Knowing how to write dialogue in a novel is right up there, on the same level of importance, as the knowing how to write the scenes that contain the dialogue. There are two things a novelist needs to know about dialogue. The dialogue in any novel must always perform the following huge functions:
Dialogue must characterize and individualize the speaker
Dialogue must give the plot, the story forward momentum.
You may recognize these function as being the same things said of writing scenes. It’s true, in this way, scenes and dialogue are united in purpose, go hand in hand, and all that.
How do we breathe authentic, effective emotions into characters when writing a novel?
The emotions of characters inform every aspect of a novel. Emotion is what pulls readers in and keeps them hanging on every word of every page. The best fiction writers take readers on an emotional journey, one with emotionally complex characters that readers will be thinking about long after they’ve finished reading the book. Because of this, novel writing is only for those who are willing to work hard enough to create complex characters that believably portray complex emotions.
Writing a Novel with Authentic Emotion
A typical writer understands feelings – we’ve all had our share of grief, happiness, anxieties, fear, exhilaration, depression, love, hate, and so on. Much good comes from writing a novel when we take the feelings and experiences we’ve had and use them to understand and portray our characters emotions. Using our experiences allows us to write with authenticity.
For example, in my novel, Peripheral View, my lead character (Pearl) suffers from epilepsy and her fear of having a seizure in public led her to have, first anticipatory anxiety, and eventually full-blown panic attacks. I wrote a scene that showed her reacting to the attack by trying to claw her way out of a bus.
Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day and it sits within Women’s History Month, so I wanted to take time to recognize these events. International Women’s Day has political connotations, and I’m not interested in going there, but I do want to give you a brief background on both of these proclamations, as well as recognize some great women via their quotes, chosen for their inspirational nature. This accomplishes two things: it celebrates women but keeps it light.
I have some wonderful men who follow me, so I want to mention that there is also an International Men’s Day. Yay! It’s celebrated worldwide (60 countries) every year on November 19. We’ll do quotes by great men at that time.
IWD – A Bit of History
A world-wide event, International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrates achievements made by women in nearly any realm but often covers political or social aspects. Gender equality is of great importance when regarding these achievements. The day is with artistic performances, rallies, networking events, marches, and conferences.
You may think of descriptive writing as the flowery descriptive stuff that you skip over when reading a novel, although many an author and reader enjoy that type of writing too. But the descriptive writing that we are talking about here is the kind that makes a reader “feel” the story as if they were part of a scene or knew someone just like the one described in a scene or narrative.
Good description is not an easy thing to accomplish in writing, but if you want to have a story that readers can’t put down because they lost themselves in it and didn’t find their way out until they’d finished it, you’ll find that learning to write great descriptive stories is well worth your time.
Descriptive Writing is a Key Element of Novel Writing
Entrancing readers with stories that keep moving involves creating believable, vivid portrayals of people, places, actions, and events. Descriptive writing isn’t separate from storytelling; it is a variety of techniques, which are combined to make a story.
What is the purpose of story “setting” and how do you establish it?
The setting of a story has a role to play, and that is to create a sense of “being there” for readers. A description of your story’s setting should establish a time and place in the reader’s mind and help them to visualize the characters in that time and place.
The story setting is not just a description of a mountain landscape, an urban street, or a country farmhouse. The setting is more than a visual description; it should also convey the sense of being there by describing what a reader (and character) might feel, hear, smell, sense, or taste in a particular environment.
Story Setting – A Misunderstood Element of Writing Fiction
Writing the setting of a story is often confused with writing descriptively (writing descriptively is often confused with writing well; see the upcoming article on Descriptive Writing for more information). You want to describe the environment that your character finds herself in, but to do it effectively you must consider certain novel writing elements.
“Who’s talking now?” That’s a question you don’t want the readers of your novel to be asking. In novel writing, the different perspectives from which a story can be relayed are known as types of point of view. In this section about novel writing, we will look at the top 4 types of point of view (POV) and how to select the best one from which to write your novel.
Top 4 Point of View Options of Novel Writing
Third person, subjective
Third person, objective
A first-person point of view would read like this, “I traveled up the tree and down again in 60 seconds.” This point of view allows for only one perspective and everything the reader learns about the story comes from that perspective. The storyteller is allowed to reveal only her own thoughts and feelings. The feelings and thoughts of any other character are only exposed to the reader through that character’s dialogue or actions. The storyteller cannot get into the other character’s heads and can only reveal what she thinks and feels. She can have impressions of other characters, but that’s all.
A third person, subjective,point of view would read like this, “She traveled up the tree and down again and was sure she’d done it within 60 seconds.” This perspective is from the gal who climbed the tree, but it can occasionally shift to other characters. Using this type of point of view allows more characters to think and feel. This way of writing can be used with either a third person singular or third person multiple (or changing) perspective.
In writing fiction, “style” is defined, in the most simplistic terms, as the way a writer writes. It’s the “voice” a reader hears when they read a novel. It’s your preferred method of telling a story. Your style seasons the entire novel whether you want it to or not. While you might try to emulate another writer because you admire their work and enjoy reading their stories, you may come close, but your story will still have your unique brand of writing style.
A person’s writing style is a mixture of many elements. It’s about how you like to write. Writing style comes through your choice of words, tone, and syntax. It’s also influenced by your personality, attitudes, thoughts, likes, dislikes, and idiosyncrasies – everything that makes you who you are.
Literary agents and publishers may ask you for an outline, so it’s important to know how to write a novel outline that tells your story and shows how it moves along from beginning to middle to end. You may also use outlining techniques to structure your story as you write it and as a way of expanding and keeping track of scenes, characters, subplot, and plot.
How to Write a Novel Outline for Literary Agents and Publishers
An outline requested by a literary agent or publisher is typically a numbered, formatted summary of each chapter or significant event. The outline should “tell” the reader exactly what happens in each chapter and does not dramatize it or leave a mystery for the reader to figure out. As with writing a synopsis for your novel – if you have written a mystery, for example – you disclose the resolution to the mystery, i.e., “who done it”.
If both a novel’s plot and subplot can be defined as a “distinct storyline in which a character pursues a goal”, what’s the difference between these two elements of novel writing? It’s a great question and one worth discussing. The following novel-writing tips will help you understand:
what a subplot is (or isn’t), and
the important role a subplot plays in a novel.
Novel-Writing Tips – Nuances of Plots vs. Subplots
The “central plot” of a story, where your lead character is fighting passionately to gain something, keep from losing something, or overcome something, has its own distinct plot thread. This thread shows all the struggles the lead character goes through to finally achieve his/her goal or resolve the problem.
A subplot is another storyline that you weave into a central plot, adding complexity to the lead character (or other characters) in which the character has some sort of dilemma that they must also overcome.
Novel-Writing Tip: A subplot becomes potent when it adds depth, complexity, conflict or humanizing dimensions to the central story and its characters.
If someone asked you how to start a novel plot, what would your answer be? You might say that plot is everything that happens in a story and that they could begin by writing all of those events down. Your answer would be correct to a certain extent. However, in this section of the elements of novel writing, we are going to look at a deeper meaning of a novel’s plot and how novelists use it to get a story going and keep it going.