3 Quick Tips To Fix Common Dialog Mistakes

A Quick Dialog Exercise

Periodically, I take an example from my critique group, change the names of the characters to avoid making the author uncomfortable, and use it as a demonstration of stuff we don’t see ourselves that others might. Here is an example of something I have accidentally done a LOT of, and how to correct it.

Read the following short passage. (The girlfriend has been watching her boyfriend dance while he cooked, and then they sit down to dinner.)

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“So apart from skiving off today, how’s uni going?”

“It feels like a huge backward step. I’d prefer to be back at work.” She poured two glasses of water. “Have you won any more contracts?”

“I have actually. Remember the urgent sample screenshots you pulled together just before you left?”

She surprised herself at being able to remember anything about those last few weeks. “Was it that catalogue store interface bid?”

“That’s the one. They loved your idea for the drag and drop animations, and the contracts were signed off yesterday. Best of all, I get to manage the project from start to finish.”

She frowned. “I thought you did that anyway?”

“Not for high priority projects. Janet normally deals with them, but she’s got too much on. Business is booming, so you need to hurry up and finish uni. I need my bright-spark back.”

She blushed. “You’re clearly after something!”

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First, we have a nice mix of actions and beats, but did you notice something a little… off? In the story we already know their names, but there are a lot of she’s and not a lot of he’s. Okay, that’s minor, but easily fixed. But it’s unlikely the author would catch that himself; he knows who they are. A critique partner (CP) or beta reader might flag that for you.

TIP #1: use a name once in a while, or at least let BOTH characters be identified somehow every so often. And not with “He said,” either. Be creative.

Let’s go over the story again, breaking it down. The original story text is in plain font, and my comments are in bold:

“It feels like a huge backward step. I’d prefer to be back at work.” She poured two glasses of water. “Have you won any more contracts?”

 You’re doing/about to do a little of what I did in The Water Castle’s first draft – occasional story segments with lots of short, declarative sentences that border on repetitious. As a CP friend once said, repetition borders on boring (and un-immerses the reader from the story) so we need to watch it.

She poured

is one; and coming up next:

She surprised
She frowned
She blushed
He wasn’t
She slipped

Look back up at the original story. See? Readers may not notice it per se, but as they read they unconsciously can’t help but NOT enjoy the story as much as if we’d changed a few of these. Here’s an easy way to do it.

TIP #2: Leave 1/3 as is, take 1/3 and “reverse them,” and rewrite 1/3. It will break it all up enough for readers to not notice – and remember, I’ve done it, too. It’s easily fixed. Then, as you go over it again later (when your eyes are fresh), add in whatever else you see it needs. But this is a decent band aid.

 “I have actually. Remember the urgent sample screenshots you pulled together just before you left?”

She surprised herself at being able to remember anything about those last few weeks. “Was it that catalogue store interface bid?”

An example of a reversal: just put the verb first or ANYTHING other than she, if that’s how you started the last one.

She surprised herself at being able to remember anything about those last few weeks…

becomes

Surprising herself at being able to remember anything about those last few weeks, she put her hands on her hips and glared at him…

– or whatever action is appropriate for the scene and tone. Scrunched up her mouth and put a finger to her lip. Whatever best shows how she’s feeling about this.

 “That’s the one. They loved your idea for the drag and drop animations, and the contracts were signed off yesterday. Best of all, I get to manage the project from start to finish.”

She frowned. “I thought you did that anyway?”

And then rewrite this one a different way that says the same thing.


“I thought you did that anyway.” It was as likely as not he did. “Didn’t you?”

Eliminates the she but gives us an inner thought and breaks up the pattern

These are just examples (and not really very good ones) but after a while you’ll see them yourself – and maybe see them as you are writing them.

If it’s a first draft, don’t worry, just get it out there and ask the CPs to flag them if they see them. That will make them know you’re aware and they’ll make it easier for you to fix. Don’t be shy about asking them for a replacement line, either.

“Not for high priority projects. Janet normally deals with them, but she’s got too much on. Business is booming, so you need to hurry up and finish uni. I need my bright-spark back.”

She blushed. “You’re clearly after something!”

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You can see that the original story was pretty much fine, but the sentence patterns are now something you’re aware of. If a reader sees that in your book, they will be annoyed by it. Who needs that in a story?

TIP #3: A fresh pairs of eyes – somebody else’s, preferably – can make all the difference.

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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

I’ve gone dark!

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Your humble host, gone dark.

I got a new phone that has yet to be reinstalled with my backup data, so I’m using the opportunity to lay low and get some editing done. Hey, you try launching a newsletter and editing and posting and blogging and critiquing and BSing on Facebook and see how much you get done. It can be overwhelming, even for me.

So I went dark. Radio silence. Incommunicado. So did you, based on yesterday’s writing challenge. What the heck happened there? Like NO replies, hardly. Trying to tell me something? (I’m going dark, I guess; it’s probably not technically “went dark” if I post like this.)

Anyway, I have LOTS of cool stuff to update you on from here in the dark.

  • The newsletter rollout is going really well. We’re adding people every day. (Did you start one? You should. More on that another time, but you really should think about it.)
  • The new phone is bigger but not as big as a small iPad, so that’s cool. It’ll still fit in my pocket.
  • I FINALLY got a Goodreads promo set up (hey, I’m just 100 friends shy of 2,000 GR friends now – just sayin’. Might wanna get on that train.)
  • My FB author page has added almost a hundred Likes this week – how cool is that?
  • We’re closing in on 20,000 followers on Twitter. That’s just crazy.

The Goodreads Promo thing is for my first book Savvy Stories, and it’s about a middle aged guy who becomes a first time dad at age 47. It’s really funny, whether you have kids or not, and it’s a great way to see how my writing has progressed. You can register to win a signed copy in a few days over at Goodreads, but not yet. I’ll let you know when. But then tell your friends. I think it starts the 5th if they approve it. They may not. They know about me. I was also thinking about giving away a signed copy to the person who brings the most friends to the newsletter before February 15th. Have them send me a message after they subscribe saying you sent them and we’ll draw a winner at random. See? That’s your reward for reading this far. Some people missed that.

The SECOND marketing book is almost finished being edited, which is a fancy way of saying it was finished and then I took stuff out and put other stuff in.

Tonight, it’s gonna be chilly in Tampa so I think we’re gonna roast marshmallow and hot dogs in our outside fireplace. Not at the same time, as a single item. Hot dogs will be roasted, then the marshmallows. I think you understood that. I hope so.

I have a great post coming up tomorrow and a super one for Monday, so I’ll see you then – well, not really, cos I’ll still be in radio silence as part of going dark – but oh well.

Have a great weekend! And seriously – what was up with that writing challenge? Maybe click over and say Hi just so I know it posted.

Flash Fiction Challenge: EMBARRASSMENT

This is our last emotion one for a while, and this one is difficult – but not for the reason you think. Making a character vulnerable tends to endear them to the reader. Embarrassing them does that BIG TIME. Empathy works wonders. It’s how I got through grad school. But that’s a different story…

EMBARRASSMENT.

What has embarrassed you in the past?

What embarrasses other people – since they’ll be the ones reading it?

Connecting with an audience – sharing similar experiences – makes your characters and your story close to their heart and unforgettable. Allegedly. Let’s see how good a job we do and I’ll let you know.

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.

01 postcards (15) d
You gonna argue with Robert Frost?

 

Same thing applies here.

Get red-cheeked.

Here’s your random character generator

http://writingexercises.co.uk/character.php

THIS is the poor sucker you will be embarrassing or show being embarrassed in a manner of your choosing, you sadist.

Here’s the list of setting the poor sap will be in. Use a random number HERE generator to see which you’ll be working in this time.

  1. First day at school
  2. First day at work
  3. On a date
  4. On a bus
  5. In an elevator
  6. On an icy sidewalk
  7. In a parking lot
  8. At your/the character’s mother’s house
  9. At a restaurant
  10. While paying the dinner check or at a store cash register

Make us all DIE with him/her at their WORST MOMENT.

 

NO CHEATING! One spin of the wheel of fate for your character!

(Your Pulitzer Prize awaits. Don’t blow it.)

You know the drill:

  1. Use the Random Generators to pick your character and setting
  2. Write a story up to 500 words that is obviously written using both the character, setting and emotion.
  3. Post your story below in the comments with a link to your blog where
  4. You also post it on you blog (No blog? Just copy paste the whole thing here.)
  5. And mention what the heck this is so people don’t think you’ve gone schizo
  6. Read and comment on OTHER people’s entries. That makes it fun. Allegedly.
  7. You have one week. Noon Friday a week from this posting date (sunny, warm Tampa, Florida, USA time)

Get after it!

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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works

 

 

 

Been interviewed? Post the link!

have you been interviewed

Have you been interviewed? Post the link! Consider it a chance to show off without showing off – I asked, after all.

Meanwhile, if you’ve never been interviewed, read the replies and you’ll see a lot of places to go ask for an interview, and a lot of questions and answers that will help you do a good interview!

If you’ve already done an interview, you can see a few places to go and a few answers to give.

It’s a win-win-win (cos I get a helpful blog post, too.) 

Post links to YOUR interviews, one link per reply, no limit on replies. If you’ve done ten interviews, feel free to post ten links!

And reblog this and share it on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else so we get a bunch more places to go for some author-ey publicity!

Thanks!

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SUBSCRIBE TO MY FREE NEWSLETTER! Get a FREE copy of “25 Great eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew,” FIRST SHOT at new stories, and exclusive behind the scenes access!

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

Did you get your book?

If you subscribed to our newsletter and didn’t get your free book, please click the Contact Me button above and let me know. Just about everybody got it, but one or two did not, and we want everyone to enjoy the free book.

If you did not subscribe to the newsletter… well, that explains why you didn’t get the free book. You’re missing out. But I’m not mad at you. Probably.

Meanwhile, the first newsletter went out last night, and apparently it’s pretty popular! Woo hoo! I’ve already received great feedback so far, and I wanted to say thanks! We’ll have more awesome, available-nowhere-else-as-far-as-I-know tips for you in there, too, in upcoming editions. Glad you’re enjoying it.

Didn’t subscribe yet? Well, there’s time. See that tab that says Get Our FREE Newsletter? You could click that and not be the only kid in the cafeteria eating at a table all by yourself. The cool kids are all subscribing, you know. Just sayin’.

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What Book Are You Reading Right Now???

what book are you reading right now

What book are you reading right now?

Not what did you buy that you intend open and start reading

or

what’s on your list.

but

what, if anything, are you actually started and/or in the middle of? List it here regardless of how embarrassing.

 

(For me, what I have sitting here waiting to be read is Stephen King’s unabridged/unedited The Stand, but the one I opened and started is Wool by Hugh Howey.)

 

What book are you currently reading?

From The Paint Bucket Of Emotions: Sadness/Depressed

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We’ve talked about writing emotions lately, and here’s a blog post I found (I read a LOT of blogs) from somebody who is sad and depressed/fighting depression. He/she has good days and bad days but I did not reprint the name here only because I don’t know the writer well and I certainly don’t want to be insulting by saying “Hey, can I use your post to show writers what sadness and depression look like?”

 That said, look at the heartfelt, pained words. I believe we choose different sentence lengths and describe things very differently when we are sad or depressed, so you can employ that tactic in your writing when a character is in that state – and depression might not be the exact trait you need, but sadness is a lighter shade of this, and your characters may need to be sad. They may need to be depressed over a breakup.

 See what you get from this. For me, it puts you right into the state of mind of the blogger (who is not a writer, so don’t pick at it from a literary standpoint).

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I feel useless today

This might sound like whining, but it is an honest look into my mind today.

I feel useless and meaningless today. I’m finding that my motivation suffers a lot during these moments.  I have yard work to do, some winterizing projects that need to get done, and other things I could do.  But I can tell you, the mere fact that all these kinds of things do is remind me how far I am from fulfilling endeavors. I’ve tried, but I can’t find the necessary enjoyment that I once had for these things.

So, today, I feel useless.

I began working out again, but I’ll be honest, I’m only three visits to the gym into this and I feel so tired, achy and sore from my last visit. I would like nothing more than a masseuse to rub me down all over. I’m in need of getting into shape and eating better and living an overall healthy lifestyle, but seeing how I have not lost any weight this week – not one pound, I feel discouraged. I’m now feeling like the effort isn’t going to give me the satisfaction with myself that I so desire.

I feel useless today.

Drinking is almost a filler in my rather boring and mundane days.  There is nothing gripping me with excitement; nothing that has me thinking that I would rather do this or that. I’m feeling like this need to stop drinking is so important, but I feel like I will be giving up the one thing I have been looking forward to doing.

I feel useless today.

I simply am tired. I’m again facing that overwhelming urge to just have a “Fuck it” attitude and not give a shit about anything, anyone but myself.  And I feel incredibly guilty for feeling this way. I don’t understand how I can take care of myself, as well as meet all of the obligations I feel I have. Hell, even some of the obligations I have towards myself, somehow feel like they are in the way of me finding happiness.

I feel useless today.

I have decided I won’t be facing things so forcefully anymore. I’ve decided that sometimes I just need to let these things run their course. Today is one of those days.

I feel useless, but I’m not going to fight it.

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Honestly, it’s a little tough to read. I feel for the person.

As an exercise, take out “I” and insert your character’s name and put in lines about what your character might be sad about. See how much it changes things.

Have YOU ever had a character you needed to show as sad or depressed? Share a story segment to show us!

.

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SUBSCRIBE TO MY FREE NEWSLETTER! Get a FREE copy of “25 Great eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew,” FIRST SHOT at new stories, and exclusive behind the scenes access!

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.