Sunday, August 1, 2021

5 Basic Functions of Dialogue


 

Contributed by Karen Cioffi

In an article over at Writer’s Digest, the author explained that ‘real’ dialogue doesn’t spell everything out.

So, what does this mean?

Well, people communicate with more than just words and often there’s a lot left unsaid in a conversation. Narration or the protagonist’s thoughts can fill in the blanks.

Here’s an example from “Crispin – The Cross of Lead” (honored with the John Newberry Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution To American Literature For Children):

“Where’s Bear?” she asked when we entered the back room.

“Asleep.”

“You mustn’t be seen,” she said. “He should have told you.”


I made no reply, assuming Bear had told her of the attack on me, and that she felt a need to protect me. If Bear trusted her, I told myself, so should I.

Perfect blend of dialogue and narration.

With this in mind, let’s go over some of the functions of dialogue with the help of narration.

1. Dialogue helps reveals the character’s traits.

“Hey, Pete. Looks like you’re having some trouble with that tire. Need a hand?”

“Ugh,” moaned Pete as he struggled to lift the tire. “I-I got it.”


So, here with a bit of dialogue, it shows that Pete may have a chip on his shoulder, maybe because he’s smaller than the other character. He’d rather struggle than accept help.
 

Here’s another example:

“The car’s stuck in the mud. There’s no way we’re getting it out of there. It won’t budge,” said Desmond.

Brain shoved his baseball cap back on his head. “All we have to do is get the truck. We’ll hook on a tow line and pull her out.”

In this scene, through dialogue we learn that Desmond sees the cup half full – he can’t see how something can be accomplished. Brian on the other hand sees the cup half full. He knows he can get the job done. And, we know Brian wears a baseball cap.

Here’s another example:

“I’ll have turkey on rye with the mayo, lettuce, and tomato on the side. And, I’d like the bread lightly toasted. Please be sure it’s just lightly toasted. And, I’d like water, no ice, with two lemon slices on the side.”

Just from a simple lunch order, we know that the character is extremely picky. She knows what she wants and expects to get it.

I got this scenario from “When Harry Meet Sally” with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. It’s an amazing scene in the movie.

2. Dialogue can show what a character does for a living.

Christine looked over the documents. “Who’s responsible for these prints? They’re all wrong. The bathroom should be on the second floor and the living area should be an open concept. Somebody’s head is going to roll.”

In this scene, Christine obviously deals with blueprints. Maybe she’s an architect reviewing a subordinate’s plans. We also know she’s in charge and doesn’t take mistakes lightly.

Here’s a simple example:

“Give her oxygen and get her into the OR stat.”

From this little bit of dialogue, we can assume the person talking is a doctor and she’s working in an emergency room.

Here’s another example:

Rachel tapped the pencil on the desk. She looked around the room. Everyone was busy writing. “Man, I should have studied,” she whispered.

In this scenario we can assume Rachel is a student and her class is taking a test. We also know she wasn’t prepared for the test.

3. Dialogue can show relationships.

“Mom said you have to clean the garage before going to practice,” said Frank with a smile.

“Geez. How come you don’t have to clean the darn garage?”


From this conversation, we know the two involved are siblings, probably brothers. And, it would seem the one who has to clean the garage is older and has more chores. He’s also annoyed about that fact.

Now on the flip side, you can have information dump in dialogue – this isn’t a good thing:

“Mom said you have to clean the garage before going to practice,” said Frank with a smile.

“Geez. How come you don’t have to clean the darn garage? Just because you’re two years younger than me you get away with everything.”


It’s easy to see that the last sentence is added just to inform the reader that Frank is two years younger than his brother. This is information dump.

4. Dialogue can show how educated a character is through choice of words.

“You need to ascertain whether you and he are compatible.”

“You need to figure out if you two are a good match.”


Simple examples, but you get the point.

5. Dialogue can show tension between characters.

Sammy dropped his books and stood with his fists clenched. “Do that one more time and you’ll never do it again.”

Dylan shook his hands. “Ooohhh. I’m scared. Do you mean don’t do this again?”


This scene clearly shows tension between Sammy and Dylan. And, it shows that Dylan is the instigator of the tension.

Here’s another example:

Sara stormed up to Alicia’s desk. “You stole my idea. Mr. Peter’s is doing a full campaign based on it. Tell him it’s my idea or I’ll tell him.”

“That’s not happening,” said Alicia without hesitation. “If you weren’t careless enough to leave your notes on your desk, I wouldn’t have seen them.” She pulled a lipstick and mirror out of her desk and fixed her lips. “If you go to the boss, he won’t know who to believe. Want to risk him think you’re lying to get ahead?”


Again, this is a tension packed scene.

There are also other functions of dialogue like conveying underlying emotions, creating atmosphere, and driving the plot forward. Using dialogue and narration allows you to paint vivid pictures. Your choice of words will give your characters and your story life.

Source:
Writing a Scene with Good Dialogue and Narration

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. Check out her middle-grade book, Walking Through Walls, and her new picture book series, The Adventures of Planetman.





Monday, July 19, 2021

Building a Author Platform

                                                     


         A publisher requires and every author if self-publishing  must have a platform and marketing/promotion plan before a book is published. But, how does one build a platform and what is a platform? A writer’s platform consists of several components, but an important part is an online presence, a presence created before publication, not after. A platform—also referred to as an author platform or a media platform—is an established media forum through which an author connects to his or her audience.

         Here are some steps to build your author platform, but they aren’t the only steps possible, just what I consider most important:

1. Know your target readers. If your books cover more than one genre, then you need to target readers for all the genres. Join groups that cater to people interested in those areas, for example, but not to promote your books, but to promote you.

2. Identify and define your brand. What is a brand? An author brand is an ongoing, continually evolving story that communicates what makes your work unique, and represents an implied promise to your readers of what they can expect you to consistently deliver.

3. Create a website – a MUST for all authors and should be up and running before your book or books are released.

4. Start blogging consistently. Blogging is one way to share your expertise and—at the same time—build an author platform. Don’t blog just about your writing, but find areas you know about or have researched, maybe for a book, and blog about them. Blogging to reach other writers doesn’t open avenues for books sales as blogging to reach your target readers will.

5. Build an email list. Create an email sign-up form on your website. What? You don’t have a website yet? Okay, the first step is to set up your new site.

While you’re at it, create a sign-up form that connects to an email management system; here are a few of our favorite email newsletter platforms to choose from. Put it on your homepage to capture email addresses — and take a deep breath.

      Your job is to collect emails, and to send out worthwhile content. It may take a long time to build up your email list, and to figure out exactly what your message is, but you need to practice having a following.

      Everyone you know is a contact. The more people you know, the more influence you have, especially if you know people in high places.

      So, what if those influencers are a couple degrees of separation from you? People are surprising in how they choose to support fledgling authors. I’ve witnessed seriously established authors supporting new writers just because it feels good and they remember what it’s like to be in your position.

      In addition to the list of people you’re connected to, create a list of people who might blurb you, from realistic to pie in the sky. Who would be your ideal reader? Who do you dream might one day recommend your book?

6. Write guest posts.

7. Connect offline. Attend writing conferences. Speak at writing groups, schools, or libraries.

8. Use social media wisely. Pick just two social channels. That’s right: only two. Set up a profile on each and post once a day. If once a day doesn’t work with your schedule, then set a schedule and keep it: once a week, three times a week, three times a month, etc.

      I use Facebook and MeWe, but if you’re into other channels or options, try them. If you’re writing something that lends itself to images, join Pinterest or Instagram. If your work lends itself to video, do YouTube. Experiment to find any social media channel that works for you and your writing without spreading yourself too thin.

      The key to social media is posting regularly and engaging people. You want shares because shares lead to more follows. Rather than spreading yourself thin across multiple platforms, focus consistently on the two platforms that provide the most value to you and your work.

      It takes forever (seriously) to build up a following on social media, so don’t be discouraged. Celebrate a few likes a week. Manage your expectations. Keep going.

       The best way to build an author platform is simple: start. Just like you don’t run a marathon without training for weeks or months, you don’t start your author platform completely at once. Building your platform takes discipline and hard work, but if it weren’t worth it, no one would be doing it. Building an author platform is a marathon, not a sprint.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Secret of Getting Ahead

 


Contributed by Karen Cioffi

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started." ~ Mark Twain

 Probably everyone has heard one adage or another about the first step. Well, that first step certainly applies to your writing too.

A desire to write a novel or children story is something, but taking the first step to bringing that desire to fruition is impressive.

Having an idea for a story is something. Taking that first step and bring that idea through to the end of a completed manuscript is impressive.

Here are a couple of tips to get started:

Your idea must be put into writing or a computer file. From there you need to add notes as to what your story will be about. Do you know what the setting will be? Do you have a main character in mind? Will it be a novel? Will it be a children’s middle grade book or possibly a picture book? Do you know how you want the story to start and where you’d like it to end up? Do you know what the conflict will be?

Once you have your notes down, turn them into an outline. You might add character sheets at this point. 

Or, if you’re a panster, just get started on the story and watch the characters unveil themselves.

Below are a few other quotes on that first step that I hope will inspire you to get your story started today:

“Without that first step, there is no journey. Without that first step, there can be no creation, no story.”
~ Karen Cioffi

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”
~ Chauncey Depew

They say it is the first step that costs the effort. I do not find it so. I am sure I could write unlimited ‘first chapters’. I have indeed written many. ~ J. R. R. Tolkien

“Take the first step, and your mind will mobilize all its forces to your aid. But the first essential is that you begin. Once the battle is started, all that is within and without you will come to your assistance.
~ Robert Collier

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.” ~ Zig Ziglar

“Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.” ~ Indira Gandhi

So, if you have a desire to write a book or have an idea for a story, get started today – take that first step and bring it to life.

Maybe you have some notes on a story or an outline – take that first step to turn your notes, outline, or even your draft into a complete manuscript.

TAKE THE FIRST STEP TODAY!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. Check out her middle-grade book, Walking Through Walls, and her new picture book series, The Adventures of Planetman.




Sunday, June 20, 2021

Review for Peabody Pond by Brian Heinz

 

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Peabody Pond" by Brian J. Heinz.]




4 out of 4 stars




Connor and Otis, captain and crew of the decrepit rowboat H. M. S. Wonder, are ready for a summer full of adventure on their beloved Peabody Pond. But their plans for fishing are quickly cast aside by a fight for their lives. A vial of experimental hormone accidentally released into the water has monstrous effects on the local pond critters, and only Connor and Otis know about the danger. These honor students from Pendrake Middle school are not known for lying, but their quest to find answers about the vial and the kidnapping of geneticist Dr. Wilfred Lambert has them wading neck-deep in deceit. 

When the thugs responsible for the kidnapping turn their attention to the boys, Conner and Otis will have to seek help from unlikely allies. What started as a secret mission to uncover scientific truth will turn into an eye-opening journey about relationships and learning to look beyond a person's exterior. Will Connor and Otis be able to save their new friends from disaster? Or will they find themselves swallowed by the mutants that lie beneath the surface of Peabody Pond?

Peabody Pond by Brian J. Heinz might be a perfect find for readers looking for an exciting middle-grade adventure novel. I loved the science-fiction elements of this story and the author's ability to add valuable life lessons to an excellent escapade. I also enjoyed the suspense built into the plot early on, and the unknown consequences of the chemical had me on the edge of my seat. Young readers will appreciate the short chapters that make the book flow smoothly and provide the perfect stopping points along the way.

The book featured a noteworthy cast of characters that made it easy to engage with the story. I loved Connor's down-to-earth personality and his ability to assess the situations included in the plot. He provided a positive example of leadership and was open to learning from his mistakes. I also appreciated Otis for the comic relief his personality quirks offered, which helped ease the reader back down after the more intense scenes throughout the book. The author also included various antagonists that presented multiple challenges and opportunities for character growth as the plot progressed. I loved how dealing with the antagonists gave Connor and Otis a chance to develop new perspectives, learn about empathy, and evaluate their consciences. 

There was nothing that I disliked about this book. Peabody Pond was well written and edited, with very few errors. Therefore, I have no reason to give it anything but four out of four stars. Since this book targets a middle-grade audience, there was very little graphic content. Still, there were a few instances of borderline swearing and a few scenes of violent death. I'd recommend this to upper middle-grade readers as the protagonists were just out of eighth grade. The book's epilogue opened the door for a possible sequel, and I would love to see more adventures out on Peabody Pond. 

 

       NOTE: Online Book Club sent the following to the author:

 “The review of your book is marked as featured. This means it is being featured on the page OnlineBookClub.org/reviews/ and as a sticky topic in the forums. It is set to be featured until August 20, 2021.”

 

        Peabody Pond can be purchased online through the author's 4RV Publishing page or from other online stores.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Writing Rhyme

 


Rhyming, when done right, is a wonderful way to engage children.

Children, as soon as they’re able, love to rhyme words . . . and this can begin as early as two-years-old: cat-hat, mouse-house.

But, to write a rhyming story . . . a well written rhyming story . . . is difficult; you need a good story, rhyme, rhythm/beat, meter, stresses, and more—all this in addition to the already unique rules and tricks in writing for children. And, some writers just don’t have that innate ability to do rhyme well. But, it can be learned.

According to Delia Marshall Turner, Ph.D., the elements of poetry are: voice; stanza; sound; rhythm; figures of speech; and form.

Voice (the speaker)
Stanza (the format of lines grouped together)
Sound (rhyme and other patterns)
Rhythm (the beat and meter – the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables)
Figures of Speech (types of figurative language)
Form (the type of poem, its design)

Along with this there is perfect rhyme, and approximate rhyme:

Perfect rhyme: tie/lie; stay/day
Approximate rhyme: top/cope; comb/tomb

And, there are many more bits and pieces that go into writing poetry/ rhyme. But, the foundation that holds your rhyming story all together is the story itself—you need a good story, especially when writing for children.

Another great source of rhyming information is the article, “To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme” by Dori Chaconas, in the Writer Magazine, October 2001: “You may write in perfect rhyme, with perfect rhythm, but if your piece lacks the elements of a good story, your efforts will be all fluff without substance. I like to think of story as the key element, and if the story is solid, and conducive to rhyme, the rhyme will then enhance the story.”

This is a wonderful explanation because it mentions “if the story is solid, and conducive to rhyme.” This means that not all stories will work in rhyme, and the writer needs to know whether his will or will not.

So, if you’re interested in writing in rhyme, there are a number of sites and articles online that can help, there are also books available, and classes you can take. Do a Google search for the tools that are right for you.

A great place to start is:
http://www.underdown.org/mf-rhyme-and-meter.htm
https://www.writingrhymeandmeter.com/  

 


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and a working children’s ghostwriter/rewriter and writing coach. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move as well as an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

You can follow Karen at:
LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/in/karencioffiventrice
Twitter  http://twitter.com/KarenCV
You can check out Karen's Books at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Children's Writing Pitfalls - Words

 


I wrote a fantasy story originally geared toward middle grade. Realizing the word count wasn’t enough for a middle grade story, I changed it to a chapter book.

Good idea, right?

Yes, it is.

But if you do something like this, you need to remember to check the age appropriateness of the words you originally used.

You might ask why this necessary.

Well, it’s the difference between an editor giving your story a second glance, or not.

It’s so important that publishers will ask what grade level your book is geared toward. You had better make sure the vocabulary of your story and the intended audience are a match.

What exactly do I mean? Let’s use an example:

The boy performed an amazing illusion. Should you use illusion or real magic?

If you were writing this for a 6th grader, the word illusion would be fine, but say you are writing for a 2nd or 3rd grader … then you’ll need to change that word.

According to “Children’s Writer’s Word Book,” ‘illusion’ is in the 6th grader’s vocabulary. You would need to change it to a word such as trick or fake to make it age appropriate for a 3rd grader.

The use of words goes far beyond that of choosing age appropriate words, they can be revised to say the same thing in a different way.

Words are so amazing – just make sure yours are just right for the age group you’re writing for.

Taking this a little further, even if you're writing a young adult novel, choose words carefully.

I'm working with a client who has words in his draft that not most teens, and even many adult readers won't understand. You don't want a reader to have to stop and look up a word while reading. This is never a good thing.

When writing for children, teens, and young adults, don't use high-end words. Use words that everyone will be able to quickly recognize and understand.

To emphasis this, here are some quotes on the topic by famous authors:

"Use familiar words—words that your readers will understand, and not words they will have to look up. No advice is more elementary, and no advice is more difficult to accept. When we feel an impulse to use a marvellously exotic word, let us lie down until the impulse goes away."
~James J. Kilpatrick

"The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do."
~Thomas Jefferson

"A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts."
~William Strunk and E.B. White

"Use the smallest word that does the job."
~E.B. White

"Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people." ~William Butler Yeats

"The finest words in the world are only vain sounds if you can’t understand them. ~Anatole France

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
~Mark Twain

The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words." ~George Eliot

"Whenever we can make 25 words do the work of 50, we halve the area in which looseness and disorganisation can flourish."
~Wilson Follett

"Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite."
~C. S. Lewis


Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author and a working children’s ghostwriter/rewriter and writing coach. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move as well as an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

You can follow Karen at:
LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/in/karencioffiventrice
Twitter  http://twitter.com/KarenCV
You can check out Karen's Books at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/
 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Sad Little Wildflower receives 5-Star Review

 

 

Readers' Favorite 5m Star Review
 by Mamta Madhavan

        It was spring, and there were signs of new growth everywhere. Down the road, a small shoot of green stretched upward to feel the sunshine on its leaves. She wondered what type of flower she would be, and wished to be a rose. The little plant grew and grew, and one day she noticed a tinge of pink color form around her head. The little plant was so happy as she knew pink roses were beautiful, and she would soon be the envy of all the other flowers. The man thought she was a weed and wanted to remove her so the beautiful tulips would not be choked. The little flower cried and cried, and
waited to see what would happen next. A voice asked the little flower why she was sad. The little flower knew it was the voice of Jesus and asked him to turn her into a rose so that people would
love her. 

        Let's read the book to find out what Jesus told her, and if the little flower would discover her purpose in life.
 

       The Sad Little Wildflower by Yvonne M. Morgan is a beautiful story that conveys many uplifting and positive messages to young readers. The story is about self-love, self-acceptance, trust, self-belief,
and finding out one's purpose in life. The illustrations are bright and colorful, and they make the story captivating to youngsters. I like the way the author gives the little flower a personality of her own as she is called the Pink Lady by Jesus. It is an uplifting and encouraging story to read to children in
classrooms and homes to help them love themselves, be happy with what they have, and also believe that everyone is unique and has his/her own purpose in life.


Yvonne Morgans books can be found at

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Reviews: The Hatchling


 

TITLE:  THE HATCHLING
PUBLISHER:  4RV Publishing, January 2021
AUTHOR:  Vivian Zabel
ILLUSTRATOR:  Jeanne Conway
Reviewed by Karin Larson

    THE HATCHLING is a heart-warming story of two best friends, Louie Duck and Gus Goose, who go about their days playing, riding waves in the lake and enjoying each other’s company. But soon comes a surprise…Louie is going to be a big brother. How will this new sibling affect Louie and Gus?        
    
THE HATCHLING explores the feelings involved in both the sibling relationship and the friendship bond in a heart-warming and relatable way all kids will understand without feeling a lesson is being taught. Ms. Zabel uses active and lively, at times alliterative, language which kids will love. Back matter sections with discussion questions and additional information about ducks compliment the text which kids and adults alike will enjoy. Ms. Conway’s illustrations are bright and fun and bring the characters and story to life. This story is perfect for kids ages 4-9 years of age.

     To learn more about Vivian Zabel or the other Louie the Duck stories (WAVE EXCITEMENT, LOUIE FINDS A FRIEND), visit https://www.4rvpublishing.com/vivian-zabel.html or www.vivianzabel.com.

    For more information about Jeanne Conway, visit https://www.jeanniespaintings.com.

 DISCLAIMER:  I received a hard copy of THE HATCHLING free of charge in return for my honest review. This review consists of my honest opinions, not influenced by anyone in any way. 

 


Readers' Favorite 5-Star Review
Reviewer Mamta Madhavan

    Louie Duck and Gus Goose waddled toward their sleeping area as the day ended. Louie was happy that they had fun. When the two birds reached Louie's nest, they saw Daddy Duck standing beside a
new circle of twigs, leaves, and feathers. Louie was curious to know why Daddy Duck and Momma Duck made a new nest. They showed Louie the large egg nestled in downy feathers. 

     Gus was worried if Louie and he would still be best friends when the egg hatched and Louie reassured him saying no hatchling would take his place as Louie's best friend. Grandma Goose came to them while they were playing one day and told Louie the egg was hatching. Louie and Gus were excited when the egg hatched. Louie had a little brother and they named him Quacker. Louie could not go anywhere without Quacker following him. Quacker had a lot of questions to ask Louie and Gus, and Louie complained to Daddy Duck about it. Daddy Duck told Louie he would take Quacker with him every afternoon so that Gus and Louie could have time for themselves. Would Quacker make new friends and stop asking so many questions?
 

    The Hatchling (A Louie the Duck Story) by Vivian Zabel is a beautiful story of sibling bonding and it is adorable to see how Louie finally accepts Quacker and feels proud of him. Jeanne Conway's
bright and colorful illustrations breathe life into the scenes and characters, making these palpable to young readers. The characters of Gus, Louie, and Quacker are adorable, real, and relatable and readers will be able to connect with them and their feelings. A lot of children will be able to relate to the story and the emotions and feelings of Louie and Gus. The book is good for use in classrooms and homes for storytelling and read-aloud sessions as it teaches children how to deal with their siblings.