Dialing Up Your Dialogue

how to write effective dialogue
Source: Englishdybayday.net

A good way to draw your reader deeply into your story is to use a variety of non-verbal cues in your dialogue.  Try the following techniques to dial up your dialogue.

Facial Expressions

When a character raises an eyebrow or furrows his brow, this action gives the reader an additional clue beyond dialogue that indicates a change in the character’s emotional state. As the scene progresses and the emotional intensity rises; the character’s dissatisfaction grows into anger, for instance, the character might clamp his jaw, his nostrils may flare, or eyes narrow to a squint, his face may redden and so on. These are all commonly understood signs of anger.

To learn effective use of these cues, read classic works containing emotional encounters or watch good dramatic films with the sound turned off.  Study the facial expressions of the actors and take notes of how they signal emotion.   Continue reading “Dialing Up Your Dialogue”

Trogoltis Syndrome

| Part One of a Larger Story |

space-inspired-wallpapers17A knock at the door of my cabin, “Captain, may I speak with you, sir?”

“Of course, Chief. How are things below?”

My Personnel Chief stepped into the room. The set of his eyes and fidgety fingers told me he was nervous.

“Not good, Sir.” I turned away from the console I’d been working with and gave him my full attention. “Most of the labor force is quite sick. The Medical Officer is unable to fight it effectively. He’s sure it’s Trogoltis Syndrome.”

My face contorted in thought. This was not unexpected, but I had hoped it would not be so soon. “Just how bad is it, Chief?” Continue reading “Trogoltis Syndrome”

Ant Apocalypse

Today I was moving a lumber stack.  Moving from an informal stack of old barn wood.  Very untidy.  Not at all like my stacks of furniture grade lumber.

ant runningI was working steadily and pulled up a board to find, laying in the gap between two boards below the one I had in my hands, a fair sized copper head.  I tossed the board I held aside and looked around for weaponry.  Fortunately it was quite early in the morning; cool, and the snake had not yet had its coffee.  I dispatched it easily and with little fuss.  Had it been later in the morning, things might not have gone so well.

After what seemed like eight hours of pulling sodden boards out of the pile, sweeping off the fungus and mildew and beetle larvae, then carrying the boards to the other end of the lumber yard, around a tree and up a hill to the new stack (although in reality it was probably only an hour and a half) I encountered another snake.

A King Snake this time.  Just a small one.  It had crawled in to feed on an enormous ant colony that had set up housekeeping between the layers of this lumber stack.

Continue reading “Ant Apocalypse”

Four Flash Fiction Fixes

The pleasure of writing by Truman CapoteOne of the first known usages of the term “flash fiction” in reference to the literary style was the 1992 anthology Flash Fiction: Seventy-Two Very Short Stories.  Editor James Thomas stated that the editors’ definition of a “flash fiction” was a story that would fit on two facing pages of a typical digest-sized literary magazine[1]. Flash fiction is generally described as a complete story that includes characters, setting, a problem or conflict: which the characters must resolve for a satisfying conclusion – all in 1000 words or fewer.  Some flash fiction writers do it in far fewer.  In this form of literature, the phrase, “Less is more” definitely hits home.

Why Write Flash Fiction?

Flash fiction is very useful for newbie writers who want to develop their story telling skills but lack the confidence for writing long elaborate tales.  It is also a great way for experienced writers to learn to tighten their tales and make them more vital.  Flash fiction is popular with a growing segment of readers who feel time crunched and prefer to read in bite sized chunks, but prefer not to engage in episodic reading.  A complete story in a pint sized package is just the thing for them.

Four Flash Fiction Tips

Here are four things to keep in mind as you attempt to write a flash fiction piece: Continue reading “Four Flash Fiction Fixes”

Difficult Voices: Second Person in Fiction – Bully

Second Person as a writing voice is quite common in non-fiction, particularly instructive non-fiction: “First you do this, then you do that, make sure you haven’t forgotten to lock down the sniggletharp.”  Sometimes the ‘you’ is implied, “Insert tab A into slot B and twist to lock”.  But second person, though uncommon, can also be used in fiction and can be used quite effectively.

In first person, the reader may choose to become the character or may simply ‘listen’; “I noticed my shoe was untied and crouched to remedy the situation just as something whizzed close over my head.  Had I been standing just then it would have caught me across my chest.” The reader may interpret that statement as being the character or may accept it as though sitting across the table from a friend, each with a cup of coffee as he tells about an adventure.

Third person is a detached view, but far more versatile, “Dudley noticed his shoe was untied and stooped to remedy the situation just as the length of pipe flew across the room.  Had he still been standing, it would have caught him in the chest. Snydley snarled as the pipe missed its target, ‘Curses, foiled again.'” Continue reading “Difficult Voices: Second Person in Fiction – Bully”

Five Sentence Fiction: Orange

Lillie McFerrin

What it’s all about: Five Sentence Fiction is about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist. Each week Lillie McFerrin posts a one word inspiration, then anyone wishing to participate will write a five sentence story based on the prompt word. The word does not have to appear in your five sentences, just use it for direction.  The word today is “orange”.

Here is my Five Sentence Fiction entry:

A lump formed in his throat as he watched the frame building burn; orange, red and vermillion illuminating the night. Wood crackled and hissed, glass shattered as pieces fell inward, collapsing. The fire consumed the house, and the memories; all those memories. Was it wrong? No: she deserved it, burn witch, burn.

* * * * * Continue reading “Five Sentence Fiction: Orange”

Mysteries of the Moon

moon, exploration, baseA while back I posted a brain spill involving a  moon base, just to entertain you a bit – by teasing me about it if nothing else.  A brain spill is a snippet of a story, or potential story.  But reaction was good and I decided to explore developing the story further.  To do that, I needed information about the moon; its composition, its history, and a reason that mankind may want to have a presence there at all; other than setting records for the longest home run hit ever.

Of course I could just make up a bunch of stuff – it IS fiction after all – but I like to stay as close to truth as I can in fiction.  One of the questions I had is, “why does one side of the moon always face the Earth?” I theorized that perhaps the moon is not round, but lopsided, or egg shaped.  The large end of the egg would pull harder toward the Earth’s gravity.  I was pretty darn close!  I’ve turned up a lot of amazing facts.  Here are some of the more interesting study materials on the moon, it’s history and why it is the way it is. Continue reading “Mysteries of the Moon”

Act of Kindness

can a bullet be kindnesssHe sat staring at the small semi-automatic pistol laying on the kitchen table.  He had been staring at it for a long time.  Thinking.  Deciding.  He knew what needed to be done.  The pain had to stop.  Her pain had to stop.  He hated what was happening to her, but he was powerless to prevent it.

He picked it up, a shiver ran up his arm and a small voice nagged at him in the back of his mind, “Wrong.” it said, “This is wrong.”  Normally, he would agree.  But life had taken a turn.  She was suffering.  He had to stop the suffering.  He loved her, he had to help her.

“I wonder if this will hurt her.”   He whispered as he fingered the gun, getting accustomed to the hard, coldness of it.  “Not for long, then she will be better.  No more pain. This is kindness.”

He pushed the tears and the uncertainty aside, stood up and walked out the front door.  He marched up the forest path to her favorite place.  She liked the serenity of the clearing in the deep woods and the tall, straight poplars, the birdsong.  His feet crunched in the dry leaves, doubt welled, he pushed it back and marched on.  It had to be done.

He rounded a bend and saw the lounge chair she liked to sit in and think.

A single shot rang through the woods.

It took them 3 days to find his body.

Sci-Fi Sample – Dalotek Base

moon, base, control room, SPace 1999
Image from Space 1999 TV Series

The doors slid aside and Doctor Forrester followed Colonel Stryker off the lift.

“I am truly impressed, Colonel, with your base. It is absolutely amazing what can be done with enough tax payer dollars!”

The stern faced Colonel just nodded.

“I understand now why you were so adamant that we keep our distance when we set up our own base here on the moon.   And I must say,” he smiled, “that I’m rather surprised that you not only took us in, but have been so open and forthcoming.  I have truly enjoyed this tour.”

Stryker, a head taller than Forrester, trim with a military crew cut and steel gray eyes said, without emotion, “Leaving you there to die when your base was damaged, didn’t seem to be the thing to do, Doctor Forrester.”

“No, I would hope not.  Although, frankly, I would not have been surprised if you had.  But I did expect the lot of us to be squirreled away in some storage room.  This tour was so unexpected!”

“Hmmm…” Nodded Styker.

“Especially since you are obviously not happy about having my team and I here.  But I assure you Colonel, your secrets are safe with me.  I shall never speak of them with anyone.”

“That is quite true, Doctor.”   Continue reading “Sci-Fi Sample – Dalotek Base”

Star Trek Economics – A Lesson in World Building

Promo photo found on Wikipedia

This morning my wife, Marie, and I were talking economics over breakfast.  This was not the stereotypical husband/wife economics discussion, which usually seems to be about how high the bills are and which one of them is going to sell a kidney to pay those bills.  No, we were actually talking “economics” when out of the blue Marie asks, “And what about those people on Star Trek: they never get paychecks, never pay bills, never have to buy stuff, never get fired.  How do they do that?”

The remainder of this post is a distillation of our discussion of that topic, and it seems relevant to this blog because it is a valuable lesson in world building.   Continue reading “Star Trek Economics – A Lesson in World Building”