Keeping Up With the Joneses

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You ever get the feeling you’re not doing enough? Maybe not living up to what you’re “supposed to do?”

Word.

Sometimes I feel like I’m falling behind as far as being a writer goes. Like, there is some guidebook all other writers got on their first day, but I didn’t get it. So now I’m failing the grade, so to speak.

Right now I’m referring to how it feels like other writers are constantly pumping out writing and I’m sitting here struggling to write one thing in months. How are these people popping out stories and poetry like they’re robots? I don’t get it. Then I feel inferior like I’m doing something wrong.

Don’t misunderstand me; I have the “spells” where I go on writing bouts—the up-all-nighters where I can’t stop and I do pump out a short story or two, or a few poems, or several chapters of a book in a week or such. But, how are other writers doing this presumably all the time? Don’t you have a day job? And my day job consists of editing and writing other things, so of course I can’t concentrate on my personal writing. Grr.

How, I demand to know, how?

Maybe other writers made deals with the devil. O_O

In any case, it makes me want to get my butt in gear, so maybe it’s all a good thing. I want to write more to keep up with everyone else, but at the same time I think that isn’t necessary; I should write for me and when/where I feel like it… Sometimes I am not confident in myself or my words, though, so I don’t feel it’s worth it. But that’s a whole other blog post.

Anyway, what do you think? Do you ever think you have to keep up with everyone else?

-JCDK

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Writers are Alcoholics

Writers are Alcoholics
JCD Kerwin

Writers are alcoholics.
We drink India ink and
eat coffee grounds for breakfast.

We sit in bars,
lamenting regrets
and chasing memories.

Our eyes are bloodshot
from looking for answers
on typewriters.

We are invincible,
shielding ourselves with words
and wielding pens like swords.

Writers are alcoholics.
We get drunk of existence
and regurgitate Heaven.

Wr.Tu.Th.: Dialogue

It’s time for this week’s writing tutorial. Let’s talk. Literally! This week it’s all about…dialogue.

 Writing Tutorial: Writing Good Dialogue

Disclaimer: The information presented herein is based on what I, personally, have learned in my educational and professional careers. This tutorial is simply meant to offer some helpful tips.

INTRODUCTION:

One of the biggest problems I notice people have, or that I’ve been asked about, is regarding dialogue. I figured I’d send some tips out into the web-o-sphere to help with you on your journey to writing convincing dialogue.

Every kind of story—whether it is a play, TV show or novel—is bound to include some sort of dialogue. It’s what gives your characters life, propels a lot of your plot along, and shapes many of your scenes

1) Observe the interactions between people. Watch a television show, play (or be sneaky and people-watch at a café), and pay attention to their conversations. How long/short are their sentences? What tone do they use? What about their vocabulary? What is their body language like? Facial expressions?

You may not realize it until you start paying attention, but how someone converses is a big reflection of their personality. This is why dialogue becomes so important in writing; it is where a lot of your characters’ development can come from.

2) Be mindful of your characters. You know all about your characters—their age, ethnicity, history, quirks, likes, dislikes, etc.—but it’s no good for them to stay in your head. Now you must bring them to life for your readers. The information you know about your characters is vital in making them talk.

For example, if you’re main character is a 28 year-old man from Louisiana, you better not give him a Boston accent or let him fling “like” and “o-m-g!” around like a teenager.

3) When using dialogue, don’t use it to explain something obvious. If you need to use dialogue to further explain things to your readers, then you should probably consider revising. For example, if your character is an astronaut on a solo mission, you don’t need him/her telling the onboard computer that they are on a solo mission. That’d just be…weird.

4) Act it out. When inserting dialogue, play the role of your character. By reading out loud, you will discover the various speech patterns and gestures that accompany dialogue. It will become easier to then include these attributions, as well.

5) Be real, yo. Similar to the above, be sure your dialogue mimics real-life situations. In reality, you might respond to someone’s comments with a question, so make your character do so, too. Include questions, interruptions, sarcastic comments, etc. to make the interaction seem more realistic.

6) Be judicious with the attributions. “Said” and “Asked” are probably the most well-known attributions, but they can come with a price. If you put “he said” after every sentence your character speaks, it will get hella annoying to read. Remember that attributions should only be used to remind the reader who is talking.

6a) Similarly, be creative with attributions. You don’t have to just say “said” and “asked” all the time. If your character grumbled a phrase, say that!

7) Don’t forget about actions. We don’t just stand still while we’re talking, so don’t expect your characters to, either. Make them pause once in a while, shift their weight to the opposite foot, roll their eyes, furrow their brow, etc. If they cough, say they cough. If they scratch their head, say that, too.

The biggest tip I can give for learning to write good dialogue is to look at other peoples’ work, other books, movies, television shows, plays, and real-life situations. The more you read and observe, the more you’ll be in-tune to how dialogue should “sound.”

Do you have any other suggestions? Questions? Let me know.

And don’t forget: practice, practice, practice!

Happy writing!