He Said, She Said
Good dialogue is one of the backbones of a good book. It’s used to reveal characters’ personality, their relationships with each other, to advance the plot, moving the story forward, and sets the mood and the tension of the story Without it your book would be stilted and tedious. You need to take the time to develop and be sure to always include good dialogue in your book. But don’t let that make you nervous, dialogue is also fun to write.
Use Dialogue to Define Your Character
You’ve heard the saying, “Show, don’t tell.” Well, the same thing goes for your describing your character’s personality. Instead of saying, “She’s spoiled,” you can use dialogue of her plotting or crying to get her way. Instead of telling that the bad guy is – well bad, develop his personality through his dialogue. Here, you can write his dialogue to be cold and calculating while he’s talking to another character. You can also use that same dialogue to show whether the person he’s speaking with is fearful of him or not. Your readers are smart. Let them know that you know they are. Engage them. Lead them in the direction you want them to go with the dialogue you use not by telling them what you want them to know.
Additionally, adding beats around the dialogue helps to develop your character’s personality as well. Such as writing that while a character is being chastised, “he gnawed on his nails.” Or, that while talking, “she stood, legs apart, with her hands on her hips.” But too many beats can be detrimental to a string of dialogue. You’ll lose the “back and forth” of it taking away, losing its realistic quality.
Be Careful Using Tags
The best tag to use after a sentence of dialogue, if you are going to use one, is “said.” Most people when they speak “say” the words. Now you may say, “Duh. Everyone knows that.” But you’ll find that many written works have characters “sighing,” “laughing,” and “exclaiming” their words. For instance, “I’ve had such a long day,” she sighed. Where it is better to say, “I’ve had such a long day,” she said and sighed. Or, “You’re kidding,” he laughed. Yep, you got it, it’s better to write, “You’re kidding,” he said and laughed. Bet now you know the best way to use that pesky, “he exclaimed.” (Hint: Don’t.)
And it’s okay to use “said” over and over (and over) in your novel. You don’t need to change up. Believe me it won’t make the book boring. I am not saying don’t ever use tags, some, such as “bellowed” and “mumbled” are actually how a person would say the words. Of course, “asked,” “replied,” and “questioned,” are always good, too. My advice, however, is to use tags, other than “said,” sparingly.
Use Dialogue to Make Information Dumps Less Boring
More often than not, to advance your story, you need to describe a history of something, or a give a back story to a place and you need to write a big, ole’ long paragraph (or two) to do it. That can knock a reader right out of the pull of your story. A good way to unload that information is to include it in dialogue. Let one of the characters tell about the history or the back story to another character. It may not always appropriate for the scene (the character being told would already know this information), but where it is, it’ll make the “dump” a lot less boring
About The Author
Born and raised in Ohio, Ms. Vandiver is a former lawyer and college professor of Economics. She holds a bachelors in Economics, a masters in Public Administration and a Juris Doctor.
These days, Ms. Vandiver enjoys writing and endeavors to devote all her extra time to it.
Her debut novel, In the Beginning, an Amazon #1 BEST SELLER in its category was written on a whim, put in a box for more than a decade, and finally pulled out, dusted off and published in 2013. It has inspired her to write a sequel as well as start a series of books loosely based on her family.
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Book Excerpt – Chapter Thirty Three
Time slowed down and started to drag. People and things were moving in slow motion, their mouths opened yelling at me, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I felt like I was in a vacuum and I couldn’t get out.
The car drove home on auto pilot. Pulling in my driveway, I saw Mase’s car. Now, I’d have to try and explain it to him.
I stared at the notebook sitting on the seat next to me. Still. Inanimate. Yet, it mocked me. I wish I could just make it go away.
Finally, I grabbed the notebook and got out of the car. When I went in the house Mase was sitting at the kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal and reading a magazine.
“Where’re the kids?” I figured I would try this “calm” act again.
“They’re off somewhere.”
I looked over at him. He was sitting there, eating his bowl of cereal. Not a care in the world. For some reason that made me mad.
“Mase.” I shouted his name. He looked at me startled. “Now, I guess when I cook you won’t be hungry.” He attempted to protest but had a mouth full of cereal and muffled words tumbled out. I walked over to the sink and there were several other dishes, skillets and pots in the sink. I really didn’t think I’d been gone that long.
“So what, Mase?” I pointed to the sink. “The cereal is your dessert?”
“I’ll eat whatever you cook.”
“Yeah, I bet you will,” I said.
I hadn’t planned on cooking anyway.
“Where’ve you been?” He asked casually.
“I went to work. Then I just kinda drove around for a while then went to see Greg at his office.” I tried to be causal, too.
“Yeah, Greg called. Said you were having some kind of nervous breakdown or something right in his office.”
“He said that?”
“What’d you say?”
“Just told him I would check out our medical coverage to make sure it covered mental health. I told him that I would never leave you just because you had become mentally unsound, but just in case, maybe he should draw up some papers for us before you become fully incompetent.”
I mustered up a smile.
“So you want to tell me about this? Or do you want to just go around flipping out in the middle of Downtown Cleveland and keep it to yourself?”
I looked at him. One gift my husband had always given me was his time and understanding. He would listen to me attentively, and he would hear what I was saying. Walking over to the kitchen table I sat down.
“It’s about the manuscripts.” I laid the notebook on the table and pushed it toward him.
He nodded. “Yeah, I’m listening.”
I started to cry. Again.
“You know the notebook that I got from Mrs. Margulies contained the copy of the manuscript that I found in Jerusalem, right?” He nodded. “Well, once I translated it, I found that it contained some very surprising -” I took a deep breath. “Some very disturbing information.”
“Why are you crying?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’m scared.”
“Scared of what? Is this information that terrible?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know. I don’t think so but I’m the only one in the world who knows this. I’m a historian and now I know something that I don’t want to tell anyone. I want to hide it. To put it in a cave in the middle of the desert and pray that no one finds it. Ever.” I stood up as I talked and began to pace the floor like I had done in Greg’s office.
Mase watched me. “So, why can’t you tell anyone?”
“Because no one would believe me. Everyone would think I’m crazy.”
“A lot of us already do.”
“And, ridicule me.” I hoped no one had been ridiculing me.
“Yes, really and we, well at least I, would be the laughing stock of the century, of all eternity.” I started to cry more. I went over in front of the kitchen sink and leaned against the counter.
“Don’t cry, Justin.” He got up and came and stood in front of me. Wiping my tears with the palm of his hand, he put his arm around me.
“It’s what I found out.” I looked up at him. “They played God, Mase.”
“Who played God?”
“I can’t explain it. I couldn’t explain it to Greg. I don’t think I can explain it to anyone. Here, you read it.” I walked over to the kitchen table picked up the notebook and offered it to Mase. Instead he grabbed my hand and headed out of the kitchen.
“How about if we go to your study? We can talk more comfortably there. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long night.”
“Well, we’ll get interrupted soon enough.” I wiped the tears out of my eyes and looked down at my watch. “The kids will probably come in any minute. I’m surprised they’re not here already.”
“No they won’t interrupt. They won’t be here.” I looked at him. “After Greg called and told me that you had lost all of your marbles and was headed home, I had Claire come and get them. They’re spending the night with her.”
I smiled at him. He’s so smart. I feel so bad that he has such a crazy wife. He really doesn’t deserve all of the grief I pile up on him.
“Did you tell her about my little breakdown?”
“Babe, we all know how you are. Really, it’s okay.”
“Speaking of which, maybe I should call Greg and let him know I made it home okay.”
“I already called him. I called after I saw you sitting out in the driveway.”
“You saw me sitting out there?” He nodded. “And you didn’t say anything?”
“Nope. Figured you’d come in the house eventually. And, even if you didn’t, I thought I could at least let Greg know you weren’t out there somewhere, in your car, hysterical, runnin’ over folks.”
I had acted a little bizarre.
“So, before I start reading this thing,” he took the notebook from me, “why don’t you tell me about it first?” We walked into my study and he pulled off my jacket, threw it across my desk and sat me down in a chair.
“Ha, I don’t even know how or where to begin.”
“Well, I guess the Mad Hatter said it best -” “Start at the beginning, go until you get to the end and then stop. Or something like that, right?”
“Right.” He nodded, smiling.
I knew exactly what he was thinking. I was beginning to get as corny as Mase.
In 1997, Biblical archaeologist, Justin Dickerson, is unhappy with her life and has decided to run away from her problems. Intervening, her mentor asks that she go with him to Jerusalem for the Fifty Year Jubilee of the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There she finds that in 1949 some of the 2,000 year old manuscripts, hidden in clay pots in the caves at Qumran, may have been destroyed.
Justin, obsessed with this revelation, is determined to get to the bottom of the deceit. Uncontrollable emotion takes hold of her, and family and faith help guide her as she unfolds the truth of Earth's ancient mysteries, discovering what really happened In the Beginning...
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