Things Your Characters Should Never Say

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It’s easy to be told that character dialogue in fiction should be short and sharp and punchy and witty but actually executing it without a little more guidance can be hard. I could tell you to watch everything Aaron Sorkin and Joss Whedon have ever written and you’d have some great examples.

But sometimes the easier path is to start with what not to do. So here are a few pieces of dialogue your characters should never say.

“Tell Me About It”
It’s almost twenty years since my first class as part of my Advanced Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing and I can still remember my Novel teacher telling us how “Tell me about it” was the most overused piece of dialogue in Hollywood and that it applied equally to books. And it was funny. I never noticed it on my own, even though I went to the movies every week and spent the rest of my non-writing and non-studying time watching more movies at home and reading as many books as I could. But as soon as he said it, I began to notice it everywhere.

So if you don’t want to end up being a cautionary tale in a first-year writing course, leave it out. Continue reading

Writing Worlds – Part 2: Building New Fictional Worlds

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On Wednesday, I wrote about reusing existing fictional worlds as the basis for a novel. Today, I’ll explore building new ones from scratch. It’s so much trickier than relying on someone else’s hard work but when you do it yourself and get it right, it can be the basis for a lengthy series of books, especially when readers love the world you’ve created. Continue reading

Writing Worlds – Part 1: Using Existing Fictional Worlds

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Sometimes there is nothing more wonderful than the blank page when it comes to writing – the potential, the lack of limitations, the fact that we can create anything we want. And sometimes there is nothing more daunting – it can be hard to whittle down an infinite number of worlds and characters and plots to just the right ones.

To save some of this painful effort, writers can choose to use existing worlds. There are a few options, some simpler than others and all easier than going to all that trouble of creating yet another new one. Continue reading

Book Review: The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson

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Billed as “contemporary noir” with rapturous praise from authors like Dennis Lehane and Mark Billingham, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is Peter Swanson’s first novel, developed and extended from what was originally a novella. You can tell. It’s one of those novels that is short and yet still feels too long. The writing is uninspired, the main characters are dull and the plot, which is supposed to be an homage to old-fashioned, Maltese Falcon-type detective stories, is instead a poor imitation. Continue reading

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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I wanted to hate this book. I wanted it to be Twilight-eqsue, capturing the imagination of the young and crossover mainstream reading public in spite of the fact that it was okay rather than great. I wanted to get to the end of the book and feel superior in some way. I wanted to be able to hate this book. But I don’t. I can’t. Because it is a great book.

This is the story of Hazel and Gus and how they fall in love. Sounds cheesy, right? Sounds like it’s been done in young adult novels a hundred times before, right? Hazel has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Gus is in remission but has had a leg amputated. Okay, a little less cheesy but cancer? So Jodi Picoult, right? Still been done before, right? Except even though the concept feels like it’s been done before, it’s never been done this well before. Continue reading

Book Review: Jennifer Government by Max Barry

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I love Max Barry. He’s one of those writers that makes other writers think, “That’s brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?” Jennifer Government is the second book of his that I’ve read (the first being Lexicon) and it has only reinforced my perception of him, his ideas and his writing. Continue reading

Book Review: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

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I am conflicted about this book. Or perhaps confused. Maybe uncertain is a better word. The one thing I’m certain of is that it’s better than the average book but not by much.

The Shock of the Fall is told from Matthew’s point of view, although towards the end of the book he tells the reader that his name isn’t really Matthew. When he’s nine, his older brother dies in mysterious circumstances on a family holiday (mysterious only because the author chooses not to reveal how and why until later on in the book for no other reason than to keep the reader hanging on) and it’s the beginning of a downward spiral in Matthew’s mental health. Continue reading