Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Crafting Great Dialog by Guest Andrea Merrell

Crafting Great Dialogue

By Andrea Merrell from

Dialogue can make or break a story—too much, too little, too stilted, or too corny.

When we read, we want to see the characters interacting with each other. Whether they're arguing, sharing secrets, or just getting to know each other, we want the communication to be real and flow in such a way that we get pulled into the story.

As writers, we all have a unique voice. When we create our characters, they will also have a voice. The problem occurs when all of our characters have our voice instead of their own. How boring for our readers if everyone in our story sounds the same.

Tips To Remember When Crafting Dialogue
  • Use believable, down-to-earth dialogue that fits your character.
  • Don’t be afraid to use contractions, since that’s the way most people talk.
  • Be mindful of the setting, especially if it’s historical.
  • Make your words fit the culture.
  • Consider the age of your characters.

Using speaker beats and tags will enhance your dialogue. Let’s look at both.

Speaker Tags
A speaker tag shows the speaker’s name and a speech-related verb (said, asked, shouted). This is generally the best way to show which of your characters is speaking, but sometimes we tend to overuse them. They're not necessary each and every time someone speaks, especially in a long section of dialogue.

Example: “That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing,” Wendy said.
                   “Thank you so much,” Beverly replied.
                    “Would you tell me where you got it?” Wendy said.
                   “Sure. It came from Dillard’s,” Beverly answered.

Do you see how annoying that could get?

Note: This is a common error when using speaker tags:  “That’s a pretty scrawny dog,” Jim laughed. Since Jim cannot laugh that comment, the proper way would be: “That’s a pretty scrawny dog.” Jim laughed. Do you see the difference? In the second example, there is a period after the word dog instead of a comma. The problem with this is that the second example now becomes a speaker beat instead of a tag.

Speaker Beats
A speaker beat describes the action that accompanies what the speaker is saying (like the example above). Here is another example:

“I can’t believe you said that to me.” Jessie grabbed her keys and headed for the door.

Note: Just like the speaker tags, don’t overuse beats. Too many will interrupt the flow of dialogue. They're not necessary every time but work well to help set the scene when used correctly. You can also use them at the beginning instead of the end:

Jessie grabbed her keys and headed for the door. “I can’t believe you said that to me.”

Know your characters well and present them in such a way your readers will not forget them.

What secrets can you share about crafting dialogue? We would love to hear your suggestions.

Andrea Merrell

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/cooldesign/Master Isolated Images.)


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Interview with Paula Mowery, Acquisitions Editor, Prism Books

Today I am posting a guest blog by Danele Rotharmel and her interview of Paula Mowery, Acquistions Editor for Prism Books. I met Paula at at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers' Conference last May (2015) and pitched my romantic suspense novel, Summer of Deception, to  her. We soon signed a contract and have a 2017 release date. Thought you might like to get to know Paula through this great interview by Danele. --Elva Martin

Paula Mowery #2–Author Interview

Paula Mowery 1
Dear Friends,
It’s my honor to welcome Paula Mowery back to my blog. Paula is such a terrific person. She is a pastor’s wife who interprets her husband’s sermons into sign language for the deaf. I talk with Paula often, and I have to say that she is one of the nicest, sweetest people that I know. I feel very blessed to call her a friend.
Danele: Paula, I’m so glad to have another chance to interview you!
Paula: Danele, thanks for hosting me again. You’ve become a dear friend and sister in Christ, even though we’ve never met in person. You are an inspiration, and it is an honor to visit with you and your readers.
Danele: Thank you! I feel the same about you, and I’m really looking forward to learning more about you! Can you tell us how being a Christian has influenced your writing?
Paula: My writing is a calling from God, thus being a Christian has greatly influenced my writing. I try to be sensitive to God’s leading in the messages and themes revealed in every story I write. Writing is considered a ministry to me. Ultimately, I want all of my words to bring glory to God and at the same time to encourage the reader towards a better relationship with Christ.
Danele: That’s wonderful, Paula! Here’s another question for you—I’ve heard some people say that the Bible isn’t relevant for us today. Can you explain why you think it is important for Christians to read their Bibles?
Paula: The Bible is the living Word of God. That means it isn’t like any other book we might pick up. It speaks to us where we are today, at this very moment. I can give you a little experiment to test this. There is a Proverb chapter for every day of the month. Read the chapter that coincides with the day of the month. (On the 2nd of the month, read chapter 2.) Pray each day that the Lord will show you something from the reading. Somehow mark what stands out to you. Repeat the next month. Here is what this experiment revealed to me. When I returned the second month to read each chapter, a different verse stood out. Often I didn’t remember the verse being in the chapter. Many times the verse I had marked from the month before held little or no meaning now. What does this show? God’s Word is living. It speaks to us specifically every time we read it.
Danele: I love that answer! While we are discussing things, can you tell us why you think it is important for people to go to church?
Paula: Sweet brothers and sisters in Christ, you must follow God’s mandate to keep the Sabbath holy and not forsake the gathering of the saints. In a world as dark as ours, we need a place to gather with other “light-carriers.” We need those moments of fellowshipping with our fellow Christians and spurring each other on. We need the equipping found in Sunday school and discipleship. We need the worship time together as we sing and open God’s Word. Our church attendance also shows the priority we place on God. Let’s face it, our children are watching as well as our co-workers and friends. Your priorities are evidenced in how you spend your time. We need to recognize our church as a gift from God and treat it accordingly.
Danele: That’s so true! Church is such an important part of the Christian walk. Some of my favorite memories were made in church—and some of my funniest ones too. Is there a funny story from church that you can share?
Paula: My husband is a pastor, and I interpret his sermons for the deaf members of our church. I will never forget when he preached a sermon on fears. He proceeded to call out these long names of phobias and then move over next to my stool and say to the congregation, “Let’s see how the interpreter does with these words.”
Danele: Oh, Paula, you just made me giggle! I can just imagine you trying to sign a word like arachibutyrophobia (the fear of peanut butter getting stuck to the roof of your mouth) or hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (the fear of long words).
Paula: It wasn’t the last time he has done something to me like that in the middle of his sermon. The congregation sure gets a kick out of him ribbing me like that.
Danele: I can imagine so!! That’s so funny!! I love to laugh, and I love to smile, but I know that life sometimes has a sad side too. Has God ever delivered you from a time of great sadness?
Paula: When my husband was in his last couple of years of seminary, we decided to start trying to have a baby. We both loved children and had worked with them in various capacities in ministry and secularly. Nothing was happening. Some tests later, my doctor informed me that I had Polycystic Ovarian Disease. She also told me that it would be more difficult for me to conceive but not impossible. Let’s just say I went through a lot of bitterness and depression while trying to have a baby. I had very strong feelings of dislike for those women who accidently ended up pregnant. Through infertility medication, I finally conceived and brought my only daughter into the world. Fast forward to just a couple of years ago. God nudged me to become the devotional leader at our pregnancy center. I questioned God on this one, “Do You remember my feelings? I’m not so sure they aren’t still there.” Well, needless to say, I took on the job. I learned that my feelings toward these women and girls were wrong. They each had a story. And my job was to show them the unconditional love of Christ. This is some of what inspired The Crux of Honor.
Danele: That’s beautiful, Paula. I love how God can turn our hardest trials into points of ministry. Is there anything else that God is speaking to your heart that you would like to share?
Paula: One theme in The Crux of Honor that I hope readers will discover is the unconditional love of God. Some people today have a hard time believing in this kind of love from God because those closest to them have not shown them this love. When a person has a parent who doesn’t display this kind of unconditional love to him or her, that person might doubt that God could love them in this way. In The Crux of Honor the main character struggles with this as well as feeling that there is no way she deserves God’s forgiveness. The very person (her mother) she needed to model these characteristics fails her. I want people to know that God is a God of forgiveness and unconditional love. You can trust Him even when others fail to model His traits. Humans fail but God never does and never will.
Danele: I’m so glad that you brought up your new book. I know it was released just a few days ago, and I’d love for you to tell us more about it. Can you share the back cover blurb and a purchasing link?
Paula: Sure! Chelsea Wilson’s life is a constant reminder of what living dishonorably looks like. At every turn she continues to prove her mother’s shunning must be deserved. Dr. Kevin Alley returns to the old home place to establish his medical practice. After running into Chelsea, he knows his love for her is still strong. Chelsea is ousted from her small rented room when her mother bursts in, proclaiming Chelsea’s pregnancy. Kevin takes Chelsea in, giving her space to live on the upper level of his house. When Chelsea’s baby displays life-threatening symptoms, Chelsea must face her mother. Secrets unfold about Chelsea’s parents. Can Chelsea and Kevin uncover the secrets linked to Amish heritage in time to save the baby? Can the two find love together despite their history? Here’s the Amazon link:http://www.amazon.com/Crux-Honor-Paula-Mowery-ebook/dp/B01BW1MAEE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461712289&sr=8-1&keywords=crux+of+honor
Danele: Before I let you go, can you give us a list of all the books you’ve written?
Paula: The Blessing SeerBe The BlessingForgiven in the Brave New Century anthology, Legacy and LoveLove AgainFor Our Good, and The Crux of Honor.
Danele: Paula, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us! It has been such a pleasure speaking with you again.
Paula: Thank you so much for allowing me to share with you and your readers.
 Friends, Paula is a delightful person. She is incredibly kind and warmhearted. If you would like to learn more about her or her books, please follow the link below. I hope you have a wonderful day!
Thank you, Danele and Paula, for this inspiring interview. I am happy to give our blog visitors a link to Danele's blog here. 

Please leave a comment if you enjoyed getting to know Paula Mowery and we would love for you to share this blog on your social media!

Be blessed,
Elva Cobb Martin
Pres., ACFW-SC Chapter