Six impossible things


What you want and what you need

For a writer, stories start in all sorts of places. Sometimes, it’s a headline that makes you think “If that had happened a little sooner, or in a different place, or to someone who wasn’t a celebrity…” or “What happens if they keep doing this?” Sometimes it’s […]

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Career decisions

First things first: I think we may have the comments problem fixed, though I may have to reapprove people the first time. I’ll try to keep an eye on it, but anyone who doesn’t see their remark after a day or so, please email me. A writing […]

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What if…

One of the really common recommendations for generating plot ideas is “Ask yourself What if… about something.” It’s the foundation of Alternate History stories, from changes that everyone recognizes – What if the South had won the Civil War? What if Napoleon had won at Waterloo? What […]

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Tax Tracking

As you can probably tell, we’re still having difficulties with the web site, off and on. Also, for anyone who still has my old email address, has permanently stopped working; the only one that works now is the one on the main web page, Thanks […]

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What they do while they’re talking

The last set of considerations in a dialog scene are not, strictly speaking, dialog; they’re the speech tags, body language, and stage business that happen around the dialog. But various students of communication contend that somewhere between forty and eighty percent of what we communicate is done […]

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How it gets said #3: Syntax, grammar, and typography

Syntax is the arrangement or sequence of words in a sentence – for example, whether one writes “Something wicked comes this way” or “Something wicked this way comes.” The order in which one places the words and phrases can be a subtle indicator of emphasis (or de-emphasis) […]

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How it gets said #2: Punctuation

The workhorse of conveying tone and delivery within dialog is punctuation. Dialog certainly can follow the standard English rules for punctuation, but often it doesn’t. The differences are as much about leaving out “required” punctuation as they are about adding more or less of it than the […]

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How it gets said #1: Word choice and phrasing

The second aspect of dialog, after “what people are talking about,” is how they talk about it. This is where the technical aspects of dialog begin to come into play: word choice, phrasing, idiom, syntax, and punctuation. That’s enough that it’s going to take me more than […]

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What gets said

There are three things to consider when writing dialog: what is said, how it is said, and what the people in the conversation are doing while something is being said. Of the three, the one that seems to get the least attention in most how-to-write books is […]

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Dialog in general

Dialog is the little black dress of fiction. Almost every story includes some, and it’s not uncommon to find dialog occupying a large chunk of important scenes. Sometimes the entire scene, or even the whole story, is done in dialog (and I’m not counting plays or screenwriting). […]

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