good mystery device. It draws your reader away from that person. If on the other hand you want them to go unnoticed in the thick of the action, they need to have a good reason for being there, i.e. detective, fellow detective, housekeeper, reporter, other half of detective or fellow detective. Basically you need to have your reader secure that the only purpose that they are there is for that reason. Not because of something more sinister …

 

2. The Stereotypical Detective

 

Ok, we all know what the stereotypical detective is: He’s a cisgender, white, heterosexual, able-bodied young to middle-aged male. Nothing wrong with that but your detective doesn’t have to be any or all of these things. But because it’s being did to death (apologies for the pun, none intended) many writers don’t even think outside of these boxes when putting together their detective. I have a detective in my series of stories called Rory Murphy who is pansexual and disabled. I didn’t consciously decide that. That’s how he came to me in my head but the point is don’t do anything deliberately because that won’t work but keep your mind open on who your detective is. You don’t have to go with the stereotype of the detective if it doesn’t fit with the character in your head. There is no rules on it so do what you feel. And if that is the stereotypical detective go with it but please don’t always give him a drink problem and a hard man image and cheesy lines while standing over the body like,
“I don’t think they’ll be dancing the light fantastic anymore.” or something like that. How many detectives in real life would honestly have a one-liner ready in such circumstances? It doesn’t make them sound funny or cool. It makes them sound cliched and a bit of a moron.

 

3. Read Mysteries

 

There has been and is many excellent writers in this genre. Just to give you a few:

  • Agatha Christie
  • John Grisham
  • James Patterson
  • Ruth Rendell
  • Stephen King
  • Kathy Reichs
  • Mark Billingham
  • Mark Edwards
  • Jodi Picoult
  • Harlan Coben
  • Lynda La Plante
  • Tom Rob Smith
  • P.D. James
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Val McDermid
  • Arthur Conan Doyle

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, I could go on forever …
There is a certain way mystery writers can keep the suspense up in a story so read as much mystery books as you can if this is a field you are interested in writing in. It starts leaking into your own work with your own unique writer’s voice automatically when you are reading the works of others.

 

4. Backstories

 

You need to flesh out the backstories very well of both your detective and your killer. Or detectives and killers. Yes, there can be more than one detective too. Tommy and Tuppence? But back to the point. It is very tempting for many mystery writers to make everyone understand the reasons behind the motives of your detective but you also need to make everyone know what was behind the motives of your killer to give a rounded story. Don’t go with cliches like their father was an alcoholic, their mother was neglecting them and sleeping with lots of men, make them more complex than that. That makes an interesting killer. While you are never setting out to make your readers understand why your killer would take someone else’s life, you do need to be very clear to readers on why the killer themselves felt they needed to do such an evil thing. And the next part is going to sound strange but not every killer needs to be evil. 99% of them will be but 1% of killers might have being pushed to the edge by harrowing circumstances which you’ll set out clearly. And sometimes they aren’t a killer. It could be euthanasia. On the backstory of your detective, you have a very big opportunity to make a very interesting character. There is so many cardboard, samey-samey detectives that this is a huge opportunity for you to have a detective that stands out. Their personality needs to be interesting and real. Forget they are a detective for a bit, they are also human. Concentrate on the other facets of them that would be there whether they were a detective or not.

 

5. You Need A Fine Toothcomb

 

Mysteries unlike many other stories are probably on first writing going to be littered with mistakes. There’s a lot to think about when you are writing a mystery and you are bound to make errors at numerous points. Go through each part of your story, make sure it fits that by reveal time there is no loopholes. Readers of mysteries will notice loopholes very easily when they have being trying to put the case together so make sure everything fits together like a glove.

 

Key Points Summary

  • Writing mysteries is very difficult. It’s actually one of the most difficult types of story to write.
  • Your killer/killers can’t be obvious but it also needs to fit together perfectly.
  • Use subtle pieces of conversations that sound like every day, unimportant conversations to leak clues.
  • Use characters with valid purposes for being there as your killer/killers.
  • Your detective doesn’t need to be the stereotypical detective: a cisgender, white, heterosexual, able-bodied young to middle-aged male.
  • Read mysteries by other authors. There is so much choice out there which will give you a great insight into how to incorporate suspense into your stories.
  • Give both your killer/killers and detective/detectives fully rounded back stories.
  • Avoid detective cliches.
  • Not every killer has to be evil.
  • Sometimes deaths can be euthanasia instead of murder.
  • Edit your work thoroughly. There is so much to think of in mysteries that you are bound to make mistakes. Get rid of them before publication.

Writing 101: Writing Romance

 

 

Hello everyone and welcome to part 4 of Writing 101. This part will focus on writing romance. I mostly write romance and mysteries so they will be the two genres I will cover over two parts in Writing 101. I’ll leave the other genres to those who know what they are talking about!

 

The crucial part of romance is the couple and their connection. It needs to feel authentic. It needs to not be over the top but it also can’t be dismissive either. So the right balance is somewhere in the middle. The two people can’t just be thrown together, they need to fit like a glove. You need your readers to never want them to part and to be happy together.

 

So without further ado, let’s get going on tips for all you fellow romance writers out there (and writers in general because romance features in most books to some degree. :-))

 

Writing Romance 

 

1.  So You’re Going About Connection. How Exactly Do You Go About That?

 

Well one thing you mustn’t do is throw two characters together for the sake of having a romance in a story. They must authentically suit. Think of the couples you like in books, in films, on TV, in short stories, etc … They feel right together. Their journey is made up of little things that make their relationship authentic. Little things could include knowing obscure things about each other because they listen to each other and are interested in each other, the way they have nicknames for each other that no one else has for each of them, the way their relationship grows and becomes more and more comfortable bit by bit. Though they say opposites attract they often will have quite a few things in common even if they are very different. You really need to get invested in their relationship yourself so that you write it from your heart what you think their hearts are feeling. Don’t write what you think it should sound like, write it as you really feel they feel. And if you are struggling base it on a couple you know or know of. Don’t make it obvious who they are but it will help you to make the couple authentic if you are struggling to do so.

 

2. Conflict’s Always Good 

Ok so here’s an example: This lad who is a jockey falls in love with this lad who is an animal rights activist. How do they find a balance between their beliefs and how they feel about each other? Well as the story progresses they need to have something in common that can manage that. Is the jockey good to the horses? Does he care about them? If so, you have something they have in common. The example comes from one of my books (which I won’t plug because that wouldn’t be fair, tempting as it is to do so! :-)) But the point is that the conflict needs to feel natural. It can’t be thrown into a story all of a sudden out of nowhere. It has to be born out of who those characters are or their circumstances or both. It can’t just suddenly appear out of thin air. There needs to be a gradual lead-up which eventually results in the conflict coming to a head. Oh the drama of it all!

 

3. They Need To Marry At The End, Right? 

No. But they can too. Or they can live together. (How shockingly modern?! Actually daring to go against the Institution of Marriage! :-))

What this really boils down to is how well you know your characters. You need to know how they feel about their beliefs very well. Then you’ll know very easily whether they dream of marrying or cohabiting. Or either or neither. Some questions that might help include:

  • Are they conventional or not?
  • Do they believe that love is beautiful no matter which way a couple is committed?
  • Does their backgrounds affect what they believe in terms of commitment?

Actually the decision of whether to cohabit or marry can be used as a great source of conflict. Often writers make the error when they use it as a source of conflict in making the person who doesn’t believe in marriage out to be wrong in the situation. It always make me cringe because surely in society we’re a bit beyond making out marriage to be the only right way. Suddenly we’re all set back to 1950. You have a duty to both your characters and you need to equally understand where each of them is coming from. You need to value the individuality of your characters. Then you’re in a position to make them richer.

 

4. Two Flawed Characters Make Two Perfect Characters

You have a duty of equal care and attention to both of your lead characters. The idea (and it’s done so often that I feel like cringing) is not to be trying to make one character look sweet as sugar pie by making the other the villain who needs to change their ways. It’s quite boring because you can’t relate to either of them. One’s gone too far one side while the other is gone too far the other side. Personally if I had to pick a side, I’d pick the villain. Despite all their flaws there’s often a slight more realness to them. So make them both flawed. Make them both also nice. Make them human. The character you might like the best in the partnership will still get the spotlight and adoration. But they just need to share it.

 

5.   You Don’t Even Have To Have A Happy Ending.

Ok, so I exaggerate slightly. You will be expected to. It’s kind of thought of as business savvy to do so in a romance. But it’s not a rule. If it’s right for your story, end it unhappily. There is nothing worse than a happy ending that doesn’t fit. If you have did your job right, your readers will be distraught because they have got invested in and got to love the characters (or at least one of them) very much but 90% of the time that won’t put a reader off coming back to your work if they like it. A cliched happy ending might put people off too. So you can’t win. The best you can do is end it with what feels right. Or you could always end it with an ending that doesn’t give anything away. They could just be going about their usual activities together and it could be left open at that. What happens next kind of thing. That way the reader decides and everyone’s happy. Bar the readers who wanted a closure at the end. Yeah, you can’t win. Go with your gut. If you’re invested in the characters and their story, you’ll know what’s right to do. And don’t be scared to. Just write it. And relax. Endings are the hardest part of books.

 

Key Points Summary

  • The crucial part of romance is the couple and their connection. It needs to feel authentic.
  • You really need to get invested in their relationship yourself so that you write it from your heart what you think their hearts are feeling. Don’t write what you think it should sound like, write it as you really feel they feel.
  • If you are struggling, base them on a couple you know or know of but make sure to not make it too obvious who they are based on.
  • It’s a good idea to include conflict but make sure it feels natural and not just put in for effect.
  • They can end up living together or married. It all depends on your characters’ beliefs which you need to know very well.
  • You have a duty of equal care and attention to both of your lead characters. And they must both be nice and flawed in order to be human.
  • You don’t have to have a happy ending. Let the story dictate the ending.

 

 

 

 

Writing 101: Character

 

 

Hello and welcome everyone to lesson 3 of Writing 101. Today’s topic is one of the most vital elements of your piece: character. Your character is the driving force of your piece. They can make or break your piece. They make readers continue reading because they care what happens to them. So with further ado, let’s get started on character …

 

Character

  1. Know Your Characters Very Well

In order to make your characters rounded and believable, the first step is to know them inside out. You need to know so much more about them then you’ll ever probably put into your piece. Some writers use character profiles, some use notes, some do spider diagrams with their character’s name in the middle while others think their characters out in their head. Whatever way you do it, you need to have a huge knowledge of them. Some basic things you need to know include their name, gender, age, class, nationality, race, sexuality, religion or lack of, job or lack of, political beliefs, beliefs about life, whether they are conformist or not, are they introverts, extroverts or somewhere in the middle, how they dress, how they perceive others and how others perceive them. When you have knowledge like this about your character down, you will know how they will react easily in numerous situations as your plot develops. So get to know your characters very well. Know what they have for breakfast, where they shop, what they spend their money on, what their relationships are like with other characters like their love interest, family, friends and enemies. Make your character your best friend while your are writing them.

 

2. What Makes Interesting Characters?

Interesting characters are real. Often it is difficult to identify with or relate to characters who are too perfect. Examples that spring to mind are in many romances the main character is sweet as sugar while their love interest is simply awful and then they end up with another character who is as sweet as sugar. Another example is the war hero who is brave and unselfishly fights for their country and is without any negative qualities. While a final example is the detective in mysteries who is proper and brave and puts the baddies in their place but has no negative qualities themselves. None of these types of characters are easy for readers to identify with or relate to. In all honesty if readers took them to heart they would feel quite inadequate. Because in reality most of us are not either perfect or completely imperfect. So the same rule applies to villains. Even villains need to have positive qualities. They might be awful in most aspects but do they love their other half and their family for instance? Your characters, in short, need to be as real and as complex as any human being is.

 

3. What About Stereotyping?

It’s a bit of a complex answer so let’s try to break it down. As a writer, you have a duty to represent people from all walks of life and backgrounds and also of all personalities. In real life there is people whose personalities conform to stereotypes and whose personalities don’t. For example some gay men are camp while other gay men aren’t but likewise some straight men are camp while others aren’t. You shouldn’t use a stereotype out of ignorance but if it fits your character you can have their personality happen to fit a stereotype or also not fit a stereotype. But it should never be used in a cliched and one-dimensional way. The bottom line is that everything about your character should fit them and they should be well rounded.

 

4. Should I Tell My Piece From My Character’s POV Or In Third Person?

There is advantages to both. When you tell it from your character’s POV you have more opportunity to incorporate more of who they are into the story and get readers to identify and relate more to them. But it can also limit you. On the other hand, from a third person perspective you have more opportunity to write about what happens in situations with different characters where your main character is not present. Another option is to write from the POV of more than one character which helps you to cover both things. But you must know each character very well. It might be confusing for many readers though as it jumps from one POV to the other. So that’s the downside of that technique but it has many advantages too.

 

      5. Secondary Characters Are Just There For Decoration, Right?

No, they are very vital. Every character must feel authentic and must have a purpose for being there. Especially your main secondary characters. Say, you have a love interest in a story. They can’t just be there to help a reader know how your main character feels about love and life. You need to show how they feel about things as well. Likewise in a mystery as well as why the detective wants to solve the crime you need to show why the killer felt they needed to commit the crime. Every character must be fully rounded and we must know both their inner and outer worlds.

 

Key Points Summary

  • Your character is the driving force of your piece and they can make or break it.
  • You need to have a huge knowledge of your characters. You need to know more about them then you’ll ever put into your piece of work. That way, no situation they face as the plot develops will be a problem for you. You’ll know easily how they’ll react and feel in each situation that happens.
  • Interesting characters are real. They should never be too perfect or too imperfect.
  • You should never stereotype but if a stereotype fits your character’s personality it is alright for them to happen to fit the stereotype. But the character should never be written in a one-dimensional or cliched way.
  • There is advantages and disadvantages to telling your story from your character’s POV as well as from the third person perspective. There is also advantages and disadvantages to telling your story from the POV of more than one character. The best way is the way that brings your story to life the best.
  • Secondary characters are vital. They must be as rounded and complex as your main character. Readers must know how they feel about life as well.

 

Writing 101: Dialogue

 

 

Hello and welcome to part 2 of Writing 101. This second lesson is all about dialogue. Dialogue is one of the most important elements of your writing. I always say the three main elements are dialogue, character and plot. Dialogue is what makes the story move along and bad dialogue is a major element which turns readers off. You could have all the other various elements in place but if your dialogue is not great then it is difficult to keep a reader’s attention. So without further ado, let’s discuss what makes great dialogue …

Dialogue  

1. Natural Dialogue

Your dialogue needs to be natural. It needs to be like the voices you hear on a regular basis around you only on paper. Absorb yourself in how people speak in shops, cafes, bars, wherever. Get into a habit of doing so if you are not naturally nosy (or as many writers including myself like to say naturally curious and observant). Not all writers are introverts but I think there is a reason why most are. They observe. They listen more than they talk. So in consequence they absorb everything. Of course it goes without saying to be discreet about it. I have heard that writers have even recorded conversations they have heard to bring a naturalness to the dialogue in their work but I’ve never went that far and I wouldn’t advise anyone to either. I don’t think people would like their conversations recorded. But just take in how people speak. And when you come to writing the dialogue in your pieces, don’t feel pressured to write it in a way which you think sounds better for a reader. Write it naturally. Readers will respond and identify because it’s how they speak.

 

2. Every Piece Of Dialogue Doesn’t Have To Be Vital

I have heard the advice many times that every piece of dialogue has to mean something and has to be vital in bringing your story forward. While I partly agree with that advice I wouldn’t fully endorse it. Yes, most dialogue has to mean something whether it’s to bring your story forward or to give readers an idea of who your character is or how the world perceives your character. But at the same time as I said in the first point, your dialogue needs to be natural. And in natural conversations there isn’t some vital meaning behind every single piece of dialogue everyone says. So yes, use dialogue to improve the overall effect of your story but don’t sit with writer’s block trying to make every word of it mean something. Otherwise they won’t be natural, human and rounded characters and you’ll probably either get nervous to write any dialogue or produce very contrived characters that no one can identify with.

 

3. Add A Bit Of Comedy 

Obviously there’s a time and a place in a story. But even in the most heartbreaking stories if they are long enough (a poem or short story you may not get the opportunity in) there can be snatches of witty dialogue. If you have two characters that are very close the comedy sentences they say to each other will spill out very naturally if you let them. Comedy writing or comedy moments are difficult to write. They are a lot harder than some people think. But when they happen, they are gold. Many people try to force the comedy moment and that never really works out very well. Let your characters do the work for you a bit. Think of someone with great wit. Base the witty element of the person on them if you are struggling to come up with a witty character from scratch. Then let them go, let them do their thing. Don’t be scared readers won’t get the joke. They probably will and if not, they aren’t going to base your entire story on that moment. Also high brow humour isn’t always received very well. By all means do it because it can work as beautifully as low brow humour but make it accessible. Don’t be showing off your intelligence. That isn’t received well. And one final pointer, humour is not an opportunity to be in some way prejudiced. Your readers come from all walks of life and backgrounds. The surest way to lose them is to use them as fodder for “banter.” It is never big and it is never clever. And it’s a very unwise writer that does that.

 

4. Be Consistent

The key to ensuring that the dialogue is consistent with who your character is is to know your characters inside out. You need to know your characters a million per cent better and more than you’ll ever put about them in your piece. You might never put in what they eat for breakfast but you need to know whether they’d have cereal, toast, a bit of everything or whatever. You need to know whether they read books. If so, what kind? You need to know their political beliefs, their religion or lack of, their hopes, their dreams, the inner yearnings of their heart. In short, you need to know pretty much everything about them. Some writers do this through notes or character profiles while others simply do it in their head. The decision of how you do this is completely up to you. It’s just what makes you comfortable. But whatever way you choose, you do need to know them very well. When you do, their dialogue flows very consistently because you know what they’d say, how they’d respond in various situations and how they feel about things.

 

5.  Language Isn’t Everything

There is often a lot of dialogue that makes no sense. A lot of people find that it sounds “melodious to the ear” or “enticing to read” but then you read it and you have no idea what it means. And a reader has got to know what they’re reading. Otherwise they can’t identify with the character or follow the story. That isn’t to say the reader is not intelligent enough to pick it up, it’s more a case of does the writer even know what they mean? Or are they using “flowery” language to impress without it meaning anything? Dialogue needs to be clear whatever language you use. If you use “enticing” and “melodious” language, you still need to make sure everything is very clear for your readers. The most important element of dialogue, along with being natural, is creating a feeling and an emotion between reader and character. If you fail to do that, language becomes pretty meaningless no matter how “enticing” or “melodious” it is.

 

Key Points Summary

  • Your dialogue needs to be natural.
  • Absorb how people speak in everyday settings. Observe. Listen. But be discreet.
  • Every Piece Of Dialogue Doesn’t Have To Be Vital. On one hand, dialogue has to mean something whether it’s to bring your story forward or to give readers an idea of who your character is or how the world perceives your character. But on the other hand, your dialogue needs to be natural. And in natural conversations there isn’t some vital meaning behind every single piece of dialogue everyone says.
  • Moments in dialogue where there is comic moments should never be forced.
  • If you struggle with comic dialogue, think of someone witty you know.
  • Make high brow humour accessible.
  • Never use comedy to attack specific groups of people. Your readers are from all backgrounds and walks of life.
  • The dialogue of your characters needs to be consistent with who they are. Know your characters inside out.
  • Language is never a substitute for clearness, feeling, emotion or a connection between character and reader.

 

Writing 101: Finding Your Writer’s Voice

 

This is the first of a 10-part series on writing. Just to introduce what Writing 101 is firstly. This is my craft and I love it so there’s no catch here as sometimes there is with things like this such as here’s some tips but I have a course for $159 that you really should join. I also don’t claim to be an expert on all things writing but I have a lot of experience in it. Why I’m doing this free course you could say is because so many people would love to write and just need tips to start them off. It also works for any writer at any stage of their journey. And I think it’ll be a lot of fun. 🙂

 

So without further rambling let’s get on with lesson 1:

 

Finding Your Writer’s Voice

  1. Being Authentic

The real key to finding your writing voice is to let go and let the words spill onto the page that are really what you want to write or another way of saying that, the words that come from your heart. If you want to, you can refine them later. Though I would say try not to over refine them. When you do it can feel contrived. That isn’t to say it won’t be good but you might lose a lot of the realness that makes a reader say “I felt the same way and no one has ever said that.” The way to make readers identify is be true and open.

 

2.  But What If I Find It Hard To Open Up?

This is a difficult question to answer because you only can decide yourself what you feel comfortable opening up about. But the easy way of getting around that is by creating a fictional character. In a story, it won’t be a problem as they are all fictional characters. Where it might is in poetry where a lot of poetry is written from the perspective of the poet. But not all poetry is so do like in a story and invent a character. Yes, people still might think the character is based on you, many people think every character is based on the writer (and not all of them obviously could be) but you’re safe because they can’t be sure.

 

3. But Wouldn’t It Be Easier to Copy People?

If you read a lot then you will definitely be inspired by writers consciously or subconsciously and that’s an excellent thing. But it should never overshadow your writing voice. Your writing voice with it’s originality is your currency in the writing game. It’s your USP (Unique Selling Point). It should be so distinct that someone reading your work should have a feeling it’s yours without your name on it. And you can’t fake it. You can’t copy someone and do it as well as them because that’s their writing voice. You need to go inside yourself for your own writing voice.

 

4. But What If People Don’t Like My Writing Voice?

I won’t lie to you, there’ll be people who will love it and people who won’t. This is certainly a profession where you get a lot of highs but a lot more lows. Be thick-skinned. Don’t take it personally, it isn’t personal when someone rejects your work. And most certainly don’t lose your writing voice. You’ll need it when someone is simply waiting for your style, for a fresh writing voice.

 

5. My Writing Voice Isn’t Structured. What Can I Do?

Firstly if your writing voice is naturally structured, that’s grand. If not, that’s equally grand. The point is it’s yours. You are comfortable with it and when you are comfortable you do your best work. You hear a lot about structure in writing and there’s no such thing as one structure. There’s many structures and one of them is being completely free and writing what you feel. It’s an unstructured structure I suppose. Just be comfortable because when you are there is a very good chance you’ll produce good work. Not work everyone will love but no matter what way you write, not everyone will love it.

 

Key Points Summary

  • The real key to finding your writing voice is to let go and let the words spill onto the page that are really what you want to write or another way of saying that, the words that come from your heart.
  • Create fictional characters if you feel uncomfortable opening up while writing a character based on yourself.
  • Your writing voice with it’s originality is your currency in the writing game. It’s your USP (Unique Selling Point).
  • You can’t copy someone and do it as well as them because that’s their writing voice. You need to go inside yourself for your own writing voice.
  • If people don’t like your writing voice, keep it. Someone will.
  • Your work can be structured or unstructured as long as you are comfortable writing in the style. Your best work is produced when you are comfortable.