Benefits of dialogue in your novel

I’ve written about many topics regarding writing your novel, including a few posts on dialogue. But I have never really addressed the importance of dialogue in your story. (To check out some of my other dialogue related posts, see the end of this post.)

dialogueDialogue is simply characters speaking aloud. Now not all books have to have dialogue. If your main character was stranded on a deserted island, then he wouldn’t have anyone to converse with. But most books have at least some dialogue to break up the action. Dialogue can provide several benefits to your storytelling.

1.) Immediacy - The use of dialogue allows the reader to be involved in a scene. They experience what happened rather than just have the author or a character tell them about it later. Wouldn’t you rather witness an argument between two people than hear about it later?

2.) Characterization - Dialogue is an excellent method of revealing character. When you hear a person speak, you get an understanding of what kind of person he or she is. It can reveal if they are educated, funny, happy, bored and so much more with not only what they say but how they say it.

3.) Information - Dialogue is a way to deliver information to the reader. It can reveal people’s passions, motivations and more. This can be a way to get back story or other important information into the story without dumping a lot of information in a long story-stopping description.

Now how much dialogue you include in your story is can range from a lot (as in most of the story takes place in a conversation rather than a narrative), or you can use very little depending on your own preference and the demands of the story (such as the man on a deserted island example from earlier). There is no crime in writing a story with only minimal dialogue if that is your preference. But don’t avoid dialogue because you feel challenged by writing it. As with all aspects of novel writing, it takes practice to write dialogue well.

For tips on crafting natural dialogue, check out this post.

For advice on using slang and dialects in fiction, click here.

If you want help on using the right number of speech tags, check this out.

Today’s Featured Author: M. Lauryl Lewis

Today I welcome horror author M. Lauryl Lewis to my blog. Here is an excerpt from her latest novel, Grace Lost.

Excerpt

I was able to hear Emilie moan in anger above over my own sobbing. Immediately after she cried out, I heard the sound of my revolver firing overhead. I felt my stomach drop, my skin went ice cold, and Susan began sobbing beside me. The flicker of intrusive thought in my head had been mercifully brief. Boggs stood and walked up the stairs slowly, leaving me and Susan to comfort each other.

“What was that?” she asked me, her voice full of fear and disgust.

“Louisa woke up,” was all I could choke out.

I knew the door upstairs opened because Emilie’s crying got louder. I could hear Boggs’ muffled talking, and I could hear when Gus broke down for the first time since I had met him. The sound of a grown man weeping is in itself a frightening and heart wrenching thing.

Gus’ expression of grief got louder for a brief period while he walked through the hall. I heard his bedroom door close and knew he had shut himself in the room as a way to cope.

“I have to go to Boggs and Emilie,” I whispered to Susan.

I stood, shakily.

“Don’t leave me alone?” she begged. Her face was a mess of tears and grief.

I held a hand out to her, and she took it. She stood and we walked the stairs together.

“Susan, go into my room and wait? I’ll be back soon.”

She nodded and let herself into the room I shared with Boggs. I hesitantly walked to the room where mother and baby had died and entered. The many candles that Emilie and Susan had lit earlier in the day still flickered. Boggs was standing at the foot of the bed, looking at the mother who in death still clung to her baby.

“Where’s Emilie?” I asked quietly.

He turned to me, his eyes threatening to spill tears of their own. “She’s with Gus. They’re a mess.”

“I sent Susan to our room,” I said.

Boggs nodded. “Louisa came back, Zoe. Gus had to…”

I interrupted to spare him from having to explain. “I heard. The baby?” I asked.

He shook his head. “It’s just been still. I told Gus I’d watch for a while, though.”

I noticed Boggs held my revolver in his right hand.

“Maybe it won’t happen,” I said, hopeful.

“Maybe not.”

They say a watched pot never boils, but talking about it makes it happen. It was then that I heard that faint tiny cry again, and felt the dead baby invade my mind.

Boggs looked at me for confirmation.

I nodded once. “It’s turned.”

He sighed. “What should we do?”

“I think a gun is overkill, pardon the pun,” I said through fresh tears.

“I’ll do it, Zoe. I’ll make it quick.”

“Please hurry, Boggs? Send him to be with his mom and dad?”

He nodded. I left the room and went to sit with Susan. I got to our doorway. I never heard anything, but knew it was over when the spark in my mind died. I hoped I’d never come to learn how Boggs had gone about it.

I took a deep breath, and walked into our room. Susan was sitting on the bed, her back resting on our headboard.

She looked up at me, her face illuminated by the glow of a single candle.

“It’s over,” I said. “They’re all together now. A family of three.”

“Can I stay in here tonight?” asked the other woman through her tears.

I nodded. “Of course.” I couldn’t send her to be alone downstairs or expect her to return to her room where the corpses of our friend and her baby remained.

I walked over to the bed and sat down beside her. “Why don’t you climb under the covers? Try to sleep.”

She nodded. “Ok.”

I tucked the woman in. “I need to use the bathroom for a little while, Susan. I’ll be back in a while.”

She nodded. “Zoe?”

“Hmm?”

“Thanks for being nice to me.”

I smiled at her, but didn’t put much effort into making it seem sincere.

I walked alone to the bathroom, where I intended to draw a hot bath and try to soak many layers of evil off of myself. I was filthy. I lit a large candle that we kept on the counter. I studied myself in the mirror. My clothes were mucky from our trek through the woods. I wasn’t sure if the blood smeared on my arm was from Louisa, the faceless little girl in pigtails, or something I wasn’t even aware of. Dirt was smeared on my face. I took my clothes off and piled them near the sink. I walked to the claw foot tub and started the water. Once it was warm, I put the stopper in the drain and climbed in. I sat upright and drew my legs up, curling into a ball. I cried openly, hoping the sound of the water running would drown out my sobs. I wanted to be alone. I ached from head to toe, inside and out. I was tired of living in a Hell on Earth and tired of losing friends. I was tired of being afraid day and night. The tub eventually filled and I shut the water off. I let myself slip under the water and hoped to soak my troubles away. I came up for air and let myself just lay there with my eyes closed.

 Book Blurb

NewGraceLostAfter a night spent at a run-down cabin in the woods, estranged friends Zoe and Boggs wake to find that the dead have risen. They flee, hoping to find safety, but instead find themselves surrounded by their worst nightmares. Joined by two other survivors, they will face unimaginable horrors and suffer unthinkable losses as the rules of nature are rewritten. They will soon realize that the living dead aren’t just the shambling, mindless creatures that legends portray.

Author Bio

81phpnCH6yL._UX250_M. Lauryl is a wife, mother, author, former registered nurse, and nature-lover. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest of the US, her books take place from seashore to mountains, often in the areas she loves the most. Her biggest goals in writing are to create realistic (and flawed) characters and to make readers feel the emotions of her stories.

You may find out more about her on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can buy Grace Lost on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

Why doesn’t the tooth fairy and Santa bring equal gifts for all?

“Madison gets a toy from the tooth fairy. I hope I get one too,” Lexie says as we tuck the miniature yellow tooth chest under her pillow.

“I don’t think so,” I reply. “Our tooth fairy brings you money. Madison’s tooth fairy can bring her toys if she chooses.”

“Mom, there is only one tooth fairy.”

toothfairy 00140It is a predicament that every parent faces. Kids talk. They talk about what the tooth fairy brings them. They talk about what Santa brings them. And often there is a discrepancy between what my kid gets and the other kid.

Our kids get a one-dollar coin under their pillow for each lost tooth. (They get two one-dollar coins for the very first tooth.) But there are parents who give $5, $10 or event $20 a tooth. Or there are parents, like Madison’s, that give a toy for each lost tooth.

According to CNBC, last year the Tooth Fairy paid an average of $4.36 per tooth. That is up 25% from 2013 when she paid $3.50.

IMG_2962Hmmm….I guess that means I am on the lower end of the scale. But I am not about to change my ways. I like our dollar coins. They are golden. They are special from the tooth fairy.

(I don’t let my kids spend them. Otherwise, I would have to go find more coins. Nope, we keep using the same recycled set of 5 coins.)

Christmastime is even worse. This past Christmas was the first one where Lexie actually questioned why other people received more gifts from Santa than she did. She came home talking about kids getting piles of gifts from the big guy. In some cases, everything under the tree was credited to ol’ St. Nick.

This doesn’t happen at our house. When we had kids, my husband and I had to establish our Santa rules. I don’t recall if we even discussed whether or not to introduce Santa to Jase. I think that was a given. And we didn’t really combine or take one person’s experiences over the other. We started our own traditions.

santaI didn’t want all gifts to be from Santa. If I am going to spend my money buying all these gifts, I want the credit for the cool stuff. So we decided one gift from Santa, and the rest would be from us. So the kids see our gifts leading up to Christmas but of course Santa leaves his wrapped gift in front of the fireplace. He also fills their stockings with lots of smaller goodies – candy, books, toys.

When the kids were younger, they really didn’t differentiate between Santa’s gifts and those from us or the grandparents. Even now, I didn’t realize they paid attention to what gift was from whom until Lexie brought up the whole ‘why do we only get one gift from Santa?’ thing.

I don’t know any way around the tooth fairy/Santa Claus issue. Kids aren’t going to stop talking about these figures and what they bring. And parents are never going to get on the same page. I guess I will keep dodging the questions until my kids stop believing in the tooth fairy and Santa.

Today’s Featured Author: David A. Kersten

Today, I welcome author David A. Kersten to my blog. Please enjoy this excerpt from his book The Freezer.

Excerpt: Chapter 14

The past few days had been a whirlwind. Jack hadn’t even come to terms with having cancer, let alone everything since waking up in this strange environment. Before leaving him alone with his thoughts, Teague gave him one of the ‘clipboards’ he had been using. “I will show you more of how to use it later, but for now, if you want to make notes on any questions that you come up with, just write them on here as if it’s a piece of paper.” He showed him by writing a few words. As he wrote them on the surface of the pad, they appeared at the top of the page, neatly typed and even formatted properly.

“Jesus Teague, make this thing answer the phone and you could eliminate secretaries altogether.” He said it offhand, but two things hit him as the words left his mouth. The first was that this was no longer 1966 and he would no longer be able to use that time frame as a reference for pretty much anything he thought he knew. Second, it dawned on him that he could probably not even comprehend the way society changed in the years immediately following his death, let alone the changes since the war. He voiced his concerns.

It was obvious Teague didn’t want to get into it right now. “Look Jack, you’ve been bombarded with information, and it will take some time for your brain to process it all. Just write down any questions that come up and we can talk about them later.” Teague then walked him down the hall to another room. It was a bedroom, about ten foot square, with a small bed, a table and chair, a small set of drawers, and a sink and mirror like the one in the restroom, only this one had regular water faucet. The mirror opened to reveal a small cabinet built into the wall. It was filled with toiletries. He showed Jack how to use the light switch, and how to control the temperature in the room. “Feel free to explore the complex, or just go back to your room and lie down. This is a small community, and for all intents and purposes, everyone knows everyone else. Most people like to meet the latest reborn, so don’t be surprised if those you meet are interested in getting to know you. Just carry your datapad with you; with it we can locate you if something happens or contact you if we need to talk. I would probably recommend just getting some rest if you can, however. It is amazing what the brain can do subconsciously to process stuff like this, especially when you are resting. If you need me for anything, just tap the icon I put at the bottom left of your datapad.” He pointed to a little symbol that looked like a stethoscope wrapped around a red cross.

“Is that what you call people like me? Reborn? And this is called a datapad? And the symbol here is called an icon?” The terminology was completely new to Jack. “I can see that I’m going to be learning a new language.” He said it in a lighthearted fashion, but he knew it would be tough for the first few weeks.

“Jack, I know it will be difficult, and the learning curve will be high, but I can assure you that not only will you pick it all up fairly quickly, but you will be a great asset to us. Is there anything else before I leave you? I have some work to attend to – saving humanity is a busy business.” Teague chuckled at his own grim humor but Jack’s attention was elsewhere. His mind was already wandering back to the many subjects they had discussed.

“No, no, I think I can handle it. Thanks Teague.” He didn’t even notice the man leave.

Book Blurb

The Freezer1966 has been a bad year for retired Army officer Jack Taggart. Still reeling from the loss of his wife and daughter, a visit to his doctor reveals the worst possible news: cancer. Going in for surgery, he is uncertain if he can, or even should, face the fight for his life. When he wakes up to find over three hundred years have passed, an entirely new set of challenges lay before him. Now he must fight to save a devastated world and the few people who remain on this scorched planet. His first battle: to figure out where he is, how he got here, and how it all ties back to the Freezer, a 20th century underground military facility that could very well be the key to the future of humankind.

About the Author

davekDavid Kersten was born in Minnesota but spent most of his life in Montana. An IT Manager for his family’s business, David enjoys just about anything having to do with technology. He also enjoys creating things, whether it involves writing fiction, writing software, woodworking, carpentry, or electronics. As an avid reader since the age of 11, one of his long term goals was to try his hand at writing, and as with everything, when he dove into it, he submerged himself for many months. Although he enjoys many different fiction genres, his first novel, “The Freezer”, is set in his favorite genre, Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, and is a proud accomplishment for him.

When he isn’t writing or working in his shop, he can be found spending time with his 3 children, sitting at a computer playing games, enjoying a good television show or movie, or out with friends at the bowling alley or favorite bar.

He intends to continue writing novels and has already started on a sequel to his first book.

You can find out more about David on his website.

You can purchase The Freezer on Amazon.

Short Story, Novella, Novel – what’s the difference?

Many new authors ask, “How long should my story be?”

The simple answer is as long as it takes to tell the story. Unless you are specifically looking to write a novella or a short story, you should be more concerned with telling the story than the word count.

But in case you are wondering, here is a guideline for story lengths. Note though that there is no unanimous consensus on the length of each of these.

Flash Fiction – under 1000 words

Short story – 1,000 to 7,500

Novelette – 7,500-20,000

Novella – 20,000 – 50,000

Novel – Over 50,000

After looking over this list, I decided to take a look at my own books. My full-length novels definitely meet the guideline for novels. Quietus (Book 2 of my trilogy) is the shortest at 81,800 words. My latest release, The Heir to Alexandria, is the longest at 95,800 words.

Book lengthsBut I wrote what I considered a short story as a prequel to my The Elemental trilogy. And compared to books that are on average 88,000 words, a mere 12,200 words is short at about a fourth the length of my novels. But according to the list above, my “short” story, The Search, is actually a novelette.

Be that as it may, I am still marketing it as a short story. I don’t figure many readers will know what a novelette is. (Either way, The Search, is FREE everywhere except for Amazon. Who can turn down a free book?)

But it is more than just about word count. Each of these classifications brings about different images.

Short Story

Often these are meant to explore a particular situation or set of circumstances. Of course, there may be no “purpose” to the story. It could be a simple sketch of characters or situations. They are short enough to be read in a single sitting and typically only have a handful of characters.

Novella

Unlike a novel which may contain more characters and subplots, a novella focuses on a particular point or single issue. It typically does not contain the variety of subplots found in a full-length novel.

Novel

A novel is a long fictional narrative and usually involves more than just a few characters. Compared to a short story or novella, it has a complex plot.

When looking at word length, the genre of the book should also be taken into consideration. Young Adult books tend to be shorter (50,000 to 80,000 words) while science fiction and fantasy tend to be longer (up to 125,000 words).

If your story goes over 110,000 words, you might consider either cutting some words or perhaps splitting it into two books or even expand it into a trilogy.

Remember all of these are merely guides. The most important thing is telling a good, compelling story.