Watching other people allows me to watch body language cues between two people. Do their smiles conflict with their crossed arms? Does she lean into the arm he casually throws over her shoulder? Do his shoulders tense as she looks down at his phone, again, during their conversation?
Listening to people speak is crucial to improving dialogue. Listening to the way people talk helps frame various types of character conversations. In an argument, does one person carry the conversation, edging out the other voice? Are they talking over each other? An unbalanced conversation can imply a lack of interest, but it can also signal someone with a heightened interest level, soaking up anything the other party says. Those aforementioned body language cues will let you show your readers which conversation type you’re developing.
Not all conversations are based on life-changing subjects. Listening to conversations around you can give you an idea of what subjects arise during casual conversations. The group of people at the bar for happy hour will be discussing something different than the nervous couple on their first date. Casual conversation can help develop your characters by showing what they talk about for fun.
An argument happening at a park may involve raised voices, where the same conversation in a dim restaurant may take place in tense whispers. A meeting between women at odds with each other is more awkward at the static school pick-up, where there’s nowhere to escape, than a grocery store. Observing where people talk about certain things will help you create a realistic environment for your characters.
What happens between the silences in a conversation can move your plot forward. I’ve seen a woman glance at her partner’s phone when he leaves the table and heard heartfelt questions answered with silence or eyes filled with tears. Small nuances in conversation and interaction allow my imagination to take over, filling in background and future stories to flow from what I’ve seen or heard.
Often we write our character's emotions in an obvious way - shaking hands or chattering teeth for scared, a balloon in the chest for happy - but is this really how it feels?
Try this exercise and see if you can come up with something that's true for you.
Pick an emotion you want to explore. Is it happiness? Sadness? Fear? Love? When have you felt this emotion in recent memory?
How did you know you felt that way? Was it a sensation in your stomach? Were your hands trembling? How could you tell that this was one feeling and not another? How intense did it feel?
If you were to take that emotion and make it really big... the biggest it could possibly be, how would it change? Think back to a time when you have felt super intensity before. How did it sit in your body? What sorts of things did you find yourself noticing and thinking?
Imagine one of your characters feels this way. What happened? Where are they? What are they doing?
Write a short scene where something has happened to suddenly make your character feel this intense emotion. Focus on the physicality of their experience. What do they notice? How do they respond to the situation? See where the scene takes you - you might surprise yourself!
(And if you need a super short Author Bio - Twenty-four year old author of the young adult novel, the Silver Hawk, Beaulah also teaches writing to young people and works as a graphic designer www.beaulahpragg.com)
In an interview, cast members of the Harry Potter movies revealed how they were each asked to write about their character. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) wrote one page, Emma Watson (Hermione) wrote nine, while Rupert Grint (Ron) didn’t bother. Obviously, the actors were already in character!
An easy way to get into character is to write a letter from your character’s point of view. Try writing one of these letters:
· A grumpy grandpa complaining about kids playing drums next door
· A love letter from King Arthur to Guinevere
· An astronaut writes a letter to earth warning about the aliens
I find being a dance teacher and a writer have a lot in common.
When I stage a show it requires:
- A vibrant beginning
- An interesting middle
- And a memorable ending
I want the audience going home wanting more. Same with writing you want the reader to also want more. Don’t you love those books you put down at the end and feel you’ve lost a friend?
1 At the top of the page write the first sentence of your story.
2 At the bottom of the page write the last sentence of your story.
3 Join it together with the middle of your story.
“Show, don’t tell,” is the golden rule of good writing and one you’ll hear all the time. But what does it mean? Simply, it means showing the reader through your words what to see or feel, not just telling them. For example, if your character is angry, don’t tell your reader by writing Sam was angry with Josh or Sam felt mad with Josh. This will bore your reader and they can’t feel the emotion or care about the character. Instead, show the anger so the reader can experience it for themselves. For example, Sam slammed his fist on the table and hollered at Josh, ‘Get lost!’ Tip: avoid “to be” verbs such as is, was, were, are, as well as the word felt which are often telling verbs. Instead, use interesting verbs, dialogue, or action.
Now write a few sentences of your own showing these emotions felt by characters in a story:
* She felt sad.
* He was excited.
* The dog was playful.
Who’s telling your story? Is it you, or someone else altogether? Deciding who should tell the story is an important writing decision. Imagine The Three Little Pigs told from the point of view of the wolf’s mother: those little pigs turn up in his neck of the woods, outsmarting him and making him look stupid. Not quite the same story, is it? To explore which character should tell your story, try the challenge below.
Something happens in class. It’s not your fault, but your teacher gives you a detention. Write a paragraph expressing how you feel. Now write the same scene from the teacher’s point of view. Finally, write a short dialogue between you and your teacher revealing both perspectives. Send me your three versions, explaining which you prefer, and why.
I find that first time writers write too much - I know this sounds crazy but many adverbs and adjectives are not needed when you use the 'right' verb or noun. Being selective in the words you use - if it doesn't add depth to your story, if your story can be understood without it, leave it out.
Write a 600 word story about your first day at school. Leave it for a day and then rewrite it as a 400 word story. Leave it for a week and then rewrite it as a 200 word story, then send it to me. Tell me what words you removed and which version you think 'shows' how you felt about your first day at school, sets the tone the best, and why?I find that first time writers write too much - I know this sounds crazy but many adverbs and adjectives are not needed when you use the 'right' verb or noun. Being selective in the words you use - if it doesn't add depth to your story, if your story can be understood without it, leave it out.