Thursday, October 11, 2018


I will not be posting for a while due to a couple of knee surgeries and healing time. I expect this to last into the spring of 2019. When I am back, I will announce on FaceBook that my blog is open again for my usual irreverent remarks and pseudo-writing wisdom...

In advance, may you enjoy the harvest festivals and your December holidays with friends and family be filled with joy. My very best wishes for a happy 2019. May we all enjoy a world filled with greater peace, compassion, and understanding of humanity than we endured in 2018.

Monday, October 8, 2018


Dialogue is fun, useful, and educational. Were it a food, it would be a miracle, including every significant nutrient.

How better to understand your characters than to slip into the phrases and word choices, jokes and images he/she uses? Someone even said that understanding a nation’s humor teaches us most about the culture. It is the same with characters. How does the character refer to others, perceived as not quite like himself? What jokes does she find funny? What symbols do they all use to explain life and its vagaries? All these things let both reader and writer understand possible motivation, or lack thereof, for what the characters do in the story.

Dialogue speeds action. Pick up any novel where there are at least two or more pages of dialogue and consider just how fast that scene went. If you want tension, have an argument. If you want a seduction scene, you can raise the steam level and omit the mechanics of specific body parts, should you so wish. You can set time, place and other details in the first chapter without one paragraph of description. That technique grabs attention and keeps up the pace. Bet that’s a book a reader will buy.

And finally, to keep this fairly short, dialogue is a wonderful place to hide clues. What did the witness say—or not say? Want to check out how this is done? Try The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie. Or even consider that infamous Holmes detail about whether or not the dog barked. Or go back to The Murder of Richard Ackroyd and that odd blank in the story. A really skilled use of story-telling that hides clues right in front of you is Lehane’s Shutter Island. Many do not like the book, but Lehane’s ability to manipulate what the reader sees through the way the character tells the story is masterful.

As for learning the art of dialogue, I go back to plays. Reading them is not the same as watching how actors use ordinary words (OK so Shakespeare’s speech wasn’t everyday stuff…) to convey all sorts of emotional shadings, but some playwrights do have that gift of writing clever lines that is worth studying by novelists. Think about Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Oscar Wilde, or Shaw. Just a few. There are many more.

In any case, dialogue is the vascular system of any book. Have fun with it.