Using internal dialogue

One of the biggest advantages of writing a novel versus writing a movie or TV show script is that authors can use internal dialogue as a tool to tell the story.

Internal dialogue is what your character is thinking. It is not the same thing as narration, which is when the person telling the story (the narrator) talks directly to the reader.

Now there are a few rules about using internal dialogue.

  • Only use internal dialogue for the point-of-view (POV) character.

If you show the thoughts of non-POV characters, it is called head-hopping, and it is a big no-no in writing (though I do see many romance authors committing this writing sin.)

  • Only share thoughts that advance the story.

We don’t need to hear every thought in your character’s head. We just need to hear the important ones that are relevant to the plot.

Including internal dialogue is a good way to replicate real life. In our own lives, we are always thinking to ourselves – noticing things, trying to solve problems, giving ourselves pep talks or berating ourselves.

There are two ways you can include internal dialogue – indirectly or directly.

Indirect Internal Dialogue gives the reader an idea of the character’s thoughts without the exact words they are thinking. You do not need to include the tags “wondered” or “thought.”

Here is an example taken from Internal Dialogue by Marcy Kennedy:

The suffocating stench of lilies clung to his clothes. She slowly pulled away from his hug. Shivers traced over her arms. She knew that smell. Not perfume. It was too natural for that, but it also wasn’t an everyday odor. She wouldn’t expect to run into it at the grocery store. Or the bank, either. It was rare. Heavy, warm, and sad.

Her breath tripped in her throat, and she stepped back. He smelled like death, like a corpse smothered in flower arrangements at a funeral parlor. The last time she’d smelled it was standing next to her mother’s coffin, saying good-bye.

Direct Internal Dialogue gives the reader the exact words the character is thinking. It is written in first person and present tense, regardless of the person and tense of the rest of the story.

Here is above example written as direct internal dialogue (also from Marcy Kennedy’s book):

The suffocating stench of lilies clung to his clothes and hair. She slowly pulled away from his hug. Shivers traced over her arms. I know that smell. I should know that smell.

Not perfume. It was too natural for that, but it also wasn’t an everyday odor. She wouldn’t expect to run into it at the grocery store. Or the bank, either. It was rare. Heavy, warm, and sad.

Her breath tripped in her throat, and she stepped back. He smells like death, like a corpse smothered in flowers at a funeral parlor. The last time she’d smelled that scent was standing next to her mother’s coffin, saying good-bye.

Formatting your internal dialogue

There are many ways to include internal dialogue in your novel. There are two rules you need to follow.

1.) Never use quotation marks for internal dialogue.

2.) Be consistent with whatever format you choose.

For indirect internal dialogue, you are not using speech tags (he thought) or setting off the words in italics since you are not giving the exact words.

For direct internal dialogue, you can use both a speech tag or put the information in italics. (Liar, she thought.) Or you could just decide to use italics. (Where’s the money you owe me?)

Now if you write fantasy, paranormal or have people who can talk telepathically, then formatting your internal dialogue can be even trickier. Now you have people who externally speak dialogue, internal character speaking to themselves as well as two characters speaking privately in their minds.

Here is what I have done in my novels: I use quotation marks around spoken dialogue. I use italics for dialogue spoken telepathically. And I typically don’t use the direct internal dialogue and just stick with indirect.

Again, if you are consistent, your readers will easily understand what is happening.

Once you have mastered using internal dialogue, you can use it to help your readers connect with your characters. It will help the characters feel more real and most importantly the internal dialogue can advance your story.

 

 

 

 

Struggling to find topics for a writing-related blog

Start a blog they suggest. It is a great way to get your name out there and help build your “brand.” (As an author, your brand is your name.) So while I prepared to self-published my first novel, I also started this blog.

I started with lofty goals of blogging new material five times a week. Three of the days would have posts I created (parenting, publishing, and writing – one each week) while the other two would be weekly features – Quote of the Week and Friday Featured Authors.

But writing three posts a week and continuing to work on my next novel proved to be too much and I went down to two original posts a week. I would do one on parenting and one on writing/publishing.

Now, a popular writing adage is to “write what you know.” And that has definitely come into play. On the parenting, I typically look at what is happening with my children – birthday parties, health problems, believing in the tooth fairy and topics like these. I write about what our Parent-Teacher Association is working on such as fundraising or speakers and I even have written about vacations or events such as the Alamo City Comic Con that we are attending.

And with writing/publishing, I often do the same thing. If I am trying to name/develop characters or build my own world, I blog about that. If I am editing my novel, then I write about that.

And when I get around to publishing it, I update my blog with posts on formatting, cover design and marketing.

But after doing this for five and a half years, I sometimes struggle with what to write. I have already covered characters, starting scenes, ending scenes, story arcs, setting, editing, grammar, covers, titles, pricing, and so many other topics.

I recently searched topics that writers can blog about. No help there. I am not writing this blog with fans of my novels in mind. I am writing this blog to connect with other writers. (Not that others writers can’t be a fan of my work.) So, all the suggestions of writing about the movie you saw or what a day in your life is like, just don’t cut it.

So, as I brainstorm for new ideas for the next couple of months, I thought I would see if any of you have suggestions on something I haven’t covered or even something that I should update. If you have an idea, please post it in the comments. If not, I may resort to answering my interview questions from my Friday Featured Author spot!

Writers need to know their grammar

If you are a writer or author, you should know some of the basics of grammar. You should not rely on editors or proofreaders to correct and polish your sentences. Your manuscript can easily be rejected by agents and publishers if it comes to them riddled with errors. And for those of us who self-publish, you can expect plenty of negative reviews if you publish a book full of grammar mistakes.

Yes, one can try to rely on grammar programs such as WhiteSmoke or Grammerly or even rely on those proofreaders, but all writers should know the basics of grammar – or at least know enough to look up the rule if they are unsure.

And yes, there are grey areas where it isn’t clear what the correct grammar rule is. There are also situations where the matter of style may be different for one genre or even a story taking place in certain geographical region.

But knowing the “rules” will make writers better and will make it easier for them to bend or break the rules if they deem it necessary for their craft.

Now you may not remember all those grammar rules that were drilled into you during elementary school. And even if you do, it is always nice to be able to brush up on your grammar. There are countless books out there that can help. Or if you need the answer to a question now, you can turn to the Internet.

Books to keep nearby:

Dictionary

Thesaurus

Flip-Dictionary or Reverse Dictionary – These books are for when you know what something is but not what it is called.

Style and Usage Guide – I have seen all sorts of recommendations for The New York Manual of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style. But I always have had Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style on hand since college.

You also may want to include any reference books that pertain to your genre such as forensics if you are writing a police drama or a book on poisons if you are writing a mystery.

Internet resources:

Grammar and PunctuationGrammarbook.com

SpellingDictionary.com or Merriam-Webster

Word ChoiceThesaurus.com or Reverse Dictionary

ResearchEncyclopedia.com or Wikipedia.com (the latter one may not be too reliable as it can be edited by anyone, but it can be a good starting point in your research)

Also for research, check out Writerswrite.com

Writing helpWriter’s Digest

Do you have a favorite grammar book, reference book or reference website, please share them in the comments below.

Outlining your Novel

One of my very first posts was about whether as an author you outline your novel before you write or do you just sent down and write. Basically are you a plotter (outliner) or a pantser (someone who flies by the seat of their pants).

I have never been one to plot out my whole novel in advance. I tend to have an idea what the novel is about and maybe some ideas for some scenes. As I begin to write, I generally plot out what will happen in the next scenes. Since this is a very loose outline, I am free to let the characters drive the story.

Now there are many benefits to have an outline of your novel before you begin. It helps to create a well-developed plot and there is less rewriting involved. If you write just whatever comes to mind, you will most likely have a lot of editing and pruning during subsequent drafts than if you had it planned out in advance.

So let’s say you don’t want to do that extra work, and you want to do all the work upfront (along with your world and character building). You want to know what is going to happen and where your characters will go. You want an outline. How do you go about doing that?

Outlining methods

snowflakeSnowflake method (aka Expanding Outline) – Here you start with a basic premise. (I found this example on another website.)

Jack and Jill get injured while climbing a hill trying to get water.

Then you expand on it.

Jack, the mayor’s son, is sent to fetch water. Jill comes with him. They get injured while trying to climb the hill where the well is located.

Then you expand on it some more.

Jack, who is the mayor’s son, is sent to fetch water for the town. His girlfriend Jill comes with him. At the top of the hill, where the well is located, the two are attacked. They attempt to escape but trip and fall down the hill. They are both injured.

You continue this process until every part of the story has the level of detail you want. This method can be very labor intensive. You can find out more about the method here.

Pure Summary/Narrative – On this method you write the story from beginning to end but in summary form. There are no descriptions or dialogues. You can pretty much do this one by bullet point or you can just write it out almost as a synopsis.

  • Susan lives in the jungle.
  • She is struggling to survive with very few supplies.
  • Susan receives an unexpected visit from her daughter.
  • Susan decides to leave the jungle and live with her daughter in the city.

flashlightHeadlight (or Flashlight) Outline – With this method, you plan out a few scenes or chapter. You plan just enough to get you writing. Once you have written that and reread it to see if you like where your story is going, then you do the next few chapters.

(Now as I write this, I realize this is my method of writing though I don’t do it in chapters. I write down ideas for a few scenes (never full chapters) and then usually write and connect them while keeping the big picture somewhere in the back of my mind. I like that I can change directions as things develop, and I am not restricted to having the whole novel planned.)

Chapter by Chapter Breakdown – Some writers do a quick summary of what will happen in each chapter. Again, it can be almost like bullet points, but if you add a little more information, you can plan out cliffhangers for the end of your chapters.

These are really just a few of the methods, and as you can see some of the methods are very similar to others. Outlining had its benefits and if one of these methods doesn’t tickle your fancy, simple use Google and find other outlining methods that do.

And remember, if outlining a novel doesn’t work for you, don’t force it. There is nothing wrong with being a panster. There are many authors that plan and many who don’t. You just need to do what works for you. The most important thing is getting a comprehensive well written novel done.

Naming Fantasy Characters

Naming characters can be hard. Naming characters in a fantasy or sci-fi novel can be even harder.

Last week, I spent time picking out the names for the two antagonists in my latest story. (I am almost halfway through writing my first draft but haven’t needed to know their actual names until now.)

alexandria-namesMy typical way to pick a name is to peruse a baby naming book. (For general tips in naming characters, check out my original post.) The baby book I have (picked up at a used-book store) has a lot of unusual names. It worked for one antagonist’s name, but the other name was still elusive. Then I tried making up my own name.

There are several ways to do this. You can take a common word and just play around with it by changing letters until you create something you like. (This example was found on another website.)

Radio -> Tadio -> Tadia -> Tazia -> Yazia

I actually came up with the name of the dragon in my latest story when I took the kids out to lunch at McDonald’s. I was trying to think of names when I saw the Red Box outside. That became Reddex.

Or you can take a name and work on changing it around. Add extra letters, double letters, change vowels…the options are endless in making a name seem different or foreign. (Again, an example from another website.)

Galen can become Ghalen, Galeen, Galenn, Gaelen, Galan, Galeen, Gallen, Galyn and even Dagallen or D’Gallen.

For my second antagonist, I added two extra letters (Sa) before a name I found in the baby book which did create a unique name fitting a sorceress.

Here are some tip for selecting character names.

Tips

  • Avoid having too many names start with the same letter. (Tom, Todd and Tim)
  • Ditto to names that rhyme or sound similar. (Drake and Jake)
  • Make sure you say the name out loud. Anything unpronounceable or with a lot of syllables is not good.
  • If you are making up a new name, do a Google search to make sure it is not the name of a company or has some unforeseen associations or connotations.
  • Actually, run all character names through Google to make sure they do not belong to someone famous – or perhaps another well-known literary character.

However, when making up names, it is easy to get carried away and create names that no one can pronounce – sometimes even the author. If your reader stops and struggles with it every time they see it, then consider other possibilities such as changing the name, including a pronunciation guide or giving the character a nickname.

Now with Fantasy names, each author and reader have their own preferences. For some readers it takes them out of the story if the characters don’t have truly foreign names derived from the cultures of the worlds you built. Some fantasy authors, therefore, reserve the baby books for “Earth” names but develop names for different worlds and more importantly different species. (Examples from my book above show a few made up names and ones found in the baby book. I took more liberties with the last names.)

And while I agree with this to a point (I can’t imagine a dwarf named Sean), I don’t see why you can’t use some more obscure names in the baby book as names on a different planet because after all you created it.

elemental-namesI work more on the belief that I want the characters to be memorable. I do not care if you can tell where a person is born just by their name. I pick names I like and work for that character. Maybe this makes me boring or lazy as an author, but I don’t think the names of my characters are going to jar the reader out of the story.

I stuck with mostly short names for my trilogy The Elemental. (See image) No hyphenated names. Nothing with lots of syllables or consonants. No apostrophes (an overused affection of fantasy writers). Just simple, short names that were easy for readers to remember. (And there were a lot of names…this list is just a sampling.)

And for me as a reader, this would be important because I would rather enjoy the story rather than try to figure out who is who and where they come from based on the exotic spelling of their name that I have yet to figure out how to pronounce.

My Top 10 Writing-related Posts of 2016

The New Year will be here soon. I considered updating my 5 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers but it is a pretty good list so I am going to take a moment to list some of my better writing-related posts from 2016. You can check out my top publishing related posts next week.

If you want to read these posts, simply click the “read more” link next to that topic.

World Building: The Rules of Magic

rules-of-magicWhen I was a child, I always thought it would be interesting to have magical powers. You could levitate a snack to you or close the door without even getting up. You could keep someone from grabbing you or perhaps start a fire with just a thought. But not once when I was thinking of these magical powers did I consider that there would be a limit to what could be done.

However, if you are writing a story, whether it is a fantasy, romance or horror, with magic in it, you need to spend some time developing a believable system of magic. Magic needs limits or consequences. Without these, whoever wields magic would win. There would be no conflict to your story or in other words, no story. And without a story, you have no readers. (Read more)

The need for a well-developed character

The difference between a well-developed character and one that is just two-dimensional or something everyone has already read about can be the difference between having a book readers enjoy and talk about and one that is put aside unfinished.

I have written several other posts on the importance of well-developed characters (Developing characters recap). This is an important aspect of writing or should I say writing well. (Read more)

Character motivation – keeping it real and true to the character

I once wrote about my husband always asking me why a character does this or that. He can be annoying about it, but it does improve my novel. You can’t have characters do things just because you, the author, want them to. They need to be motivated by their own desires. (Read more)

4 tips on choosing a title for your novel

I am in the midst of writing my next book. And even though I am not at the stage yet where I have to decide on the title, I find myself occasionally thinking about it. This tale is about a young man and a dragon so for the longest time I just referred to it as my dragon novel. Now a turn of events within the story has me toiling with the name Blood Bond.

Picking a title for your book can be hard especially if you have developed a working title for it that you decide cannot be the actual title. (Read more)

Steps to writing a novel

While looking for new topics to write about for this blog, I did a search for the steps to writing a novel. And found that most of the steps listed were already topics that I have done. I guess after doing this for so many year this is the problem I face.

So rather than keep searching for new topics (though I am always doing that and open to suggestions), I thought I would go ahead publish the outline of what it takes to plan, write and edit a novel for publication. (Read more)

Doing your research before you write

I have often written about making your story believable. And the one way to do that is to do your research.

In the days of e-mail and the Internet, researching for novel is even easier. But as with all things found on the Internet, remember to take everything with a grain of salt and verify and re-verify any “facts” you read. (Read more)

Descriptions in fiction writing – less is more

Creating a realistic world for your reader can be challenging. Description of the setting and characters can help your reader “see” your world.

Descriptions of setting allow the reader to see where events are taking place. And descriptions of characters allow the reader to see who is involved as well as draw conclusions about the characters. Descriptions should engage the reader, draw him into the story and stir up his curiosity.

The key is to decide how much description your reader needs to see and feel your character’s world. (Read more)

5 tips for developing good writing habits

There is only one way to become a better writer, and that is with lots of practice.

Establishing good writing habits have several benefits: it allows you to write regularly, and it improves your writing (through practice).

Below is a list of essential writing habits that can benefit your writing skills. Try incorporating one of these into your routine to improve your writing. (Read more)

6 Tips to strengthen your writingweights

The best way to become a better writer is to simply write. And even if you have been writing for years and have numerous books under your belt, you can always improve.

You have probably already heard all the typical advice: read often, write daily, learn grammar and style and so on. Here are a few more tips to help strengthen your writing. (Read more)

It has to end sometime…Ending your novel

Recently, I read a book and instead of ending the story after the climax, the book went on and on. It was a romance novel, and the author seemed to want to keep writing about this relationship all the way through the engagement and up to the wedding. She even had an epilogue with a baby in it.
the-end-signAll I could think while I was reading was why is this still going on? There was no more tension in the story, and it just seemed like filler. Yes, I love the happy-ever-after of a romance novel, but once you have gotten the couple together the book needs to end shortly after that. Any extra wrap-up of a wedding or a child can be in the epilogue. (Can decide if you need an epilogue? Check out my post on that topic here.) (Read more)

 

 

Novel writing: More on creating your system of magic

Last week, I wrote about the Rules of Magic. These are pretty simple: Limit magic or give it a cost and stick to the rules. Basically, magic can’t be the answer to everything, and once you set up your system of magic you need to stick with it.

But today I want to go into some of the details of things you might want to consider while you are building your magical system.

Where Magic Comes From

Image of opened magic book with magic lights

Image of opened magic book with magic lights

One of the first steps to creating your system of magic is to decide the source of magic. By knowing this, you can easily set limits for the magic based upon the type of magic. Below I listed a couple of possible sources for magic.

Energy – Magic could be similar to heat, magnetism, electricity or movement. It could be from astral radiation, human emotion or energy fields in the ground. Perhaps your wizard pulls their power from the plants or animals/people around them.

Limitations on this type of magic come easily. We know it takes a lot of energy to move a big rock verses a small one. We can easily imagine it requires more magical energy too. The larger the action, the more magic or magical energy required.

Higher Beings – Perhaps the magic comes from gods or other powerful beings. Then the deity can either perform the magic on the mage’s behalf or perform it through the mage. Perhaps the gods do not have to do what the mage wants or there are several gods and you either prayer to a different one or perhaps only to “your” god. Of course with this you need to set limits on what can be done as you won’t want the divine ones answering every prayer and bringing back loved ones who have perished.

Objects – perhaps the magic comes from holding/wearing a certain item such as a scepter or amulet. Or maybe the exposure to particular spices, plants or another item embeds that person with magic.

Shifts in reality – Maybe your character can move outside reality or somehow bend it to their purpose. Or perhaps they are shifting through a parallel world.

Accessing magic

You have to have more than just a source of the magic. Your spell caster/magician/wizard must have some way to control or wield the magic to accomplish their goal.

Thoughts – Characters use their mind or thoughts to direct spells.

Communication – Whether it is saying magic words or writing them down, spells can be verbal or through some other form of communication, including a prayer to a deity, hand movements or drawing magical symbols.

Recipes/rituals – Maybe in addition to speaking some words, your spell caster/magician/wizard needs to mix up a potion or follow a series of moves.

Objects – Magic may only be accessed through a magical item such as a wand that either channels a wizard’s power, or it could be as simple as wearing a magical amulet that controls/directs the magic.

Explaining Magic to your Readers

Now once you have your magical system devised, you should know everything about it. You know how it works and what limitations it has. But nothing says you need to tell your readers everything. Just like when you create a well-rounded character with his/her own back story, you don’t have to let the readers know everything.

You should, however, give them the basics, or they may be wondering “Why can’t he…”

The easiest way to do this is to have someone who doesn’t know about magic asking questions. A dialogue about magic would be far more interesting than a few paragraphs containing an information dump.

But remember that as you let your reader know about magic you cannot withhold a critical rule/ability of your magic system until it conveniently gets your characters out of a plot jam. This will only annoy your readers and reflect poorly on your writing.

Why use Magic

Now I love magic but if the magic in your story doesn’t do anything to further the plot or characters, it is not worth having in your novel. In the end remember that your story is about characters and not the magic.

Here are four questions to consider before adding magic to your story.

1.) Does your magic affect your character?

2.) Does magic cause conflict?

3.) Would your story be the same without magic?

4.) Would the characters be the same without magic?

And when answering these questions, it isn’t just that magic affects your story but how much. If you can do without magic, it is best to take it out. It has to have a purpose before you include it.

The best systems of magic are those tied to your characters or plot. If you want to really see what your characters are made of, briefly take away their magic and see how they manage.

To learn more about writing about magic, check out my other posts on magic: Rules of Magic, Magic & the Gods, Magical Duels, Innate vs Learned Magic and Believable Magic.