#amwriting Thrillers

I’m toying with the idea of writing crime fiction or a thriller next year, and this is my first attempt at a prologue. See  what you think…

Ailsa wishes they would just piss off and leave her alone.

They have pushed past the broken-down door into the living room—very solemn policeman one, very earnest policewoman two.

“Are ye on your own, missus?” says copper one and she bats back the obvious, “What dae ye think, Sherlock?”

He’s got that wee look to him. She’s seen it too often before. A guy who’s been telt he’s got to say this stuff and has no idea what to do.

She sits, her feet out on the coffee table, drink in hand. Am ah meant to be apologetic here big guy? She supposes she is.

Female copper sits down. Ah, this is supposed to be the one who works out your feelings for ye, apologises and says shite anyway.

And no’ be the one who feels the shite tickety tac its way up to your very lungs.

No one liked her, Ailsa, she knew. It is a rare moment of prescience. But now, aye? She has all the power in the world. They shift around in front of her, waiting for her to say something.

“What d’ye want?” she asks. They take that as permission to sit down.

“It’s Ailsa, isn’t it,” the woman says. A statement, not a question. “We need to tell you something.”

She knows what is coming. It was never going to be good news, was it—two cops, acting all serious and sad.

It’s about Ross.

Two weeks ago, she’d turned up at his door. “I’m pregnant. I don’t want it.”

The good thing about Ross was that he didn’t bother with the whole feelings crap. When she said she didn’t want it, he nodded slowly and asked her if she’d been to the doctor to ask for an abortion.

“Aye. It’s all sorted, one o’ thae medical abortions,” she said. “I take a pill. It comes out. Can you take me to the hospital?”

“Aye, fine,” he said. “When?”

And that was that. Her ex-boyfriend picked her up on the Thursday, drove her to the Vale, came in with her and waited while they gave her the pill.

All the staff thought he was the father. They were kind to him. He was, well he was like Ross was. Maybe the nurses thought to themselves, “No wonder she doesnae want his wean!”

They were wrong about a lot of things.

Trisha had never liked her. It wasn’t one of those ‘no-one’s ever gonnae be good enough for my son’ things. Trisha just sided with everyone else. Ailsa could count her friends and allies on the one hand; a hand that had lost fingers to frostbite, mebbe.

Ailsa picks up her phone. The whisky is doing funny things to her. Trisha, she decides, shouldn’t have tae deal with eejit copper one and two turning up at her house, so solemn, so can we come in, missus?

She dials the number, waits a beat, two, three until the phone is answered. Trisha’s an oldie. She doesn’t have a mobile phone, so she’s no idea who is calling her on the landline.

“Trisha,” Ailsa says, smiling to herself as she watches copper one and two cotton on to what she’s doing and move towards her, clearly intending to snatch the phone from her. She rushes her words from now on. “Ah’ve got the police here. Ross’s dead. Your son’s no more.”

©Emma Baird 2017

Pic thanks to George Hodon.

 

 

 

Wattpad Adventures Part Three

Hello new follower of me on Wattpad! I pounce on ‘em, as they are small in number. Then, I stalk them. The profiles, sadly, are often irritatingly vague.

Where are you from, I ask. Just out of interest.

(Is this getting creepy yet?)

Then, I think up questions I’d like to know the answer to. How did you find me? Why did you follow me? What piece of my work interests you particularly? Is there anything you hope to get out of our new relationship?

I debate which one I can ask without seeming like a neurotic nut job who gets herself instantly unfollowed. Maybe number three? With parts a), and b) why, why, why did you like it? And, was it only like and not love?

TBH, that is just the tip of the iceberg. What I really want to ask is, gosh how did you stumble upon me, given that I’m about as visible as a…not-very visible thingie. Then, did you think, oh wow, this SavvyDunn is one super-writery person! I really love her. I’m gonna recommend her to all my 950,000 followers, all of whom actually prefer buying books on the Kindle to reading them for free on Wattpad.

Ah, wishful thinking.

My newest follower number one is reading my erotica. So, having tried to write endless sex scenes and bored myself to tears with it, it now looks as if I might need to start dreaming up new ways for two people (or more) to get jiggy.

I don’t want my newbie to feel cheated. He thought he was getting loads of sex. Instead, my characters spend most of their time obsessing about life, love, work… oh, hang on a minute. Something sounds very familiar.

Newest follower number two is a 14-year-old girl. I guess she wants to read the books I’ve written that are aimed roughly at the YA audience (though YA also gets a lot of reads from older people, some 55 percent of readers). To keep her happy, I’m going to have to go away and think up more teen girl aligning with vampires nonsense.

To keep it interesting, I might need to try the reverse harem approach – one girl, three or four guys to choose from. The rules of the genre are that she never makes her mind up, not by the end of the book, nor even the series.

Or maybe I could just ask newbie one and two what they want. When you write copy for businesses, they generally tell you what they want you to write about. That makes it easy. When you’re writing fiction, you guess what people want to read. And not always accurately.

One of the UK’s biggest indie success stories, Mark Dawson, surveys his readers once a year to ask them what they want to read.

Anyway, back to my new followers. Another thing you notice about the young things is that they blatantly ask for follows, reviews, tags and comments back. I don’t do that kind of thing because I’m a) British and b) I’d prefer it came naturally, people who genuinely like and read my stuff.

And how’s that working out for me? Wattpad followers – seven in total. Time for plan B, eh?

Writing Erotica – Harder Than It Looks

Lousy pun above, hmm?! I thought I’d try my hand at some erotica recently. How hard can it be (sorry!), I thought to myself. No need to worry too much about a plot, just put in TONNES of sex and it’ll be fine!

There’s a real niche market for erotica on the Kindle. That’s why it was invented, really, so people could read dirty books during their commute and none of their fellow passengers would be any the wiser. All the best-sellers appear to be self-published, and their covers have a home-made feel to them. Writing erotica appealed to me, as it seemed like a low-cost way to publish and make money.

A few attempts later, and I take my hat off to the porn writers. I ran out of sex scenes to describe after the first four of ‘em, and I am bored, bored, bored. I don’t mind writing sex scenes, but I’d prefer to write just a few of them and scatter them in a book where they can be stumbled upon and relished for their scarcity.

Once you’ve done your four or five sex scenes, everything else feels repetitive, a rehash of sex scene one or two. And it all gets so contrived. Perhaps regular readers of erotica don’t mind the contrive-ity of it all, but it bugs me. You read something and think, “Oh for heaven’s sake, they can’t possibly have sex here or again!”

I keep thinking of that award that is given out to writers annually, the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction. (Though, luckily for me, it’s only given to high-brow fiction writers, and I don’t put myself in that category.)

This year’s contenders include this one…

He puts his hands on Bianca’s shoulders and slips off her low-cut top. Suddenly inspired, he whispers into her ear, as if to himself: ‘I desire the landscape that is enveloped in this woman, a landscape I do not know but that I can feel, and until I have unfolded that landscape, I will not be happy …’

Bianca shivers with pleasure. Simon whispers to her with an authority that he has never felt before: ‘Let’s construct an assemblage.’ From The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet

The Literary Review chose this one in the end,

The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen

On the stone porch, in the hot, mountain air, we grapple with our clothing, which, in the darkness, becomes as complicated as mountaineering gear. Her black shirt around her neck, mine unbuttoned, our shorts and underwear slid to our ankles, we seem to be moving at avalanche speed and also, unfortunately, with avalanche precision.

So, writing about sex is something most people struggle with. Interesting to note too, that the majority of this year’s contenders are men.

Will I continue to write my own erotica, the imaginatively titled Unnatural Desires? I’m loath to not finish something I’ve started. And a challenge is good, right?

Then, there is that demand thing. As I said, the bulk of erotica available on the Kindle appears to have been written by indies. Maybe the quality control element isn’t so essential here. That’s not to say there isn’t such a thing as well-written erotica, just that perhaps erotica readers aren’t so bothered by the narrative structure and character development?

We’ll see.

Do you have any examples of badly-written sex scenes, or contrarily are there are any writers you think create great sex scenes? I think Fiona Walker does them really well, for example. I’d love to know your thoughts.

 

In The Shadow of the Gathering Storm

‘IN THE SHADOW OF THE GATHERING STORM’ is now available on Kindle.

It”s a compelling story of struggle, courage, determination and love during one of the 20th century’s most turbulent periods.

As the First World War draws to an end, Petty Officer Johann Schettler is embroiled in a mutiny of German sailors. This action turns to revolution as the German people begin to remove the ruling class from power.

Schettler is sent with the interned fleet to Scapa – suffering hardship and turmoil before escaping to Glasgow to reunite with his mother’s family.  He meets Kate A’Herne in the midst of the battle of George Square.

To escape from the security services they flee to Kate’s home in Ireland.  In a short but blissful period, they fall in love. But bliss turns to horror as they endure the brutality of the British Army.

They move to Dublin to help in the struggle for Irish Independence but find they’re still being hunted.  Can they turn this to their advantage?

You can read an account of the four historical events covered in the story here.

 

How to Devalue Writers – Part 2

Oh. Sometimes I look for writing jobs on Upwork. Most of the time, it depresses me, so I stick to editing and proofreading jobs. They aren’t well paid either, but tend to be from people who don’t expect the same kind of s**t as this dude… (Bold and italicised text mine.)

“I need someone who is already well-versed in the contemporary romance genre. Someone who writes quickly, ideally $15k/week+ and is open to constructive criticism… You must be creative and an exceptional writer. Not only will you be writing contemporary romance novels, you will also need to stay up to date with the market by reading a minimum of 1 book a month (chosen by me – you’ll likely need to read a book between each one you write).

“…Write detailed book outlines before beginning the book. Come up with unique plots for a great contemporary romance book. Write a full standalone contemporary romance book typically 70k in length – minimum pace of 15k words per week. (Exceptions made for outstanding writers)…

“A bit about me, I’ve been on upwork [sic] for about a year now, and I’ve worked with dozens of freelancers. Once thing I’ve noticed is that people are full of shit when they tell me they’re always on time and are easy to contact. I can sniff those people out relatively easily and I will fire them quickly. I’m not here to babysit, and I will not chase you around. I expect you to respect my time, and in return, I will respect yours. With that being said, I’m extremely fair. [Ya think???] If you can’t make a deadline just let me know in advanced and I will do my best to accommodate you.

“I’m not scary, in fact, I’m actually very nice. If you’re doing your job and are doing it well, we won’t have any problems! I’m looking for someone that I can work with long-term and someone who’s serious about wanting this job…

“Once you are paid for your work, the rights to the book will transfer over to me and I will be the owner of the book. You, the ghostwriter, will not receive royalties or anything beyond the agreed upon price.

Please, please fellow and female writers, NEVER apply for jobs like this.

Photo via <a href=”https://www.goodfreephotos.com/”>Good Free Photos</a>

High Quality Content in the Blogging World

Most bloggers will have experienced this – out of the blue, you get a sales pitch from some SEO company, telling you your blog is pretty much invisible, so why not employ them to make it not so?

I got one this week, which is sort of reassuring. If I’m getting spammed by such companies, I must have some kind of online presence. The company listed the things that were wrong with the website, which included “doesn’t have high-quality content”.

What counts as high-quality content in SEO/marketing world isn’t the same as what counts for quality in other worlds. It often depends on links, keyword placement, pictures, videos, text length, coding and other things marketers promise inch us up the search rankings.

Y’know, so that when people type in ‘writing services’, or ‘great chick lit’, I’m their number one find…

So, I didn’t take the lack of high-quality content remark too personally. “Nothing to do with my marvellous writing,” I muttered to myself. “You can shove your offer where the sun don’t shine.”

Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. I did fire off an email to the company, pointing out that as sales pitches go, telling someone their content is basically rubbish won’t endear you to them.

I’ve had no reply, which almost disappoints me. I thought sales folks were supposed to have a come-back for every knockback? That could have been their opportunity to point out that because my copy doesn’t mention ‘writing services’ every hundred or so words (proper keyword density, apparently), it counts as keek*.

Anyway, what I also get on a regular basis are sponsored content suggestions. They bemuse me as they are often from companies that produce goods or services totally unrelated to anything I do or write about. I’ve received propositions from menswear and financial services companies, promising we’ll be a good fit for my audience.

Another person offered me a standing desk review, which was sort of relevant seeing as I use one myself. But reviews of desks… I couldn’t inflict that on anyone and sleep at night.

I’m in some media directory somewhere as a blogger/influencer, which is flattering. But not true. Now, if Cadbury’s/Dairy Milk/Freixenet/Reedsy wish to collaborate, I’m entirely open to a 400-word piece that mentions ‘Dairy Milk/Freixenet etc.,’ every hundred words. Free products and services would be welcomed too.

Either or, is fine.

 

 

*For those unfamiliar with this marvellous Scottish word, it means shit.

 

#amwriting Let the Right One In – a Short Story for Halloween

Humans always let their guard down at this time of year… Dumb of them, I know, but we all get to enjoy ourselves, so I don’t complain about it.

Meet me. Cordelia. Vampire extraordinaire. Even if I do say so myself. I’ve been undead for the last six hundred years or so (you don’t keep an exact score past a certain number of decades), and my motto is fun, fun, fun.

Admittedly, sometimes my pleasure comes at other people’s expense, but let’s not go into that now. We’ll concentrate instead on All Hallows Eve, or Halloween is as it’s more commonly called these days.

Trick or treat.

I don’t approve, this Americanised version of what was traditionally called guising in Scotland. (I’m not from Scotland. Just staying here temporarily, waiting for the heat to die down on another continent.)

No, the little people in Scotland used to get dressed up in home-made costumes and make their way to neighbouring houses. They had to tell a joke, sing a song or perform a magic trick. Then, they were rewarded with sweets, monkey nuts and sometimes money.

Now, the ungrateful little brats rap on doors and demand people hand over their stash of sweeties for no reward. If they don’t, then it’s the trick. Something nasty happens.

…which is where I come in. Trick or treat? I offer both. At the same time.

I choose carefully which doors I knock on. There might be households where there are happy couples, their faces beaming at me as they open the door. “Oh! Your costume is amazing! Where did you get that make-up and those fake sharp teeth?”

“A brilliant shop not that far away!” I said. “Shall I pretend to bite you for the ‘trick’ bit?”

Mrs Fraser said ‘yes’. She enjoyed it at first, but sadly Mrs, Mr and the as yet unborn Fraser didn’t live long enough to warn their neighbours of the perils of opening the door to women who look too much like the real thing.

This year, I plan to reinvent the guising thing. I will insist that every household that invites me in (you know what they say about letting the right one in, yeah?) should at least make me work for my reward.

I’m looking forward to it!

Here we are. I’m at my first house, tagging along with a small group of little people, dressed in…Asda costumes. Oh. God. Now, where’s the effort in that? They all swing plastic bags, full to the brim with sugary shit that will rot their teeth and small bodies.

To amuse myself, I puncture small holes in all the bags. As we walk on, the goodies drain out slowly, leaving a Hansel and Gretl-like trail.

Kids, you’ll thank me for this later.

House number one. The door is answered by… ooh, Mr Hot! This does make a pleasant change. Dark hair and eyes, tall and wiry of frame—just my favourite kind of guy. And also possessed of a pulse.

He meets my eyes above the children level. “Hey! Fair play to you, dressing up too!”

“I know! Jesus wants me for a sunbeam. I’ll get my reward at some point.”

He bursts out laughing at that, the sound of it attracting his significant other/wife. She stands right next to him and stares hard at me.

Oh-oh. Jealousy.

No need, love! My internal voice says, I promise you a sexual predator is the LEAST of your worries.

I pat the head of one the little things next to me. He glares in response.

“You have to buy so much for Halloween now, don’t you?” I say, making sure I angle my head, so my eyes can look straight at the wife. “In my day, there was none of this trick or treat nonsense. You went to your neighbours’ houses and had to work for your money!”

“Aye, too flippin’ right!” the wife says. “D’ye want to come in?”

Ah, the invite to enter. Always a goodie.

I shuffle the children in front of me. They are all whining about trick or treat, and I tell them, that sadly on this occasion, they will need to actually make an effort.

Handsome guy, jealous wife and I watch as the kids perform. Truly, it is embarrassingly dreadful. Do their parents find them entertaining? The triumph of hope over experience, surely. Nevertheless, we clap enthusiastically when they finish, me especially. I’m supposed to be the guardian of this group, after all.

Jealous wife stirs herself at the end. She leaves the room and comes back minutes later armed with so much sugar you could dissolve a canine tooth instantly.

Not mine, though.

The kids scramble for wine gums, drumsticks, star mix, Tangfastics and more.

Jealous wife starts to mutter. She did this home-made stuff. She bought the Sainsbury’s magazine and did the whole mummified sausage pie and spooky Halloween cupcakes thing. She proffers it on trays.

The kids don’t give a shit. The home-made stuff goes untouched.

We watch them leave the house, their holey plastic bags filled with sugary content which will spill out on to the path behind them as they walk home.

Jealous wife stirs herself. “Oh! Aren’t they yours, those kids?”

I shake my head, cheerily. “Not mine! But the poor little things were wandering around all by themselves. I thought they needed guidance.”

Handsome husband nods his head. “Bloody hell! That was good of you!”

The next bit is delicate. You need to approach it with surgeon-like precision. “Gosh!” I say, “you two are so… well, I don’t meet people like you very often.”

Always, always tell people they are special.

Jealous wife has drunk her wine in double quick time. Her husband’s mouth is hanging open.

I stand up, and I hold my hands palms up in front of me. “You’re like…open-minded, yeah?”

Both of them nod furiously. Close-minded. It’s the worst thing you can be accused of, right?

“I like boys AND girls,” I purr, and they do too. One hand is clasped by handsome guy, the other by jealous wife.

“Shall we have some fun?”

Handsome man and now not so jealous wife speed me up to their bedroom so quickly, my feet barely touch the ground. Once there, handsome man pulls off his tee shirt, while his wife struggles in an undignified way with her jeans. In no time, they are both naked.

I get rid of my cloak.

“Aren’t you going to get…undressed?” the man asks, disappointment clear.

I shake my head and move in on him. In no time, my non-naked state is forgotten.

“Hey!” the wife pushes herself between us. “My turn, I think.”

Goodness. She IS enthusiastic. Years of bi-curiosity, I guess, coupled with a sexually useless husband if my seconds-ago encounter is anything to go by.

“CORDELIA!”

The three of us jump at that, the sound coming from downstairs. I recognise the voice, and I curse.

The man and the woman are scrambling around for their clothes.

I put a hand out. “I know who it is. Er, would you like a little more company? We’re all friends here, right?”

The wife nods, her excitement palpable. The husband is no longer so keen. Probably because the voice that shouted its way upstairs was male.

I move to the door and yell at Arnaud to come on up. Arnaud grins at me as he climbs the stairs. I grimace at him. I was hoping to keep these two all to myself, but here he is again, muscling in on my fun.

The wife stares at him, wide-eyed. No wonder. Arnaud makes her husband look run of the mill in the looks stakes. He’s dressed as a ‘traditional’ vampire, or what people conjure up in their heads when they think of Dracula – tux, cloak and a subtle sprinkling of blood on his white shirt.

Real blood.

He’s male cover model material. And doesn’t he know it?

“So, where were we?” he asks, untying the lace that holds his cloak around his neck. He pulls the wife towards him, caressing her bottom and burying his face in her throat.

Ah, yes… we blood-suckers get off on the smell of pulsing blood. It’s strongest there. Arnaud’s eyes close, but not before he shoots me an infuriating wink.

In retaliation, I pull the husband to me and do the same. Arnaud and I face each other, the man and the woman between us. He signals with his eyes, and we bare our teeth. Synchronicity is what you aim for in a two-vampire situation.

He holds a hand up behind the wife, two fingers bent down. Three, two…

The door opens again, and the four of us turn in astonishment. Stood there are two of the little shits that I brought here earlier, their arms folded and their eyes narrowed. The man and his wife are scrambling for clothes once more, no doubt fearful that the foursome story will make it all the way around the neighbourhood and back again.

“You put a hole in my bag!” the boy points at me.

Honestly! What a single-minded young man, coming all the way back here to shout at me for saving him from dental decay and obesity.

“And you’re real vampires!” the girl says.

Bloody hell, where did that come from?

Too late, I realise they are pointing guns at us. The model is the one that fires silver bullets. It looks as if this time, I was the one who let my guard down.

Great.

©Emma Baird 2017

 

How to Procrastinate Like A Pro

If a cat sits on your laptop, this also gives you the perfect excuse not to do something.

I need to re-write a book. I know how to start, I know what needs doing, and I’m still avoiding it.

Naturally, you can check out the web for lots of tips on how to avoid procrastination (admittedly an exercise in putting off itself), but what’s the fun in that?

So, if you too have something you are putting off, but are rapidly running out of reasons, try these out…

 

 

 

  1. Twitter! Made for the procrastinator (as are most forms of social media). Check out the trends. Follow the links. Spend ages dreaming up witty posts of 140 characters or less. Schedule them, so you have a steady supply of amusing Tweets.
  2. Take pictures of your pet for Twitter/Instagram. This takes AGES. You need to get a seriously good piccie, one that will get plenty of ‘likes’ and shares. Then, you can spend an age obsessively checking just how many ‘likes’ you get.
  3. Research. Whatever comes into your brain at this precise point, look it up online. Where did they film the Boston scenes for Outlander Series 3? (Glasgow, I think.) What are the nutritional qualities of caraway seeds? (Fibre and some essential oils). What is the weather forecast for the next few days? (Rain.) Are there exercises you can do to slim your face? (Yes. And there are LOADS of videos you can watch on this too.)
  4. Write a blog entry and pretend it is part of strengthening your brand and your marketing efforts*. Yeah, right.
  5. Email others you know enjoy the art of procrastination. They will probably reply quickly, asking a few questions of their own which will demand your immediate response. You can keep this up for hours, if necessary.
  6. Make sure all the apps on your phone are set to send you push notifications. Your phone will repeatedly bleep with lots of lovely, shiny new news!
  7. Fill in your tax return in advance. I know. You can tell just how much you are putting off something when filling in a tax return seems like a viable thing.

Of course, if you do want to avoid procrastination you could do the opposite to all of the above. You will, however, eventually need to fill in your tax return.

 

*Oh. Had better self-promote then. You can buy The Girl Who Swapped, a chick lit, humorous read, here

Dialogue Tags

Reblogged from Caron Allan fiction:

Writing dialogue is one of those things that you either love or hate. I quite like it, and I’d like to think I’m quite good at it, but I could be just fooling myself.  Dialogue is conversation, it’s your characters acting and reacting together to enhance your story and move the plot along. Through dialogue, the inner person of your characters is revealed, and also their motives, hopes, desires, all the things that make them the people they are and enable them to act out their part in your story. Here are a few tips on what I feel makes good dialogue, or more importantly, what makes bad dialogue.

  1. Don’t over-tag.

What I mean is, you don’t need to assign a speaker and manner of speech to every instance of speech. If your dialogue is written clearly, the reader knows who is speaking. There is nothing more irritating than reading a constant stream of he saidhe added, she went onhe further addedshe replied, etc. Look at this:

“Henry,” his mother called, “How many times,” she asked, “Do I have to tell you to tidy your room?” She went on to say, “You know I don’t have time to do it for you. And in any case, now that you’re thirty-seven you should start to do a few things for yourself,” she added.

Eek! Really, this is all one speech – or it should be. I recommend cutting out the annoying little joining-uppy bits to create one nice smooth speech. Now, what about this one:

“Good morning, Mr Tomlinson,” said Jenny.

“Good morning, Jenny. How are you today?” asked Mr Tomlinson.

“I’m very well thank you, Mr Tomlinson. How are you?” Jenny replied.

“I am also very well, thank you Jenny,” Mr Tomlinson told her.

“I’m very glad to hear that, Mr Tomlinson,” said Jenny.

Maybe we could try writing out our little conversation with no tags at all. I’m sure we could do it so that it was clear who was speaking! Don’t over-tag. Please. I’m begging you.

  1. Adverbs and the humble ‘said’.

Some people say NEVER use adverbs, it is forbidden. They probably also say never go into the forest on a Wednesday…

I say use them occasionally if you want to. Whatever you use, it has to be carefully done. Also, it is almost as bad read a long list of ‘active’ verbs as it is to read a repeated list of adverbs:

The active verbs extravaganza first:

“Good morning, Mr Tomlinson,” Jenny declared.

“Good morning, Jenny. How are you today?” queried Mr Tomlinson.

“I’m very well thank you, Mr Tomlinson. How are you?” Jenny enquired.

“I am also very well, thank you Jenny,” Mr Tomlinson responded.

“I’m very glad to hear that, Mr Tomlinson,” Jenny explained.

OR with adverbs instead:

“Good morning, Mr Tomlinson,” Jenny said warmly.

“Good morning, Jenny. How are you today?” Mr Tomlinson asked worriedly.

“I’m very well thank you, Mr Tomlinson. How are you?” Jenny replied sincerely.

“I am also very well, thank you Jenny,” Mr Tomlinson smiled gratefully.

“I’m very glad to hear that, Mr Tomlinson,” said Jenny emphatically.

Okay, I know you would never write anything like that. But my point is, it’s definitely a case of six of one, half a dozen of the other. They both suck.

In my opinion, a lot of the time, it’s better to just stick with the good old-fashioned ‘said’. Because most of the time, we don’t really need to know how something is said, only what was said. How something is said will hopefully become clear within context of the dialogue. Or the reader can furnish this from their imagination.

Too many active verbs or adverbs and the reader will lose the thread, get lost in the jungle of language, the information conveyed in the paragraph will be lost and the wonderful spell of suspended disbelief you worked so hard to create will be broken as your reader is dragged back into the real world. And nobody wants that.

Said is invisible. The reader’s eye glosses over ‘said’ and fixes on the actual dialogue. Responded/replied/enquired/retorted are not invisible, they claim the reader’s attention and remind them they are reading a story.

  1. Natural – but not too natural

I know we want our dialogue to sound like it was uttered by a real live actual person, but we don’t want it to be too real. In real life we rarely speak properly. And we use a lot of fillers and gaps to get our meaning across. I once knew a lady whose entire speech was made up of fillers and gaps and I never knew what she was actually saying. Conversation was next to impossible, and misconstruing her meaning was a constant hazard. In real life, the above little scene would probably go like this:

“Oh, er, good morning, Mr Tomlinson,” said Jenny.

“And a very good er…to you, er, J…er Jenny. How are you, umm?” asked Mr Tomlinson.

“Well, I’m er, oh well, you know, well erm, thank you, Mr Tomlinson. And are you er…?” Jenny replied.

“I am also very well, thank you Jenny,” Mr Tomlinson told her.

“Well, I’m um, very glad to er…, Mr ummm,” said Jenny.

So ‘real’ speech is not for us. What we are looking for is a style that gives the appearance of reality without all that dreary waiting around and time-wasting. Sometimes we want a little hemming and hawing, as they say, but most of the time we don’t.

“Good morning, Mr Tomlinson.”

“Hello, Jenny. How are you today?”

“I’m fine thanks. Yourself?”

“Yes, thank you, I’m much better.”

“That’s great. Could I have half a pound of bacon, please?”

Yay, the scene finally moved on! And we’ve even learned something from what we’ve read: that a) this is some kind of shop or purchasing situation, b) Mr T has been poorly (that may be relevant) and c) that Jenny needs bacon! Now we are all set to introduce the big scene of the great Full English Breakfast Murders

So dialogue should attempt to be natural, but without real life’s untidiness; needs to be tagged sparingly and clearly but without fuss. More importantly it should move the story along.

Day and Night – a Review

Night and Day: a Dottie Manderson mystery (Dottie Manderson mysteries Book 1)Night and Day: a Dottie Manderson mystery by Caron Allan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I do love a good crime fiction novel – and particularly when it’s historical crime fiction. That gives you added bonuses. You get the time period of the Golden Age of crime fiction, but with modern considerations, such as detailed characterisation and stories that aren’t just plot-driven.

I enjoyed Night and Day a great deal. There are plenty of likeable characters that you feel you want to read more about, a plot that moves along well and lots of enjoyable period detail. (I, for one, love reading about what people ate and long to live in a time where the servants leave me out cocoa and sandwiches when I come in from a night out…)

Dottie Manderson is a gorgeous character – sassy, bright and modern (for the 1930s, that is) and very relatable. She’s partnered with a detective and you just know this is going to play out satisfyingly in a ‘will they/won’t they’ way. There’s a Cluedo feel to the whole story, and I love it for that.

A great read and I’m looking forward to catching up with more of Dottie, Flora et al.

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