Friday, October 31, 2014

Writing Authentic Dialogue... For the Age and Gender You Aren’t by Sally Bradley

Sally Bradley

Do you struggle when it comes to writing dialogue? How often have you discovered that popular or fad words were no longer “cool” before you even understood their meanings? There’s help for you! Author Sally Bradley offers encouragement and tips on making dialogue fit your contemporary characters. Enjoy! ~ Dawn

Writing Authentic Dialogue... For the Age and Gender You Aren’t

We live in a time when it’s easier than ever to do research. The internet can enlighten us on just about anything. YouTube helps us explore any place we want. And TV and social media helps us perfect our dialogue.

Oh, yes. It’s never been easier than now to get dialogue exactly right.

The old adage is to write what you know, but let’s face it—our books will have characters of the opposite sex and people younger or older than us. How on earth are we supposed to get that right?

One of the nicest compliments Kept, my debut novel, has received is that the dialogue really rings true. Even the men. Now, yes, this is typically coming from a woman reader, but still! I worked hard on this because I knew I didn’t “get” men. I had no brothers, no cousins nearby to educate me. So when it came time to create these fictional males, I did my research.

Social media provides an excellent opportunity to capture how people your character’s age talk. I’m not talking about stalking, but listening. Twitter, in particular, I found helpful for capturing a male sense of humor and their concise way of speaking since so few characters are allowed. When I came across Facebook updates or tweets that sounded like one of my characters, I paid attention to that person.

Same with television. While a lot of reality TV shows are anything but reality, there are definitely some documentary-style shows that can help you capture age and regional speech.

My book’s hero and a key secondary character were in their late twenties, about (mumble, mumble) years younger than me. What I would naturally have them say would make them seem older than they were. So when I came across a documentary with guys their age, I wrote down the unique phrases and words they said. Same with social media. And over time a few select words and phrases repeatedly popped up.

The danger here is, of course, that we date our books. So I weeded out any language that seemed more like a fad. The rest of the words I sprinkled throughout the book. Not a lot; just a little to flavor the characters and make them seem more authentic. And it seems to have worked.

The good news? That time you spend on Facebook and Twitter is now doing double duty for you. Pay attention to what’s said—and how it’s said. Write down the words that jump out at you. And see if your characters don’t take on a deeper life of their own.

"Gutsy and fast-paced."—Laura Frantz, author of Love's Reckoning

Life has taught Miska Tomlinson that there are no honorable men. Her womanizing brothers, her absentee father, and Mark, the married baseball player who claims to love her—all have proven undependable. But Miska has life under control. She runs her editing business from her luxury condo, stays fit with daily jogs along Chicago's lakefront, and in her free time blogs anonymously about life as a kept woman.

Enter new neighbor Dillan Foster. Between his unexpected friendship and her father's sudden reappearance, Miska loses control of her orderly life. Her relationship with Mark deteriorates, and Miska can't help comparing him to Dillan. His religious views are so foreign, yet the way he treats her is something she's longed for. But Dillan discovers exactly who she is and what she has done. Too late she finds herself longing for a man who is determined to never look her way again.

When her blog receives unexpected national press, Miska realizes that her anonymity was an illusion. Caught in a scandal about to break across the nation, Miska wonders if the God Dillan talks about would bother with a woman like her—a woman who's gone too far and done too much.

Sally Bradley writes big-city fiction with real issues and real hope. A Chicagoan since age five, she now lives in the Kansas City area with her family, but they still get back to Chicago once in a while for important things—like good pizza and a White Sox game. Fiction has been her passion since childhood, and she’s thrilled now to be writing books that not only entertain, but point back to Christ. A freelance fiction editor, you can find Sally at and on Facebook at Sally Bradley, Writer. Kept is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Writing His Story by Emilie Hendryx

Emilie Hendryx
I’d like to say that every time I sit down to write I pray before I start…but there are days that I forget. It’s not that I don’t want His involvement through every page—I do—but I forget, as sad as that sounds. Yet, if you were to sit down with me (preferably over a cup of coffee) and ask me what my heart for writing is, I would say it is to write the story’s that God places on my heart. I’d guess that most Christian authors have that same desire.

I’ve interviewed many authors over the last few years and one of my favorite questions is, “What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?” I get varying answers, but the heart behind them all is that a Christian author hopes to share the message God has placed uniquely on their heart.

But how do we know what that message is? We may wonder if God even has a message for us to share. I’ve outlined three things that I think we can do as writers to help us on our writing journey. These aren’t mind-blowing things, just simple reminders crafted to encourage you as a writer.

Ask Him
This may sound redundant, but pray about your writing. As I admitted previously, I sometimes for get to do this, but I know that it is the best way to truly connect with my Savior over what I am writing. The trick here is to keep it up! We don’t just pray about an idea and then forge ahead with our own way. He should be involved in all aspects.

Ask Others
God has specifically placed others in your life for a reason. They may be other writers, readers, or just friends who have no vested interest in writing but who can give you a godly perspective. Have these friends pray with you. Let them know a direction, and then have a discussion if needed.

Then comes the fun part. Writing! Of course, you may say, writing was the whole idea. But that’s not true. It’s not so much about the writing as it is about the story. We each have unique perspectives on life shaped through our experience. We may not all write inspirational fiction, but that doesn’t mean our story is any less an extension of what Christ is crafting in us.

So…write! Take the next step to craft that story you’ve always wanted to. It will be shaped through your prayer time with Him, your conversations with those He’s placed in your life, and your own story. When focused on Him, you will be writing His story.

Emilie Hendryx is a writer and photographer living in Washington, DC. She is a member of ACFW and writes weekly on her blog, Thinking Thoughts. When she isn’t busy writing romantic suspense novels or taking wedding photos, you can find her curled up with a book and a cup of coffee.  Connect with her on her blog, her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Time Tracking by Brenda Anderson

Do you have trouble keeping track of time while writing your book? Brenda Anderson has a couple of tips for you. -- Sandy

Brenda: My Coming Home Series follows a family—one couple in particular—through a period of eight years. It’s difficult enough keeping track of characters and dates for a single book, much less through four books and several years. It’s enough to make your eyes cross, but I came up with a system that works well for me. A system that requires marrying an old-school tool with a modern one: calendars and spreadsheets. 

For each manuscript I keep an actual paper calendar in my files. On the calendar I record what happens when in the plot, plus I mark character birthdays, anniversaries, and other important details. As a visual writer, not only does this track my timeline well, it also gives me a more palpable sense of time passage in the novel. It’s easy to see what holidays or birthdays you might want to highlight. Or maybe there’s a full moon that will provide a romantic setting…

If you don’t have calendars lying around, now’s the perfect time of year to collect a few—my toolbox is well-stocked! Many businesses love to give away calendars, as do some cities or counties, so you don’t even have to pay for them. You may not hang it on your wall, but your characters might. J If you’re not spotlighting an historical event, the actual year on the calendar shouldn’t matter. The important thing is to document the passage of time.

For a series that spans years, unless you happen to have a several-year calendar, you’ll need something to track the characters from book to book. That’s where spreadsheets come in. I transfer the important dates (dates that might come into play in future books such as birthdays or birth days, anniversaries, deaths, major plot twists) from each calendar onto a spreadsheet, which I keep side-by-side with my calendar. On the spreadsheet I label the fictional year, name the character, give his age during that year, then record other pertinent plot info. Then as I write, I always have a sense of time. Also, it’s an easy, at-a-glance way to gauge relationships as they will change from book to book, particularly if you’re dealing with young people.

How do you track the timeline in your novels? If you have a series that spans years, how do you track the time from novel to novel?


CHAIN OF MERCY (Coming Home Series #1) 

A devastating argument. One reckless decision. An unforgiveable sin.
Manhattan businessman Richard Brooks was at the top of the world, drunk with success, wealth, and women. Until one disastrous evening, when his world came crashing down.
Richard flees to Minneapolis where he repairs ancient boilers instead of solving corporate problems, and he’s determined to live the solitary life he now deserves.
But Executive Sheila Peterson has other plans for the handsome custodian. Richard appears to be the perfect match for the no-strings-attached romance she’s after, but she soon discovers that he’s hiding more than the designer suits in his closet.

Brenda S. Anderson writes gritty and authentic, life-affirming fiction. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and is currently President of the ACFW Minnesota chapter, MN-NICE. When not reading or writing, she enjoys music, theater, roller coasters, and baseball, and she loves watching movies with her family. She resides in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area with her husband of 26 years, their three children, and one sassy cat.
Her debut novel, Chain of Mercy, released on April 22, 2014, and the prequel, Pieces of Granite (a semi-finalist in the 2012 Genesis Awards), comes out on November 18, 2014.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Place, The Peace... ~Tanya Hanson

I thank God for all of you as I say good-bye today, to the wonderful authors of this blog and our faithful commenters. After lots of prayers and family needs...this is my last post as a regular contributor. Sob. But you can bet your boots I'll be back as a guest some day soon!  It's been good, Lord, to be here.

Do you have one place on earth where you go to find the peace that passes all understanding? Where you don’t just see, you feel the Creator’s hand touch your face? Where the pain of life ebbs a bit, where the joy escalates to the clouds?

For me, it’s Lake Tahoe, situated between California and Nevada in a mile-high mountain basin. The second deepest lake in the U.S. (1,645 feet), Tahoe holds enough water to cover the entire state of California with 14 inches of water. And the water is so pristine you can see a white dinner plate 75 feet below the surface. Measurement started in 1968. Then, the 10-inch plate, called a Secchi disk, could be seen down 102 feet. Throughout the 22 measurements taken each year, visibility ranges from 57 feet to a record 107.

Why am I mentioning this? Because a graph showing those  
spikes and lows reminds me of the hills and valleys of my life. The times, those hilltops, when my faith blazes like a shining white disk so close in front of me I touch no pain or doubt. Then come the downslides of uncertainty and frustration. The cloudiness. Tests of patience. Times of questions and of tears. Fears.

Like the milfoil, a water weed invading Tahoe, worry sometimes worms its way inside my head. The weed chokes off oxygen to the lake’s fish, like doubt tries to suffocate my trust. Boats arriving at the lake need to be inspected for horrible invaders like the Quagga mussel. Just like I need to trust God to scrape away my burdens and keep me from harm.

The grace and goodness of God slide into my life easily when I visit valleys in Tahoe with such names as Hope. Heavenly. Christmas. I so understand why Mark Twain claimed the air in Tahoe is the same air that angels breathe.

Some of you know that my husband battled for his life in 2008. (He is now cured, praise God.) In Tahoe, after remission, in the dark nights, he and I could finally talk about things we just couldn't, during the cancer. Like the white blanket of snow outside, the gratitude to the Great Physician seeped into us.

But I confess, so did guilt. Others I love didn't make it. Or won’t.

Into the corners of my heart, Tahoe has sent me the truths of loss and healing, of love and death. Of doubt and trust. I see the surge of God’s care in the waves of Emerald Bay. I might not get it, but no matter. God gets it just fine, and He’ll let me know.  So I’ll keep a picture in my mind of Mt. Tallac, rising above Lake Tahoe until I get back there again.

A native Californian, Tanya Hanson lives with her firefighter husband on the central coast where they enjoy traveling, good health, and two little grandsons. An award-winning author of both inspirational and secular western romance, she is reinventing herself with Middle Grade stories w/a Anya Novikov. She’ll be featuring the history and lore of the local Chumash tribe. Watch for “Anya’s” Black Dog, White Dog, in  2015.

Also honoring California’s exciting history is Claiming His Heart, her first historical inspirational western set in the gold mining country of Holcomb Valley, now available.

Caught between a noose and a cave-in, Tulsa Sanderson must prove his brother’s innocence...even if it means marrying a gold miner’s daughter he just met. He needs every nugget and flake he can pull from her worn-out claim, but he sure doesn’t need a wife. Save his brother and he’ll be back on the Texas cattle trails. God, and trusting Him, are things of the past. 

Charlotte Amalie lost her heart, her virtue, and her money to the last mysterious outsider in the valley. Faith? That’s wavered, too, after too many family tragedies. But she has no choice but to wed the handsome Tull. He bears terrible family secrets that need to be kept behind closed doors. Although she’s eager to leave the valley to find a new life for herself and medical treatments for her wounded brother, her unwanted marriage douses her plans, yet stirs up hope and love for Tull...and begins to fortify her weakened faith.

Can the two of them find a future--and faith--together even with their haunted pasts? 

Amazon Buy link:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Checking in with Your Reader by Annette M. Irby

woman reading*

You’ve put your outline beside you, if you plot first. If you’re more of an SOTP (seat of the pants) writer, you’ve got energy and instinct to keep you writing. We have a lot of story elements running through our minds as we work, all the things we need to remember. And we may have a deadline or a personal goal pushing us on. But how often do we consider the reader while we write?

Recently I read a rough draft of a scene where at the beginning of the passage I knew where the characters were, but by the end, I couldn’t recall. The author had lost the reader, left the reader out. We can help our readers follow us by checking in with them, or in a sense, involving them. Considering them as we work.

Here are some tips for checking in with your reader throughout a manuscript:

* Reminders—as you’re writing a scene, you likely picture the setting in your mind and see your characters moving around. Readers rely on us to show them what the atmosphere is like. We can do that via the five senses. What I’ve noticed is many times writers only describe the scenery at the beginning of a scene. But you can check in with the reader by reminding them the characters are, say, outdoors by mentioning a cool breeze, or a flitting butterfly, or whatever is fitting for the tone, setting, and POVC’s (point-of-view character) voice for your scene. Another practical reminder is a quick mention about who someone is to our main characters. You can do this subtly so the words don’t feel like reader-feeding. Now, some say RUE (refuse the urge to explain), and I agree to some degree. Still readers appreciate being reminded that so-and-so is Susie’s second cousin’s brother’s bff. ;) If you only tell readers once, they may not remember and worse, may not recall where to find the info on this guy.

* Meeting their expectations—what do readers expect from the genre you’re writing in? If you’ve previously published, what do your readers expect from you, from your voice? I’m not suggesting we be predictable, but that we satisfy readers. So, you “check in” with them by considering whether the work will meet their expectations (and/or exceed them). Ask yourself how others might perceive the story. Get feedback. Involve readers.

* Ministry—checking in with readers can also mean praying about the best way to minister to them and letting the insights influence the work. Jesus used story to minister, so this is true of fiction writers as well as non-fiction authors. We can ask ourselves: how can my theme and plot illustrate what God has shown me?

There are several other ways to check in with readers. How have you done it in your writing?

Write on, friends! 

Annette M. Irby

Annette M. Irby has two published books and runs her own freelance editing business, AMI Editing. Her next book releases in early 2015. She is also an acquisitions editor for Pelican Book Group. See her page here on Seriously Write for more information.


photo credit: woman reading a book by Naypong;