Author Archives: A_Rachelle

Crafting Believable Dialogue

Crafting Believable Dialogue

Dialogue is a tool used to further the action, to give us a sense of characterization and to ultimately drive the story along.
Roger Colby

“Show” don’t tell

A lot of our communication happens through body language and tone. Instead of using adverbs to get a point across, let the actions of the character speak for them.

Example 1a*

“I don’t want to dance,” she said pensively. “I just want to stand here.”
“Give me a break,” he huffed angrily. “I only wanted to hold your hand.”

Example 1b*

Everyone danced, their bodies swaying slowly to the beat of “Makin’ Love Out of Nothing at All”.
As Rick reached for her hand, Judy’s face drew down, a perfect scowl.
“I… I just don’t feel like dancing,” she whispered, then said again louder over the din. “I just don’t feel like dancing.”
Rick’s eyes watered slightly, his hand going to his nose as if to stifle a sneeze.
“I only wanted to hold your hand.”

Develop a unique voice for your characters

Your characters personality, history, time period and location should all influence the way they talk.

Are they gruff or taciturn? Use short clipped words.
Are they bubbly and talkative? Long bright fountains of words.
Do they come from a place with a distinct colloquial sound? Use it, but don’t abuse it. A little goes a long way.

Also, remember your time period. If you’re writing historic fiction don’t use modern slang unless there are time travelers involved.

We don’t speak with proper grammar

Very few characters speak with proper grammar – and those who do should stick out because of it. We use contractions and can be awkward, fumbling fools of speakers. Don’t be glib. Don’t be too correct. Do use the proper writing grammar to let your characters know what they’re reading. Reading your dialog aloud will help to identify potentially stilted sections.

Avoid “he said/she said”

Those arguments are trying enough in real life. Don’t force them upon your readers. Interspersing actions with your dialogue can go a long way to helping this, and remembering that every bit of dialog doesn’t necessarily need to call out the speaker – especially if you’ve developed unique voices for your characters

Remember pace

The tone of your dialog can set the pace for the scene, so use it.

Example 2

Turner took a long draw on his cigarette and blew out small circles of smoke, “We should leave soon.”

Example 3

“Go! Go! Go!” Excitement practically vibrated off of Maria as she bounced in the confined space of the bleachers.

Use the ‘layered’ approach**

Write first draft in a way that feels natural then fix the dialogue/action-description ratio in your editing


Break It Up

Write a conversation using this format to break apart your dialog and actions

Character name: Single colon if talking immediately
Character name:: if there is an action, thought, or other information before speaking :: Hi! With that second double colon I am now speaking :: but I can go back to description at any time ::

Here’s an example:

Gideon:: received his message and being out and about was closer to Sean’s office then his rooms and decides it’d be easier to just drop in instead of sending a message. Reaching the room instead of knocking he just opens the door and is surprised to find that Sean is not there. He should be waiting for a response to his message. Sees Carma on the couch and crouches down next to her, touches her shoulder lightly :: Carma
Carma:: Opens her eyes. Then seeing Gideon smiles slightly. She likes him a lot. He reminds her of Tony :: Is mom here yet?
Gideon:: brushes a hair off her forehead, shakes his head :: I wish she were. I was hoping Sean might be able to give me some news. Do you know where he went?

Now pick two or three characters of your own and write a short scene where they meet a new friend or enemy. Include any descriptions that come to mind. Any extraneous information can be removed later.

Characterize Your Protagonist/Antagonist

Describe their personality

Abrupt or Long-Winded?

Do they have an accent?

Do they use colloquialisms (If so, which ones)?

Do they mumble or speak clearly?

What is their favorite explicative?

What is their level of education?

Are they an introvert or an extrovert?

What are their beliefs?

Does the way they speak change in relation to another character or where they are in the story?

Are there psychological influences?

What are their goals when speaking?

Parental/family influence

Favorite part of speech (noun/verb or lots of adjectives)?

What are their speaking tics?

How complex is their speech?


*Writing is Hard Work: Writing Believable Dialog
Writing is Hard Work: The Dos and Don’ts of Dialogue
Writing is Hard Work: Emotive Dialog
Wordserve Watercooler: Writing Believable Dialog
Woosh Editing: Writing Believable Dialog
Novel Bootcamp: Writing Believable Dialog
**Laura Howard: Writing Believable Dialog

One More Week

One More Week

Only one week left until November! Take a deep breathe with me. Now let it out sloooowly. There we go. No need to hyperventilate. Everything will be okay. My desk is steadily being covered in more and more NaNo doo dads for you all. We’ve got Cauldron candy and goodie bag parts.

As we hit the home stretch of NaNo-preparation, here are a few things that you can do:

Come to our ‘Creating Believeable Dialog’ workshop

Tuesday, November 28, 7 pm
Old Chicago, Okemos

RSVP on the forums or through our Facebook event.

Check in on the Introductions Thread

Say hi to others in the region and let us know a little about yourself.

You can find the thread here.

RSVP for the Kick-Off Party

Saturday, November 1, 3-6pm
The Avenue Cafe (Gone Wired) 2021 E Michigan Ave, Lansing, MI

RSVP at Eventbrite and let us know you’ll be joining us for an afternoon of fun an writing.


Socializing – Our first hour will be spent getting to know each other with games and activities tbd.
Door Prizes – There will be several cool door prizes given away throughout the event.
Goodie Bags – Your very own NaNoLansing Survival Bag will be awaiting you filled with treats and helpful items.
Silent Auction – Please bring items to donate for our silent auction (and bring some cash so you can buy them). We already have some good looking items up for bidding. This is your chance to get some really nice stuff for a song of a price. It will run from 3-5 pm and bids will be cash only in $1 increments. (All proceeds will be donated to NaNoWriMo. For every $10 received, one broke wrimo will be chosen to receive a halo and donor badge under their name.)
Potluck – If you can, bring some food (no liquids) to share. If you can’t bring food, come anyway. We still want to see you!
Cauldron of Doom Word Wars – Draw a number from the cauldron and write away. If you reach your word count, you’ll get a prize and everyone gets something just from participating, including a great boost to your word count!

Questions? Ask them here.

Create your Novel

If you haven’t done this yet, make sure to go over to My NaNoWriMo and click ‘Create your novel’ in the ‘Announce your new novel’ banner or select ‘My Novels’ from the dropdown. This lets us know for sure that you plan to participate this year. Remember, you can always change the name of your novel later. What you choose right now is not a lifetime commitment.

That’s all for now. Get some sleep, stock up on supplies, and we’ll be seeing you soon!

Alaina (A_Rachelle) & Annette (Contemplative Cat)
Co-Municipal Liaisons, USA::Michigan::Lansing.
AKA your event coordinators, purveyors of fun, answerers of questions and senders of periodic regional messages to keep you in the loop.

2014 Workshops are Coming!

2014 Workshops are Coming!


Dun dun dunnnnnnn!

We will be hosting weekly workshops to help you prepare for NaNoWriMo 2014, so mark your calendar now. All workshops will start at 7pm. October 7th & 28th will be at Old Chicago in Okemos. October 14th & 21st will be at Grand Traverse Pie Company in East Lansing.

October 7: Intro To NaNo – Old Chicago

NaNo basics and an opportunity to ask all the burning questions about NaNo that you never have before.

Share this event on Facebook.

Help us plan the rest of the month!

Did you attend a write-in last year that you would love to see again?

Is there a sticky issue you run into time and time again that we can help you prep for in October?

Let us know! We are in the process of finalizing details and would love your input on what you want to see in our October workshops.

March Write-In: Flash Fiction @ The Avenue

March Write-In: Flash Fiction @ The Avenue

Tomorrow night we’ll be gathering at The Avenue (aka Gone Wired) for our March write-in. We’ve been discussing flash fiction, so bring along an 800 word story to share.

Writing prompt:
A knight is being stalked across an interstellar commonwealth by a bandit over a dark secret one of them knows about the other.

You are welcome to join us even if you don’t have a story.

The Details

Date: Wednesday, March 26th

Time: 7pm

Place: The Avenue Cafe/Gone Wired (2021 E Michigan Ave, Lansing Charter Township, MI 48912)

The Final Stretch

The Final Stretch

Only 12 hours left of NaNoWriMo 2013. I may be in a little bit of denial about that.

Since there’s so little time left, I’m just going to get on to the important bits. Here are some things we wanted to remind you about.

Names and Nominations

We have decided to extend voting for wrimo awards and Rhino names through midnight tonight! If you aren’t sure of a fellow wrimo’s username, tell us what you can to describe them (name, novel type, which write-ins they came to) and we’ll try our best to match them up.

To vote for and nominate fellow wrimos, go here.

Then go here to vote for your favorite rhino name.

Last Blast to Get Your Words In!

Old Chicago
7pm to midnightish

Celebrate the last few hours of NaNo, get in those last few words, pass guilt monkeys and more at our Last Blast!

Check out this thread for more details.

There’s also a write- in going on RIGHT NOW at the E. Lansing Grand Traverse Pie Company until 2pm.

TGIO Party on Sunday

Sunday, December 1
Haslett Library
1:30 to 4:30 pm

-Validate Your Novel-
You haven’t officially won NaNo until the word count validator says so.  For step by step information on how to do that (with visuals), check out our Winning NaNoWriMo FAQ thread.

-Shout out your Success!-
Share yours or someone else’s win with the rest of us at the Winner’s Hall of Fame thread.

Carry on now and Good Luck!

Alaina (A_Rachelle) and Annette (Contemplative Cat)
Co-Municipal Liaisons  USA::Michigan::Lansing

Find us online! 
Our Forums

Week Three – Practice Perseverance

Week Three – Practice Perseverance

Week three has well and truly begun, my Wrimos. We have passed the midpoint. Some have battled in Midway. Some have stunned us all with their writing speed (and in so doing heard only the most loving of ‘I hate you’s). Some of us have had ‘life’ happen throughout our first few weeks of NaNo and cannot believe it’s already so late in the month. We could really use a good 5,000 or 10,000 word day.

I say us because I am totally with you guys. These last few weeks have been hectic and crazy and despite getting a cushion in early on my word count is showing it.

This week is all about perseverance. We’ve crossed through week one of excitement and week two of the doldrums. Next week will be a race to the finish, but this week is about getting it done.

Ninjas had a lot of different skills that they mastered, among them perseverance and patience. They learned techniques like uzura-gakure, which is to curl into a ball and remain still so as to be taken for a rock. They carved out footholds and climbed walls and disguised themselves to blend into their surroundings. None of these are simple skills and, personally, I’m not sure I could stay in a ball long enough to be taken for a rock.

That’s where perseverance comes in.

Keep your eye on the prize. What do you want to have at the end of the month? 15,000 words? 50,000 words? 100,000 words? Whatever it is, hold tight to it and persevere (and back up your novel). Take each day and conquer it. Your characters may be running amok. Your plot line may be shifting. Never the less, persevere. We believe in you.

If you need some Ninja Tools to help you out, check out Contemplative Cat’s message from Week Two.

– Write-Ins –

Thursday Night – ML
Old Chicago Pizza

Saturday Morning – ML
Grand Traverse Pie Company
East Lansing

– The Rest –


Congrats, everyone! We have surpassed our first fundraising goal! As Contemplative Cat and I promised, there will be a video. What the video contains will depend upon what happens between now and the 30th. You are close to getting dancing. A little further off from some Kung Foo Fighting.

Watch out for news and updates here.

TGIO Party

Mark your calendars (if you haven’t already)! The TGIO party is coming up on December 1 and we would love to see you all there.

Check out this thread to get all the details.

That’s all for today. Happy writing!

Alaina (A_Rachelle) and Annette (Contemplative Cat)
Co-Municipal Liasions, USA::Michigan::Lansing

Find us online! 
Our Forums

Originally broadcast Nov. 19, 2013.

On Prizes, Faces and Other News

On Prizes, Faces and Other News

Hello, NaNoLansing! I send you greetings from the Land of Penn (as in William Penn).

There were a few things that I had intended to get out to your before heading out, but alas, twas not to be. Thusly, here are your updates:

– Fundraising Prizes –

As promised we have a list of ways that Contemplative Cat and I are willing to potentially humiliate ourselves should our region reach certain fundraising goals by midnight on November 30th.

$1000 – Music video of ML’s song choice
$1100 – Guilt Monkey Boogie
$1200 – “Kung Foo Fighting”
$1300 – Region choice for song
$1400 – Original NaNoWriMo Parody Video (song choice TBD)

The resulting music video (should we reach $1000) will be posted to YouTube and sent out to region following its completion.

A post will be up on this in the forum shortly.

– Faces Thread –

The Face Thread is a way to be added to a Regional Word Count Graph. It’s pretty cool and you can both scope it out and add yourself to it here.

– NaNoLansing Chat Room –

The chat room is live! Several of us participated in a lovely swapping of word wars with Great Britain :: Liverpool last Sunday. While there *may* have been joking about the invasion of the Americans, fun was had on all sides.

To learn more and how to register, go here.

– Guilt Monkeys –

I plan to update the Guilt Monkey chart tomorrow morning, so go here to register any Guilt Monkey transfers that you haven’t yet from tonight or last week’s write-ins and then check out the stats here tomorrow.

– Upcoming Write-Ins –

Saturday Morning- ML
Grand Traverse Pie Company
East Lansing
11 am – 2 pm

Parking should be far better this week.

Monday Night – Library
CADL Downtown Branch

Have a great week and happy writing to you all!

Alaina (A_Rachelle) & Annette (Contemplative Cat)
Co-Municipal Liasions, USA::Michigan::Lansing

Find us online! 
Our Forums

This message was originally sent November 7, 2013.

Week One – Shinobi

Week One – Shinobi

Happy 12:01, everybody, and welcome to Week One of NaNo 2013!

As Contemplative Cat and I were planning for this year we decided that on a local level we would be celebrating the year of the ninja.

Ninjas are an interesting group when you look back at their history, but what caught my attention about them going into this first week was their name. While we here in the west call them ninjas, according to Wikipedia it’s native kun’yomi kanji reading is pronounced shinobi – a connotation of “to steal away” and “to forbear”.

What does that have to do with NaNo?

As we go into this month we all have goals of what we would like to have when our 30 days come to a close. There will be days when writer’s block strikes, when your characters revolt, and when you realize you’ve somehow completely lost the plot.

Like the ninja, we’ll need to steal away. We’ll need to find those places where we become invisible to the world and the world to us so that we can reach our goals. There are things that we’re going to need to resist and go into avoidance maneuvers so that we don’t get off track. Some days our patience will be tested (see the writer’s block, etc. above) but if we focus and persevere then at the end of the month we’re going to have done something that’s magic – just like the fabled abilities of the ninjas of old.

Now that I’ve written far more than intended, here are our upcoming write-ins for the week…

First Day (aka today)
Grand Traverse Pie Company
East Lansing

Check Twitter for updates as the day progresses

Saturday Afternoon – ML
Grand Traverse Pie Company
East Lansing

This will be a morning write-in the rest of the Saturdays.

Monday Night – Library
CADL Downtown Branch

Thursday Night – ML
Old Chicago Pizza

– The Rest –

Name The Rhinos

We want to make sure you all get a chance to chip in, so check out this thread on naming our friendly NaNoRhino mascots.


Curious about the Tardis? A broke wrimo who would like to get a halo? Clink the links to find out more.

Also, region fundraising rewards will be going up this week, so keep an eye out for the thread. We’re finalizing details, but I can tell you that our rewards start at $1000. That’s $5.35 a homed member based on our current numbers, but it also includes Tardis donations, silent auction funds, etc.

That’s all for now, so get writing!

Alaina (A_Rachelle) & Annette (Contemplative Cat)
Co-Municipal Liasions, USA::Michigan::Lansing

Find us online! 
Our Forums

This regional broadcast was sent out via email on November 1, 2013.

News! James Dashner & Write Michigan

News! James Dashner & Write Michigan

Talk and Signing with James Dashner

A fan of the Maze Runner series? James Dashner will be coming to Schuler’s Books’ Eastwood location on October 23rd at 6pm.

Here’s the information from their website:

We are so excited to welcome James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series. The Maze Runner is a dystopian thriller, soon to be released as a blockbuster film from 20th Century Fox, and now Dashner is celebrating the release of an all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure. The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.

This will be a ticketed event, with tickets available at our Eastwood Towne Center location when the store opens on October 8th, the release day of the new book. The first 100 tickets are available free with purchase of The Eye of Minds (one ticket per book purchased) and guarantee a seat at the event. Tickets 101 and greater are free with no purchase necessary. The signing will proceed after the author talk in approximate ticket number order. Tickets may be reserved in person or by calling the store at 517.316.7495 (phone purchase required for seated tickets).

Write Michigan Short Story Contest

This writing contest is for a short story up to 3000 words (as in less than two days of NaNo) and is only open to Michigan residents. Writers may enter one short story between now and November 30th through at an entry fee of $10 for 18+ and free for 17 and under.

There will be cash prizes and winners will be published by Chapbook Press. Entries will be divided into three categories by age – youth, teen, and adult.

To learn more about the contest, visit Write Michigan’s site.

"Finding Your Vision with Inspiration Boards" is tomorrow night!

"Finding Your Vision with Inspiration Boards" is tomorrow night!

Remember! Tomorrow night (aka Thursday) at 7pm at Gone Wired/The Avenue we will be having our hands on prep workshop “Finding Your Vision with Inspiration Boards”.

If you have any old magazines lying about your home, office, etc. we encourage you to bring those along to create a diverse assortment of options.

Not sure with workshop I’m talking about? Here’s the description:

Join us for a fun evening of cutting, pasting and bringing your vision to life with an inspiration board. Before you have a panic attack, no, we do not expect you to know what your main character (MC) prefers for breakfast or their goal in life or even who they are. The idea of an inspiration board is to find images, words, etc. that jive with you and the world you’re going for so that you can revisit them when you get stuck in the writing process. You can use this time to refine and visualize a world and characters that you’ve already decided or as a starting point for this year’s novel.

See you there!

Alaina (A_Rachelle) & Annette (Contemplative Cat)
Co-Municipal Liasions, USA::Michigan::Lansing

Find us online! 
Our Forums

This regional broadcast was sent out via email on October 9, 2013.