Complicated Dialogue: Keeping 5 Characters in Line

Fiction Notes at

Today, I’d like to answer a question from a reader. Shena asks, “I’m writing a story and I have five people who are carrying on a conversation with each other. How do I go about stating each person’s line without constantly using, he said, he replied or using the person’s name to say this person […]

Fiction Techniques for Nonfiction


All those fiction techniques you’ve spent time mastering — dialogue, description, setting, mood, scenes, characterization, and plot — are equally useful in writing nonfiction. Yes, there is more leeway in nonfiction than in the last twenty-five years, but publishers still value creative nonfiction or fiction written with fiction techniques. For example, I have a new […]

Imperfect Dialogue: Making Characters Sound Real


I’ve been reading manuscripts lately and one thing keeps jumping out at me: dialogue that is too perfect. It’s grammatically correct, perfectly punctuated. And totally unreal. Characters don’t talk that way. Kid-characters, especially, in the midst of an exciting bowling tournament or soccer or other sports games do NOT talk in complete sentences. Use Sentence […]

2 Dialogue Tips from Studying SitComs: Just Spit it Out


I learned that Sit-Coms just spit it out. On one episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, Raymond’s brother Robert comes over to take the kids to the zoo. Raymond realizes that the kids might even like Uncle Robert more than him. Robert actually spits it out: You’re not a good father. Of course, in a sit-com, […]

3 Christmas Season Projects for Writers

Writing during the Christmas holidays can be difficult. There’s too much to do, too much living to do! Here are some simple low-stress projects to keep you going. Just have fun with these! Show-Don’t-Tell with Sensory Go sit at a mall, beside a seasonal skating rink, at a holiday concert. Notice the sensory details of […]

4 Worst Sentence Constructions

When writing a novel, picture book or other story, there are sentence constructions you should avoid and revise out when you copyedit. Here’s my top 5 list of the Worst Sentence Constructions. Would Example: We would take walks daily. We would start at our house and we would go toward the lake and then we […]

Give Me Your File Drawers and I’ll Give you Cash


A Gold Mine Awaits in Your File Drawers Take a good look at the files in your file drawers! You could be rich by mining those drawers. There are snatches of dialogue, character sketches, interesting anecdotes, tons of research and facts on obscure things. For example, from my research for novels, I can tell you […]

Opening Lines

12 Ways to Start a Novel Tweet First lines. We all obsess over our novel’s first lines, and rightly so, because from it the rest of the story must flow naturally and without a pause. Here are 10 strategies to use on first lines for your novel. I’ve illustrated them with the “100 Best Lines […]

10 Checkpoints for Scenes

Do NOT Pass Go Until You've Passed this Check List

Does your Scene Pass this Checklist? Where/When. (Setting) Did you orient the reader at the beginning of the scene? Does the reader know where this takes place: room in house, city, state, country, etc? Does the reader know when this takes place: time of day, season of year, place within chronology of story? If the […]