Dialogue

Use Your Words

​Voice separates MEH stories from the ones that grab attention. ​Voice is the unique way ​a writer combines words and strings together sentences. It is ​a story’s personality, its manner of expression. ​A compelling voice is the difference between “Oh, shucks!” and “Oh, slippery slush!” (Little Red Gliding Hood)​. Between “Charmaine’s showing off” and “Charmaine’s strutting hard enough to shame a rooster” (The Quickest Kid in Clarksville). And between “Pancake ​escaped​” and “Pancake rappelled down a rope of linguini” (Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast)​. ​Examine your story for common language — for example, circle blah verbs and insert something more unique.

Character Development

But Why?

Keep asking your characters why. Here’s an example:

  • Why are you grumpy? I have a hangover.
  • Why do you have a hangover? My friend was in a bad accident and I thought he might die?
  • Why did you think he might die? His girlfriend lied to me about how serious the accident was.
  • Why did she lie about that? She’s jealous of our relationship.
  • Why? I think she’s insecure and has trust issues.

Do you see how much that question will dig into a character?

Setting

Set The Stage

Believe it or not, choosing the right setting is one of the most important decisions to make when planning a scene. The location can add mood, supply tension and conflict, steer the plot, characterize, foreshadow, and even provide a way to dribble in backstory. Going with the first thing that comes to mind is often easier but may rob the scene of added depth. Locations that are frequently used in books and film may also bore readers.

For your next important scene, make a list of twenty possible locations. Brainstorm some that have personal meaning to one or more characters as this can affect their emotional state in the scene. Play with weather elements, time, and the quality of light (and shadow) to further customize your setting. Challenge yourself to find the perfect fit and it will pay off by powering up the scene and offering readers a fresh experience.

Writer's Block

Now I'm Free, Free Writin'

Take 5-10 minutes to free-write about your project in new or strange way. Scrawl your thoughts on construction paper in purple marker, close your eyes and write outside the lines — or draw your plot in pictograms. When you're done, choose the bits that stand out most to you or were the most fun to jot down, and make them the central points of your outline or story.

Writer's Block

Positive Reinforcement

Make a list of the things that make you feel guilty about your writing. (For example: "I haven't written in 10 days even though I could have made the time.") Call yourself out. Then, go through each point and write a goal or accomplishment to challenge that guilt. (For example: "I have already written more than I did last month", or "I will set aside 30 minutes to write today.")

Plot Development

Clue Hunt

The best way to learn is by reading, so pick up a book that had a plot twist that surprised you and yet felt right. Look for subtle foreshadowing in it. Start at the beginning of the book and find the clues that point towards the twist. Make a list of them. Include the wording, so that you can see why they weren’t obvious at first.

Character Development

Talent Show

Your protagonist has been asked to showcase a little-known, unusual talent at a community fair’s talent contest. Begin on stage and show not only the performer but also the crowd’s reaction to this talent unveiling.