Fiction Writing: Bringing Dialogue to Life

A great novel has stunning visual imagery. There’s no way around it; if you can literally “see” the scene in your head, then the book you’re reading reached a fantastic goal. But you can’t make a novel based on description alone.

You need dialogue. Good dialogue, interesting dialogue. Characters need to interact and speak to create a novel that people can “see” in their minds.

You can help your readers “see” even more by making your dialogue stand out. You want readers to “hear” what your characters say, but even more so, you need to help your readers “see” how the character says those words as well.

Here’s an example of a segment of dialogue:

“I’m having a beer,” James said. “Do you want one?”

“No, thanks,” Harry said. “I’m working on this banner right now. Maybe later.”

“Beer makes banners go down better,” James said, and he handed Harry a bottle. “Come on, have one. Cheers.”

Bored yet? I sure as hell am. The scene has conversation between two characters, which is great, but it’s lacking in description. There’s no life to it and little visual imagery. So what should you do? Describe the bottle or the fridge? Mention the color of Jamie’s hair or Harry’s shirt?

What value does that add to the story? Does it matter what color Jamie’s hair is or that Harry has a red shirt versus a blue shirt? Adding description, in this case, isn’t going to make any difference in advancing the story or making it more entertaining.

There’s another problem with this section of story. “Said”. If you want to bring your dialogue to life, then you have to eliminate the word “said”.

It’s filler. It’s unnecessary. It doesn’t add anything to the value of the novel – so cut it out.

Hold on, though. If you have no description to fall back on and you start cutting out words, what’s left? You need to add something to replace the filler, or you’ll be left with a transcript of an audio tape and little else. Take a look:

“I’m having a beer. Do you want one?”

“No, thanks. I’m working on this banner right now. Maybe later.”

“Beer makes banners go down better.” James handed Harry a bottle. “Come on, have one. Cheers.”

That’s even more boring than the excerpt before – and confusing. The fluff is gone, but who said what isn’t clear. The scene lacks visual imagery to tell the reader which character is offering what and to whom.

So add some action.

Bringing action into your dialogue can make a huge difference in the enjoyment of a scene. The dialogue helps readers “hear” what’s going on. The action shows them what’s happening at the same time. Readers can “see” the scene play out almost like a theatre act, with all the elements working together to create richer imagery.

Try this version:

“I’m having a beer.” James set his papers down and walked to the fridge. He opened the door and glanced at Harry. “Do you want one?”

“No, thanks.” Harry frowned at his screen without looking up. “I’m working on this banner right now. Maybe later.”

One corner of Jamie’s mouth pulled up. “Beer makes banners go down better,” he handed Harry a bottle. “Come on,” he urged. “Have one.” The bottle went up in silent salute. “Cheers.”

The whole scene, short as it is, is only two men discussing having a beer. But suddenly, when action and dialogue blend together, the scene becomes interesting. Something’s happening. There’s material to capture interest. Not only that, but action has momentum. It’s clear that something was happening and that something will happen as well.

Note that the dialogue hasn’t changed. It has stayed the same in all three examples. But it has suddenly become alive. It conveys emotion and creates a small “movie” in the reader’s head.

The moral of the story is that without action, dialogue can’t support a story. Without dialogue, a story is flat and lifeless. Your characters are people – living, breathing, moving and thinking. Creating a rich novel means balancing all elements of a good story.

The story suddenly becomes accessible – not only in words, but in the reader’s mind as well.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Too much description is definitely a novel-killer (unless you’re Tolkien). I’ll be taking your advice for my celebration of National Novel Writing Month later this year because dialog has always been hard when I try to write stories.

    I’d also like to add that in news writing, you are discouraged from using anything but “said” because it can easily lead to bias. But it also makes it less interesting to read because sources don’t seem like people. I think picking the right word can sometimes benefit a story or a novel, it’s just more limited in news writing.


    Allison White’s last blog post..Avoiding unknown biases in writing

  2. Melissa walked into the room and found the two men gripping their beer bottles. Harry took a swig and set his down on the desk. James smiled and swaggered over to take a look at the banner Harry was working on.

    “Excellent as usual.” James nodded as he patted Harry on the shoulder.
    “We’re getting there.” Harry was always the voice of reason.

    There was nobody else around. Was it possible that Melissa had finally arrived early to the party instead of making her usual late entrance? She tucked her Bic pen into the back pocket of her Levi’s, ready to put off work to have some fun.

    “Getting there?” She strutted into the room. “You Pen Men arrived a long time ago.”

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Memorizing Poetry

  3. “He’s always the skeptic,” James didn’t miss a beat, glancing back and giving Melissa a wink. A cocky wink – could he give anything less?

    Harry’s eyebrow arched at James. “Someone has to be around here. At least you haven’t set anything on fire lately,” he grunted and went back to frowning at his screen.

    James rolled his eyes at Melissa, hitched his head at Harry and mouthed “party pooper” at her. Then he brightened. “Want a beer, Bic Chick?”

  4. Melissa winked back at James and then laughed. “I’d love one. What do you have in a bottle?”

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Memorizing Poetry

  5. Jamie’s face lit up and a gleam came to his eye. “A genie,” he grinned. “What’ll you wish for?”

  6. THIS is the primary reason why I could never write fiction. I just never knew it! The lightbulb just went on… I’m just realizing that my dialogue was always, he said, then she said, then he said… Not like this was the only reason my writing sucked, but it’s definitely a major reason!

    @ Allison – I tried NaNoWriMo last year too! Failed miserably. Doesn’t help I heard about it a day before it was supposed to start. I would definitely love to read what you have to write this year. 🙂

    @ Melissa – Seems we both were a little early today! I don’t see the orchestra anywhere though… did we give them the wrong address?

    Allison’s last blog post..New York Roll

  7. “Well I’d love a cold Corona with a twist of lime.” A buzzing sound resonated from her pink velvet handbag. She pulled out a small device and glanced at it. “Hey — Imperial Dude,” she looked up and cocked her head to the side “One of these days you should write a post about how to attract comments on your blog. I mean, nobody does it like you do.”

    Melissa accepted the beer he handed her. “Thank you!” The bottle was ice cold, sweaty, perfect. She took a long swallow then smacked her lips. “Thanks. That really hit the spot.” She wondered if this was a three-wish genie or had she just spent her one true wish on a bottle of cheap (but tasty) beer.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Memorizing Poetry

  8. “I have.” Jamie’s face darkened as he stalked over to the papers he’d left on the counter. “Here. Right here,” he snatched them and shook them at Melissa. “13.2 ways. Now look,” he took her by the arm and steered her away from Harry’s desk and over to his, pointing accusingly at his feed reader.

    “12.” James sounded insulted. “12 posts that say the same damned thing. Why do people do that?” He sighed and slid into his chair, looking dejected. “Have I taught them nothing? Don’t they get it? Be different, cripes.”

  9. @Allison, I think the orchestra is going to arrive anytime. They show up a little later on Saturdays. It’s Saturday! Maybe we’ll get a rock band! Or a DJ that has an extensive 80s collection (that would be so sweet)! If this turns into a dance party, I’ll never get to sleep tonight!

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Memorizing Poetry

  10. “Whoa there cowboy!” Melissa walked over and gently took the papers from James and set them back down. “Calm down. The 13.2 ways were great. But come on. A place like this,” she glanced around, “there’s more to it.”

    She wondered, could it be the genie? Were the Pen Men using magic? She looked directly into James’ eyes, searching for signs of psi powers, looking for any sign that he may be armed with more than just a Glock.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Memorizing Poetry

  11. Nudging the cat out of the way with his foot, James swaggered toward the fridge. Just as he reached toward the handle, a sudden gush of air and a soft swishing sound filled the room. James turned toward Melissa and raised his hand in silent comfort as he crept slowly toward the sound. Harry looked up from his banner and James halted mid stride, just as she entered the room. The fatigue drained from Harry’s face as he smiled brightly at the newcomer. Karen entered the room with a sunny smile and pom-poms softly shaking in her hands. “Hey everyone! What an awesome day!”

  12. Brett Legree says:

    I’m still just looking at that beer, thinking, “hmm, I could use that”

    (nothing wrong with wanting a beer at 7 am, right? Right?)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..on being grounded.

  13. “Karen! How are you? Hey, these guys have the best bar in town! You should see wha–” Just then Melissa’s handbag started buzzing again. “Dammit,” she muttered, “Can I get any peace and quiet this week?” She looked up at Karen, “Sorry, excuse me for just a sec.” Melissa pulled the curious device from her bag again and stared at the glowing screen. “Sorry guys, but I’ve gotta run. Thanks for the beer!”

    There was a glimmer and then she vanished before their eyes.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Memorizing Poetry

  14. Dave’s eyes lit up as he typed what he knew* was the perfect witty retort to James’ and Harry’s latest literary guidance … but after a moment the confident chittering of the keyboard abruptly ended. Again. And for the sixth time in as many minutes the the backspace key took it all away, condemning another poorly phrased response to electronic purgatory.

    “Damn,” Dave hissed through clenched teeth, his brow furrowing under the faded brim of his well-worn Guinness cap. His muse, that two-timing tramp that should be flirting with him right now had left him for another, blogger, batting her inspirational eyelashes elsewhere. Dejected, Dave hammered out a quick, lowbrow sentence and hit “Submit Comment,” leaving his empty-calorie graffiti on a post that deserved much better.

    “You had me at ‘beer.’ ”

    Dave Navarro’s last blog post..Quick Check: What’s Stealing Your Focus?

  15. Kelly rolled over and stretched, knocking a steel-grey pillow off the sofa. Her eyes were mere slits. “Lord, I’m stiff. You shouldn’t have let me sleep here, and you definitely shouldn’t be making all this noise so early.” She arched her neck, smiled at Harry, still hunched over the computer, then turned her hazel eyes full on James.

    “Jamie, huh?”

    “What of it?” He took a last, frustrating sip from his bottle.

    “I never heard it before, that’s all. It’s nice.” She let her eyes draw slowly down his frame. He does look like Brad Pitt, she said, if Brad Pitt were a French Canadian with a beer in his hand at this hour. She let out a tiny giggle, almost whispered.

    Jamie was tracing a line of stitching on his jeans with one finger. She couldn’t read him at all today. Probably just wondering if another beer at this hour was going too far. “Ahh, don’t get too used to it. It moved the story along, that’s all. I’m James to you.” He concentrated on the stitching again.

    “Mmm, I figured. Go get another,” she winked at him, “You know you want it, and it’s noon somewhere, as the Irish say.” She rolled over and snuggled back in to the warm cushions.

    “Thank God for the Irish.” Jamie sauntered off toward the kitchen, still thinking the thoughts she couldn’t read, as the sun finally reached in and kissed the tips of Harry’s crazy morning hair.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Beware of Rant!

  16. He’d been just about to greet Karen and agree about the awesome day when Melissa’s pager buzzed to life. Curiously, he tried to glance over her shoulder to see who was calling, but the woman was fast, turning a shoulder slightly.

    Then she left.

    “Damn,” James muttered with unsatisfied curiosity before deciding that he could probably find something interesting for snooping purposes in Karen’s purse, and he sidled a little closer to her.

    Ah, but the world was against his devious plans, and Jamie’s computer pinged charmingly. A new comment. Just perfect to tempt the curious.

    … and a perfect comment to make James snort coffee out his nose.

  17. Dave,

    You had me at beer! LOL! While I was busy typing and retyping! Well done.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Beware of Rant!

  18. The blonde head poked back in the room, eyes narrowing at Kelly’s fond expression. “Don’t wake him up,” Jamie hissed at her before she could touch the sleeping man. “He’ll tell me I have to behave or something.”

    “And don’t make noise,” he whispered, glancing back over his shoulder. “The guys in the other room might wonder what I’m up to.” This was looking interesting. “Good thing my clone is handling the party… want a beer?”

  19. I suck at dialogue, I suck at plot and I can’t write fiction for the life of me. More power to you.

    Very entertaining comments today.

  20. Brett Legree says:

    Brett returned to the keyboard, realizing that his lame-assed comment about beer earlier wasn’t worthy of the steady stream of comments rapidly filling up the server space leased by the Men with the Pens.

    As his well manicured but manly hands tapped at the the chicklets on his laptop’s keyboard, he heard the familiar sound from upstairs:

    “Are you going to have a shower? I have to take Aimee to dance class!”

    Suddenly, the beer in the fridge looked very inviting indeed… 😉

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..on being grounded.

  21. She had been sitting at the computer all morning with nothing to show for it. Just a few scrappy words telling everything she wanted to show. She glared at the ceiling and then got up to find a broom. They sounded like they were having some kind of party up there. No wonder she couldn’t concentrate.

    She knocked on the ceiling with the broom. “You lot up there, could you please keep it down?” She sat back down at her computer with a huff.

    sylvia’s last blog post..An Afternoon in the Park

  22. The thumping froze James in place like a deer in headlights. “SHHH!” He listened, and a shout followed the thumps.

    “Damn.” The floorboards muffled the words, but it sounded like trouble.

    Jamie glanced about wildly, searching for the solution. A woman in one room, a party in the other, and they were running out of beer.

    “Don’t touch that,” he slapped Brett’s hand away from the last beer before snatching it away. “Entertain the people. Keep the party going.”

    He raced back to Kelly’s room and tossed the last bottle at her. “Here. Stay busy. But I mean it,” he warned, waggling a finger. “Don’t wake him up.”

    Then again, could he leave his best friend with the woman in safety? What would happen? Was Harry safe?

    “You’re on your own, bro,” James decided before grabbing the Glock and heading out the door. There was trouble somewhere… a damsel in distress, it seemed.

    It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it.

  23. “Coffee. I don’t do it very often but I can smell it brewing. Lots of cream,” Kelly told his retreating figure.

    She watched the sun play with Harry’s hair, looked over his shoulder at the work he’d never be satisfied with, laughed at the mess they’d left everywhere. Half-finished posts, emails from clients, a very serious letter from the Big Boys Jamie went to visit in the city last week, with a slightly sticky brown bottle as a paperweight. “Harry will love waking up to that,” she murmured, tossing the bottle into a trash can already piled high.

    “From Quebec to you.” Jamie handed her a hefty stoneware mug. It felt nice in her hand, substantial and warm, and it smelled like heaven.

    She took in a deep breath, letting the aroma settle all around her before the first hesitant sip. A smile broke over her face. “Perfect cup.” She leaned back against the wall and surveyed the scene again, as tiny jolts of caffeinated electricity began to awaken her skin. The eyes now wide, she wondered how on earth she let herself get to this place.

    Kelly sighed.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Beware of Rant!

  24. She stretched languidly, wondering if that sliver of light meant she might actually have to get up and get dressed, “Just a few more minutes of quiet, please.”
    The clinking of bottles from the next room pried the other eye open. ” Jamie?”
    “Damn, somebody get me a cappuccino. Were you guys up all night? ‘” she asked belting her robe. “It’s way too early to be this damn brilliant. ”

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..Naughty Friday Finger Painting

  25. Damn. Y’all type too fast.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Beware of Rant!

  26. Ahh stack of wax platters. Much better than well manicured yet manly. Hehehe.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Beware of Rant!

  27. Music, yes. She could hear it from the other room, thumping. That’s not what this morning needs. She searched through the stack. “Irish Pub Songs.” Oops, must have left that here last night. Dave Matthews, Melissa Etheridge… found it. Where was this last night when I wanted it?

    She fiddled with the volume (mustn’t wake the banner-conquering hero!) and soon had Clapton growling huskily at her. She swayed a little, watching the sun beat on Harry’s desk, humming, nodding, and finally, eyes half shut in bliss this time, dropped into Jamie’s chair to await further dialogue.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Beware of Rant!

  28. @ Dave you rock, just subscribed to your blog.

    You guys really helped me this a.m. I have a tough, emotional day ahead and it was so cool to check in here and get a lift. Can’t wait to come back this evening and see what has transpired. James and Harry the company is always good here and I find awesome blogs and writers.


  29. @ ya’ll Now I know why I don’t write or even read fiction all that much anymore … when do get to the payoff where you ask for the sale? 🙂

    Roberta Rosenberg’s last blog post..No Tears for Fears! Tips to Manage Your Business Debt Better

  30. @ Roberta – Dang, girl, there’s more to life than money! I have a party going on, beer en masse, two women in bed (alright, not with me, but hey) and someone banging on my ceiling.

    Now that’s living large 🙂

  31. James,

    “… all right, not with me…”

    You can’t do that here. Then my Mom would be right.


    I never read fiction anymore, though I did a lot when I was a kid. I just put myself there, to write it, then watch it happen around me. I go to sleep like that at night to keep work from making me an insomniac.

    Beside which, who says it’s fiction? There’s Harry, just rubbing his aching neck now, as the cats try to get into the sunlight he’s bogarting…


    Kelly’s last blog post..Tip of the Week: Want Profits? Don’t Be Cruel

  32. She’d written a grand total of three sentences when the banging started at the door. “F’chrissake,” she muttered. As usual, she was working in her pyjamas, not suitable for answering the door in. She searched around the room for something to throw over her. The terry cloth robe had a large coffee stain where she’d missed her mouth, that would never do.

    Her eyes fell on her raincoat. Good enough. She pulled it around herself and tied the belt tight before throwing open the door.

    sylvia’s last blog post..An Afternoon in the Park

  33. The dark hole of the bullet chamber greeted Sylvia’s face, the Glock pointed straight at her. Behind it were a pair of wide hazel eyes that blinked.

    This? This was danger? A stained bathrobe and frazzled hair? “I… uh… ” James glanced over the woman’s shoulder, scanning the room.

    A trap. It was a trap.

    The Glock steadied and the golden-flecked eyes snapped back to bore into Sylvia’s face, scrutinizing her. “There was noise. Who are you?”

  34. “Here”, Jan hands Roberta a Cajun Bloody Mary. Then goes back to toweling her wet from the shower hair off.
    “Kick those heels off. Listen to the groove. If we are lucky, someone may get Harry up to dance.” She winks, readjusts her robe and slips off to see if there are any croissants in the kitchen.

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..Naughty Friday Finger Painting

  35. Voices filled the room, punctuated every so often with “…don’t wake him…”

    Both the conversation and scent of jet fuel permeated the boundaries of sleep, creeping in like soldiers slipping under a barbwire fence. It was too early for guests, then again, maybe not. Damn that pesky 3 hour time delay.

    “What’s going on?” Sunlight made Harry wish he’d kept his eyes closed. He reached for the cord to the blinds, hoping to blot out the sun for a few minutes more, but for some reason the brightness hadn’t dimmed.

    “Karen, I should have known you were here already.”

    She wasn’t the only one in the office, there was Kelly who had commandeered the music from Brett (thank god), Melissa, and Dave tapping away on his comp.

    “You people are insane.” He directed to the room at large.

    Harry sniffed at his shirt, wrinkling his nose at the staleness of it. Had he fallen asleep at the computer again? Apparently so. He rubbed his scruffy cheek and wouldn’t have been surprised if he had “FGHJK” imprinted there. The cats were already wrestling at his feet, wanting to be fed.

    “Let me go make myself human again,” he got out of the office chair and stretched before shuffling off towards the bathroom,

  36. She stared, feeling the blood drain out of her body as if in preparation for the shot. Her mouth opened and closed and then opened again. Man. Gun. Danger. Finally her brain began to work again – get away, fast! She stepped back to slam the door shut but the long edge of the robe was under her heels. She tumbled backwards into a heap.

    sylvia’s last blog post..An Afternoon in the Park

  37. “Clapton?” Wendi frowned, as she made her way up the stairs, juggling two filled bags of morning goodies. “Who listens to Clapton in the morning?” Could the party have gone on all night? She took in a welcome breath, grateful for the final step.

    “Maybe I shouldn’t have left after that bizzare weevil conversation.” She grumbled to herself. Shaking off the memory, she smiled as she pried open the door with the toe of her foot. “Morning, Pen Men gang, I brought treats for everyone…” Her eyes widened as she took in the overflowing bottles strewn everywhere, the sleeping form sprawled out before her, and the stench of stale beer that permeated the air. “Oh Lordie, what on earth did I miss?”

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..The Weekend Wrap Up

  38. “Hungry, Harry?” Kelly handed him a muffin.

    Hot, orange muffins, here in this kitchen full of dishes and beer bottles? This must be fiction, Harry thought.

    Strains of “Peaceful Easy Feeling” came from the office. He grabbed a cup of coffee and wandered out to flop on the sofa. Blonde hairs glinted off a lone pillow on the floor.

    Kelly looked down at her dress. Looked hot last night. Now it’s a wrinkled mess. Geez. I’m too old for this nonsense.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Tip of the Week: Want Profits? Don’t Be Cruel

  39. She moved. She moved fast- “Hey… Hey!” James reached to grab the frightened woman’s arm before she fell but missed. Off balance, trying to save her, trying to save himself, he knew it was too late. She went backwards with a yelp – and he went down, too.

    Instinct made him squeeze to brace for the fall, and the Glock went off with a deafening BANG! The shout that jerked from James threw his senses into panic, the bathrobe cord wrapping around his ankle like a snake.

    “Get off me!” He yelped, pushing at the woman as he scrabbled backwards. Then he realized the gun lay on the floor and he lurched to grab it.

    He held it with two hands, pointing at her head. The gun shook. “Who are you? What the hell is going on?”

  40. Oh, damn, Wendi moved the story someplace else while I contemplated the perfect word.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Tip of the Week: Want Profits? Don’t Be Cruel

  41. @ Kelly – I think we have about six scenes going on. It’s fantastic 🙂

  42. Tough day to be a newbie unless you’re very brave. 🙂 Well, there’s a main thing going on with fun side scenes, but I blew it.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Tip of the Week: Want Profits? Don’t Be Cruel

  43. @Kelly hey, come save me!

    sylvia’s last blog post..An Afternoon in the Park

  44. Zac stared at the monitor, rubbing his forehead and wincing. “Why can’t I ever get a quiet shift,” he muttered at the images on the screen.

    There was trouble brewing for the Pen Men, again. Dark forces were at work to bring the duo down, and they only had an inkling of the danger they were in.

    Zac took in a deep breath and pondered if he should call in back up for Harry and James before things got out of hand. No. Not yet, James could handle himself.

    James Chartrand was more cunning and resourceful than most. He could hold his own- for now.

  45. She rolled into a foetal ball, her arms over her head, as she saw him raise his foot to kick her. The blow never came and when she peeked, he was pointing the gun at her again. Everything seemed to be happening in slow-motion. Some remote part of her brain registered her favorite Eagles song playing in the distance.

    She scrabbled backwards. “Me? Who the hell are you?” Then she considered that a strange man with a gun standing in her apartment deserved a more serious response. She screamed at the top of her lungs.

    sylvia’s last blog post..An Afternoon in the Park

  46. “That can’t be good.” The rush of water from the shower couldn’t mask the gun blast. Someone was in trouble, and that trouble always seemed to point in James’ direction.

    Sopping wet and not bothering to dry himself off, Harry leaped out of the shower and tugged his jeans on. He cursed when his feet got stuck and tangled in the denim and nearly fell on his way out of the bathroom.

    Luckily, he managed to save himself from an awkward moment of exposure before he stumbled into the crowed room.

    “Where’s James?” He scanned the faces in the room, taking a quick head count.

    A scream from one of the other apartments broke the stunned silence.

    Harry glanced at the apartment door and shook his head. His guess was James had just introduced himself to their new neighbor.

    “Never mind. I think I found him.”

  47. The screams penetrated the walls of the tiny kitchen, lifting Kelly out of her self-absorbed fog. What the hell is that?

    She ran out the door and down the stairs, meeting Harry halfway down. A tangled mess of belts, people, and—

    “James! God, get away from her! Put that thing down!” A thousand lectures on why gun ownership causes gun use ran through her head. No time for that, fool.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Tip of the Week: Want Profits? Don’t Be Cruel

  48. Okay, sopping wet, half-dressed Harry totally distracted me.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Tip of the Week: Want Profits? Don’t Be Cruel

  49. She pulled an oversized man shirt on from somewhere in his closet, This will have to do ,” I haven’t been to wardrobe yet.”, she thought.
    ” Damn that James, just like him to run off with his Glock half cocked,” she shakes her head and chuckles, ” Shooting from the hip again.”
    Thank God for that chick passing out muffins in the kitchen I was starving. Harry is not even human yet, and someone is saying there is danger lurking.
    Hmm. Kind of like a weekend in the French Quarter. Brave? Hell, this is just lively entertainment.”, she says sashaying toward the guy with the cats. She is a dog lover at heart, but good writing is good writing. And she is having some of that. 🙂

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..Naughty Friday Finger Painting

  50. While Jamie’s author choked on coffee from laughing so hard, James himself faced an entirely different situation.

    “What th-… HEY! Shhh, what’s the matter with you?! Stop that!” He clamped a firm hand over the woman’s mouth, looking everywhere for something to stop the screaming. “Harry’ll hea-”

    Too late. Facing the Voice of Reason himself and curious onlookers behind, James snatched his hands away from the woman on the floor. Kelly shouted at him, and the Glock clattered to the ground, belying the wide-eyed innocence of the grown man’s face.

    “I didn’t do it.” That wasn’t good enough. “SHE did,” he pointed accusingly to the woman. “It’s her fault.”

    Oh crap.

    “Now look what you did,” he muttered at the woman, looking guilty. “They’re all going to blame me. ‘What’d you do now, James?’ Yeah, yeah,” he grumbled, giving the onlookers dirty glances. “Nothing. Didn’t do nothing.”

  51. @ Kelly – It’s called realism. I think. *glances* He could’ve grabbed a shirt…

  52. She sprawled on the floor, blue and yellow polka-dotted pajama bottoms on full show.

    “Police,” she gasped. “Call the police! He’s got a gun!” It took a moment before the gunman’s words sunk in.

    She scrambled backwards and looked at the others. They seemed strangely calm. No one went for the gun, lying on the yellow linoleum.

    “What is …” She realised she was holding her breath. “Who…” She shook her head and took in the scene in front of her. The gunman was staring at her petulantly. The young couple rushing down the stairs were half-dressed and they were focused on him. No one was trying to save her.

    “I get it,” she said. “This is some kind of care in the community program, isn’t it.”

    sylvia’s last blog post..An Afternoon in the Park

  53. Janice, that post title DID NOT HELP. I even read the post (beautiful), but I am still distracted.

    James, It’s called Yum. Too early in the day for that.


    It’s better to be looked over than overlooked. — Mae West

    Kelly’s last blog post..Tip of the Week: Want Profits? Don’t Be Cruel

  54. Harry extended a hand to the woman on the floor and deadpanned, “Come with me if you want to live.”

    A heartbeat passed and then the McLeod charm broke the stern expression on his face, “Just kidding. No need for the police. Stuff like this happens all the time around here.”

  55. @Kelly –
    Glad you liked. These comments sections are my little fix for fiction writing … I have a 3-book series in my head I want to get to … next calendar year. 🙂 Too much on the horizon in ’08 to devote the right amount of brain power to it (and I want to barrel into it when I do).

    @Karen –
    Also glad you liked (and subscribed!). 🙂 This blog is a great place to be, it’s like the bar on “Cheers” to me …

    Dave Navarro’s last blog post..Quick Check: What’s Stealing Your Focus?

  56. Dave walks int and has a seat at the bar.

    “Dave!” erupts from the patrons in unison.

  57. She became uncomfortably aware that she was staring at the man’s bare chest. She quickly looked down and focused in on her own mishmash of clothing. She shook her head and took his hand to pull herself up, straightening out the rain coat over her robe.

    “I’m Sylvia. I’m, uh, new here.” She looked around. “All the time, did you say?”

    sylvia’s last blog post..An Afternoon in the Park

  58. Harry made sure Sylvia was steady on her feet, noticing how tightly her hand gripped his. “All the time. You’ll get used to it. You alright? I think James is more startled than you are. I’m Harrison McLeod, and this,” He gestured to the group behind him, “Is our crew. Welcome to Men with Pens.”

  59. Seems to me that scene is boredom incarnate no matter how you word it. Now, if James opens the fridge and things go down a little differently…

    “Son of a bitch!” James slammed the refrigerator door. “You drank the last freakin’ beer!”

    Harry didn’t look up from his laptop. “Keep it down, man. I’m trying to work.”

    James closed on Harry. Grabbing hold of the laptop’s screen, he slammed it shut. Harry only narrowly avoided having his fingers crushed. “I told you what I was going to do to you the next time you drank the last beer.”

  60. The gunman was still staring petulantly at the ground as the woman, who appeared to be wearing the shirt that Harrison was lacking, gave him a firm lecture about the danger of guns. Sylvia began to feel a bit frustrated at the attention James was getting, having attempted to break down her door with a gun.

    She snatched her hand back. “Well, thank you for the ‘welcome’ but I really do have to get to work. Do you think you can keep him from battering down my door?” She regretted her temper almost before the words escaped her mouth. She’d only moved into the apartment yesterday and already she was arguing with the neighbours.

    She scowled.

    sylvia’s last blog post..An Afternoon in the Park

  61. Sylvia’s shouting died down almost as soon as it began.

    Utter chaos, followed by stillness.

    DJ B-Max had let the party wind down, and trickles of well-worn partiers now tramped past the stunned group outside Sylvia’s apartment. Tones of “Brass in Pocket” wafted down from the open office door. Harry had a moment to feel naked. Kelly had a moment to feel mussed, and another to watch Harry a bit too closely. Sylvia looked like she was going to recover from her abrupt meeting with the Men with the Pens. Was she also examining Harry?

    No cops, no real disasters. A little party, a little morning bliss, a bit of excitement. Have I done too much or not enough, Kelly thought. “I’m winking at you,” sang Chrissie upstairs. Yes.

    “That was wild enough for me. It’s time to go home. Harry, umm, thanks. Do a gal a favor and go get a shirt, eh? Jamie… you know where to reach me.

    “Do I have to go back to calling you James now?” she called back, sashaying down and out the front. Whether he answered, she couldn’t say. The heavy oak door gave a tired woosh, and the whole impressive scene was behind her. A bright afternoon tried to take her breath away. Kelly put her face up to the sun, and winked at the whole world.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Tip of the Week: Want Profits? Don’t Be Cruel

  62. Re-approaching the apartment she’d left hours earlier, Melissa heard the silky sound of Chrissie Hynde singing “Brass in Pocket.” She grinned and sang along under her breath as she reached for the doorknob and craved another one of those cold, cold Coronas. “Gonna use my – my – my imagination woah-oh.”

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Jeff Buckley: Grace (Album)

  63. @Scott: Let me add to that…

    Harry sighed and drew a hand over his face. Outbursts like this weren’t surprising. James had a habit of forgetting things until Harry reminded him.

    “James, don’t be a twit. You drank the last beer. You were going to pick up more, remember?”

  64. Melissa looked around. The place was empty but there were signs that the party had raged all night. She heard a gaggle of voices coming from the floor above. Could they have moved the party to another location? She turned and headed back toward the door just as Brett entered with brand new shiny 12-pack.

    She grinned.

    “You think that 12-pack is going to hold this bunch over?”

    Brett shrugged and handed her a bottle. “We’ll see.”

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Jeff Buckley: Grace (Album)

  65. oops meant to say DJ B-Max. My bad!

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Jeff Buckley: Grace (Album)

  66. Sylvia put her hand to her temples. She felt quite dizzy. It felt like hours had passed and then again like the morning had just begun. A moment ago there were a crowd of people at her door, weren’t there? But now there was no one.

    She gently closed the door and resolved to go back to bed.

    sylvia’s last blog post..An Afternoon in the Park

  67. @everyone Great great fun! Please don’t ever do this on a weekday though ! 😉

    sylvia’s last blog post..An Afternoon in the Park

  68. @Jamie –
    Dave walks int and has a seat at the bar.

    “Dave!” erupts from the patrons in unison.
    Mickey smiles and starts to pour Dave a Guinness. “Hey Dave,” he echoes, “How’s life treating you today?”

    Dave sits down eagerly and draws a long, satisfying sip from the pint glass. “Like it caught me in bed with its wife,” he sighs, with a wry smile.

    (Disclosure: that’s not mine – that’s an actual Norm joke from Cheers)

    Dave Navarro’s last blog post..Quick Check: What’s Stealing Your Focus?

  69. Over in the North by Northwest corner of the building, in a small corner of a small room in an even smaller apartment, elbows in receipts, invoices, and other assortments of former tree carcasses, Nez looked up.

    The sounds from the fracas momentarily gave him a reason for pause. But only for a moment.

    “Did everyone already file except me?” he muttered.

    And with that, he dove back into his taxes.

    Nez’s last blog post..The Lure of Ludlum

  70. As DJ B-Max stood there holding the 12-pack, Melissa took a delicate sip from the not-so-cold bottle. It was too early to start guzzling like a mad woman. The Pretenders song faded into silence and the two of them stood there in the eerie silence.

    “Where did everyone go?” Melissa gestured upward. “There was just a bunch of noise coming from up there and now it’s dead quiet.” She felt a chill creep up her spine.

    DJ B-Max listened to the quiet and clutched the 12-pack. She was right. The silence was deafening.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Jeff Buckley: Grace (Album)

  71. “I’m still here.” Harry came into the room, tucking in his red t-shirt. “Just slipped some food under Nez’s door.” The guy had his sympathies, Harry had just finished taxes himself that morning.

    “Looks like a train wreck around here. That was some party, huh? Hey, have a seat,” Melissa looked shell-shocked, so Harry guided her over to one of the chairs, “Keep me company while I clean up.”

  72. —Oh, no, not a tucker! I can no longer be in love with you. Darned Sagittarians.—

    Kelly’s last blog post..Tip of the Week: Want Profits? Don’t Be Cruel

  73. @Kelly: That’s easily remedied. *untucks shirt* Better?

  74. Melissa sighed with relief. That silence gave her the creeps, but she was already on edge. She thanked Harry for the seat and took a long, deep gulp from the beer.

    DJ B-Max smiled at Harry and waved, “Hey buddy!” Then he walked toward the DJ console. “Any requests?”

    Melissa’s hand shot up and she sat forward with a start. “Let’s clean this place up. We’ll need some high energy music and we’d better get those beers chilling in the fridge. Got any Prince albums over there?”

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Jeff Buckley: Grace (Album)

  75. —Hot again. Tx. Whew. I need a fan.—

    Kelly’s last blog post..Tip of the Week: Want Profits? Don’t Be Cruel

  76. Wendi emerged from the kitchen, rubber gloves still covering her hands, “I think I have the kitchen in working order again, but the rest of this place….hopeless.

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..The Weekend Wrap Up

  77. Melissa stood and rolled up her sleeves. “Hey Wendi! I was just wondering where you were on this fine afternoon at MwP headquarters!” She picked up a sponge and followed Harry, wiping down each time he plucked a bottle from a surface.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Jeff Buckley: Grace (Album)

  78. “Hey Jan,” her friend ducks his head in the studio, “you still painting? ”
    “Yep”, she wipes a brush on her paint rag, swipes her forehead, ” The damn bird just isn’t right, but I have almost had enough. Big deadline for the zoo though. ”
    Speaking of zoos, you headin’ back over to MwP later?”, he asked hopefully.
    She laughed, “not till later, give em time to hose it out first. ” Brush between her teeth, she squinted at the canvas once again, dipping her other brush into the raw umber, she put in a request for some “Los Hombres Calientes. ”

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..Naughty Friday Finger Painting

  79. As the opening lines of “Let’s Go Crazy” blared out of the sound system, Melissa scrubbed the final remnants of last night’s beerfest away. She looked around.

    “Looks clean to me!” she declared and tossed the sponge into the sink. “What we need now is more drinks all around and a good old fashioned dance party!”

    Then she halted. “You guys do dance, right?”

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Jeff Buckley: Grace (Album)

  80. @Melissa: Can’t dance, don’t ask me. 😉

  81. @Harry, I’m pretty sure in this world, you can do anything.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Jeff Buckley: Grace (Album)

  82. Melissa took the DJ’s hand and got ready to shake her booty.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Jeff Buckley: Grace (Album)

  83. Wendi pulled the rubber gloves off her hands, wiping them dry at her sides. Looking at Harry, she extended her hand. “I didn’t come here to clean. Let me show you how it’s done,”

    Wendi Kelly’s last blog post..The Weekend Wrap Up

  84. “Um…no…really, that’s not…I can’t…” Dance? He couldn’t dance. Being pulled out into the spotlight wasn’t something he felt comfortable with. How could he gracefully dodge this? Where the hell was James when he needed him?

    Harry’s brain raced for a halfway decent sounding excuse and came up blank each time.

    Leaning in close to Wendi, he finally whispered, “I never learned how.” Something in those green eyes of his begged her not to put him through this humiliation.

  85. Melissa and Brett were cutting up the rug. “Nice moves,” Melissa smiled and did the shimmy. “Baby I’m a Star” was throbbing from the speakers.

    “Thanks!” Brett shouted over the loud music, “this is fun!”

    Out of the corner of her eye, Melissa saw Harry resisting the music. He was a such a behind the scenes guy. How could anyone could stand still when a Prince song was playing?

    “Loosen up Harry!” she called out. “Wendi knows what she’s doing.” Melissa gave him a wink then shook her hips. “Come on! EVERYBODY can dance!”

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Memorizing Poetry

  86. @ James – I have 3 kids to get thru college. Honey, I’m ALL about the money.
    @ Kelly – I said I generally don’t read fiction. Didn’t say I didn’t live fiction (or in my case, an overwrought sit-com.)

    Don’t mind me. Carry on.

    (Not you, Harry. You can’t possibly call that St Vitus dance dancing. Here’s a napkin. Please wipe the flop sweat off your brow. And eeeuuww, please don’t hand that wet limp thing back to me!)

    Roberta Rosenberg’s last blog post..No Tears for Fears! Tips to Manage Your Business Debt Better

  87. At a small table in the corner, a dying candle flickered, lighting her face pink and golden, leaving it mysteriously dark, then catching only a wave of hair in its highlights. The smell of that candle filled her with thoughts of a thousand and one other nights. Hazel eyes scanned the room. Poor Harry. Alone in a crowd. And where has the morning’s golden boy gone, il a causé beaucoup d’ennui?

    The sun (and her daughter) to bed, Kelly had looked down at the white tee and Levi’s and decided they were just what this Saturday night called for. Rare for her to be seen in a pair of jeans, but something about this morning flashed back at her as she dressed and made the short flight of fancy to the party. She’d slipped in at the table unnoticed, while Roberta shuddered at Harry’s returned napkin.

    Would anyone mind if she changed the tunes? Finally, she got up and walked across the floor. DJ B-Max leaned his ear in as she spoke. “I do love Prince, but…,” and he let Melissa go for just a moment. Then they clicked back together, and Kelly walked away.

    She slipped up to Harry, nervous at approaching someone so determined to be unapproachable. “I don’t know how the DJ’s wife will like this, but I think the change of tunes will help. C’mere.” A few short beats, and a guitar cried. “Smooth” came sliding out of the speakers, and Santana himself seemed to ask Harry to come move with her.

    “Dancing’s no big thing.” Her hands were on his shoulders, her eyes looking down some, almost shy (after all this time!), then straight into his. Harry wore a worried expression, but those green eyes seemed to have gone liquid. Almost convinced. “It’s just a little hips, and find a nice place to settle your hands. Leave the fancy stuff for television.”

    Kelly’s last blog post..Tip of the Week: Want Profits? Don’t Be Cruel

  88. @ Scott – It wasn’t meant to be an interesting scene, really – to prove the point in a minimalistic way, we couldn’t embellish *too* much with all the techniques of fiction writing. But I liked yours 🙂

    @ Sylvia – Welcome to the gang – it was a pleasure today. And I promise, not on a weekday. We have better plans 😉

    @ Roberta – Don’t remind me about kids and college. That’s why I play. To forget my daily woes…

    @ Everyone – That was a great, GREAT day. Thank you for giving me a ton of fun!

  89. “Ha! I think I found James. He stepped right on my toes.”


    Kelly’s last blog post..Tip of the Week: Want Profits? Don’t Be Cruel

  90. James, I couldn’t agree with you more when you said, “You can’t make a novel based on description alone.” When I write my fiction novels, I always try to include more dialogue than paragraph after paragraph of description and narration only. And when I read, I prefer lots of dialogue with action. In fact, last night I put a book down and grabbed another one to take its place, because the book bored me to death with description and narration rather than dialogue. I haven’t put a book down in a long time, and I tried to avoid this because the title of the book was intriguing. I tried to skip ahead some, but when I made it to Chapter 2, I put it down before I got halfway through the second chapter. I hate to be negative about another writer’s writing, but even though the title was intriguing, the writing was — well — boring. I just couldn’t get interested, and the main reason was because it lacked dialogue.

    On another note, I’d like to let you know that I’ve been enjoying your posts on fiction writing. Many times I read a lot of non-fiction writing advice, so it has been a great treat to see you give fiction writing advice. If possible, I’d love it if you could write some posts about writing fiction query letters, fiction proposals and etc.

    Misti Sandefur’s last blog post..Stay Up-to-Date With Writing and Blogging

  91. Allison looked up from her work, listening to the music across the hall. “I thought that party ended hours ago! I wonder what they’re up to this time. I’ll bet they’re having fun.” Her legs ached to get up and dance; it’s been so long since she’s been able to let loose! Maybe a good salsa, or she always loved to samba…

    Allison snapped back from her daydream. She glanced back at her computer and sighed. “No, no dancing tonight. I need to finish this damn program. Maybe tomorrow. How the hell do you get something out of a database…?” Once again immersed in her work, Allison subconsciously swayed in her chair to the music coming from across the hall.

    Allison’s last blog post..New York Roll

  92. “Funny, I thought I heard voices over here.” Mark looked around a home formerly full of life and chatter, now messy and empty.

    He frowned. He cradled his chin with his index finger, thumb to the side. He hummed for a moment.

    “Ah, hell.” Disappointment and disgust coloured his voice.

    “Damnit, I bet they’re all over at Naomi’s now. I always miss all of the fun.”

    Away he stomped, slamming the door.

    Someday, he thought, I’ll catch the fun when it happens.


    Great stories, guys! 🙂

    Mark Dykeman’s last blog post..Seth says: how to really make friends and influence people online

  93. “eliminate the word said”
    When I first read that, I thought: Oh great!

    Many published authors and writer agents I have heard lecture say that when writers replace ‘said’ with alternate verbs, they sound ridiculous, trying too hard, and inexperienced. Keep it simple and stick with ‘said’ they suggest.

    As I read on, you managed to avoid the whole ‘said’ problem all together by replacing talking verbs with actions. This is smart and you gave a great example. Your prose then becomes very much like screenwriting with dialog and action. Thanks for the good tip.

    Jaden @ Screenwriting for Hollywood’s last blog post..Sunday Picture Post 6 / Read Out Loud

  94. Terry Finley says:

    I think dialogue makes or breaks the story.

  95. Shaking his head slightly Sam thought “oh Terry, every little detail can spoil a story, even little spelling errors – if they are too much”, but said nothing.

    Terry would find out this for himself, one day.

    (hey, I wrote ‘said’ – am I banned now?)

  96. Only if you dance on your head in April while naked and singing “Que Sera, Sera.” It was close. We’ll let you off the hook this time.

  97. “Whew, that was close” He took a deep breath and carefully stepped back, not wanting to ruin it all by tripping now.

    Hey, you know, this creative writing thingy is way cool! I would not dare doing this in english, but I hope to find some time to write stuff for myself, just for fun!

    (still wonderin’ what I would dance to “que sera”, though – sounds like a challenge)

  98. “Dude.” James leaned over and whispered at Harry. “He’s thinking it over. Wanna bet he’ll try it?”

    Harry arched an eyebrow. “James, not on your life.”


  99. Sam let out a deep and heartfelt sigh and fingered the crumpled note in his pocket.
    It was not his qualification – credentials could be forged, and he was used to throw himself in any situation, to learn and adapt on the go, but this, this was heavy stuff. It would take time. Not a few namsy pamsy hours, but real time.

    He took the note out, flattening between his hands. Looking at it, not really reading – he already knew it by heart.

    Sighing again he turned around and left, stuffing the note into his pocket again. He needed to think this one over.

    “Another day. Maybe in another town.” he mumbled, knowing deep inside that even though he won’t act on this now, it would be coming back to him, there would be a second chance.
    Probably even a third, the universe usually did not let him off the hook, once something was meant to happen to him.

    “I’ll be back” he promised, caressing the crumpled note with the directions to the writers corner in his pocket.

  100. Wow, this is my main problem…I (say it) instead of (showing it.) Or so I’ve been told but no one gives me any examples….. which to my dismay is how I learn…thanks again. You guys are my Heros.


  1. […] recent post on bringing dialogue to life did more than expected: It brought our readers to life in the comment section in ways we never […]

  2. […] one Saturday morning I read a blog post. The post itself was good, but even better were the comments.Suddenly I found myself in the middle […]

  3. […] work has strength. It doesn’t matter what he’s writing, a paragraph of description or a piece of dialogue – it all has strength. Incredibly enough, his writing is also extremely concise. He doesn’t […]

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