Monday, February 28, 2011

Column: Screenwriting: Getting Evaluated and Exposure


By Karen Albright Lin

Now that a good draft of your screenplay is completed and protected, it’s time to get it some exposure. There are many ways to do this.

One four-pronged approach includes contests, conferences, script consulting and coverage.

Network through conferences and writers organizations. I met talented writer/director Jan C.J. Jones (co-producer of Walt Disney Treasures – 50th Anniversary ) at a conference and have considered her friendship, advice, and encouragement invaluable in my journey. Join local groups devoted to film-making. Colorado has a thriving community, CASA, Colorado Actors and Screenwrites Assembly. I’ve made several valuable connections through this group. You can find them on line. Broader groups, such as Boulder Media Women, are terrific sources for networking.

Contests vary in their value. Some, like the Nicholl Fellowships, Sundance, Slamdance, AAA, and Reel Women are prestigious—often quarter finalists are approached by producers and directors. BlueCat Screenwriting Competition offers an evaluation every bit as helpful as industry coverage. Entry fees vary from early entry fees of $30 up to late entries of $75 or more. Format requirements vary, Word/Final Draft/ RTF/PDF. Regardless of cost and feedback, you’ll want to be sure the finalists are read by industry insiders with the power to buy and produce your screenplay.

Contests are often associated with screenwriting conferences and film festivals. Workshops and screenings alongside schmoozing and pitching are great vehicles for exposure. A pitch to an agent at a film festival where I volunteered my time landed me a Hollywood agent. Good screenwriting conferences/film festivals include Sundance, Toronto, and Santa Fe.

Consider paying to have a script consultant evaluate and make suggestions for changes. Think of them as script doctors. One of the pioneers in this business is Linda Seger. She has written several helpful books that offer a head start on evaluating your script. I recommend her Making a Good Script Great.

Another useful evaluation tool is coverage. On the surface, getting help from a script consultant sounds similar to getting coverage but they are different services serving different purposes. Coverage is not a tool for the writer so much as a market evaluation for the purchaser. Usually a page or two long, coverage includes the evaluator’s take on the script, a log line, short synopsis, weakpoints and strengths, and an honest, industry-savvy opinion about the script’s demographics, timeliness and overall marketability.

Unlike script consulting, it doesn’t involve any tutoring through changes. It is simply an evaluation and a marketing tool. The purchaser of coverage owns it and is not obligated to show the author. Authors can buy coverage, however. My last agent got coverage for all my feature length scripts. I was lucky she shared the one-page evaluations with me. With both consulting and coverage, their strength and usefulness vary (as can book doctors’ feedback) so get recommendations and always remember coverage is one person’s opinion - though an educated one, ideally.

Next time I’ll discuss represention: producers, agents, managers, and entertainment attorneys. Meanwhile, keep your dialogue snappy and your directions brief. Don’t step on the director. Avoid dusk and dawn.

Karen is an editor, ghost writer, pitch coach, speaker and award-winning author of novels, cookbooks, and screenplays. She’s written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons and director Erich Toll) each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and PPW Contest. Find out more at

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sweet Success: Lynda Hilburn

Good news!

Lynda Hilburn's novels The Vampire Shrink, Dark Harvest, and an
untitled third book in her Kismet Knight series, have been sold to
Mark Smith for reprint by Silver Oak (U.S.) and Jo Fletcher
Books/Quercus (U.K.). The books were previously #1 Kindle sellers in
the Vampire Romance and Ghosts & Fantasy categories.

For The Vampire Shrink: Denver Psychologist Kismet Knight just wants
a little excitement in her life. A little publishing fame and fortune.
She doesn't believe in the paranormal. Especially not comic book
children of the night. But when a new client pulls Kismet into the
vampire underworld, and introduces her to gorgeous Devereux -- who
claims to be an 800-year-old vampire -- Kismet finds herself up to her
neck in the undead.

Congrats, Lynda!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Random 10: Ways to Use the Weather in Your Writing by Deb Courtney

Writing comes from inside us, from the secret places, from our joys and our experiences and from our imaginations. It can also be impacted by external events and phenomena. Weather is one of those mundane things which we give little thought to, but which can impact us greatly—from our moods, to directing the events of our lives in small ways. Here’s a look at how that bit of mundane might be put to work for you, as a writer.

Actual Weather, impacting us as writers:

Cold—on a brisk, cold day, place your hand on a windowpane. Take a walk in the chill. Feel the invigoration, or the pain, of two degree air as it hits your lungs. Know that for most of us, the cold is an ephemeral experience, a fleeting part of our time, but it can get in the way of things, much like writers block or a day job can. But it passes.

Gray—oh how a dreary day gets some of us down. The barometric pressure drops, the grey mimics twilight, and calls for a fire, a cup of something warm, and a comfy blanket. Or a nap! But what an opportunity for quiet reflection. On your goals, on your stories, on your progress. As a writer, the ability to revel in this quiet time may lead to discovery, or new ideas, or breakthroughs on old ones. So, revel.

Brilliant—When there are no clouds, and the temperature is as close to perfect as it ever gets, take a notebook and get outside. On your patio, on a hike, at a pool. Interact. Through interactions with people and nature, you build experiences upon which your characters can draw, and through which your settings can manifest.

Caliente—summer’s heat can wring the life out of us, melt composure, wilt our good intentions. But the heat of summer can also remind us of the emotive interactions between our characters, or how they might feel on a tropical beach far away. Grab your notebook—no matter how damp—and capture the sensory experience and delights that only summer’s heat can bring us.

Windy—whether a hot summer’s breeze or the chill thrust of winter, wind can remind us of the changeable nature of things, and also how to remain flexible in the face of strong forces. Watch the trees bend, or the dust blow, and think through how your story and your characters remain strong but flexible and unbroken in the face of adversity, or how they might splinter under the force of something too strong to resist.

Weather in your story:

Setting—though a cliché, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ does have the benefit of creating a setting of sorts. What is your setting’s weather and how does it relate to your story, plot and characters? Could this story only happen in a dusty and dry desert, or might it as easily take place in the Arctic? Why?

Mood Enhancer—use of weather in a story can enhance or complement the mood you create in scenes. Also a cliché is rain at a funeral, but what about light snow during a romantic walk? A change in weather during a climactic moment? To avoid cliché it is advisable not to dwell overly on weather conditions as a mood enhancer, but do not ignore them altogether.

Plot Driver—Some stories really can only happen in certain climates with certain weather. A flood in small town Massachusetts might not play, but would easily in a drought-ridden Midwest town where a freak storm drops unexpected amounts of water on soil baked to bricks. That same storm would be a drop in the bucket of water absorbed by a tropical rainforest, and considered run-of-the-mill in Central Florida.

Character—much as noted above, the weather has an impact on people. It may also have an impact on your characters. How do they respond to the weather of your story? How does it enhance or negate their moods, or the events of your plot?

Juxtaposition—a powerful tool is to play against the expected. A bright sunny gorgeous day may feel offensive at a funeral, or during a strongly emotional scene in your book, while a dreary rainy day might be an opportunity for your characters to be playfully full of joy and laughter.

As writers we are told to use what we know, and we all know the weather and what it does to us. So use it. And, as the old saying goes, if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes—it’s sure to change.

Originally appeared in The Pikes Peak Writer, Volume VIII, Issue 3, May, June 2009

Deb Courtney has a degree in fiction from the University of South Florida, has published several short stories, and has written freelance for such publications as The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Business Journal. She is a frequent speaker at Pikes Peak Writers events.

She lives in the foothills in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she has a winter view of Pikes Peak (which is to say she can see it only when all the leaves are off the trees). She shares her home with a driving-age teen, two cross-eyed slightly brain-damaged felines, and likely has squirrels in her attic. And that's not a euphemism.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Column: The Business of Writing: New Market for Writers by Linda Rohrbough

The Business of Writing:

New Market for Writers

by Linda Rohrbough

It’s official. E-book readers went to color and now the numbers are up, up, up. This is creating a new opportunity for writers in the way of shorter works priced low for what is sure to be a voracious e-book reader market. A prime example is Amazon’s new Kindle Singles.

Before I talk about the new opportunity, let me fill you in on what happened over Christmas. Barnes & Noble was rescued from the brink of bankruptcy by stellar double-digit sales increases over Christmas, credited mostly to the NOOK. said they sold more of their $139 Kindles over the holiday season than all the Kindles sold in 2009. And the iPad is everywhere, with another 7.3 million out the door last quarter. Not to mention the Android-based tablet computers that are nipping at the iPad’s heels. Plus you can get NOOK and Kindle readers for just about any other platform you care to read on, including smart cell phones.

So, what’s happening? Publisher’s Weekly reported the big publishers’ e-book sales are up - between 150 and 400 percent over the holidays. I predict this trend will continue. With all these e-book devices out there, people are looking for something to read.

And not just books. Long articles are coming back into vogue. Amazon is calling theirs Kindle Singles. They are five to ten thousand word pieces on a single subject – a look at everything from a spectacular bank heist to the nature of evil to a new look at weight loss. They cost about two to three dollars each, and the Kindle ones are by writers with a track record who’ve done work for national magazines like Wired, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker.

Let me tell you what will come back into vogue shortly. Short stories. I used to love short stories. But I learned pretty fast there was no market for them. And most of the ones I’ve read in the last few years weren’t very satisfying. But as a prediction of things to come, Jodi Picoult has done a series of three short stories for the Kindle Singles titled Leaving Home. Other novelists will follow this trend, I’m sure.

Why will these work? Because we’ve all been stuck someplace where we’d like to have something to read that was compelling that we can finish in a day or maybe a couple of hours, but are unwilling to make the commitment to another novel. Especially when e-book novels by names you can count on are going for over fifteen dollars in e-book format.

But to get something really good to read instantly for the price of a latte, now that’s attractive.

Here’s an opportunity, my writer friends. And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see it.

I told you a year ago to get ready because the boom in e-book readers would mean increased demand for authors. And here’s another example. We used to see long articles in magazines many years ago. Sometimes published in a serial format. And now they’re back. So I hope you’ve been building publishing relationships and polishing up your work. Because there are more new opportunities coming just around the corner. Like novellas. Just wait and see.


Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with awards for fiction and non-fiction. Her latest book, co-authored with her surgeon, is Weight Loss Surgery with the Adjustable Gastric Band from Da Capo Press. She has an iPhone App of her workshop “Pitch Your Book” and her first novel The Prophetess I: At Risk, both coming out in Spring of 2011. Visit her website:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sweet Success: Georgiana Hall

Good news!

Georgiana Hall's middle-grade novel, Hershey: A Tale of a Curious
House Rabbit, published in 2010 by Peppertree Press,
was featured in a USA Today article by Colorado Springs writer, Sharon
L. Peters.

Based on the life of a real pet rabbit, Hershey begins his tale as he
arrives at his new home, newly adopted from a shelter. He soon meets
the other pet rabbits as well as some other unusual and interesting
creatures, and quickly learns how to secretly explore the large house
that he lives in. Eventually, he and his new faithful accomplice,
Pepper the rabbit, manage to knock down a Christmas tree, spill syrup
all over the pantry and invade a closet full of their owners' shoes,
mistakenly overturning a container of baby powder. Their human owners
don't suspect a thing - or do they? The two rabbits, not satisfied
with exploring the house, soon figure out how to escape into the
outdoors for a brief afternoon adventure. The back yard proves to be
exciting but also dangerous when they linger outside a bit too long.
Will they be able to make their way back home? How? Who will help

Congrats to Georgiana!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Column: Begin Again by Mandy Houk

A common problem with first novels is the saggy, flabby middle. But it seems that the portion most often tackled by writing books and workshops is the beginning. The first five pages; the first page; the first line.

This is crucial, of course, because readers (agents, editors, or Joe Schmo browsing at Borders) generally begin…um…at the beginning. Your middle can have the literary equivalent of six-pack abs, but your readers won’t know it if they never turn a page.

The classic prescriptions for fixing a slow first page have a common theme: get things moving.

Begin with action.
Start with the moment that everything changes.
Put your character in jeopardy on the very first page.

Here’s the rub: my writing leans toward literary. (Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean that nothing happens.) How do I begin my work-in-progress with “the moment that everything changes” when I want the reader to care that it happens before it does? This requires some understanding of the complicated attachment my brother and sister protagonists have with their father, and the distance they feel from rest of the family. I don’t want to resort to flashbacks since my novel-in-a-drawer was crawling with them (hence the drawer).

When I’ve ignored my own instincts and followed the “rules” anyway, I’ve hated my beginning and found myself utterly disinterested in working on the thing at all. So, what’s the solution?

One afternoon, after again trying to rework my first page and getting nowhere good, I turned to my bookshelves and grabbed a few of my favorite novels to do some research.

I was delighted to find that all my favorite beginnings share something in common: they start with the central longing, or at least preoccupation, of the main character. In just the first few lines, the reader sees what the main character most desires, regrets, fears, loves, or hates.

Sometimes it’s concrete and stated outright, as in Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.

From my first breath in this world, all I wanted was a good set of lungs and the air to fill them with—given circumstances, you might presume, for an American baby of the twentieth century.

The main character, Reuben, is a young boy with severe asthma whose father just happens to work miracles—one of which was bringing Reuben back to life after he was born dead: “a clay boy.” Reuben’s battle for breath and his father’s miracles are central to several pivotal moments in the book, and both are introduced within the first three pages.

In other examples, the desire is more abstract, but still gripping. Anne Tyler is the master here. From Back When We Were Grownups: “Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.” And Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant:

While Pearl Tull was dying, a funny thought occurred to her. It twitched her lips and rustled her breath, and she felt her son lean forward from where he kept watch by her bed. “Get…” she told him. “You should have got…”

You should have got an extra mother, was what she meant to say, the way we started extra children after the first child fell so ill.

This kind of opening is a powerful way to reveal character immediately (it’s pretty obvious that Pearl is not the cuddly sort). It’s especially clear when comparing the first lines of Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons with those of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Both are first-person stories told by young girls who are abused and neglected by their fathers.

Ellen begins: “When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. I would figure out this or that way and run it down through my head until it got easy.”

Lily of Bees is more introspective and a wee bit less vengeful:

At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin. I watched their wings shining like bits of chrome in the dark and felt the longing build in my chest. The way those bees flew, not even looking for a flower, just flying for the feel of the wind, split my heart down its seam.

The fact that Ellen savors the notion of murder while Lily envies the freedom of insects tells you straight away that you’re being introduced to two vastly different girls.

Once I found the similarities between my favorite literary novels, I wanted to see if I could find the same in other genres. So I cracked open a book I had read recently—Down River, the Edgar Award-winning mystery by John Hart (one of PPWC 2011’s featured speakers). It positively oozes with both longing and regret.

The river is my earliest memory. The front porch of my father’s house looks down on it from a low knoll, and I have pictures, faded yellow, of my first days on that porch. I slept in my mother’s arms as she rocked there, played in the dust while my father fished, and I know the feel of that river even now: the slow churn of red clay, the back eddies under cut banks, the secrets it whispered to the hard, pink granite of Rowan County. Everything that shaped me happened near that river. I lost my mother in sight of it, fell in love on its banks. I could smell it on the day my father drove me out. It was part of my soul, and I thought I’d lost it forever.

But things can change, that’s what I told myself. Mistakes can be undone, wrongs righted. That’s what brought me home.

Not only is there overlap between genres. The advice itself—the classic ideas and this “longing” thing—can intersect. Pearl and Reuben are both in jeopardy as they face death on their respective first pages. In Back When We Were Grownups, Rebecca’s realization that she’s “the wrong person” leads her to change everything about herself.

And look at this beginning from the thriller The Oath by Frank Peretti: “She ran, tree limbs and brambles scratching, grabbing, tripping, and slapping her as if they were bony hands, reaching for her out of the darkness.” This one’s got all the tried-and-true elements: action, jeopardy—and everything seems to be changing. But it’s got longing, too, as the character tries desperately to escape from something or someone.

What it boils down to is that there are different ways to tackle those all-important first lines. If you’ve struggled with your beginning, or if you want to make sure it’s everything you want it to be, then pull out your own favorite books. Find the openings that grab you and see what they have in common. Action? Longing? A bit of both? Something else entirely? Whatever it is, go with that. You’ll be on your way to crafting the kind of story that you’ll love writing—and readers will keep reading.

Mandy Houk is a freelance writer and editor, and woefully underpaid home schooling mom. She's sold several nonfiction articles and stories, and placed in a couple of short fiction contests, but she has yet to break into book-length fiction. Her first novel is safely and appropriately in a deep, dark drawer. Her second is in its final rewrite, and will be sent out to agents in 2011. No, really.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sweet Success: Matt Bille

Some good news for a PPW member:

Matt Bille's dark fantasy novel, The Dolmen, will be released in 2012
by Wolfsinger Publications in softcover. Author website at

The Dolmen is a story of a clash of species: one is human, the other
is legend. When a megalithic tomb from England is imported whole (and
illegally) for a private museum in Los Angeles, something stirs. The
people closest to the tomb begin to vanish or die, beginning with the
grisly murder of journalist Walt Rivas. Walt's fiancee, Julie
Sperling, and Greg Preston, Julie's former boyfriend and Walt's best
friend, find themselves investigating a mystery that quickly turns
into a race for survival.

Matt Bille is a freelance writer in Colorado Springs. He is best known
as a science writer, having published two books on the world's rarest
and most mysterious animals (Rumors of Existence and Shadows of
Existence) and The First Space Race, a well-reviewed history of the
first satellites. He has published short stories and some 30 articles
and professional papers covering zoology, cryptozoology, and space
exploration. He is a former Air Force officer with a day job as an
aerospace consultant. The Dolmen will be his first published novel.

Congrats, Matt!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Upcoming Event: February WriteBrain

Want to learn how to write better action using cinematic techniques? If so, and you're in the Colorado Springs area, come check out PPW's WriteBrain on the topic by Ian Thomas Healy on February 15.

More info here! This will be too good to miss...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Column: Screenwriting: Protecting Your Work by Karen Albright Lin

I have an idea for a great movie. I have my pitch all ready to go. It’s high concept. I even have a rough treatment (synopsis) and a catchy title. I’d like to stir up interest in the idea, then write it. I plan to pitch it at the Monterey Bay Film Festival. Should I?

NO, NO and NO.

Titles and ideas are not protected. Hollywood is notorious for stealing and running with ideas. You are much better off waiting until you have a completed product. It’s probably cheaper to pay you for the draft than to be dragged through a lawsuit. Speaking of lawsuits, be prepared to sign a waivor. Hollywood types are paranoid about lawsuits and usually want you to release them of liability in case anything they are developing looks like your idea. Sounds like a bum deal. Right? But look at it from their POV and sign it. As my mentor, Jan Jones, once preached, you can’t get exposure if you don’t allow yourself to feel a little vulnerable. Dealing with known entities helps you protect yourself.

Once you’ve written your screenplay it’s important to protect it. The legal issues of ownership are no laughing matter in Hollywood. Art Buchwald sued Paramount in 1990 claiming they stole his script idea and made it into Coming to America. He won the breach of contract lawsuit and sizeable damages.

You can copyright your script, which gives you dated evidence that holds up well in courts. Also register your screenplay with the Writers Guild of America (West or East). The Guild serves many purposes for its members (such as pensions and health plans). For nonmembers, they will hold your material (now electronically, five years, $20). If ownership of the material or primary versus secondary writer position are ever in dispute, the WGA will negotiate based on what and when the claiment has registered.

As protection for both parties, some producer/directors will ask for your WGA registration number when they request your script. It shows you’re a professional if you have one.

Once you’ve protected your script, it will be time to get it evaluated and exposed. I’ll discuss ways to do that in my next post. Meanwhile, keep your dialogue snappy and your directions brief. Don’t step on the director. Avoid dusk and dawn.

Karen is an editor, ghost writer, pitch coach, speaker and award-winning author of novels, cookbooks, and screenplays. She’s written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons and director Erich Toll) each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and PPW Contest. Find out more at

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sweet Success: Ian T. Healy

PPW has some good news to share:

Ian T. Healy reprinted two stories, "Graceful Blur" and "The Scent of Rose Petals," which originally appeared in A Thousand Faces: The Quarterly Journal of Superhuman Fiction, on Smashwords.

Find out more about Ian T. Healy at

Congrats, Ian!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

WriteBrain Report: How to Make Dialogue Talk to Your Audience

WriteBrain Report: How to Make Dialogue Talk to Your Audience by Laura Hayden
Reporter: Cathy Dilts

Papers fluttered dramatically to the floor. Filing cards passed hand-to-hand, and were shuffled and re-shuffled. A writing exercise sparked dialogue, character, and plot ideas. It was worth braving the cold temperatures to hear Laura Hayden speak on “How to Make Dialogue ‘Talk’ to Your Audience.” The January 18 Write Brain was a combination pep talk, workshop, and question and answer session.

An overflow crowd listened intently as Laura opened with her Pikes Peak Writers Conference testimonial. She attended the first PPWC, before it achieved renown as one of the 10 best writing conferences in the nation. A winner of one of the first Paul Gillette Awards, Laura pitched her story and acquired an agent at the conference. Now a multi-published author, Laura encouraged the Write Brain audience to attend this year’s PPWC. One would do well to take her advice.

Next, Laura broke fiction dialogue into two categories: Academic Dialogue and Practical Application Dialogue. She said that Academic Dialogue is the style you learn in English literature class. It does not contain contractions and uses completed sentences. Practical Application Dialogue, on the other hand, more closely mimics natural speech.

To illustrate her point, Laura held up lines of dialogue printed on sheets in font large enough to read from the back of the crowded room. She tossed the dialogue sheets onto the floor as she went, littering the front of the room.
“Good morning. Did you sleep well?”

This first line began a dry exchange between two faceless people about whether one had slept well, and what was on the breakfast menu. Little was revealed about character.

In the next iteration, Laura added contractions to make the dialogue seem more natural. The third time around, she made the first speaker an older woman.
“Good morning, dear. Slept well, I trust?”

For the fourth bit of dialogue, Laura made the second speaker a young man who spoke in a casual manner. She gave the dialogue sheets to audience members, who “acted” out the scene.

Next, Laura added narrative between the lines of dialogue, to put the story in the woman’s point of view. Finally, she changed it to the young man’s point of view.
The exercise illustrated the importance of choosing your words carefully to create depth. We watched the scene magically morph from a dull exchange of words to an unfolding of character and plot. Laura was ankle deep in paper by the end of this exercise, and the audience was delighted.

The next exercise required input from the audience. Laura instructed us to write a character description on an orange index card, and a snippet of dialogue on a white card. She then collected and shuffled the cards. The goal was to make the odd combinations work, as characters created by one audience member spoke the dialogue created by another.

My favorite: Card 1: A new pastor. Card 2: Ice skating. An audience member created a scenario where the pastor explains that he can’t walk on water, so he’ll have to settle for skating on the frozen variety.

Another draw looked like this: Card 1: A grizzled old cowboy. Card 2: The dialogue sounded like a line from a home shopping TV channel. Is the cowboy selling something? Is he being sarcastic?

The creativity of the audience was amazing. People used the two simple cards to invent scenes that spanned genre and tone, from humorous to romantic to sinister.

Laura discussed dialogue nuts and bolts next, explaining that “said” is an invisible word to your reader. She warned us not to use the thesaurus to find alternatives for “said,” like chortled, wheezed, and hissed. She also cautioned against using dialogue tags that include an adverb, such as,“She said sadly.” Kill the –ly words. (I guess that means “he rasped angrily” and “she lazily lisped” are out.)
Does your dialogue start conflict, or complicate existing conflict? Is it essential to the scene? Does it move the plot forward? Laura gave us dozens of questions to ask about our story dialogue. Then she gave us keys to effective dialogue. Remember that dialogue may imitate speech in real life, but that real life speech is “full of useless chatter and aimless rambling.”

When in doubt, have someone else read your dialogue aloud. Does their reading convey the meaning you intended?

Laura’s presentation on dialogue was lively, interactive, and packed with information. It was truly a you-had-to-be-there experience. If you missed this Write Brain, don’t despair. There is a new event every month. Check the “events” section on the home page of, and click on “Write Brains.”