Archive for October, 2013

Writing Conversation and Speech in Novels

This is another one of the ‘lessons’ I prepared for my Writers’ Group. One of our members was struggling to write natural, flowing conversation in her novel, so was doing the unwise thing, and avoiding it altogether. Ooops.

Conversation is important in any novel or short story, because in real life we speak; but in a story we have to write speech as if spoken naturally. That is the craft of novel writing, the illusion of reality.

He said she said

When we hold a normal conversation with our friends and family we say whatever we like, we interrupt, and generally talk a load of old rubbish. Sometimes we have important things to communicate to friends and family, but unless we have some kind of crisis that’s probably as rare as hen’s teeth. “I’ll be there in five minutes.” “What time shall we meet?” “Is supper ready?”

When we speak to people we’re purchasing something from we ask questions. With people we’re in contention with we tend to repeat our point of argument over and over again. With other people we pass the day and recount stories of this and that, how good the supper was last night and what a fab film we saw.

Yes, this is conversation. Yawn.

When writing fiction the conversation has to be part of the story, its job is to move the story forwards and direct the reader to the next scene or point of interest. Speech in writing offers information. That is it’s only purpose.

When writing a story we don’t care that the film was fab unless the film is part of the storyline. We have to cut our conversations to the bone, but also make our characters speak naturally and clearly.

Conversations in your story also help portray what the character is like.

How do they speak? “I say, lovely day.” “Hello mate, bit of a roaster today.” Both of these characters are saying exactly the same thing, but in a different way. The key to good character portrayal is to find each character’s unique voice, without going down the line of, “Eeez very varm today.”

Alongside what your characters say is the actions we describe around their speech.

“I say, lovely day,” said Fred, waving.

“Hello mate, bit of a roaster today,” said Jim, climbing into the cab of Bert’s lorry.

We can, of course, add adverbs to flesh out emphasis of how the sentence is being spoken, but nine times of out ten we don’t need these, and they should be used sparingly. Do these adverbs add anything?

“I say, lovely day,” said Fred jovially, waving.

“Hello mate, bit of a roaster today,” said Jim wearily, climbing into the cab of Bert’s lorry.

We don’t need the jovially for Fred, because his sentence is pretty upbeat and he’s waving, however, with Jim we discover that he’s weary, and this, as it’s part of the plot line, should add additional information to the reader. Hey ho, Jim’s tired, what was he up to last night?

There are, of course, many other words that can replace said. Some I personally loath, while others can be of use. Anyone who’s interested can pop along and read a list of 218 alternatives here. http://www.spwickstrom.com/said/

The main points to remember is that dialogue must share information, move the story forwards and make something happen.


Below are some two line conversations that I offered to my writers’ group as prompts. Have a go yourself. Simply fill in the ‘he said, ‘she said,’ part of the story and see what a difference how you describe the way they said it makes each sentence sound.


“What are you doing here?”


“I don’t think that goes there.”

“Yes it does.”


“I really can’t take much more of this.”

“I know.”


“Isn’t it gorgeous.”

“That’s not how I’d describe it.”


“Well, I told you it would end up like this.”



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Weekly Horoscope 23rd October – 29th October 2013

Please note that this week the horoscope goes from WEDNESDAY as that’s the day I’ll be on Susyradio with Paul Tizzard just after 1pm

12 zodiac signsFamily confrontations have now eased up a bit, but most signs are making lots of secret plans for their futures, so won’t inform the family. Mercury is retrograde throughout so not an ideal time for personal communication. There’s a see-saw action this week which will destroy old dreams and desires, forcing everyone to build new visions of their future. But how is it to be done? Dreams versus reality. Which will win?

Aries star signAries will be taking positive action to secure something big: business backing, a house, a car, the love of their life. The dithering is over and it’s time to put your money down and take that risk. All kinds of proposals are in the air.


Taurus birth signTaurus will be conflicted between relocating their job versus uprooting their family, or breaking family ties. It’s time for a big upheaval. Need more time to think? Take to the gym and discuss it with sporting buddies.


Gemini star signGemini are risking all for romance. Work is steady, friendships are solid, but there’s an urge to be more passionate and spontaneous in romance. Go for that hot date. If you’re in a regular relationship seek out new destinations to visit and stay over at a hotel to add some spice.

Cancer Star signCancer are happy with new homes and lifestyle alterations. Or are they? Suddenly you’re anxious and wondering whether you’ve made the right choices compared to everyone else. Time to take a trip and enjoy a change of scene; then return and see things with fresh eyes.

Leo star signLeo doesn’t want to be tied down right now, creating tensions in relationships. Stay or go, keep what you’ve got, or change it. Only quiet contemplation can help you decide, so make time for yourself and hide for a while.



Virgo star signVirgo will be achieving high in their careers, studies and businesses. It’s relationships that bring the confusion. Regular relationships are sound but for singles there are so many people to meet and get to know, but which is the right one? This is romance versus sensibility. Was love ever sensible?


Libra star signLibra are turning committed relationships into solid friendships, and looking for romance through the pleasures of study and foreign travel. It’s a balancing trick with Libra, knowing that you don’t have to give up being romantic, simply because you have a steady partner.

Scorpio star signScorpio are still striving hard at work and gradually being noticed for their efforts. You may feel that you’ve become dull and you’re turning into your parents, so be spontaneous, and take your lover out for a fast drive to a windswept coastline and watch the sun set…or the lightning hit the sea…or huge waves crash…

Sagittarius star signSagittarius are knuckling under to commitments in group endeavours, striving hard for a better future, and making their dreams and visions reality. This mainly takes place through creative projects such as painting, writing etc. so the romantic partner is mainly in the head, not sitting next to you.


Capricorn star signsCapricorn are determined to gain respect from the world, so if that requires new shoes, clothes, or car; then so be it. All Capricorns will be offering their partners support at social and business functions, so if that requires money spent on image; then so be it. Perhaps I should keep it simple and say ‘Retail therapy is good for you this week!’

Aquarius star signAquarius are finding work pressures frustrating. What does the boss want, versus what do you want out of the work situation? The right environment and team will be important to you, as well as opportunities to work without interference. Money earnt is quickly frittered on romantic partners.


Pisces star signPisces are bucking the trend again this week, urging others to make important decisions on their behalf, and finding plenty of time to sit around and relax. Cooking and eating will be favourite pastimes, then a little dancing to shake off the pounds.


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Weekly Horoscope 18th October to 24th October 2014

Please note that this week the horoscope goes from FRIDAY as that’s the day I’ll be on Susyradio with Paul Tizzard just after 1pm

12 zodiac signsThis week’s overall theme is the conflict between precise detail and impatience. A bit like oil and water really, they just don’t mix!

Aries star signAries will find all that tricky analysis taking place in connection with finances, so it’s an excellent time to secure a mortgage or loan. This is all for a good reason as some serious romantic vibes are going on and I sense some nest building in preparation for commitment.

Taurus birth signTaureans are in a stubborn mood with their loves ones, wanting changes in the home to go all their way. When negotiations fall to pieces they’ll run off and overspend on a new car or expensive gym membership, through some wild desire to escape.


Gemini star signGemini will enjoy over analysing everything, especially finances, business projects and whether the ball was really over the line in any game or sport. Impatience rears its head in romance and they’re determined to catch the love of their life before someone else steps in.

Cancer Star signCancer will become very picky around the home, determined to make it clean, tidy and practical. The counterbalance is to take off on sudden journeys, maybe even overseas, and almost certainly to lovers, or exciting friends, to party and have a laugh.


Leo star signLeos will become all pompous and arrogant in any verbal discussion, especially around finances and sports, convinced they know better than anyone else. They’ll then rush off and drag their lover back to their cave and smooch them with passion and meaningful conversation.


Virgo star signVirgos usually thrive on thinking everything through, but this week it can turn heated around personal issue. Business can go well and whether studying or researching, once you relax you’ll have a eureka moment, and solve a problem in seconds.


Libra star signLibrans will find themselves analysing their own self-worth and debating the meaning of life, so much so that wondering what is of value in the greater scheme of things might make them feel stuck. An impulse to whisk their lover off to the movies or dinner breaks the cycle, and they’ll enjoy indulging in romantic fantasies.

Scorpio star signScorpios will experience a very intense week at work and home, making their point with laser precision. Is there any respite from all that thinking? Yes, sports and silliness, and impulsive spending on new equipment and toys, especially if they go vroom-vroom!


Sagittarius star signSagittarians will feel introspective, all that deep thinking taking place in the mind and unconsciously in the psyche. Excellent for any type of mediumistic or psychic work. Unfortunately the backlash is to want to have a sudden clear out of the home, so be careful in case you accidently throw away something important.

Capricorn star signsCapricorns are having an intense work schedule and might end up dragging some of that work-load home with them. Clubs, societies, music and phoning friends to switch off or put the world to rights will be your safety valve, so go forth and boogie, it’ll do you the power of good.

Aquarius star signAquarians are going through a bit of a ‘poor me’ phase and appear to be unable to work out why certain things are happening to them. Nothing feels right at the moment. Reinventing yourself is the answer, so some of you will be suddenly changing career path, while others will be chucking out clothes and refilling the wardrobe.

Pisces star signPisces appear to be bucking the trend by passing all of that complicated thinking over to other people and avoiding the headache. This eases up time for romantic fantasies and the freedom to take off at a moment’s notice, especially to more distant locations.


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