Thursday, April 24, 2014

How to Write a Novel Part Fourteen

James O. Born

Last week we discussed one of the most important elements of novel writing: dialogue.  Dialogue not only distinguishes your characters, but it can set the tone for the entire book.  I make it a point never to criticize authors in public.  I will continue that through this post, but I must admit it's difficult.  It would be easy to point out stilted prose or cases where supposedly illiterate, back woodsman use words like "ubiquitous" or "corpulent."  (I'm just trying to show off my vocabulary but I'm serious about the dialogue of the uneducated in the book.)  The other thing that drives me crazy is children who sound like adults writing children.

The proper use of dialogue can also dictate the personality of your character.  Do you want to give the impression of a smug, jerk (at least to an American), have a character showoff using unnecessary French phrases.  You want to have your character instantly disliked, use terms like, "those people," or some kind of derogatory term for virtually any minority.

If you want your character to exemplify an ideal, simply have them talk to people as equals and with respect.  They don't focus on themselves and they worry about other people's actions and reactions.  It's kind of like real life.  The real life that you are going to create in your novel.

This is a short post today as I am preparing to travel.  I will continue the discussion on dialogue in two weeks.  Next week I intend to make some concrete announcements about my publishing career next Thursday.  No, I'm not throwing in the towel just yet.  But I can't blab about how to write a novel, then not write one every once in a while.  It's not good for my reputation or my bank account.

Today's quotes are a little different.  They are literally dialogue taken from a TV show.  What I feel is one of the best written shows on TV, Modern Family.  It takes place during a discussion between a stepfather and stepson who are slowly starting to bond.  The stepfather has bragged to his beautiful, younger wife that he intends to write a novel.  

You can't be a good writer without being critical of your own work
 Manny Delgado, age 12, character on the TV series Modern Family

“Enough chit chat, I have to get a character out of a bind.”
What did he do?
He told his wife he could write a book.
 Jay Pritchett from the TV series Modern Family


  1. Love Modern Family. You have good taste.

  2. from Jacqueline: That quote from Stephen King is so simple but so very right in every way. I would recommend his book "On Writing" before all others. But when your book on writing is published, Jim, I will recommend it before all others!!!

  3. Great post! I love Stephen King's book. It's part memoir, part writing advice and totally illuminating.

  4. James O. Born4/27/2014 5:11 PM

    King's On Writing is one of my favorites.

  5. I seldom read books on writing. (I know; it shows!) But Stephen King's "On Writing" is one I've read and re-read. And soon, Mr. Born's.