Overcome Dialogue Dilemmas

Some of my characters have been really chatty recently and it can be a problem…

I am back at it with my longest novel to date and really writing dialogue in sections where the prose gets a bit heavy. There are rules to writing dialogue which I find a bit tricky. Like you want to give them colloquium language but you don’t want to keep spelling out “Alright” or “I don’t know what to say” even if they are the tics of these characters. You want dialogue that actually means something to the story which is why I think writing in close third person can be tricky as you often think when a person might say. Add in that your main character is introspective and introverted, your chances of getting them to speak out loud like a character in a novel.

Have ever noticed the characters you like the most start chatting to each other? When you get to that point in the writing where you have done character development and as I suggested before,  worked out their quirks, then the characters themselves start to take the steer. Part of me likes to think that this is because I am deeply acquainted with the people so I know what they would say or do. But really it’s because these people you have created have come alive and are demanding attention. (If you want to understand this perspective, I would recommend the book Bunny by Mona Awad that I reviewed here.) So once they are so alive to you, they do something else weird: they start talking to each other.

Recently I have written two arguments that happen as she befriends the enemy of the piece. One reason was that I had started to realise there wasn’t enough conflict in the novel; got to give these characters problems. Goodness knows life throws me enough lemons, and by rights you should be chucking lemons at their heads throughout the rising action. As she wrestles with the problems with her neighbours and friends, my main character seems quite meek. I could find quite easily how others speak to her bit it was more tricky to get her to speak out loud.

Here were some tricks I tried to get the arguments going:

1. Ignore the actions

To start the scenes with arguments I didn’t getting her to the place but started writing where she already is. The setting isn’t important because if you are picturing it, you known where they are. Once I had started one scene I knew she was on the bottom step, looking up awkwardly but the words have already told us she is been treated as a subordinate.

2. Say it out loud

Saying the words you’ve  written helps the dialogue feel more real. I also get Word to read out my work to me to help spot those double words or odd sounding phrases.

3. Act it out

I am a wannabe actor as well as writer and this is where those years of improv play out. Playing my characters as I sit before the computer is one of the reasons I crave alone time! I think understanding the rules of drama (start late, leave early, for example) helps us write dialogue. I haven’t written a play since A Level but some of those skills still help.

4. Record it while walking

My final tip is to say it out loud when you’re walking. I think walking is a great trick for getting your mind mulling over things. Especially if you dare to go distraction free. If ideas hit me when I walk, I like to record using voice memos. It’s a great to really have that argument. Although my final tip would be to find a quiet spot to say it out loud!

Have you any tips for writing good dialogue? I’d love to hear from others who struggle with this.

Make Progress, not Perfection

As I round up the month, I consider the need to keep moving forward

There is a special sort of acceptance that comes with being a slow writer. Whilst productivity hackers will tell me I do have time to write, I will always say do just a little. But as I round up this month’s work, I have to contend with the reality of feelings of failure that I haven’t got that far. As I wrote this time last month I am developing an idea around how the antagonist meets and becomes closer to my protagonist. I have written a further scene with this in mind. But mainly I took myself to a cafe to do some thinking (drank coffee.)

I don’t think anyone noticed I was trying to take a selfie of my thinking!

I do think there is a place for driving your ambition, so it is hard not to beat myself up when I have wasted that quiet time I had drinking coffee and not writing. But I also need lots of quiet time and breaks to manage my life with chronic illness and as a SEND parent. But then again I shouldn’t even provide these excuses. Brene Brown explains that our perfectionism is a way of avoiding judgement and shame. So when I feel this sense of shame for not working harder, I have to remind my inner perfectionist I am making progress.

So with that confession out the way, I will go forward with a better mindset that says make progress, not perfection. Some things I did achieve: I started to share my writing prompts on the MumWriteNow instagram and managed a thirty-minute sprint. The hashtag is writerightnow if you want to join this Saturday. I also started publishing a fortnightly newsletter for the charity I volunteer for. So this month has included some writing even if it is not the perfect progress I would have liked.

And I do believe that without realising perfectionism was holding me back, this, I would have never put pen to paper. Perfectionism tells you: you left it too late, you can’t write that, you’re not unique, no-one wants to read this. I have always felt inadequate in my writing skills but secretly I wanted to write. Over the last ten years I have worked on ideas and progressed to the point where I do not feel worried or ashamed to saying I am working on a work-in-progress. Including myself

Writing Prompts for New Ideas

Do you use Youtube to help you generate new ideas: here’s an example of what you can do…

I recently watched this brilliant youtuber Abbie Emmons, she has loads of advice for writers and I tried her video working through a writing exercise to
generate ideas. I had a go at developing some new ideas this way and I wanted to provide a step-by-step that helped me develop this idea into a new short story.


The advice in the video asks you to write down your favourite book, the genre, themes and take the plot of a key scene that you love. You do this with a few of your favourites and end up with a load of things you can mix and match. I choose Pride and Prejudice but set it in a modern-day knowing fiction, where
we would laugh at Darcy’s snobbery even more.


To create my new character, she needs Elizabeth Bennet’s sassiness but the rudeness of a blunt modern-day heroine; I picked Eleanor Shellstrop from the amazing The Good Place, a show in which her unpleasantness is central to the character being placed in The Good Place by mistake. In Pride and Prejudice we hear mainly from the indefatigable narrator; Jane Austen’s voice is afterall the powerhouse of her fiction. But this is the twenty-first century so Liza, my new hero, speaks in first person and gets to react and describe her Darcy from her perspective.


I found this mixing of characters a fun way of forming an idea in my head, but I also needed a setting in which they would meet. I had been reading about village life, so they were suddenly at a cricket club. I
liked the fact that this idea sparked. I would not recommend forcing yourself to stick to something to make it a perfect mix and match between two books. It is less derivative for a start to let the ideas form,
but also I don’t think the idea is to create a new Romeo and Juliet but rather that the only thing new in the world is your voice: every story has been told already, but not by you.

the only thing new in the world is your voice: every story has been told already, but not by you.


Finally, to spark off the story, I thought about how the antagonist would get her alone to confess his love. This time we would not expect a proposal but he would be critical and rude of her manners and
how much she drinks, how much she, like Eleanor Shellstrop, loves to party. Unlike in Pride and Prejudice where she has been isolated by her circumstances of being trapped at the Collins’s house. Her
friend Charlotte would not be preoccupied with paying lip service to a formidable aristocrat, instead she would be there speaking up for her friend and in my story she comes to interrupt the fractious exchange.


By the time I had worked through the dynamics of the three people and their motivations in the scene, I felt like I had heightened the tension. Darcy may flinch at being called ungentlemanly, but this character would go away cowering under the wrath of the women he had crossed.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not think this exercise produced something better than Pride and Prejudice or The Good Place. I am not sure if the piece I wrote will even go anywhere, but it was a interesting way to find a new way in to writing. If you are feeling a bit stuck this would be a great way to get started again.

Let me know any channels you follow, here is the amazing Youtuber I enjoyed.

Are you part of an internet generation?

As an early adopter, how seriously do I need take my role as an elder millennial?

Somehow generations on the internet have developed into these social memes of groups that we are all supposed to fit into. I am not a sociologist, so I don’t claim to be able to go deep into what this says about internet culture, but these factions do interest me. For me, I like the fact that I grew up in the pre-internet era and was an early adopter of social media. That, and my age of course, means that I am the classical elder millennial (I believe defined as post 1980 to 1985 birthday ). Mainly on Instagram, I have seen these arguments brewing. Nearly 40-year-olds, do you remember when everyone turned on us for wearing skinny jeans and side partings?

These simplistic definitions of generations fascinate me. I mean no-one is going to stop me wearing my hair how I like: you’ve guessed it, it’s in a mum-bun. But also, because it speaks to a wider sense of wanting to be defined as something. This can lead to very dismissive (and often quite funny) complaints about former generations. I remember being amused when I first came across the “ok, Boomer” memes online, particularly if we are being told to give up avocado toast so we can buy property in London. The criticism of a certain type of journalism that has frequently dismissed the cost-of-living crisis is very valid. I don’t think I need to demonstrate why someone could afford a house in 1970 that I would never be able to buy now.

Memes to make you giggle are here




But knowing as I do that the attitude of being dismissive and critical of younger generations work ethic, financial planning and fashion choices does not in the most part represent the opinion of Boomers I know, I have to question the value of grouping people in this way. Not least because some of these same Boomers we are criticising, are also the first and second wave feminists that I have admired so much. Feminism as a word goes in and out of fashion although I strongly believe getting to choose to be a feminist is a privilege that most, including these women, could not afford.

To reject the roles of your forebears, through this lens, is to ignore a series of important histories that have led us to these freedoms. If you annoyed at how your manager treats you do you remember she would have been rejected for management before the 1970s because of her gender? It is very possible someone sent her a letter to refuse her application as they don’t accept female candidates for management (I mention this example because I know L’Oreal did this to my Mum). Again, by all means have a joke at the expense at your manager who doesn’t know how to use excel, but don’t assume a general incompetence. Just as I find some mum jokes lazy, I am more interested in why we make these generalisations.

By all means, reject the fashions of the past, if it embarasses you. I mean, who hasn’t seen a photo of themselves and wondered what they were thinking. Fortunately for me, being an early millennial means my fashion mistakes are mostly not online. But I do wonder when we divide into these groups with these broad brushstrokes, if we lose out on the past and out rich and varied histories. A meme is a social joke, a collective understanding which can feel fun when your part of it – which is why I find jokes about Boomers funnier than the ones about my own generation- but it is also pretty dismissive.

I have been writing about a multi-generational family of strong women and, in a sense, they represent different types of womanhood. I suppose my research into the younger generation as I write about it has led me down the path to examine differences between us. But there are no quick, easy explanations of how you are formed into who you are, often it is through a series of circumstances, possibly privileges and through the art and media you consume. What then of these simplistic explanations of a whole generation? Well as an “elder,” wisdom tells me that it’s just another bad meme. Laugh at it sure, but please don’t think we are all the same.

Developing Your Ideas

How to get a spurt of writing energy when you get the chance to write

The end of the month comes all too quickly in February. This is a relief when you look at your bank balance, but when it comes to reflecting on what you have written it is almost a bit too soon. When I reviewed my January work, I posited that sometimes the work is done off paper by letting your ideas fester. However it did also push me to work more this month, knowing I would be updating the blog with what I had achieved.

So despite half term (and ill health yet again,) the good news is I wrote two new scenes for my motherhood project. One was prompted by an old photo. Because as much as I feel like I remember those early days, writing about the early years and the joys of toddlers has been blotted out by later tears and tantrums (and joys of course.) My own memories, along with knowing my characters better, helped me develop a scene where we see the strain of dealing with a difficult child through the impact it has on their parents.

The other scene I developed was on the back of the character profiles I have been developing. I wrote recently about avoiding clichés in my writing by using character profile worksheets. I love this activity to get the ideas flowing. I took this a step further and wrote a scene where the antagonist met up with my main character. I had identified both her flaws and the obstacles she faces so that both characters are more fully formed when they interact.

Just thinking about what next…

To really develop the idea, I wrote the scene from the antagonist’s first person and then rewrote it from the main character’s viewpoint. This was a technique that I learnt in a writing class that I would recommend. It is a really good way to develop the scenes because you have full awareness of what each character’s intentions are and are more aware of the tension between the two or more people. Whilst I highly recommend this idea, I would also caution not always do this. I have swathes of writing where the viewpoints have got mixed up either conciously or unconciously. This may be a style you choose to adopt, but it is best to choose a viewpoint and stick to it at least in the first draft.

Finally, to really develop your ideas, I like to leave an unfinished sentence at the end of your writing time. This week I finished the scene where the main character has been allowed into the home of the antagonist and at the end we know she has been invited out to an event. I know now that I have to write next about the event or at least the aftermath so I am setting my brain up to fester on that idea whenever I get back to the paper again.

I would love to hear any tips and tricks you use to keep going at your writing projects.