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Archive for November, 2015

November 30, 2015

Fiction That Wows Your Reader (Part 8)

Stiff Unnatural Dialogue or Natural Dialogue?

Whether you’re working on fiction or nonfiction, one of the techniques you need to master is how to write dialogue that flows and sounds “natural.” In other words, do your characters’ words read as if your reader is eavesdropping on a conversation that he’d hear anyplace in his own world or is the dialogue so stilted, it sounds like two robots reading from a high school English text?

It’s very important for a writer to get to know his/her characters for this exact reason. People talk differently!

WOW! What a revelation! If you’re a smart writer, by now, if you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’ve (hopefully) studied language patterns and colloquialisms and you’ve analyzed the difference in children’s, teens’, and adults’ speech.

Let’s look at a few samples to show some stiff and and then some natural dialogue. Because I have been published mostly in the juvenile fiction genre, my examples will be from that genre. But the “talking points” are basically the same for all dialogue, whether for kids or for grown-ups.

First, I’ll give you a sample of “stiff” dialogue, followed by that which flows and sounds just like “real” folks speaking. Watch for the Leave it to Beaver Syndrome to rear its ugly head in the first samples, as well:

EXAMPLE 1:

 Stiff: (Two young boys discussing buying eagle feathers)

 

  “Titus, you cannot buy an eagle feather,” Tim said.

   “Tim, why can’t I?” asked Titus. “Are they too expensive?”

   “No, Titus,” Tim answered. “Buying an eagle feather is against the law.”

   “Tim, is it because eagles are almost extinct?” Titus asked.

    “Titus, that is correct,” Tim answered. “The only people who can own an eagle feathers are Indians.”

(Brother! What kid says, “That is correct”? And why not use contractions? We use them all the time in our speech. And why the use of so many tags? There are only two characters in the scene. Let’s get rid of some of those ___ said tags.)

Natural:

        “Sorry, old pal,” said Timothy, patting (Titus) on the shoulder. “There’s no way you can buy an eagle feather.”

        “Why?” asked Titus. “Too expensive?”

        “No. It’s against the law.”

        “What? You mean because eagles are an endangered species?”

        “Bingo,” Timothy replied. “The only people who can own eagle feathers are Indians.”

(from THE MYSTERY OF THE EAGLE FEATHER

By Elspeth Campbell Murphy, Bethany House, 1995, pp.16-17)

************************************************************************

EXAMPLE 2: 

 Stiff: (Conversation between two teenage junior counselors at a camp)

       “Timothy!” Skye called to her co-worker out on a paddleboat with a camper. “How is the water out there?”

       “It is just so wonderful,” Tim yelled back. “I would like to be swimming today. Who is standing next to you there on shore?”

       “It is a friend of yours and mine,” Skye yelled to Tim. “I will have him wait for you here until you come ashore.”

       “That is fine with me. I will see you in a few minutes,” Tim yelled to Skye as he turned the paddleboat around and headed in another direction.

(Sheesh! They sound like a couple of robots, don’t they?)

Natural:

     “Hey, Tim!” Skye called to her co-worker out on a paddleboat with a camper. “How’s the water?”

     “Cool! Real cool!” Tim yelled back. “I’d rather be in it than on it! Who’ve ya got there with you?”

    “Your friend and mine! He’ll be waitin’ when you come ashore!”

    “Okay, Skye, see you in a few minutes!” Tim turned the paddleboat in another direction.

 

(from SUMMER CAMP ADVENTURE

By Marsha Hubler, Zonderkidz, 2009, p. 38)

**********************************************************************

 So, there you have two simple examples of how to write lousy dialogue and how to make it flow naturally. Get rid of some of those tags and use some beats instead. Now, if you’re writing about robots conversing, then the first samples are the way to go. If not, then work on making your dialogue flow, and your reader will love being right in the middle of the exciting action.

* NOTE: If you’re a published author and would like to be featured on my blog, please contact me. I’d love to post your picture, a short bio, and your credentials along with contact information.

Marsha (Web) www.marshahubler.com

(Writers Tips) www.marshahubler.wordpress.com

Montrose Christian Writers Conference http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

(Horse Facts Blog) www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

 

(More Shameless Promotion)

 

ON THE VICTORY TRAIL

Skye and Sooze get ready for the Christmas season

with some neat “horsie” gifts for their foster parents,

but Sooze’s sudden illness changes everything.

Book2.On.Victory.Trail.Cover

http://www.amazon.com/Victory-Trail-Keystone-Stables-Book-ebook/dp/B002U8KW7G/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448748348&sr=1-1&keywords=on+the+victory+trail

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November 23, 2015

Fiction That Wows Your Reader (Part 7)

Wow! Beginnings

Smiley.Face.Smiling

Last time we discussed the effective use of tags and beats to make your dialogue flow well and your characters come alive in any fiction, or nonfiction, you are writing.

This time we’re going to look at how to “hook” your reader with your openings sentences or paragraphs in your stories, articles, or book manuscripts. First, I’ll give you some Ho-Hum examples of boring beginnings that will either put your reader into a deep sleep or will inspire him to toss your book in the trash. Then I’ll give you some WOW beginnings, a technique which can be used in nonfiction as well as fiction.

What makes a wow beginning compared to flat, uninteresting words that bore your reader to death? Compare the samples of some of my lousiest writing with some of my published works and then you make the call:

  1. Ho-Hum Beginning:

A while ago, I interviewed Clyde Peeling, the owner and curator of Reptiland in Allenwood, PA, on route 15 near Williamsport.

Reptiland is loaded with all kinds of wild animals, including alligators, snakes, and other ugly creatures.

Wow Beginning:

How would you like a frozen mouse for lunch?

If you would, then join dozens of snakes, alligators, and other reptiles at Reptiland, a zoological park at Allenwood in central Pennsylvania.

(From “Lizard Man” – Boys’ Quest; Aug/Sept.02)

************************************************************************

  1. Ho-Hum Beginning:

My eight-year-old son had been sick for some time. We finally found out he had cancer and wouldn’t live much longer.

One thing he wanted to do was see snow, but we were having a warm autumn in central PA.

Wow Beginning:

“Dad, I-I want to see the first snow,” he said, forcing the words out with jagged, tired breath. “D-do you think I’ll see it, the way I am and all?”

“Colton, son, you’ll see it. I promise. We’ll see it together,” I assured him.

(From “First Snow” – Inside PA Mag. Dec. 08; fiction contest winner)

************************************************************************

  1. Ho-Hum Beginning:

Skye Nicholson found herself in juvenile court for the umpteenth time in her thirteen short years.

She sat in the chair and just stared at the judge. She was as mad as a hornet and in no mood to appease anybody.

Wow Beginning:

“Young lady—and I use that term loosely—I’m tired of your despicable behavior. I’m sending you to the Chesterfield Detention Center!”

Skye Nicholson looked cold as an ice cube as she slumped in the wooden chair and stared back at Judge Mitchell. Most thirteen-year-olds would have been scared to death as a hearing with an angry judge yelling at the top of his lungs. But Skye was no “ordinary” thirteen-year-old.”

(From A HORSE TO LOVE, Best-selling book 1 in the Keystone Stables Series – Zonderkidz; 2009)

***********************************************************************

So there you have three examples of how to fix your ho-hum beginnings and make them “WOW.”  You’ll hook that reader, who won’t be able to put your piece down. Then he/she will be back for more!

Next time, we’ll go back to dialogue once again, discussing “natural” dialogue compared to “stiff, unnatural,” better known as “stupid” dialogue. :)

 

Marsha (Web) www.marshahubler.com

(Writers Tips) www.marshahubler.wordpress.com

Montrose Christian Writers Conference http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

(Horse Facts Blog) www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

 

(More Shameless Promotion)

 

SNOW, PHANTOM STALLION OF THE POCONOS

SNOW

Dallis Parker copes with bullying at school by dreaming about owning Snow, a wild Mustang, who most folks believe doesn’t even exist. In a strange encounter at snow camp with a youth group, Dallis actually touches Snow, and her life is changed.

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November 16, 2015

Fiction That Wows! (Part 6)

Tags and Beats

In part 2 of Fiction That Wows, we started to address the problem that all writers and even experienced authors face: the Leave it to Beaver Syndrome. Putting it simply, it’s what to do with all those “Mary said,” “John replied,” “Susie screamed,” tags or the author’s identification of who said what. Let’s look a little more carefully at dialogue and how to make it more realistic and more interesting.

When only two characters, sometimes three, are in a scene, it’s relatively easy to delete almost all of the “who said it?” tags. Having a page of dialogue without tags helps your manuscript flow smoothly and helps the reader to really get into the story.

But when it’s necessary to identify the speaker, what can you add that will make the story much more interesting and add useful information that is interwoven right with the dialogue? You can add “beats.”

What are beats? Beats are phrases that don’t use the speech-acknowledged favorites such as “said,” “asked,” “replied,” etc. Beats add action and description to your discourse without your having to write a lengthy narration “telling” details. Beats allow you to “show” the action.

Let’s look at some examples of how you can change boring lines of dialogue with tags into lines with beats that add some pizzazz to your script. First I’ll have a dialogue example with tag; then I’ll have it rewritten with a beat. You decide which is more exciting for the reader:

******************************************

Example One:

TAGS:

“When did Josh get married?” Heather asked.

“Last Saturday,” Bruce said.

BEATS:

“When did Josh get married?” Heather’s eyes flooded with tears and she grabbed a tissue.

Bruce’s face also melded into a mask of dismay. “Last Saturday.”

*******************************************************

Example Two:

TAGS:

Jordan asked her father, “Could I please go with Barry to the hockey game?”

Her father answered, “Are you kidding?”

BEATS:

Jordan’s father’s attitude made her face flush red hot. “Could I please go with Barry to the hockey game?”

From what he had heard, Father had no intention of allowing his daughter to go anywhere with that guy. “Are you kidding?”

******************************************************

 These two simple examples clearly show how you can put some spark into flat writing. In the tag examples, all the reader knows is that two characters are discussing something.  You have no idea how the characters are feeling about their situation. In the beat examples, we’ve brought the characters alive with emotion and action. The reader can actually get a sense of how the characters feel without the author saying, “Heather was heartbroken” or “Jordan’s father never liked Barry.”

So there you have today’s writers’ tip. Work on your manuscript’s dialogue. Throw out the tags when they’re not needed and write interesting and informative beats that will help you write fiction that wows!

Marsha (Web) www.marshahubler.com

(Writers Tips) www.marshahubler.wordpress.com

Montrose Christian Writers Conference http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

(Horse Facts Blog) www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

 

(More Shameless Promotion)

SNOW, PHANTOM STALLION OF THE POCONOS

SNOW

 

Dallis Parker copes with bullying at school by dreaming about owning Snow, a wild Mustang, who most folks believe doesn’t even exist. Then in a strange encounter at snow camp in the Poconos, she actually gets to touch the horse, and her life is changed forever.

Read Full Post »

Nov. 9, 2015

Fiction That Wows Your Reader (Part 5)

Writing Outside the Box

stock-photo-happy-child-playing-in-cardboard-box-kid-having-fun-at-home-303306602

First, let’s define the term “outside the box.” What in heaven’s name does that mean? “Write outside the box.”

Well, in plain language, it means to write a plot and develop characters that don’t have a normal humdrum boring story line or everyday blah life.

As a short exercise in my presentation, I always cite some average boring story lines and ask my class to change the plot so that it’s outside the box. One example I cite is the following:

“A little girl finds a nest of baby bunnies in her back yard.”

Now, of course, everyone is immediately drawn to the “outside the box” famous children’s story, Alice in Wonderland, where Alice finds a whole new world, not a nest of baby bunnies.

Several years ago, I presented this workshop to a group of writers and asked how to change the story line. One fellow in the back of the room raised his hand and said, “How about if a big rabbit finds a nest of little girls in his back yard?”

I said to him, “Sir, you are DEFINITELY thinking outside the box. Go for it.”

Just for the fun of it, I’m going to list about 10 different story lines. Analyze each one. If you can change the plot to move it outside the box, do so. But some of the story lines are already outside the box and are, in fact, famous stories or books written by best-selling published authors. See if you can identify those that are already great plots.

So, which of these would you like to continue to read?

  1. A little girl saves enough money to buy a horse at auction.
  2. A bitter sea captain of a sailing ship hunts for a white sperm whale to kill him.
  3. A newly married couple tours Paris, France, and enjoys all the sites.
  4. A boy is shipwrecked on an island with only a wild stallion that won’t let him get near him.
  5. A middle-aged woman works at Wal-Mart, saving enough money to take a trip to Hawaii.
  6. A young pioneer woman is left alone on the prairie in her covered wagon when her husband falls from his horse and is killed.
  7. The neighbor’s cat has a litter of six kittens underneath a little boy’s porch.
  8. A collie dog, sold and taken away from the boy he loves, travels a long distance through life-threatening dangers to return to his boy.
  9. A young unmarried girl decides to marry her childhood sweetheart.
  10. An unmarried woman on a plantation in a southern state faces the harsh reality of post Civil War life and the loss of all she held dear.

Well, how did you do? Did you analyze the boring plots and the character development and decide what you could do to make them better? (Numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9)

And did you identify the best-selling books/movies in numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10?

MOBY DICK

THE BLACK STALLION

LOVE COMES SOFTLY

LASSIE, COME HOME

GONE WITH THE WIND

When you analyze what makes these million-dollar story lines what they are, you’ll be on your way to writing, possibly, the next great American novel. And all the while you’re writing, keep on reading. Read tons of books, especially in the subgenre in which you are writing, and learn how the masters did it. Maybe someday, your name will be on a best-seller list with the rest of them!

Marsha (Web) www.marshahubler.com

(Writers Tips) www.marshahubler.wordpress.com

Montrose Christian Writers Conference http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

(Horse Facts Blog) www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

******

(More Shameless Promotion)

Book2.On.Victory.Trail.Cover

ON THE VICYTORY TRAIL

 (Book 2 in the Keystone Stables Series)

Skye faces the challenge of her life when her best friend, Sooze, develops a brain tumor.

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Nov. 2, 2015

Fiction That Wows Your Reader (Part 4)

Don’t Preach!

If you’ve gone to your share of writers’ conferences, you’ve heard that little ditty a zillion times. Don’t preach!

Okay, don’t preach. Butwhat does that mean? Don’t preach!

As writers with opinions, and I’ve never met a writer who didn’t have one (or “agendas,”) we all have “messages” we’d like to share with our readers. But how does a skillful writer share his message, his beliefs, his ideals, with the reader without offending him or turning him off on page one? How do you impart your underlying theme in the story without coming right out and saying something like, “God is love”?

Is it wrong to try to win your reader over to your side by sharing your beliefs? Absolutely not. That very goal is the reason most people write. They want to share something they feel is vitally important to the survival of the human race. Wars have been won, and lost, by the printed page.

So how does a writer share his beliefs without preaching? A skillful writer weaves the message into the story so that the characters portray the ideals, or lack of them. The reader, watching the action of the main character, then observes the author’s beliefs in action as the character either exemplifies or struggles with the underlying theme.

Let’s look at some examples of “preaching” versus clever weaving of the message into the context of the story. The first examples of preaching are lousy writing on my part. The second examples are taken from some of my published work:

Preaching:

“Children need to work around the house, not only because their parents need the help, but also because when the children are older, they’ll know how to take care of their own homes,” Bimbo told Heathcliff.

Weaving the Message into the Story:

“Chores, including the house and the barn – washing clothes … mucking stalls are important. But you’re not a lonely island out there by yourself,” Mr. Chambers reminded Skye. “It takes all of us to run this place. It’s just part of maintaining a home. You’ll be glad when you’re older that you learned how to do these things.”

Yeah. I’m the luckiest girl in the world! Skye stewed inside.

 

(from A HORSE TO LOVE, KEYSTONE STABLES BOOK ONE)

************************************************************

Preaching:

“God is love, and He is ready to forgive anyone who will believe in Him, no matter how bad they’ve been,” Bimbo told Heathcliff.

Weaving the Message into the Story:

Skye turned back to the altar, and her eyes focused on the cross, the symbol of God’s love that meant absolutely nothing to her. This God, whom she didn’t even know existed, loved her? As rotten as she was?

She stumbled to the altar and knelt at the cross, sobbing out her pain and despair.

(from A HORSE TO LOVE)

*************************************************************

So there you have two simple examples of how to rid your writing style of that pesky preaching.

Take a good look at the book you are reading at the moment and see how the author has handled his theme or underlying message. It might become clearer to you now than ever before.

Remember, weave the message into your story; have your characters experience the thrill, or the pain, of living with your ideals or beliefs. The reader will observe the action and reaction of your characters, and from your book, he just might decide to embrace the ideals you hold so dear.  You don’t need to preach to get your message into your reader’s heart and mind. Just write from your heart in a clever way, and your message will come through loud and clear.

Next time, we’ll discuss writing plots that are “outside the box.”

 

Marsha (Web) www.marshahubler.com

(Writers Tips) www.marshahubler.wordpress.com

Montrose Christian Writers Conference http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

(Horse Facts Blog) www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

 

(More Shameless Promotion)

 

A HORSE TO LOVE

Keystone Stables Book 1

 (Book 1 in the Keystone Stables Series)

Nasty foster kid Skye Nicholson meets her match when she goes to live at Keystone Stables. There she meets Mr. and Mrs. Chambers, her new foster parents, and a gorgeous show horse, Champ, all who help Skye face her greatest fears.

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