Monday, August 11, 2014


One of the signs of professional writing shows in the proportion of description, to detail, to dialogue.

Proportion/balance is the orchestra playing its chords in the background. Poets and musicians do this best. Reading out loud gives the rest of us a peek into that bounce and rhythm.

Description should put the reader behind the camera. Description is not a “dress your dollies” kind of detail. We don’t need a physical inventory when a character comes on stage. Pick something memorable. Not everyone in the story will have eye color or make a fashion statement upon entrance. Characters of note will have body language and converse in the style peculiar to them — clothing optional.

Details include an array of the five senses, those most important to the scene, be it colors, sounds, smells, the touch of a breeze, or the taste of food/wine/water/ or the loved one’s skin…

Dialogue should sound natural, not condensed or filled with naturally occurring “umms”. My secret to learning how to write dialogue came from watching daytime dramas as a young person. Okay, I’ll confess: Dark Shadows and General Hospital. My kids made me do it.

The best and most natural dialogue for novels occurs in Soap Operas. The writers of said words have a duty to inform the watcher of past relationships and move the story forward without the infamous information dump. When I began writing novels, I looked for help everywhere. Soaps helped.

“Characters” need to be real, like people you know, or combinations of their most interesting traits. Every time you write their name, you and your reader must see them clearly in the minds’ eye. Only then will their body language come naturally to your description. Hear the timbres of their voices; smell the body lotion or sweat; sense the fear or love they evoke, and feel their emotional intensity by showing it through their physical actions and internal dialogue.

Play your concert to the max. Make it music to our ears.

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Anonymous said...

Like the three little bears, got to find the right mixture to convey the fictional world in your mind and not bore the reader with too much, else they become diverted from the main storyline.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Liz Fountain said...

I've been reading other writers to learn more about sensory detail - something I need to get better at. Thanks, Julie!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Liz, nobody does sensory better than Jodi Picoult.

Victoria Roder said...

Interesting suggestion about dialogue in soap operas. Might have to check one out!