Book Review Status: I’m currently overbooked so commitments for book reviews have to be suspended until further notice. Please refer to “Seeking Coverage on this Book Blog?” for other opportunities for promotional coverage on this book blog. Thanks!
Q: What day is it?
A: It’s Wednesday. Hump Day. Middle of the week and a great day to pause and reflect on writing great dialogue – so I dug through my archives and pulled-up this post written a year ago using the opening passages of Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, a watershed book that launched a genre.
Do you analyze the writing when you read? I certainly do.
5 ingredients for writing great dialogue:
- sound natural
- have either simple tags, or no tags at all
- move the story forward
- increase conflict
- deepen the reader’s understanding of the characters
In the early opening of the first chapter of Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, Bridget receives a phone call from her mother. What can we learn about Bridget, her mother, and their relationship from this passage of dialogue? Does the dialogue between mother and daughter sound natural? Does it move the story forward and increase the conflict?
I think so. But what do you think?
Note: The book is written in first person point-of-view and the dialogue opens with Bridget’s mother speaking. She’s calling Bridget in August with a Christmas question. Sometimes, emotional manipulation begins months ahead of a targeted event . . .
Let’s take a peek:
“Oh, hello, darling. I was just ringing to see what you wanted for Christmas.”
“Would you like a surprise, darling?”
“No!” I bellowed. “Sorry. I mean . . .”
“I wondered if you’d like a set of wheels for your suitcase.”
“But I haven’t got a suitcase.”
“Why don’t I get you a little suitcase with wheels attached. You know, like air hostesses have.”
“I’ve already got a bag.”
“Oh, darling, you can’t go around with that tatty green canvas thing. You look like some sort of Mary Poppins person who’s fallen on hard times. Just a little compact case with a pull-out handle. It’s amazing how much you can get in. Do you want it in navy on red or red on navy?”
“Mum. It’s eight-thirty in the morning. It’s summer. It’s very hot. I don’t want an air hostess bag.”
“Julie Enderby’s got one. She says she never uses anything else.”
“Who’s Julie Enderby?”
“You know Julie, darling! Mavis Enderby’s daughter. Julie! The one that’s got that super-dooper job at Arthur Anderson . . .”
“Mum . . .”
“Always takes it on her trips . . .”
“I don’t want a little bag with wheels on.”
“I’ll tell you what. Why don’t Jamie, Daddy and I all club together and get you a proper new big suitcase and a set of wheels?”
Did you notice there was only one tag used? (I bellowed.) They weren’t needed; the dialogue was so tightly written, we know at all times who is speaking. Through the dialogue, we learn about each person, their relationship to each other, and what they want and don’t want. And by the way, as you’ve probably already sensed, it’s not really about the suitcase . . .
At this point in the story, there’s a bit of narrative (one paragraph with only a few sentences) which shows Bridget’s frustration, and then the dialogue resumes with your typical mother-daughter exchange of dialogue in which Bridget’s mother reveals the real reason behind her phone call. Notice the skillful use of tagging in this passage, used as a way of pacing the dialogue during the moment of heightened conflict.
Here it is:
“Is there anything you’d like for Christmas?” I ask desperately, blinking in the dazzling Bank Holiday sunlight.
“No, no,” she said airily. “I’ve got everything I need. Now, darling,” she suddenly hissed, “you will be coming to Geoffrey and Una’s New Year’s Day Turkey Curry Buffet this year, won’t you?”
Bingo! The real reason for the phone call is revealed. She wants Bridget to attend the Turkey Curry Buffet so she can meet Mark Darcy, the son of family friends, who also happens to be wealthy, and recently divorced. In just a moment, I’ll move forward in the dialogue just a bit. (The ellipses in the next passage spoken by Bridget’s mother are mine.)
“. . . Oh, did I mention? Malcolm and Elaine Darcy are coming and bringing Mark with them. Do you remember Mark, darling? He’s one of those top-notch barristers. Masses of money. Divorced. It doesn’t start till eight.”
Bridget scrambles for a bit trying to get out of it, even telling her mother, “. . .Mum. I’ve told you. I don’t need to be fixed up with . . .”
In the final passage of the dialogue her mother seals the deal and gets what she wants which antagonizes Bridget, the story’s protagonist.
Here it is:
“Now come along, darling. Una and Geoffrey have been holding the New Year buffet since you were running round the lawn with no clothes on! Of course you’re going to come. And you’ll be able to use your new suitcase.”
What a great opening to a novel. ‘Of course you’re going to come. And you’ll be able to use your new suitcase.’ Translation: You will come. You will meet Mark Darcy. You will arrive with the suitcase that I select.
What I think is especially skillful is the patronizing sentence she uses: “Now come along, darling. Una and Geoffrey have been holding the New Year buffet since you were running round the lawn with no clothes on!” Later in the book, Bridget will indeed run around with no clothes on as she looks for love in all the wrong places – which is why the sentence coming from her mother, referring to her as a child ‘running round the lawn with no clothes on’ is so skillful. It’s not a light, casual sentence at all. Her mother is still treating her like a child, and she’s about to be manipulated into meeting Mark Darcy by her parents and her parents’ friends at the Turkey Curry Buffet. It’s a humiliating experience for both Mark Darcy and Bridget because the entire time, while trying to navigate being single when so many of their peers are married, they are instead treated like children by their parents. Whereas Bridget has a suitcase forced upon her, poor Mark Darcy is introduced wearing a peculiar sweater and bumblebee socks. One has to wonder if his mother forced them on him. Regardless, they are adults, thrust reluctantly into the difficult world of dating. They’re not children running round the lawn with no clothes on, but their parents sure treat them that way.
Yup, there’s nothing like a strained passage of dialogue between mother and daughter to start a story. Especially when that dialogue launches the main character right into conflict.
The dialogue was natural, had few tags because we knew at all times which character was speaking, the dialogue moved the story forward, increased conflict and deepened our understanding of the characters. Five ingredients for writing great dialogue.
Now if someone would please send me the ingredients to the Turkey Curry?
One last thing: In the passage we just examined, the writer also accomplished the placement of an object (the suitcase) and a set of circumstances (the New Year’s Turkey Curry Buffet) that propels Bridget and her readers into the next scene. . .
Well done. An enjoyable read that teaches us a few things about writing great dialogue.
About the book: Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding was first published in 1996 in Great Britain by Picador, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers Ltd. First published in 1998 in the United States by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Published in 1999 by Penguin Books. I selected this edition because I love the torn edges on the pages and the cover artwork by Tara McPherson (whose art was also featured in the Academy Award-winning film, Juno.)
Today’s post is a modified version of an earlier blog post written a year ago on this blog. If you found it useful, perhaps share it with friends. Social media buttons are below. Much appreciated!
It’s Hump Day. Yay! Halfway to the weekend. Happy Wednesday, everyone.
Love flash fiction? Micro fiction? How about teeny tiny fiction?
The following teeny tiny story (100-words or less) about a teeny tiny house is part of the “Home Sweet Teeny Tiny Home” Project.
Learn more at:
Hikers’ Hut by Pauline Wiles (100 words)
I was insane to agree to a Swiss walking weekend with my new man. I pictured lake front strolls and chocolate truffles; he packed a map, compass and ice ax.
The cloud descended an hour ago. My ankle’s twisted, my fingers are numb. I can’t keep up and we’re barely speaking.
Six paces ahead, he stops abruptly and points to a yellow sign: Kistenpasshütte 30 min.
“It won’t be much – a roof, a bunk. A blanket, if we’re lucky.”
A hikers’ hut? Up here, where even the cow bells have fallen silent? Relief floods me.
I take his hand.
British by birth, Pauline Wiles moved to California nine years ago and, apart from a yearning for afternoon tea and historic homes, has never looked back. Her work has been published by House of Fifty, Open Exchange and Alfie Dog Fiction. Pauline’s debut novel, Saving Saffron Sweeting, was published in 2013, with Secrets in the Sky coming in spring 2015.
(Photo Sources: f.hikr.org, hikr.org, angelfire.com)
Happy Wednesday. It’s Hump Day. Yay! Halfway to the weekend. We’re almost there . . .
It’s teeny tiny time!
I’m digging flash fiction these days and have started collecting teeny tiny flash fiction stories of only 100 words. Are you curious about flash fiction? You might enjoy this Hump Day Blog Post: Flash Fiction – Sources to Get You Started.
The “Home Sweet Teeny Tiny Home” Project
In September, I launched a teeny tiny “flash fiction” project designed around the tiny house movement. Teeny tiny stories of less than 100-words – all set in a teeny tiny house. What followed was a fun September filled with great stories. Curious? Everything related to the “Home Sweet Teeny Tiny Home” Project is filed under these two categories on the right side of my home page (scroll down just a bit):
- Flash Fiction
- Teeny Tiny Home
Say what? What’s the Tiny House Movement?
Not sure what the tiny life is about?
Click HERE for images of tiny houses.
Click on the links below for more information.
My Teeny Tiny Call for Teeny Tiny Submissions
Do you have a teeny tiny story you want to write about a teeny tiny house for inclusion in a teeny tiny ebook? Submit your 100-word story to firstname.lastname@example.org with the words: “Home Sweet Teeny Tiny Home Project” in the subject line. This is a non-paid submission.
- strict 100-word limit for the complete story
- story setting is a tiny home*
- story must have a protagonist and something must happen
- story should have a beginning, middle, and end
- include a short 2-3 sentence author bio with one link to one online site (i.e. the author’s website) and a Twitter handle
* You don’t have to directly mention the tiny home – just write knowing there shouldn’t be grand ballrooms or expansive kitchens or parties with a hundred people in the living room.
Stay-tuned: Beginning this Friday, then running every Friday through December, I’ll be publishing new flash fiction pieces from great writers like Pauline Wiles and Karen Soutar.
Have a 100-word flash fiction piece you’d like to write about a teeny tiny house? Join us! Send your submission today.
In the meantime, have a great Wednesday.
Photo credits for the tiny houses shown in this blog post: Serbia Rock House (rock house); www.designboom.com (sphere house); carolynsbuzz.wordpress.com (tiny house off the docks).
My favorite type of reading this time of year is the Christmas novella. Shorter than a novel, delightfully seasonal, perfect for busy little elves fast at work during the holidays. I’m so thrilled to bring you Fairy Tale in New York by Nicky Wells as part of the Fairy Tale in New York blog tour.
Here’s a bit about the book – and then my book review.
New York. A restaurant near Park Avenue. It’s early evening, and dusk is falling. So is the snow. Jude and Carrie are only killing time while they wait for their flight to London. They don’t know yet that their life will never be the same.
When rock star Jude gets stranded in New York with his family on Christmas Eve, he has no idea that he is setting in motion a chain of events that will turn their Christmas into the most magical one yet…
No good deed goes unpunished, or so it seems to Jude and Carrie on the morning of the twenty-fourth of December. The previous day, they gave up their London-bound flights to someone in crisis. And now, a spectacular whiteout is grounding all planes, and Jude, Carrie, and baby Maya are stuck far from home.
Tired, hungry, and just a little panicked, Jude loads his family into a cab and returns to their hotel. But there’s no room at the inn, and not even a platinum credit card will make a difference. Snow is falling heavily, and the family is facing a very bleak night indeed.
How do you celebrate Christmas with no place to stay, no food, and no presents? Join Jude, Carrie, Maya and a cast of colourful characters in this fairy tale story of Yuletide in New York.
My thoughts? Wonderful. I reviewed Nicky’s Spirits of Christmas novella this time last year so you may recall, I’m a big fan of her writing and I hope her Christmas novellas become a tradition because I sure love a feel-good story around the holidays.
Last year’s novella, Spirits of Christmas, was a modern-day adaption of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, A Christmas Carol. With Fairy Tale in New York, Nicky delivers another story for her rock star fans, starring Jude and Carrie and their daughter, Maya. Readers will relate to being stranded during the holidays when transportation fails and they’ll delight in the holiday sight-seeing of this great city, complete with Christmas music, Santa, and all the sights and smells of Christmastime.
Last year’s gem was the retelling of a Dickens classic. This year’s gem is the family element – Jude, Carrie and baby Maya star in this accidental New York adventure. It’s Maya’s first Christmas and our rock star couple was hoping they’d be home in time for the holidays – but life doesn’t work that way. One mishap after another leads this family through a winter stumble across a distant city filled with minor disappointments replaced with a whole lotta magic.
If this novella was a gift on Santa’s sled, what would readers find as they unwrapped its pages? They’d find Christmas, family, and romance. (And super cute chapter titles, too!)
Do you love Christmas novellas as much as I do? Nicky’s got not one, but TWO Christmas novellas for us to enjoy. All’s I can say ’bout that is: Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!
P.S. While not a Christmas title, want to read my review of Sophie’s Turn, the third book in Nicky’s Rock Star Romance Trilogy? Okay. Here you go. It’s right HERE.
Ultimate rock chick author Nicky Wells writes romance with rock stars—because there’s no better romantic hero than a golden-voiced bad boy with a secret soft heart and a magical stage presence!
Nicky’s books offer glitzy, glamorous romance with rock stars—imagine Bridget Jones ROCKS Notting Hill! If you’ve ever had a crush on any kind of celebrity, you’ll connect with Nicky’s heroes and their leading ladies.
Born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993 and currently lives in Lincoln with her husband and their two boys. Nicky loves listening to rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When she’s not writing, she’s a wife, mother, occasional knitter, and regular contributor at Siren 107.3 FM with her own monthly show. Rock on!
Happy Wednesday! It’s Hump Day. Best day of the week.
Today’s the first Wednesday of December, so before I begin my Hump Day Blog Post, two quick items, then I’ll move swiftly to the topic of the week – book titles.
1. Super huge thanks to all those who participated in last week’s Hump Day Blog Hop. This monthly blog hop always begins on the last Wednesday of the month – maybe you’d like to join us. Always a good time. And never too late to click-through those links. (See them HERE.) Lots to learn and great people to connect with. You might enjoy Blog Hops: Comprehensive List of Benefits. Read it HERE.
Read it HERE.
Read it HERE.
Read it HERE.
Do I sound bossy?
2. Great big congratulations all you snazzy, crazy-productive NaNoWriMo participants. November’s over. Yay! How’d you do? Joel Cunningham assembled this list in 2013 and posted it on the Barnes & Noble website. Thought you might enjoy: 8 Best-Sellers Started During National Novel Writing Month Read it HERE.
Read it HERE!
Okay. Today, I’m talking book titles and thought I’d share these interesting tidbits about the topic:
Paul Dioron wrote this article: “How To Choose a Bestselling Book Title” in a January 2012 post on the Maine Crime Writers website. In his article, he ran Lulu.com’s Title Scorer app through the test with interesting comments and observations. In case you’re wondering, the Title Scorer is an app that assigns a quasi-statistical rating to book titles to test the likelihood of that book becoming bestseller – based not on the content of the book, mind you, but on the title alone. Read more HERE.
If the Lulu.com Title Scorer app has you wondering if there’s more out there to help you generate a great book title, look no further than the many “title generators” circulating the blogosphere. These are fun to look at but follow a similar formula to the “What’s Your Unicorn Name” memes on Facebook and Twitter in which you plug-in answers to mundane questions like the month in which you were born. It’s worth your while to read the list of words on each generator as they certainly capture the essence of titling books to fit specific genres.
Fiction author and screenwriter, Tara Sparling, on her blog, Tara Sparling Writes brings us multiple title generators including a Chick-Lit Book Title Generator, a Crime Thriller Book Title Generator and a Literary Fiction Book Title Generator. Read more HERE.
If Lulu’s Title Scorers app and title generators are not your cup of tea, it might help to do some good ole fashioned research into what makes a good book title. Here’s a couple articles I found especially useful:
7 Tips to Land the Perfect Title for Your Novel by Jacob M. Appel (November 17, 2009) There’s more to the article than what I’m about to say, but I found these tips especially useful to chew on: Don’t forget voice and point of view, use precise nouns and active verbs, and try to construct two meanings from your title. Read more HERE.
Karen Woodward’s blog post: 4 Things to Keep In Mind When Choosing a Title for Your Book is a hefty piece of content as it leads you through a list and then on into different directions for further research. I dunno what to do here . . . Suggest that you finish reading this Hump Day Blog Post (only two more items to read) and then come back to this spot before saying good-bye? I’ll let you decide. But Karen’s blog post might be a good place to exit my ramblings. When you’re ready (hopefully after my last two items), you may read it HERE.
Ahhh . . . Now, that was much more polite.
In closing, for your enjoyment, research and/or inspiration, here’s a Best Book Titles list from our beloved Listopian world of Goodreads. Get inspired HERE.
Oh, what the heck. Let’s end with a little shock and humor. 40 Worst Book Titles and Covers Ever from boredpanda.com. See it HERE. (And then go back to Karen Woodward’s blog post.)
Confused? Me, too.
Happy Hump Day, everyone! Wednesday. Halfway to the weekend. Woo-Hoo!
Happy Pub Day to my dear friend, Meredith Schorr! HOW DO YOU KNOW? is Meredith’s fourth novel. I’ve read and reviewed three of the four (still need to read JUST FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS) and have linked to those reviews below.
But first, a bit about Meredith, a writer who has developed a huge fan following by producing a steady stream of great novels in just a few short years:
A born and bred New Yorker, Meredith Schorr discovered her passion for writing when she began to enjoy drafting work-related emails way more than she was probably supposed to. After trying her hand penning children’s stories and blogging her personal experiences, Meredith found her calling writing chick lit and contemporary women’s fiction. She secures much inspiration from her day job as a hard-working trademark paralegal and her still single (but looking) status. Meredith is also the co-founder of BookBuzz, a live author/reader event held annually. She is a loyal New York Yankees fan and an avid runner. How Do You Know? is her fourth novel. To learn more, visit her at www.meredithschorr.com.
Say hello to Meredith at these social media sites:
With HOW DO YOU KNOW? (Book 1 of the SEEKING HAPPILY EVER AFTER Series) comes the story of Maggie and some tough decisions at a turning point in her life.
Here’s a peek at the back jacket.
On the eve of her thirty-ninth birthday, Maggie Piper doesn’t look, act, or feel much different than she did at twenty-nine, but with her fortieth birthday speeding toward her like a freight train, she wonders if she should. The fear of a slowing metabolism, wrinkling of her skin, and the ticking of her biological clock leaves Maggie torn between a desire to settle down like most of her similarly aged peers and concern that all is not perfect in her existing relationship. When a spontaneous request for a temporary “break” from her live-in boyfriend results in a “break-up,” Maggie finds herself single once again and only twelve months from the big 4.0. In the profound yet bumpy year that follows, Maggie will learn, sometimes painfully, that life doesn’t always happen on a schedule, there are no deadlines in love, and age really is just a number.
- Print Length: 251 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Booktrope (December 2, 2014)
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
MY BOOK REVIEW:
My thoughts about the book? I’m thrilled for readers for two reasons:
1. I know Meredith and I’m a follower of her books and I think this book is a real gift to her readers because it’s one step closer to Meredith than her other three novels. Take a peek at her website and scroll through the wonderful guest blog posts she’s recently hosted as part of her Age Is Just A Number blog series. I don’t think readers will think Maggie, the main character, IS Meredith (she’s not), but I do think readers will sense the author brought an intimate understanding of the theme and “feelings” in the novel. She cares about this topic and has contributed valuable insights through this book.
2. Another reason I’m thrilled for readers is: HOW DO YOU KNOW? is part of a series! Woo-Hoo! That means more great books from this prolific writer and the promise of more pub dates to celebrate. It doesn’t get better than that.
Okay, my thoughts about the book.
I laughed out loud with the opening line: Thank God I waxed.
And I loved that the central storyline started immediately. We see Maggie, the main character, celebrating her birthday with friends and boyfriend, Doug, all the while fielding questions, comments, and concerns from those around her about her age, the milestone it represents, and the fact that Maggie’s not married yet and wants to be. Maggie is clearly unsettled by the birthday and is at a crossroads in her life. Loved that it opened and got rockin’ and rollin’ right away. And then WHAM! Maggie starts a discussion with Doug that doesn’t exactly end the way she thought it would. Now we’re fully on a ride that takes us through her 39th year in chapters organized by which month it is. (Novel begins in July with her 39th birthday and ends 13 months later in August, a month after she turns 40.)
Interesting to note that when Maggie’s life turns upside down, there are still people in her life she can’t bare to disappoint. One person, in particular, learns of a development in Maggie’s life months after it happened. It struck me as a very authentic development in the story that despite Maggie’s age (she’s certainly an adult) she still has a childlike eagerness to please certain people in her life. It just goes to show that no matter how old we get, some aspects of certain relationships remain ageless.
I was touched by the support network Maggie had while going through this difficult year in her life and enjoyed the references to classic movies and chick flicks. There was one line I thought was especially poignant for this book. I won’t tell you who said it or why, but here it is:
“You’re a special person, Magpie. I’ve no doubt you’ll meet someone who makes you one hundred percent happy.”
But will she? I dunno… you’ll have to read HOW DO YOU KNOW? to find out.
My A STATE OF JANE by Meredith Schorr book review.
My BLOGGER GIRL by Meredith Schorr book review.
I love Wednesdays. Happy Hump Day, Everyone!
I also love blog hops. Great way to link-up and be social. I host a Hump Day Blog Hop on the last Wednesday of every month. Want to join this month’s blog hop? Link-up. It’s fun. (And easy.) Complete details below.
HUMP DAY BLOG HOP
“On Hump Day About Books”
RUNS FOR ONE WEEK
WEDNESDAY (Nov 26, 2014) to WEDNESDAY (Dec 3, 2014)
Easy to join.
1. Link-up. Click on the blue “Add your link” button on bottom left side of this post to add your name and link. There isn’t a “theme” assigned to this hop, so feel free to use an existing post of your choice, but choose a post blog hoppers will enjoy. NOTE: No spamming or advertising. Please do not link to your book on Amazon.
2. Link back to the blog hop list. Add this sentence to your blog post so hoppers can find their way back to the blog hop list of links and keep hopping:
NOTE: If the embedded link in the above sentence does not transfer when you copy and paste it, the URL to use with this sentence is: http://www.julievalerie.com/nov-blog-hop/