Saturday, November 14, 2009

Studying Human Behavior - L. Diane Wolfe

A story's characters and their interactions is the most important aspect in any book. In order to make them appear real to the reader, the actions and motives of the characters must be believable. This is why the most important research a writer can ever conduct is the study of human behavior.

Fortunately, the options available are almost as plentiful as humans themselves! Consider the following resources when writing your story and you'll discover a whole world of opportunities.

Books on human behavior
· Personality Plus by Florence Littauer - excellent guide to human behaviors based on personality types
· Men Are From Mars, Women From Venus by John Gray
· The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
· Bringing out the Best in People/The Friendship Factor by Alan Loy McGinnis
· The Disconnected Generation by Josh McDowell - great for understanding teen behavior
· And any other relationship, personality, or inspirational book that provides human behavior insights

Observation - how do real people react under similar circumstances?
· Follow the actions of a person similar to your character - remember, no stalking!
· Examine the past and present behavior of family and friends
· Observe humanity through the news - this will provide a worldly view
· Watch people in public places such as sporting events, restaurants, grocery stores, churches, etc.
· Wherever you find people, you'll find opportunities to study human behavior if you just take the time!

· Search for events in your story (online, in books, etc.) - you will discover a plethora of human reaction and behavior available
· Non-fiction books with accounts of people enduring the same challenges found in your story
· Websites devoted to the discussion of human behavior or dealing with an aspect of the human equation
· Online forums and live discussions - find discussions on your story's topics or pose the questions yourself
· Interview real people in positions or circumstances similar to your character's situation

Utilize as many of the tools listed as possible, and don't forget that human behavior is best studied through live interaction. Not only will you develop believable characters - you'll grow as a person as well. And you might just discover you enjoy the fascinating world of human behavior!

- Author & professional speaker, L. Diane Wolfe

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Writing Dialog - L. Diane Wolfe

Dialogue is a vital element in most any story. The verbal interaction of the characters reveals much about each person – past events, feelings, beliefs, intentions, etc. Since we cannot hear the characters speaking, we rely on printed dialogue for clues regarding intelligence, education level, and physical location. As we can see, authors must convey a tremendous amount of information with the spoken word!

Since writing dialogue can be a struggle, here’s a few tips to keep our character exchanges fresh:

1- Remember that most people do not speak proper English. (Or any language.) What we were taught in school might transfer well onto paper, but we don’t always employ those rules in our speech. Proper grammar states “Turn on the light,” but most people tend to say, “Turn the light on,” instead. We overuse words. Our participles dangle. We use past and present tense in the same sentence – sometimes twice!

If our character is a college professor or a man of higher learning, he will likely use proper grammar. However, the average person will be more lax with his verbal skill. Realize that it’s all right to let some rules fall by the wayside when writing dialogue. We are trying to relate to our readers, not impress our English teachers. Allow dialogue to flow freely and naturally.

2- Research the time period of the story for proper usage of words. Our languages changes almost as rapidly as technology, and those advances bring a whole slew of new words. Ten years ago, people did not use the word ‘texting,’ and twenty years ago, most did not even possess a cell phone.

It goes beyond breakthroughs in science, though. Slang words have evolved over time, and where and how often they were used has changed. Our spoken language has become more relaxed and many subjects no longer taboo. If our dialogue is to sound authentic, we must research the time period. Watch a movie or read a book that was created during that specific moment in time. Avoid current books and movies based on past decades, as they will not provide an accurate representation. If our story is set in the far past, we may have to conduct some creative research! However, the resulting dialogue will sound far more authentic and immerse our readers into the story.

3- Hand write all dialogue. Occasionally, the computer screen sabotages our creative efforts. As we type our thoughts, Mr. Spellcheck goes to work highlighting our mistakes. This can either distract us as we backspace to fix errors or inhibit us as we type slower to avoid such blunders. Either way, our creative flow is disrupted and realistic dialogue becomes more challenging.

By hand-writing scenes with extensive dialogue, we’ll find our words flow more freely. The pressure to write with perfection is eliminated, opening the door for more natural exchanges.

4- Speak the dialogue out loud and record the conversation. This is perhaps the most effective means by which to capture natural dialogue! Written lines can sound stiff and impersonal, but when we say those words aloud, the natural ebb and flow of conversation becomes apparent. It reveals awkward and unnecessary phrases. And the more we exhibit that character’s personality, the better we will hear how that person speaks in real life.

If this is a challenge to do solo, entice a friend or family member to help. A basic written outline of the dialogue can be used to guide the overall conversation. Allow that person the freedom to change the wording as he sees fit and bounce naturally off one another’s responses. An even more effective trick would be to video tape the entire scene to capture gentle nuances and gestures as well.

Good dialogue is essential if we are to connect with our readers. We must communicate our character’s voices clearly, accurately, and in a believable manner. Otherwise, we may find our readers offering a few choice words instead!

- Author & professional speaker, L. Diane Wolfe

Copyright 2009 L. Diane Wolfe

Monday, June 29, 2009

Structuing Our Life - L. Diane Wolfe

Today, everyone is busy. Technological advancements, meant to make our life easier, tend to take away precious hours. Job and family commitments can multiply and eat us alive. Often there is precious little time remaining for our writing careers. To find a suitable balance, we must create structure in our lives.

Balance does not imply that every aspect receives and equal slice of the proverbial pie but rather adequate attention. Meeting one need may require ten minutes while another demands three hours. Before we begin slicing and doling out our time, we must first determine what components are truly important.

The best way to accomplish this task is to form a list. What do we value? What goals must be achieved? Consider the very basics first. Sleep and work (if we are employed) will take the greatest chunk of our day. Add family commitments to the list. If married, this includes our spouse! Don't forget household chores or omit physical activities or relaxation. Finally, list all aspects of writing, from creating to promoting.

Before we divide our valuable time, what can we eliminate? Do we need to curtail certain activities? Are there duties that can be passed along to someone else? Once our list has been reduced to manageable levels, we can divvy the hours, remembering that we only have twenty-four at our disposal.

Now that we understand what we'll do with our day, we need to determine when we'll accomplish each item on the list. While certain tasks remain unmovable, we should design our schedule to showcase our best side. Avoid regulating family to a time when we are exhausted or exercise to a slot we'll only ignore. Our writing time is no different, and whether it's the middle of the night or right after lunch, we should schedule it during our peak performance hours.

Ironically, there will be many days when we are unable to follow our carefully planned schedule. The life of an author can be quite chaotic at times! However, we need a base on which to build. It's easier to alter an existing schedule that to create a new one each day from scratch!

A calendar is an author necessity! It is the only means by which to keep track of commitments, both in the real and virtual world. Miss one or two appearances and we'll soon discover no one wants to book an irresponsible author! Setting two appointments for the same time slot is another disaster we want to avoid. A calendar will keep us on track and ensure we don't miss family or work commitments either.

Since each new day presents a different set of tasks, maintain a to-do list. This will prevent that unique item from slipping through the cracks and into oblivion. Compile the to-do list the night before and don't be afraid to write down future tasks for the days ahead. If we tackle the most important items first, then we know they will be completed. Interspersing a few five-minute projects throughout the list will speed our progress and buoy our sense of accomplishment in the process.

By now it's obvious that we need to establish a framework in all areas of our life. With structure, a schedule, and a to-do list, we are better prepared to complete our writer and author duties. We are more likely to write for two hours if we've designated a time and placed it on our list than if we simply intend to make the effort at some point. Through repetition, many tasks will become part of our daily routine. Once we've established a pattern, accomplishing our goals will be much easier!

Our greatest enemies at this point are distractions and time stealers. Situations will arise when a diversion momentarily derails our progress. Unless it's an emergency or has the potential to change our life forever, we shouldn't focus on distractions. Time stealers are much more subtle. Ten minutes on a social site turns into thirty; an email sends us on a frantic goose chase for an hour; a phone call eats up our entire afternoon. We must be on the lookout for distractions and mindless time stealers or they will consume all of our carefully laid plans.

Authors and writers exist in a unique world, one that can be quite chaotic at times. However, we are happier and more productive when there is balance and structure in our life. Designing a schedule that can be easily followed sets us up for greater success!

- Author & professional speaker, L. Diane Wolfe
Copyright 2009 - L. Diane Wolfe

About Me

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The Literary Lynnch Pen is a weekly newsletter published by Lynn Tincher. About Lynn: Lynn was born in the small town of La Grange, Kentucky and grew up in Goshen. Lynn studied Theater Arts in College in hopes of becoming a Drama/English teacher. She has written articles in local newspapers and travel brochures. Now, she is focused on writing novels, short stories and poems. The second edition of her book "Afterthoughts" will be released in April of 2009 with the sequel "Left in the Dark" to be released on October of 2009. She also manages Artist Corner, an artist social website dedicated to help all artists become successful. Her eZine and website provides helpful tips and information. Lynn also provides email list management services. She has partnered with Constant Contact to help provide authors, artists, and small businesses the services to manage their email lists and marketing strategies, eZines, electronic newsletters, coupons and bulletins. Please visit: