Sunday, 10 December 2017

How to Avoid Using Dialogue Tags in Your Writing

Recently I wrote a post about why us writers should omit certain words from our writing if we want to progress in our craft. (Read it here)

It really opened my eyes and should me so many ways of how I could improve my writing.

One of the tips I came across courtesy of Professor Google was that writers should also avoid using dialogue tags.

To me this sounded like madness but the more I looked into the matter the more it made sense.

Using excessive dialogue tags can really slow the pacing of your story. Quite frankly I find dialogue tags really boring to write so readers must find them as equally dull to read.

By getting creative with your dialogue tags you can use conversations more effectively to improve characterisation by employing unique mannerisms and conveying the tone of the conversation through your characters actions.





Here's an example taken From the Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.


"Isn't it awful! It's getting a little better now, but when Mr Greenleaf arrived the papers were at their worst. Oh thanks!" She accepted the martinis gracefully.
"How is he?"
Marge shook her head. "I feel so sorry for him. He keeps saying the American police could do a better job and all that, and he doesn't know any Italian, so that makes it twice as bad."
"What's he doing in Rome?"
"Waiting. What can any of us do? I've postponed my boat again. -Mr Greenleaf and I went to Mongibello, and I questioned everyone there, mostly for Mr Greenleaf's benefit, of course, but they can't tell us anything. Dickie hasn't been back there since November."
"No." Tom sipped his martini thoughfully. Marge was being optimistic.


Here, you'll see that no dialogue tags were used. Actions were used in places such as "She accepted the martinis gracefully," or "Marge shook her head."

These actions also give us insight into her frame of mind, that she is not overly worried by Dickie's disappearance as she is relaxed enough to drink martinis with her friend Tom, and also through the employment of her engaging in casual unhurried conversation.

By using the statement, "Tom sipped his martini carefully," we are allowed insight that Tom is not of the same opinion of Marge. He thinks she was, "being optimistic". It suggests that he knows something she does not and is not willing to enlighten her.

It's clever that by having the characters drinking martinis rather that let's say, tap water, the writer is suggesting these people are wealthy which gives us extra insight to the character's social standing.

In some conversations, dialogue tags are not needed at all. In the above example when Tom cuts in to ask short questions, we know very well it is him speaking and so dialogue tags were not needed.






It's okay to use a few, but if the conversation only has two participants it becomes fairly easy to establish who is talking preventing the need for tags.

For example there are lots of little tricks such as having a character speak another characters name.

"How are you Marge?"
"I'm doing much better, thanks Tom."


One thing to bear in mind when using dialogue tags, is that if you have to use them, just use the tag said and never add adverbs to these. You should convey the characters emotion through other means such as their dialogue and physical actions.

For example

Instead of writing,

"Dickie is missing," Marge said anxiously.

You can write,

With red eyes and furtive eyes Marge ran straight up to Tom as soon as she saw him enter the hallway. She grabbed him hard by both shoulders. "Dickie is missing."

I'm not saying this is a perfect sentence but here I've (attempted) to illustrate Marge's nervous state by implying she has been crying and that her frantic movements indicate she is in great haste to find Dickie. What's most important is that I didn't need any dialogue tags in the second sentence.
















Words You Shouldn't Use When Writing


A few days ago I was having a conversation with my fellow author mates and we got onto discussing the loathsome joyless task of editing our writing.

We lamented just how painful it is when you read over a first draft of a story that you had thought was the best thing you'd ever written only to find it turning to ash when you next read it.

But there is a fail safe way to really tighten up your writing and make it look much better. It's not  your amazing subject matter and plot creating the problem, rather your choice of words. This will help to create a great fluid flow of words making it easier for your authors to read. It will also help improve your rhythm which is very important too.

A friend of mine, William Marchese, told me that there are certain words you must never use when writing. They are words we're all guilty of  using in our work, words deeply embedded in our dialogue however they look terrible in written prose.


This really got me thinking and after a lengthy discussion with Professor Google I compiled my own lists of words you should never use when writing. I'm going to use this list when I edit my next story. I even used this to edit this post and my god I have to admit I use these very words far too often, but at least I'm beginning to be aware of it.

Once found, you can easily get rid of these following words using Microsoft Office's Find and Replace function making your life a lot easier.

But you'll still have to edit your story word by painful word.

Sorry.


Then


A very commonly used word which we use in conversation but it has no place in our prose if they are just there to illustrate a sequence of events. This make your work feel repetitive and boring.

For example.

Instead of,

Bob killed his cat, then it became a zombie cat, then it ate him.

You can write,

Bob killed his cat, it became a zombie cat, it ate him.


If you go through your work, you'll find you can omit virtually all the Thens in your work.

The only time you  really need to use the word Then is to clarify that two events are happening in sequence.

Bob went out to buy cat food, then he realised he'd killed his cat.


That

Did you know, most sentences still make complete sense after you've removed all the Thats.

For example

Instead of,

Did you know that most sentences still make complete sense after you've removed all the Thats?

You can write,

Did you know, most sentences still make complete sense after you've removed all the Thats.


Like

Another very commonly used word in writing. I know I'm guilty of using this one. Instead of using simile's to describe events unfolding in your story use metaphors, they have much more power.



Suddenly

This word is commonly misused to create tension and action but it actually slows down the pace of your story.

Instead of,

Suddenly Bob killed the cat.

You can write,

Bob killed the cat.


Is

Now you may think this list is getting silly now but Is should also be omitted from your work. Related to Is are Am, Are, Was and Were. These connecting words should be used sparingly.

Instead of,

Bob was killing the cat. Then it was becoming a zombie cat. Then it was eating him.

You can write,

Bob killed the cat. It became a zombie cat who ate him.



Really/Very

Really  and very are useless modifier that just clunks up your writing and disrupts your flow.

Instead of

It was a really tall tower.

You can write,

It was a tall tower.


Descriptive Words that should never be used in writing.

The following words should never be used in writing. They are boring, over used and considered lazy. You can give your writing a real edge by replacing these following words with something more interesting. This technique will really help you to find your own unique style of writing.


Just
Unnecessary
Breathe, inhale, exhale
Dull!
Shrug, nod, reach
Dull!
Wonder, thought, realise, feel
Dull!
Certainly, probably, basically
Adverbs are only used by lazy authors! Plus they’re dull!
Rather, quite, somehow.
Dull!
Quickly, slowly, reluctantly
Adverbs are only used by lazy authors! Plus they’re dull!
Dialogue tags – giggle, whispered quietly, shouted, and even said.
Editors hate these with a burning passion! I’ve actually been told off for using these in the past.





The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror by William Meikle




I really loved the premise of this book in which an old manuscript of ghost stories is found in the abandoned London Criterion Club once popular with the glitterati of the stage and literary world as well as prominent members of parliament.

The manuscript contains ghost stories from many well know writers from the illustrious Victorian Age. It was here where Henry James formed his exclusive ghost club. Membership could be bought by telling a ghost story.

This book contains these very stories expertly retold by William Meikle;


  • Wee Davie Makes a Friend - Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The High Bungalow - Rudyard Kipling
  • The Immortal Memory- Leo Tolstoy
  • The House of the Dead - Bram Stoker
  • Once a Jackass - Mark Twain
  • Farside - Herbert George Wells
  • To the Manor Born - Margaret Oliphant
  • The Angry Ghost - Oscar Wilde
  • The Black Ziggurat - Henry Rider Haggard
  • Born of Ether - Helena P Blavatsky
  • The Scrimshaw Set - Henry James
  • At the Molenzki Junction - Anton Checkov
  • To the Moon and Beyond - Jules Verne
  • The Curious Affair on the Embankment - Arthur Conan Doyle




I was really impressed with just how many different styles Miekle writes in, he really does imitate all these literary legends with brilliant accuracy. I have enough enough trouble trying to find my own style to write in but Meikle has loads to choose from! I particularly enjoyed the little details in these tales. A lot of research and care has been put into this highly ambitious project, and it has really paid off.

I really enjoyed all these tales but my absolute favourites in this wonderful collection include;

Wee Davie Makes a Friend by Robert Louis Stevenson

This is the tale of a lonely sick boy who is sent away from his home by his stern father in order to gain better health. Whilst recuperating at his Uncle's house by the sea he makes a friend but this is no ordinary friend. However despite their differences they form a very strong bond one that will never die.

The House of The Dead by Bram Stoker.

As a huge Dracula fan I loved this tale. There was a great tension building up through the story and the ending was very bittersweet and macabre. Told through letters and journal entries a young man details his longstanding best friend's grief from losing his beloved wife Lizabet and their unborn child to consumption. But things take a turn for the worst when his friend refuses to accept that his wife and child are dead.

The Angry Ghost by Oscar Wilde

A young boy is determined to believe in ghosts after his stern Aunt forbids it. However the boy persists to find the ghost in his old Aunt's house that he was sure he'd seen. This tale had a comic side to the classic Victorian gothic tale.


The Ghost Club: Newly Found Tales of Victorian Terror by William Meikle is out now, from Crystal Lake Publishing.

About the Author



William Meikle is a Scottish writer with ten novels published in the genre press and over 200 short story credits in thirteen countries. He is the author of the ongoing Midnight Eye series among others, and his work appears in a number of professional anthologies. He lives in a remote corner of Newfoundland with icebergs, whales and bald eagles for company. In the winters he gets warm vicariously through the lives of others in cyberspace.


http://www.williammeikle.com/








Friday, 1 December 2017

Behind the Scenes of Aphotic Realm


Today I'm joined by the editors of Aphotic Realm a new and exciting magazine for dark and sinister fiction. They've just launched their second issue Banished after their very well received premiere Apparitions



S.J. Budd: What motivated you guys to start your own magazine?


A.A. Medina: Personally (I believe Dustin will share the majority of these), I wanted to immerse myself into the writing community right out of college. Dustin and I befriended each other in school, and since then, have always worked together. Whether that was trading stories to edit, bouncing ideas off each other, or the occasional venting about the assignments at hand. As we neared graduation, Dustin and I knew that we wanted to continue working together, but we weren’t sure how or on what. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but we mutually agreed on starting a fiction publication/website.

Another big factor was the continuation of my education and routine. In school, we had at least a couple stories to peer review and edit, as well as write our own, each week. My biggest fear was losing that routine and becoming stagnant in my writing endeavors.

Dustin Schyler Yoak: It's true, all of those things were factors that led to our decision, but also, I remember we had a discussion about how competitive it is in the industry and there seemed to be a wide gap between top tier magazines and personal blogs, which can be very discouraging to a young, talented writer. So many of our classmates were submitting stories but getting rejection letters with no explanation, and while this is normal, Adrian and I thought, but wouldn't it be great if it wasn't and there was a publication that told you specifically WHY they didn't like your story?

AAM: Our overall focus, that Dustin and I both agreed on, was that if we start this thing, that our first priority was to do it for the love of the craft. Everything else takes the proverbial backseat. Monetary gain would be nice, but in all honesty, we make just enough to cover costs. That doesn’t bother me. I wanted to build a community—or at least contribute to a community—of writers, editors, and readers. If we do things right, and with love, the profit will eventually follow.
I think we are on the right path.

Chris Martin: I was invited to join the team by Adrian Medina about 8 months ago. He told me what it was about and because of my recent direction in life, I thought it a good fit (since I’m an aspiring author). So here I am.

Gunnar Larsen: <<Stares Intensely>>



SJB: Have you been pleased by all the positive praised it has received so far?

GL: Of course!

AAM: No. I hate it. I want to be hated.
Just kidding.
Of course! I’m more than pleased—I’m overwhelmed. I figured we’d get a few thumbs up from friends and family and the authors we published, but I totally underestimated the love we’d receive. Even then, I’m only going to take credit for a thin sliver of it; the real praise belongs to our contributors. The authors, artists, interviewees, and reviewers—they’re the real reason we’re even remotely on the radar.

CM: Definitely. I’m very interested to see how big of a monster it becomes.

DSY: Everything these guys said. Like Adrian said, I figured we'd get a little bit of support or pats on the back or what have you but we've received much more than that. Both of our issues have been compared to Cemetery Dance. Granted, a lot of what makes our magazine great is the content but the fact that anyone could/would say that we stand shoulder to shoulder with an industry titan is just flabbergasting and exciting all at the same time. It's motivated us even more to continue to deliver and step up our game whenever and wherever we can.

SJB: What do you look for in a story?

DSY: A story has to have something that draws me in. Did I enjoy it? Were there characters I loved or loved to hate? Was there some sort of amazing world or some sort of "WOW" factor so to speak?

GL: I really enjoy character development and world building. Dune is a prime example of how to do both.

CM: Good plot. Interesting characters. I enjoy a story that lets me escape the real world and play around in a fictional setting. Pretend to be someone or something else for a while.

AAM: Emotion. Potential. Creativity.
I read it first for the story and only the story. If it evoked some kind of emotion, took me on a journey, or was just downright good, I’ll read it again and look for any technical errors.
Since we do not (at the moment) offer payment for stories, we consider ourselves part of the amateur market. Which is fine, we’re amateurs as well. When we get a submission that wets our whistles, but falls short on the technical side of writing (grammar, structure, etc.), we will take the time to mark it up, make notes, and offer the writer a chance to revise. We don’t ask for payment for the service, we just want that next draft to be an improvement. We want that writer to get better. We want to strengthen the community.


SJB: Who are your favourite authors?

GL: It's hard for me to play favorites, but I don't think Piers Anthony has ever let me down.

AAM: I’m a big consumer of science fiction. I read that genre more than anything. I’m also one of those people who change their favorite (fill in the blank) every few months.
So, at the moment, I’d have to say my favorite authors are John Scalzi, Robert A. Heinlein, James S.A. Corey, and Jack McDevitt.
The author that had the biggest influence on my writing is, of course, Chuck Palahniuk. I think it’s just a rite of passage as a rebellious, angst-riddled teen to read his books. Survivor is still one of my favorite reads of all time.

CM: I like to read fantasy but if I had to list them it would probably look something like this: J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Goodkind, R.A. Salvatore, Christopher Paolini, Richard A. Knaak, Laurell K Hamilton, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Barb & J.C. Hendee, Wendy and Richard Pini.

DSY: You mean who are my favorites NOT counting the talented folks that submit to Aphotic Realm? Growing up I read a lot of Star Wars books so I would have to say Timothy Zahn, Kevin J. Anderson, Troy Denning, and Aaron Allston probably. When Disney bought Star Wars, the novels haven't been as good since they are holding everything back for the movies and I've started to branch out. Aside from Star Wars, I'm a big fan of George R.R. Martin, Jim Butcher, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and Paulo Coelho.



SJB: Are you writers yourselves? If so, do you have any upcoming projects for your own work?

GL: <<Stares Intensely>>

AAM: Yes, I am a writer. My debut novella, SIPHON, falls in the “transgressive horror” genre and will be released on February 2nd, 2018 by Hindered Souls Press.
In addition to that, I have just finished a vague outline for a full-length novel that takes place in the same universe as SIPHON. The working title is The Lord’s Lost Children. No idea when that’ll get done, but I plan on having a first draft by the end of next summer.
Outside of prose, Gunnar and I are also working on the first issue of our comic, Void & Valor. We’re shooting to complete it by early 2018.
ALSO! We are still accepting submissions for our dark fantasy anthology, Grimdark Grimoires! So go check that out.

CM: I don’t yet fully consider myself as a writer even though there are people who may or may not disagree with me. I’m currently working on my education in that area as well as working as an editor for Aphotic Realm.
As for upcoming projects: I am currently working on, what will be my first novel, though I have no idea when it will be finished at this point. I will also be working on a submission for a future issue of the Aphotic Realm quarterly magazine.

DSY: I do write words on things. Sometimes multiple words together... in-between bouts of crippling self doubt and depression that is... I do happen to be working on a short story that I will be submitting around once it is complete in a few days.
I have several scripts that I am currently working on in the 30 seconds of free time I have each day as well. One is a comic book script for an urban fantasy/horror series called Reflections. I also have a sci-fi/fantasy animated sitcom, Ditch Reality, which has been a pet project of mine for a number of years. I have a few other projects in various stages of completion or more appropriately--incompletion.

SJB: Can you remember what first drew you to strange and sinister fiction? Was it a book or comic? Or perhaps a film?


AAM: The Twilight Zone. As a child, maybe seven or eight, my mom would let me stay up late until my dad got home from work. My mother was either lenient or I was exhausting—I’m going to assume it’s the latter. Any way, I remember the first episode I saw was the one with the guy that keeps trying to escape the town on train, but he keeps going by the same stops and et cetera, et cetera…
HOLD PLEASE.
I looked it up; the episode is called, “Stopover in a Quiet Town.”
I was obsessed and it kind of became the nightly ritual. That’s also how I discovered MST3K at a young age (another big influence).
It wasn’t until a month after we started Aphotic Realm that I realized that Aphotic Realm is essentially a synonym for Twilight Zone. Go figure.

CM: My experience with strange and sinister fiction is limited to IT and Eye of the Dragon by Stephen King, and the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton.  I’ll read anything if I’m told it’s a good story and it will take me somewhere I’ve never been before.

GL: I'd have to say that it was probably music. Listening to extreme metal brought me into the world of occult books and Lovecraftian themes, so I kind of just branched out from there. An album that stands out in particular is "Blessed Black Wings" by High on Fire.

DSY: Star Wars got me into the sci-fi/fantasy world as a kid but it would probably be the Goosebumps books by R.L.Stine that drew me to the sinister side of storytelling. I wasn't allowed to watch horror movies or read Stephen King as a kid or teen so Goosebumps was really my only gateway to that hair-raising feeling. The first Resident Evil was also great fun. I only got to play it at a friend's house but we played that game in one sitting all the way up until the giant spider boss near the end. When you shot the spider hundreds of smaller spiders would spawn from it. My friend had a crippling fear of spiders, freaked out and powered off the console. Unfortunately, we didn't have a memory card to save our progress, so EVERYTHING was lost. Yeah, I was mad at him and we didn't play the game again.

SJB: What’s next for Aphotic Realm? 

GL: We'll probably just keep talking to Gary Buller about dicks and general masturbation on Twitter.

CM: The Realm’s website is steadily taking submissions and there have been some interesting stories to come across my desk of late, soon to be uploaded to our site. Be sure to stop by the site and check it out.

DSY: We'll be announcing a few things very soon. The very next thing from us is going to be Mandi Jourdan's Shadows of the Mind Collection. We're all pretty excited about that. It's going to include the eight stories that started it all on our website plus five more exclusive to this collection! Gunnar did the artwork for it and it very much fits the theme of escaping The Division.

AAM: Lots ‘o’ Thangs! We have already fleshed out most of the details for the next few issues. In addition to that, we have a handful of other things we can’t really announce yet, but are gaining some traction behind the scenes.
We aren’t planning on slowing down, either. Each story we publish, each issue we put together, each interview we conduct; we learn something new. Things will only get better as time goes on.
We set a goal to do an update the first week of every month, so be sure to check www.AphoticRealm.com obsessively.

Better yet, make it your home page.

Click the “Refresh” button no less than three times an hour.

Henry 1.0: Author Interview with Richie Brown



To celebrate the launch of Aphotic Realms second issue; Banished I 'm talking to Richie Brown one of the many uber talented authors featured in this magazine.

Aphotic Realm is the new home for dark and sinister fiction and are really going places. Their first issue, Apparitions  was released in July with really positive reviews and now they're back with their second installment which features ten stories of people forced to fight for their survival after being betrayed or banished.





Banished is out now from Amazon


1) Hi Richie thanks for joining us tell me, who are your favourite authors?

For horror and dark fiction it's Stephen King and Chuck Palaniuk, for sheer talent, Tom Wolfe. As a new discovery (for me) Ayn Rand author of Atlas Shrugged. My old favourites include George Orwell, E.F.Benson, and H.P.Lovecraft.

2) What draws you to horror? Can you remember the first horror book or film that you encountered?

I like the imagination of horror writing, and the control and restraint that is necessary to make the implausible become plausible, at least in the context of the story. My late mother was a great fan of horror, and the first 'proper' horror I remember reading were her Pan Books of Horror, and James Herbert's 'The Rats'. As for films I have a dim memory of being terrified at a very young age by a scene from 'Les Diaboliques' (a drowned man rises from a bathtub, and his eyes are completely white). Other than that, The Morlocks from the original film version of 'The Time Machine' haunted me, as did 'Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte.'

3) Have you any upcoming projects?

I started writing in late 2015, so am new to all of this. In so far as I do have a project, it is to continue to build a portfolio of stories (horror, weird, bonkers and dark), to see how I fare with submissions to magazines and anthologies, and in the longer term to see if I can write a novel. I have an idea for a dark satire, but need to let it develop.

4) In regards to your story, Henry 1.0, do you think that people are far too reliant upon modern technology?

Absolutely, and it is almost impossible not to become reliant and dependent, to the extent that payment for internet access has become another utility bill, like water. I think the bigger issue is the pace of unregulated change, and the unforeseen consequences, such as the bigger use of social media by foreign governments to influence elections. 'Henry 1.0' looks at the potential outcome, and human cost of closer links with advancing technology and artificial intelligence.

About the Author

Richie Brown is an ex-Civil Servant living in Cambridgeshire, England. He is new to creative writing, but enjoys it very much and is drawn to dark themes. His story 'The Cyclist' was published in Twisted 50 Volume 1; a further story 'Market Research' will appear in Twisted 50 Volume 2, and 'Henry 1.0' appears in the superlative Aphotic Realm Issue 2 'Banished'.

You can follow him on twitter