How I Learned to Write Great Dialogue

I get compliments on my writing-which is cool. One of the compliments I get is my dialogue. “How do you write such realistic dialogue?”

I’ll tell you my secret. I listen.

Friday, I was talking to a coworker, I’ll name “E”. E and I were talking about stuff and I told her about my dialogue compliment. She looks at me and says, “Well, you write well because you read books by men and women. Most men don’t venture out of their genre, so they don’t know how to really write woman speaking.”


Here’s the deal. I listen. I catch public transportation. I feel like we, as writers, have an obligation. If someone takes the time to pick up your work and read it, the least you can do is put something decent on the page. Like some halfway decent dialogue. Back to my truth…

I catch public transportation. I read a lot of graphic novels and books. I read YA, romance, horror, thriller…even nonfiction. The key is to listen to people talk. Because I live in a diverse city, I have the opportunity to hear people from everywhere talk. I listen. I listen to people on the bus and on the metro. I listen to people when they come into the library and have casual conversations. I listen to people sprinkle small Spanish words into their conversations. I listen to children talk to their nannies, nannies talk to other nannies.

I think, since I feel like I’ve been invisible most of my life, I have a skill at listening. I enjoy listening because this way, I can incorporate new slang or whatever into my work. I can make my work sound and feel real because this is how people really talk.

That’s my dirty little secret. Listening to people talk should help you write better dialogue. Don’t feel like you need to jump in and add something to the conversation. Sit back and smile, wave your hand to pass over. Anything, but the best thing you can do as a writer is listen.

Then go home and write your little hearts out.

Dress for Success and other tips

You’ve started Nanowrimo. Here’s a few tips from everywhere to keep you going-at least to keep my head in the game, anyway:

1. Dress for success – for one day or two, dress like the writer you want to be. At least this is what they said on Write Minded. Interesting enough but how about…

2. Dress like your character-seems like more fun, right? Just become fully engulfed in your character all day. Be that person. Writing a male protagonist or MC? Act like your dude would act.

I would straight up purge every damned day during Nanowrimo if I could…

3. Don’t get hung up on numbers- I use Scrivener. It drops a number count every time I do or type anything. Sure, we are all trying to reach 50K but don’t force it. If you say to yourself that you are going to write exactly 1667 words every time you sit down…nah. When you don’t reach the goal, you will be upset with yourself. Do what you can, it will all fall in place, trust me.

4. Go to a write in-In DC, there are so many places to go for write ins. Try to go somewhere you’ve never been or a part of the city you e wanted to go to but never had the time. The bus or car ride over should inspire you even more. Seeing different people, immersing yourself in different places will be inspiration enough.

5. If you go to a public place-take headphones. For real, there’s nothing like being in the middle of a scene and a baby starts crying or there’s a tantrum being thrown. Be vigilant of your surroundings, but be sure you can also work.

6. Get proper rest and eat-However many hours of sleep you need a day, get it. Be sure you have enough food in your belly to write and always take snacks. There is nothing worse than being in a sprint and your stomach growls because all you’ve had was a cup of coffee and a Madeline and it’s three in the afternoon.

7. Your mental health matters-I get it. You entered this thing to write 50,000 words. You’ve made announcements on Twitter, Facebook and wherever that you will be back in December. Yet, you start falling short. Don’t stress. Nanowrimo has several other events during the year where you can shine. Just because you didn’t make it this time, doesn’t mean you won’t ever make it. I think I didn’t make it the first to Nano’s I did.

That’s all I got. Hope you are getting it in and I hope this helps.

Yeah…gotta love November

Take care…

Go With Your Gut

I decided to write a novel for my Nanowrimo.  I wanted to incorporate witches and magic into my novel. A few of my friends said that I needed to have a magic system. Not just magic but an entire, functioning magic system.  I freaked out fully. I decided to abandon my project. All the work and planning will be flushed down the toilet.

Then, I went to the Folger to see “I Put A Spell on You”. While I was there, I spoke to a practicing witch. Her name is Annie Finch. She was there to read from her book called, “Spells”. So, after an introduction, I pulled her aside and asked her if I could talk to her about “witch stuff”. Considering my sister introduced us (as it was my sister’s program), she didn’t have a problem.

a subtle nod to Deborah Harkness (book is from 1647)

I explained to her that I was writing a book…blah blah…magic system…is it really necessary.  She looked at me. Like, really stared at me. I explained, “You know, like if you are a water elemental and you pull water from somewhere, then there has to be an after effect, no or yes?”

She was confused. She laughed and said, “No. you don’t need any type of system. None of the witches I know have this entire ‘magic system’. It’s usually a dab of this here and a dab of that there but no system.”

I felt a weight lifted. I was relieved. She saw the look on my face and laughed. We made small talk and I voluteered to send her some of the stuff I was working on…I mean I have an actual practicing witch willing to look at my stuff. (This goes to the credence that you need to do your damned research people!)

me in straight up stalker mode with the super cool Annie Finch

The next day, at the bus stop, one of the women I chat with-when we see each other-told me her roommate was a practicing witch. Just for shits and giggles, I bounced the magic system off her and she said the same thing, “Uh, no. There’s no need for all that.”

All the research, all the Pinterest pages and all that stress was for naught. I talked to a voracious reader and he told me that Jim Butcher has a wizard in his books that simply says simple spells. He also has “Laws of Magic”.  It’s not all that complicated.

Next time, as my sister says, “Go with that inner  critic, the inner frustrated teacher and make your edits and corrections there.”

Don’t Sleep Your Local Library

Well, after a long break, I am back. I also wanted to talk about something people need in their lives-a library.

Don’t sleep your local branch. When people come in and tell me they haven’t been to a library, “Like ever” or “In like twenty plus years!” , I want to respond with, “You must be the smartest motherfucker in the world. Imagine not having to need a source for anything because you are the source!!” Alas, I enjoy my job, so I stay quiet and smile.

But, you really should check out your local branch. DC Public Libraries have so many events happening, it’s ridiculous. Last week, I showed “Shazam” at my library and there were people from Fairfax, Va that came. (It’s a hike.) I’ll be showing “Captain Marvel” and “Avengers: Endgame” in the next month.

There aren’t only movies at the library but computers. I know several libraries have gotten new computers. They are so new that even Staff computers are old and out of date. Not that I’m complaining, but you, dear reader- should definitely hot foot it to your library for the computers alone. No, you can’t sit and watch movies all day, like they used to. Now, you can look at all your swanky resume styles in several ways, check out websites and all this other cool shit.

We also have a lot of cultural things happening. My branch has a lot of things from Central America and Mexico happening. I’m not even sure what the PC term is anymore. Anyway, we will be showing a lot of movies and having a slew of events for Hispanic Heritage Month. Give us half a reason to celebrate something and we will put together a program to do it.

Podcasts, job training, computer one on one workshops, help for the homeless, 1-on 1 Ayuda para la computadora (yeah, we do shit in Spanish too), bilingual story time (HELL-story time in English too!), Uno dos tres con Andres (kiddie program and lots of dancing), baby lap time, summer camps for kids-engineering challenges, STEM for toddlers, Saturday Morning Yoga, Career coaching and book clubs (Spanish and English)-these are just a handful of the programs libraries offer.

Not to mention all our online stuff as well-Kanaopy for movies (and all the free Great Courses videos you can stand), RB Digital (cancel your magazine subscription), Freegal (free music downloads) and finally books. So many books-audio books, reading books, large print books are all ONLINE!!

All it takes is maybe two minutes to get a card and use all this free stuff. But y’all out there playin. Okay then.