Character and Dialogue

"You've introduced characters in the last five pages who weren't in the book before!" words spoken by Truman Capote in the movie "Murder By Death".  Have you ever seen this movie?

 "I was wearing a disguise, in a disguise, in a disguise!"

If you want to watch a funny movie with clever dialogue that keeps you guessing all the way to the end, you need to watch this movie.  Classic actors like Alec Guiness, Nancy Walker, Peter Falk, James Coco, and many more, are in this movie.  The mix of accents and stereotypical characters remind you of days gone by, old black and white movies, and murder mysteries that seem almost too obvious to miss.

While I was watching it, I was reminded of movies like the Maltese Falcon and To Have and Have Not.  Peter Falk did a great job imitating Humphrey Bogart as he played a detective. He even used some of the classic lines we remember so well. "The last time I trusted a dame was in Paris in 1940. She said she was going out to get a bottle of wine.  Two hours later the Germans marched into France."  The allusion to Casablanca can't help but make you laugh.  Here's another line - "I don't get it. First they steal the body and leave the clothes, then they take the clothes and leave the body behind.  Who would do a thing like that?"

Dialogue can tell you so much about a character.  The way they ask questions or respond to others can tell you more than ten sentences of description.  When you write your story, you have to be careful how you show, not tell a story.  The use of dialogue is a great way to do this.  My advice - watch some old movies that do it really well.  Many of them are based on novels that were bestsellers.  Others are just the result of fantastic screenwriting.  Whatever the case, if you need help writing dialogue, listen to the experts.

When Don Corleone says "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse", we know exactly what kind of man he is.

It could be, that like Captain says in Cool Hand Luke "Looks like we've got here is a failure to communicate."  So think about what your characters say as not just something to say, but a keyhole view into your character's soul.

A Fitter You

 Step 1: make small goals – just like you do with your writing. “Today I will write 500 words, so today I will do three sets of 5 minute workouts”!  That’s a 15 min workout!

Step 2: write down your goals and make sure it’s manageable. In other words – DO NOT say I will exercise 30 minutes a day every day.  This will only make you crazy.  This is why the 5 minute workouts are easier to accomplish. I would combine my writing goals with my workout goals.  For example – for every hour you write, you must stop for 5 minutes to exercise.  I don’t mean you do it at the end of writing.  NO.  You must stop AFTER one hour of writing and do five minutes of exercise.  This will keep you motivated and keep your brain focused.  It helps clear your brain of extraneous garbage and gives your body a boost at the same time.  A win-win situation.

Step 3: DO NOT make a personal weight goal or eating goal.  Instead – create a food diary.  This is so easy in the day of smart phones and laptops. You can write down everything you eat in your food diary.  This allows you to become more aware of what you eat and when you eat. Then you can control this behavior better. If you want to be held accountable – here’s what I do – I type it into an email and then I email a friend.  She emails me.  And be honest! Trust me, if you have to tell a friend what you ate today, would you be embarrassed or happy?  This is better than Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and Nutrisystem all rolled into one!

Step 4: Choose some exercises you want to do.  I will start you off with 5 easy-breezy ones! You don’t have to do mine, but they are a quick way to get on the path to a well-writer!
·        Table push-ups
·        Chair sit ups
·        Chair dips
·        Lunges
·        Dancing to your favorite song (sometimes this is only 3-4 min)

These 5 exercises will get you on your way to a healthier you! (both body and mind)
Just imagine – if you write 5 hours in one day – you will have done all of these! And worked out for 25 minutes!  You are on your way.

Table push-ups – set hands on the edge of the table, shoulder width apart. Lower your torso until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle.  Press back up.  Repeat for 5 minutes.

Chair Dips – place hands on the edge of the chair with feet below your knees.  Lower your body so your elbows are at a 90 degree angle.  Press up and then repeat exercise for 5 minutes.

Chair Sit Ups – Sit on the chair with legs slightly raised. Back should be at a slight angle but straight. Lift knees towards chest and then lower.  Repeat exercise for 5 minutes.

Lunges – Set hand on chair to balance yourself unless you can do them without the assistance.  Place right leg forward with knee slightly bent.  Lower your body until your thigh is parallel to the floor and your knee is at a 90 degree angle.  Raise up. Do for 2 ½ minutes, then switch to left leg. 

So, just in case you're wondering where did I come about this AMAZING information.  In another lifetime, I was a certified personal trainer. And yes, I would whip people into shape and they paid me to do it.

Edit, Revise, and Tweak - part 2

Research is an essential part of editing. If you are like me you have entered a variety of contests. And if you are like me you have received a multitude of comments concerning your research. Being a stickler for research I have hundreds of books lining my walls. I also have a variety of sites I utilize that help me with this research. Just like you I have found some more useful than others, and some more trusted than others. When I get a comment from a judge that questions my research I do verify it. Majority of the time I find I was right on the money, but there have been times when I was wrong.  I readily admit that this does happen.

I most appreciate when a judge even offers a website to verify my information. I have even laughed when they gave me the same website I used myself. Here is an example of research I checked thoroughly.  In one book, my main characters use the child's game - paper, scissors, rock (or as some people say - rock, paper, scissors) to resolve arguments. Because I knew people would question the validity of using such a game, I looked up the history of the game. I uncovered information to show this game, in some form or another has been used for centuries. Not only was this game played in Europe but China as well.  There are records showing this game being used as far back as the 5th century.

Through speaking with fellow writers, I have also come across some valuable sites that allow you to copy and paste your work into their program where they will highlight areas to fix grammatically.  I have been able to isolate passive voice quite effectively with this program. But, as with all programs - they are not perfect.  Just like humans, they make mistakes because they are designed by humans. Nothing replaces the human eye and human opinion. When someone reads my manuscript they can tell me if I hit the mark in areas a computer program cannot.  Did I captivate my audience? Did I hook the reader in that first page?

If you are like me, you always find something to tweak in your manuscripts, no matter how many times you read it over. Admit it - from the first time to the 50th time, you always find something to change. Why?  We are human and we continually seek to perfect ourselves. If it isn't a word, it's a sentence or paragraph.  Eventually we have to decide when it's finished and ready to send off. Eventually we have to let our baby go for their first walk and let it stumble and fall. And every once in a while, it won't fall. An editor or agent will pick it up, brush it off, and smile because it's exactly what they are looking for!

When that happens, all the editing in the world will be worth it. All those last minute edits will cause you to sigh in relief, knowing you did the best you could do and it was enough!  So keep editing and when you think you might be ready - you are.

New Promise

Nearly 8 months has passed since I made my first promise to enter one contest per month. I often entered two or three per month, so it put me ahead of the game. It also helped because during the month of July I was so busy traveling, I did not have time to enter a contest. I know, I broke my promise, but I really didn't in a way. I worked on my manuscripts. I traveled around the country researching for my manuscripts, and I did tons of editing.

Here's my updated promise - I will still enter one contest per month, but now I will take my previous entries, edit them, and submit them to new contests - hopefully showing how hard I have been working. I hope to incorporate information I learned on my trips into my writing as well. Knowing this, I just have to look over the upcoming contests and decide which ones I will enter.  Currently Harvest Moon has been doing the best in all the contests. I have gone over the critiques from other manuscripts and know what needs to be fixed on them.  Never let it be said that I cannot take constructive criticism and turn it into blooming flowers!

So, it's time to cultivate my garden and do a bit of weeding at the same time.

It's Been a Long Time

It’s hard to believe it’s been so long since my last posting.  And yet at the same time, I have barely had any time to breathe lately.  The conference in NY was amazing. I met so many new people and achieved all I hoped to achieve. I met an agent who was friendly and approachable, I volunteered at the Editor/Agent appointments, and I even got a chance to see some plays. So, what has happened to me since I returned back home?

Actually, I have been on two other trips since then. I traveled to Williamsburg on a grant and then to Philadelphia and Washington, DC on another grant. For me, both of these trips enabled me to expand my writing in different ways.  From my trip to Williamsburg I learned more about the time period I am currently writing than I dreamed possible. I participated in authentic 1700 dancing, ate food served during that time, and got to meet people who lived then through the wonderful interpreters. I so longed to begin writing once I returned but within days I was off on my other trip. This one was a bit different but at the same time I learned more about the starting of this country than I ever learned in school. Traveling to the historic sights, meeting people who re-enacted that time, and seeing authentic artifacts brought history alive for me. I was also amazed to see how beautiful the buildings in DC are.  Several times I commented about how regal the buildings were – like something I would see in Europe for a king or queen. And this in our own country.

Now I am back and in dire need of inspiration. I need to get my head wrapped around my manuscript writing and not on my blogs or on notes and research. While research is all well and good, the real focus needs to be on my novels. I need to focus on editing one manuscript in particular – Harvest Moon.  It has garnered finalist positions in several contests and appears to have the best potential for being bought by an editor. Since this is the case, all else must be put on hold and some deep editing must commence.

As much as I enjoy regaling you with all my travels and the knowledge I have learned, I think it best if I show, instead of tell.   If you do not hear from me for the next several weeks it is because I have my nose to the grindstone and am editing.  Once I come up for air, I will impart on you the knowledge I have gleaned from this and hopefully you will learn something as well.