The Crimson Five series

Dialogue: Did the Right Person Say It?

Dreaming is good. Doing is better. If you want to reach your dream of getting your book published, then it’s time to get back to work on your manuscript. Last week I talked about characters—making your reader care about them by making them relatable, and making their goals crystal clear with high stakes. But those are just a few things your can do to strengthen your manuscript. Another is checking your dialogue—especially when you have many characters who show up scene after scene.

When dealing with multiple characters, it’s easy to assign dialogue to the wrong one. Each person needs to be involved in the conversation in some way and that way can be spoken or with a gesture. During the drafting stage, you just want to get the conversation on the page. Mare says this. Jax replies that. Ander looks at Mare, but says nothing. But once you’re in the revision stage it’s important to be sure the right dialogue is assigned to your characters. You may wonder why it even matters. Just getting the point across is enough, right? Well, no.

In Spin the Golden Light Bulb, the story revolves around a team of five kids. When they all speak in the same scene, it can be tricky to get the point across and make it sound natural. But it’s even harder than that because there are certain things that Jax would never say. Other things that Mare would definitely say. And Ander, well, Ander is Ander. He would never just look away without saying anything. How do I know? Because I know my characters like they are my own kids. Ander loves to be a part of the conversation. It would be very unlikely that he would be tongue-tied!

One of the adorable illustrations by Gabrielle Esposito in
Spin the Golden Light Bulb!

During revisions, I did a separate read through for each of my five main characters. I also did a sixth read through for the secondary characters. During each one, I would highlight their dialogue only and ask myself, “Would Mare say that? Is that the best response she could give? Does her response shed a light on who she is? Does what she’s saying move the conversation forward? Does it sound like something a real person would say? But most of all, I’m deciding if Mare is the person who should say that line, rather than maybe Kia or Jillian.

The process may sound tedious, and it is. But it’s so important especially with multiple characters in a conversation. You want your reader to get to know each one and this will help it to happen. You want your reader to be able to tell who is speaking, just by the sentence that’s spoken. Ander calls Kia by a nickname. Always. So when a sentence contains the nickname, it’s easy to know he’s speaking. The other kids never call her that. So when I’m revising I make sure that’s what he refers to her as. Ander loves to be the center of attention. He makes bold statements. Jillian is dramatic. Very. Mare is blunt. Dry. Kia is intense. She’s a worrier. Jax is quiet. Introverted. These descriptions don’t sum up all the reader knows about the five kids, but they are examples. And these types of things help me decide who would say what, when they’re interacting.

So that’s my best tip for dialogue. Make sure the right person is saying each line. Your story (and characters) will make more sense that way. I hope this helps as your revise your own manuscript. It’s definitely helped me!

On an author-life note, I’ve been paired up with a lovely teacher and class of fourth graders from Ohio for the Kids Need Mentors Program run by Kristin Crouch, Kristen Picone, and Jerrott Lerner. I’m so excited to work with them this year! I had an amazing experience last year with a class of fifth graders. It’ll be fun to see what comes of this new auther/ educator collaboration! I’ve also hit the 5,000 word mark on my new middle grade WIP. Not bad for just a few weeks. Hopefully I’ll get a few thousand more words in this week and get to a point where it feels more like a story and not just a premise. Wish me luck!

I hope you’re making progress on your writing projects too. Keep at it. Don’t give up. Even a few words a day makes a big difference. I’ll be in my corner of the internet cheering for you…as I pour another cup of very creamy coffee and get back to work myself!

Thanks for checking in today. I’ll see you again next week!

Publishing, Writing Craft

Get to Work! Make me Care about your MC

Hey there!

Sorry for the aggressive title today but I think many of you can use that reminder. I actually need it myself sometimes too! On the blog last week, I said that publishing is just crazy sometimes. It’s slow. It’s fickle. It’s unpredictable. But really, what business isn’t? And we all need to remember that publishing is a business. It’s not a book group or a hobby convention. Publishers are trying to produce the best books for their intended audience. Literary agents are trying to choose books that publishers will buy. As a writer, neither of these things are in your control. Likewise, once you do have a book deal, you have no control over how many people read your book or what they think of it. And all of that can be so frustrating.

Remember that saying, you can’t please everyone? The same is true with books. Not every reader likes the same book. Not every agent will be wowed by the same book. Not every editor or publisher will see the same potential in a book.

So the truth is, the best way to ensure that a literary agent chooses your book, a publisher chooses your book, a parent, teacher, bookseller, librarian, or reader chooses your book is to write a good book.

And even still, there are no for sures in publishing.

I love the Caravel series by Stephanie Garber more than I like the Harry Potter books. Does that mean anything? Not really, just that books are subjective. I’m not telling you anything you haven’t heard before. But what I will say is that if you’re trying to get your manuscript published and eventully into the hands of readers, then get back to work. I know, I know. You’ve been working on it for two years–maybe three. Well, maybe you need to work on it more. Have you been querying it for six months with no interest from agents? Not even one? Then look at it again. Something probably isn’t working and it’s not the agent. It needs more polishing. It needs something.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing tips on revision. We all know we need to revise, but sometimes we forget where to start. Both new and seasoned writers need to look for the same things, and whether you’ve written half a manuscript or twenty, it’s easy to overlook the basics when a newly finished draft is staring back at you. One of the most basic tips I can offer is this:

Make me care about your main character.

What does your MC want the most? What will happen if they don’t succeed? Are the stakes clear? Are they dire enough? Is your MC likeable? Will the reader route for them? A reader will follow a character through almost any journey if they care about them. Is your MC trying to save the world or find a hidden carrot? Who cares as long as we feel for your character and want them to succeed. Bottom line: make the reader care!

There are so many points to look for when revising your manuscript, but creating a MC that your readers will want to read about is one of the most important. So this week, get back to work on your MC. Read your first several chapters with fresh eyes. Would someone else feel for them? Would they turn the page to find out why achieving their goal is important to them? If the answer is no, maybe you need to up the stakes. Maybe you haven’t dug deep enough and shown how it will impact their life. Or maybe your character just isn’t likable. If they come off as brash or unrelatable, your reader won’t cheer for them in their quest. But if they are, their quest will become your reader’s quest. They’ll read on to discover what happens to them.

In Spin the Golden Light Bulb, eleven-year old Kia Krumpet wants to win a Golden Light Bulb. It’s pretty simple. But unless the reader understands why (in her mind) her whole life will fall apart unless she wins one, my readers won’t keep reading. I mean, a Golden Light Bulb is a pretty shiny trophy and all that, but it’s what the trophy represents, what winning represents, that make readers want to (hopefully!) stay up past their bedtime to read Kia’s story.

That manuscript took me four years to write—four years to get right. It may not take you that long, but remember, there are no shortcuts to writing a good book. You have to put the work in. You have to do more than just dream of seeing your book on a bookstore bookshelf. And believe me, I spend quite of bit of time doing that too!

So make your readers care about your main character this week. It will pay off so much down the road, in making your publication dream come true! I did that very thing earlier this week. I received copyedits for Pop the Bronze Balloon from my editor. But as I read through the manuscript, I used the opportunity to look at Kia through fresh eyes. I asked myself, Is her goal clear? Are her stakes clear? My readers have followed her through two books already and now for this final installment, I had to be sure that they still care about her and her quest. Will she finally get what she wants? Hopefully my readers care enough about her to find out!

I should have news on the updated release date for Pop the Bronze Balloon soon, (yay!!!) so check back for that! I’ll be posting it on social media as soon as I know. BTW, if you aren’t following me on Twitter or Instagram, please do! I’d love to connect with you. And if this post was helpful, please leave a comment. Interacting with other writers makes this whole community feel closer so if you’re here, let me know!

Thanks for stopping by the blog. 🙂 Have a fantastic day, everyone. I’ll be back again next week!