Write it—Tricks to Writing Dialogue

 

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First, I’m glad that I studied acting and playwriting while I earned my BA because those experiences help me write dialogue. Second, all writers need to know that dialogue is not filler for a story.

The best novels fit the dialogue into the glove of the characters’ background, dislikes, passions, and psychological architecture. And finally, writing compelling dialogue propels the story forward, gives the reader insights into the characters’ motivations (and hidden motivations), and fuels the conflicts that eventually lead to resolution.

So, the author must give thought to the dialogue. I prefer to overwrite the dialogue and then condense and delete during the rewriting process. By this point, I have a good grasp of my characters, their backstory, their conflicts with each other, and their motivations. I also enjoy my privy to the plot, the subplot, the climactic moments, and the resolution, especially when I’m writing a third person narrative.

A background in journalism comes in handy too. As a journalist, I interview each of my characters. Actually, I grill them and draw every ounce of humanity from them. I ask them their intentions, their hidden desires, and their motivations, especially in connection with the other characters, even the supporting characters.

Charles Dickens

While I wrote the first two drafts, of my  YA novel, “Lately, Queen Mamadou,” a conflict between best friends, Maggie (the protagonist) and Meghan (a fellow dancer) developed. The eating disorder that Meghan succumbed to heightened the conflict between the two women and also brought the main climactic moment.

A subplot revolves around Danny and JC, two gay dancers and the conflict they experience with ballroom and non-ballet dance. And then to add to the colorful dialogue, I included diverse points of view in the novel because Danny and JC are gay, JC is Puerto Rican, the dance character Monique is of mixed African descent, and another character Deva is an exchange student from India.

But the most fun dialogue to write revolves around Celia, (Maggie’s mother who is a new age hippie) who channels an ancient African queen. Writing that dialogue (of the channel sessions and telepathic conversations) involved channeling on my part. But isn’t that what we do as authors? We’re not just writers by profession. We also include journalism, spiritual channeling, and playwriting in our work. If we observe and listen well, then we also play the role of a detective and sometimes, a psychoanalyst.

Getting back to the topic of writing dialogue. It takes practice. It takes good listening skills and that includes listening to our still inner voice, aka, our intuition. I think that that it’s a myth that writers work in isolation. Yes, we spend time alone with our fingers riding the laptop keyboard. We spend time alone during our research.

And yes, we spend time alone working out the plot, the story, and the other elements of the story. But in order to write compelling dialogue, we must get out in the world and tune our ears to natural dialogue. Watching dialogue on television shows or in movies or even studying the dialogue in novels, won’t help us write our own dialogue. We must also dig deeper into the souls of our characters while keeping our ears tuned to the world around us.

Dialogue creates a dance of ideas between characters. Dialogue lives and breathes as well as, kicking life into our characters and into the stories we write. Dialogue has rhythm, melody, and harmony along with silence as in pauses for the characters to reflect.

Finally, don’t write down the inner chatter in your head and call that dialogue. Don’t send your characters off in a rant about the stuff that matters to you, but might not resonate with your characters. Bad dialogue is the author speaking from their own mind instead of the characters’ hearts. Avoid your ego getting in your way or your dialogue will fall flat. The critics and the readers will notice that the dialogue does not sound authentic coming from your characters’ mouths.

Writing is a road to mastership. It takes practice and years of developing characters and compelling stories, whether you write long or short fiction. The best authors combine raw talent with the willingness to hone their craft. And part of that involves getting feedback about the story development, the character development, and the dialogue. And the best question to ask is “Does this feel real to you?”

I am currently working on the third draft of my sixth novel. I also channel spirits, work as an astrologer, and as a journalist. I coach creatives to be their best selves and to show up fully with their work. Sign up for a session which includes astrology, channeling, and or card reading (along with practical everyday advice for authors). I also accept donations through PayPal if you find these articles useful.

 

Write it—The Process of Writing a Novel

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Perhaps, the excuse why many aspiring writers never write the novel in their head revolves around the messy process we call novel-writing. But if we break the process into steps and navigate through those steps by treating the steps as guideposts, it becomes easier to complete the novel.

After all, navigating your way through 300+ pages and 80K words starts to feel more like a chore or housework with words than it does about following a dream. Yet, authors chug out one novel after the other and keep pushing through the barriers until completion. You can also complete your novel even if it feels like you’re walking on a long road to nowhere.

Five Stages of Writing a Novel:

1. The brilliant idea comes with characters, a general plot, and inspiration.

2. We sit on the idea while it germinates like a seed underground. We procrastinate or we research to build our characters and storyline.

3. We write the first and second drafts and it feels like plowing through a swamp of words, syntax, and worries about writing beautiful sentences. In other words, this is the time when most writers toss in the towel.

4. Then if we make it through the swamp, we begin the revision process which is like cutting a diamond into shape. We toss out perfect sentences, delete characters (who don’t contribute to the story), or we combine characters. We sharpen the storyline. We also perfect the beginning and end of the story.

5. After (if we choose to) having other experienced eyes read and critique our novel, we may or may not do one more revision. But this is also the part where we see the finish line, and we race towards it with the same excitement we experienced at the birth of the story.

This process works for memoirs too.

 

Sign up for a creativity coaching session with me. Or check out my Patricia Herlevi channel on YouTube and follow Belle Author on Facebook.

Write It–Embracing Detours

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You’re on track with your character development and you carefully drew out your storyline on a whiteboard or on butcher paper. Then, all of a sudden, your character(s) take a detour. What do you do?

First, don’t panic. Detours often bring a richer story with them and you go deeper with your characters. If the detour is at the beginning of your book then rewrite the opening chapters with the new character insights.

If you reached the halfway point of your novel or are close to the end of it, then keep going with your new story and character development. Then when you start your rewrites, start from scratch. Otherwise, you’ll deal with a chaotic manuscript fraught with errors.

Often times when we rush in and start the novel before the story becomes solid in our minds, we run the risk of characters taking detours. Even if we do wait until we’ve mapped out our storylines and developed our characters, they keep evolving as we write and we still encounter detours. However, I think detours are actually a sign that we are on the right path.

If you work with storyboards then note the detours on the boards and then go back later to rectify the story that occurs before the detour. Sometimes the detours add a nice plot twists and you change little in the early parts of the manuscript. It depends on the story and the type of character involved.

I still think it’s a good idea to get fully acquainted with the characters. Interview them to learn about their thoughts and feelings; likes and pet peeves. Write down their physical attributes (petite, blonde, with fuller lips, and small feet). The color of a character’s hair matters since hair color is often linked to cultural references or perceived personality types such as the bubbly blonde or the fiery redhead.  A character’s ethnicity matters too and we often work harder at researching their identity to avoid generalizations.

Hair color and body type also define a character’s experience and perception of the world as well as, how other characters perceive them. Even the readers of the book have biases towards hair, skin, and eye color or body weight. One annoying detour happens when we created a character with cropped blonde hair and later learn that she has long red hair. We thought the character came from German heritage but she came from an Irish family of immigrants. See how that changes the story?

Other detours occur when we learn that the character works at a different profession then we first imagined. Or the character who we thought was heterosexual joins the LGBT community and rushes out of the closet. This happened with at least two of my characters during my novel writing endeavors.

Detours happen and often time the change of direction brings deeper meaning and more depth to a story. Some spiritual teachers suggest that characters represent hidden parts of our psyche or our unclaimed shadows. Whether that is the case or if the characters live outside of us (but still in our imagination), embrace the detours. Just like in life, those detours rescue us from another fate or in the least, lead us to the real treasure.

Need inspiration, sign up for a creativity coaching session with me. I combine channeling, cards, and astrology as tools to help you become the best writer possible. I charge $100 an hour for a Skype session. Payment.

 

Write It–Reasons for Rejection

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If you have submitted your work to literary journals and received rejections. Or if you don’t hear back from the agents you queried, don’t despair. 

Even the best authors have and continue to receive rejections from publishers. It is a matter of persistence and determination that leads to publication coupled with raw talent and the willingness to improve skills. It also helps to research the agents and the literary journals prior to submitting work to them.

Sometimes it feels like a numbers game and other times submitting work feels like a crap shoot or worse, a lottery. But if you research the agents and write a compelling pitch, you might get your foot in the door. Follow submission directions and keep up to date on what agents seek at this time (this can be done through social media outlets such as Twitter or the website Manuscript Wish List).

In any case, if you want to hear back from editors and agents remember these tips:

  • Proofread all correspondence and keep it formal until you actually have a relationship with the industry professionals (even if their tone is casual).
  • Research all agents by reading articles about them, reading their biography, and reading books they represent.
  • Research literary journals and the famous authors they have published.
  • Don’t send an early draft of your work (polish your work first).
  • Work with beta readers when possible before submitting.
  • Research the industry and look at trends (not saying that you need to become a trendy author).
  • Research international publishers (as alternatives).

Rejection is not as personal as we believe. Often times, the editors are seeking a specific type of story and our stories don’t fit into that. Sometimes, it’s a matter of volume and only ten out of hundred authors receive acceptance from that journal or receive representation from the agent (I’m pulling this percentage out of my head as an example).

If you truly want to publish your stories, then know that rejection is part of the bargain. Only the most determined authors succeed. Writing is not a glamorous profession but for those who are willing to edit, proofread, network, and market themselves, there are rewards.

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Flash Fiction–Sun Salutations

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Persephone on Pix a Bay

 

 

I’ve not been able to get a handle on this flash fiction. However, I feel that it still has a hopeful message in it so I’m posting it here.

Sun Salutations

Katerina lounged in bed as sunlight peeked through the lace curtains. The warm silk sheets clung to her skin as she rolled over to glance at her pink alarm clock.  Six a.m., she procrastinated crawling out of bed and getting ready for work.  She worried about a deadline for a press release because her boss had an aversion to procrastinators.

She yawned then yanked the blankets back. And then she slowly sat up. Stuffing her swollen feet into her fake sheepskin slippers, she glanced around the room. Meanwhile, dreams lingered in her thoughts.  The Portuguese lover arrived again. And his kisses lingered on her lips and on her body.  Caressing her face, Katerina felt her skin pulsating beneath her fingers.  Lately, everything she touched took on a life of its own that left Katerina contemplating the Universe.

She slipped a Malian groove CD into the player. Moments later, Katerina swayed her hips to the African rhythms as she pulled on a skirt and a blouse she picked off the floor. Housecleaning wasn’t one of her specialties.

After assembling her business look, she made coffee. Then she ambled out of her house and to the bus stop.  Fortunately, the bus ran late that day. But the winter chill worked its way into her bones causing Katerina to long for her warm bed.

Arriving at the public relations firm on time Katerina made her way to her cluttered desk. She dug through her files in search of her notes.  She panicked when she didn’t find her press release. So she glanced at her co-worker Gus who sat at his tidy desk typing on his computer.  She watched him take nervous sips of coffee and then return to typing.

Katerina cleared her congested throat, “Gus, have you seen my notes for the Green Lifestyle Company release?”

Gus kept typing. Moments later, he responded to Katerina with his eyes glued to his screen. “I’m working on the press release.”

“Why are you working on it?”

Gus typed the final sentence.  Printing out the release, he handed it to Katerina.

“Here it is. Why don’t you proofread it?”

“You didn’t answer my question?”

“I was going to leave that for Harold. He’s out of the office at the moment. But he requested a meeting with you after he returns.”

“I thought my deadline wasn’t until five p.m. today.”

Gus shook his head, “You had to five p.m. yesterday. Harold had gone to a meeting with the client this morning without the press release.”

Katerina proofed the release and handed it back to Gus.  “Thanks for covering for me.”

“I didn’t cover for you.” A smug look crossed Gus’ face.

Later that day, Katerina met with Harold in his office. She was distracted by the walls painted in garish orange with the company logo in bold red letters. Somehow she managed to feel exhausted even around those perky colors.

She grabbed a seat as she stared across the expanse of her boss’ desk. “You wanted to see me?”

Harold looked away from his notes and he scowled at his employee.  “Why wasn’t that press release on my desk?”

“I thought I had until closing today. I realize that’s not a good excuse, but I …”

“You were out of the office last week. I thought you had returned to your old habit of taking lunch with our clients.”

“No, I had doctor appointments for this sinus infection that won’t go away.”

“I’m sorry to let you go.”

Katerina gaped, “What?”

“I know you’ve been with our firm for several years and up until recently, you did good work.  But now, I get the impression that you don’t love your job. You arrive at work late and you leave early.  You wait until the last minute to meet a deadline. And you lack the enthusiasm that we require from our employees.”

Katerina knew that her boss exaggerated her behavior. She wasn’t late for work and she only left early one time. But she didn’t feel like fighting and oddly, she didn’t shed a tear over the loss of her job.

Stunned, Katerina sat on a bench waiting for her bus to arrive. She felt as though her life force gave her the boot. She needed a game plan if she didn’t want to end up as a bag lady.

Sitting behind her laptop at her clean kitchen table, Katerina wiped perspiration off her forehead. She had sent out five resumes in the past hour. And she received a phone call for an interview.  That cosmic kick rallied her senses. She was constantly on the move as she typed cover letters, sent off resumes, and attended women-in-business meetings across town.  She shook more hands in one month than she had in several. As the day wore on, she felt more enthusiastic about her future.

After working with a life coach, she discovered that she preferred to work at an upscale spa giving massages. She was fully-licensed and needed to get back to her real life’s work. The only reason she had taken the public relations position was that communications ran in her family.

With spring around the corner, Katerina came out of hibernation. When the sun rose earlier each day she rose with it. Every day she practiced yoga poses. After she started eating salads instead of pizza, she noticed lightness in her step. She welcomed each day, serving humanity through her hands instead of through her previous corporate laptop.

Write It: 10 Ways to Trick the Procrastination Monster

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You’re on a roll. You have written five pages a day on your novel. Or you have stayed on schedule with your submissions and pitches. But then an illness strikes and you experience bedrest for two weeks. And then, the procrastination returns.

Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up. Find ways to get back in the groove such as editing a flash fiction story or rewriting a poem. Start small. And then return to your calendar and make adjustments for page and word count for longer work. Or return to your submission calendar.

If you missed deadlines then scratch those journals or contests off your lists. And find new ones to enter (a Google search pulls up blogs with lists of literary journals and agents).

Here is a no-no list:

  • Hang out on social media or watch the YouTube video stream for an hour+
  • Watch television
  • Gossip
  • Shopping for things you don’t actually need
  • Gorging on sugary foods (which leads to exhaustion and a non-productive day)
  • Texting or talking on the phone (instead of writing)
  • Over-cleaning the house
  • Helping others to avoid writing

 

Here is a to-do list:

  • Edit or proofread a short piece
  • Write a poem or flash fiction
  • Research a topic or person for your story
  • Read magazines on the writing craft
  • Read books on the writing craft
  • Take a writing workshop
  • Join a writing group (that does timed writing exercises)
  • Join an editing group
  • Visit a blog for writers
  • Make a list of agents
  • Make a list of editors or publishers
  • Research writers conferences
  • Attend a writers conference
  • Go for a walk and take your camera
  • Spend time with a writing buddy
  • Clean up your submission database

Feel free to add other enriching experiences to this list.

Once you get back on a schedule (and remember to take breaks to eat lunch and walk the dog), the procrastination monster return as often. Pat yourself on the back knowing that you have taken responsibility for your destiny as an author.

I am an author and a creativity coach who uses metaphysical tools. Contact me for a session at wholemusicexp at gmail.com My fees start at $100 an hour.

 

Transforming Seattle into a Fantasy Setting

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My first two novels took place in cities I have never visited or resided. And I read articles about becoming familiar with the places where stories are set, even if that meant looking up places in guidebooks.

Then slowly, I set my short fiction in the Pacific Northwest and then my fourth and fifth novels take place mainly in Washington State. And recently, I took a class on world-building for mainly speculative fiction even though authors build worlds for all genres.

This morning I woke up with the idea of presenting my version of Seattle in 2020 where I had set my fifth novel, Enter 5-D featuring Greek gods and other metaphysical characters. Using Seattle as a setting was perfect since I had lived there for 21 years from 1986 through 2007. This gave me inspiration to transform iconic locations into the landscape of my slightly dystopian fantasy based on the Greek story of Orpheus and his bride, Eurydice. And then I added the comical element.

Here are three of my transformational makeovers for Seattle:

The Public Market (aka Pike’s Place Market)

I used this location as an actual farmers market but also this is where I locate my grotto with the oracle stellar jay who is both the animal version of the Oracle of Delphi and the storyteller narrator (Greek chorus).

The story launches with Eurydice visiting the grotto and learning about her fate.

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The Gate to the River of the Dead (and to the Underworld where the musicians hang out), is located in Pioneer Square. And this is the location where Orpheus nearly connects with Eurydice to take her to the 5th Dimension but then his body is drawn back into the higher realm leaving Eurydice gaping. This is the conclusion of a dramatic set of scenes.

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And at any point in the novel, you will find angels and ascended masters driving their electric cars or zooming by on their silver-indigo bicycles on the downtown streets. It’s similar to the movie Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders where the angels were also hovering above or traveling through a major city (Berlin, Germany).

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And I will leave you with photos of Fremont even though Eurydice stayed with her friend Persephone in nearby Wallingford. And some dramatic scenes take place in the University District (I don’t have any photos).

 

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So How is this for world building from an existing city?

 

Photos and text by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved

Write it–Inspiration for Tackling Rewrites

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Hardly any author enjoys rewriting their novels. A few authors enjoy returning to their story several drafts later. But each time you return to the manuscript and you make improvements, you build more confidence in your abilities as an author while possibly gaining new writing and editing skills.

Having said that, it’s still easy to get lost in procrastination or to set the novel in a file that gathers dust over the years leaving you with “what if” scenarios dancing in your thoughts. Rewrites are not as daunting as many think. And if you find the right copy editors and writer friends to help with the process, you can actually slap some new life into your work.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the rewriting process that I gained writing five novels (several times over).

  • Start with a smaller project such as a rewrite of a short story
  • Check out writing craft books from the library (or buy them)
  • Take writing workshops focusing on character and plot development
  • Attend a writer’s conference and get tips from other authors
  • Attend a critiquing group or work with a writing buddy
  • Read articles in writers magazines on story development
  • Workshop your later drafts (it’s too self-defeating to workshop a first or second draft)
  • Discover your own writing process (some authors rewrite as they go along)
  • Work with storyboards or vision boards
  • Get to know your characters deeply and ask them about their motivations
  • Read and critique novels (of several genres)

Like many authors, when I wrote my first novel, I thought that was it. Little did I know at that time, that it would take me several years to redevelop the novel through rewrites. And that novel is sitting in an electronic file waiting for another rewrite.

But then the question becomes, “When is my novel completed?” Does this happen when the agent reads it and offers a contract? Probably not. The agent will most likely ask for some rewrites or at least have a professional copy editor go through it. And then the editors at the publishing company will ask for more rewrites, especially with newer authors. And some authors as they improve their craft over several decades, might return and rewrite their first few novels to get them back into print. So, possibly it never ends. As humans we are in constant expansion.

And one last tip, you might find that as you continue to write your novel, chapter by chapter, your momentum picks up. You redefinine your characters as you spend more time with them and you develop plot twists that take you to a conclusion you had not first envisioned. So, going back and rewriting the beginning launches a rewriting process. that puts more zing in the step of your novel.

I know for myself that my novels tend to pick up momentum by the third chapter. And agents often only want to see the first two chapters or first 30 pages. So, this is an area I’m currently working on–strengthening the introduction chapters of my novels.

So, don’t fear the rewrite. And if you would like a metaphysical coach to keep you on track, sign up for a session with me. And good luck on your journey as a published author. I look forward to reading your novels.

 

Write it–From Writer’s Block to Inspiration

writer-1421099_1920I was once a prolific writer. I wrote posts for several blogs, music reviews, book reviews, articles, interviews, essays, a non-fiction book, a memoir, several novels, short fiction, and screenplays and then life happened…

First, I struggled with finding permanent housing which wore me out. Then I began suffering from arthritis to both of my hands along with tendonitis. Meanwhile,  the urge to write never left me even as time seemed to grow shorter and the demands on my time expanded. And I developed sympathy for other blocked writers or authors with good intentions who found themselves bogged down by their life concerns.

Good news. We aren’t stuck. And by taking a few steps forward we reignite our relationship with our muse and turn into writing machines once again.

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Dealing with life demands:

 

  • Set appropriate boundaries with others (say no)
  • Carve out 30 to 60 minutes each day to write (and stick to it)
  • If the household is too chaotic write at a public library
  • Meditate and ground your mind
  • Organize your time efficiently with a day planner
  • Exercise before writing (it opens up the flow and you prioritize yourself)
  • Carve out space in your home to write

 

Get inspired:

  • Start with a short piece to get into the swing
  • Edit an older piece
  • Read one of two blog posts (yours or another’s)
  • Read a book on the writing craft (and do an assignment)
  • Free write longhand
  • Daydream and see if any characters show up
  • Interview existing characters
  • Revisit your short fiction and chapters in novels
  • Research topics related to your characters
  • Get curious
  • Describe your character’s bedroom in detail
  • Describe your character’s morning routine in detail
  • Hold a conversation with your characters
  • Referee an argument with your characters
  • Take a writing class
  • Attend a writer’s workshop
  • Attend an open mic for writers
Or do like I’m doing and write a blog post to inspire other writers. And if you would like to work with a creative coach steeped in metaphysics, contact me for a session through Whole Astrology.

The Practice–Speaking the Language of Your Characters

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I don’t know about you but I come up with my best ideas when I’m walking. And yesterday, I thought about writing a post about delving into the language of fictitional characters.

The thought came to me because I was considering the research that it takes for an author to create dialogue and scenarios around a character’s career, lifestyle, or region that they inhabit. Some people would call this the vernacular of the character. And just like architects speak and write about vernacular houses for particular regions, authors also populate their novels with the right lingo, terms, and language for their particular characters to make the story more real in a reader’s mind.

Now, some folks would say that they’re not writing a historic or a realism novel. But even if you are creating a new realm for your characters to inhabit you still need to define a language and liguistics for your charcters and scenarios. Think of J.R.R. Tolkein’s magical languages for his different groups of characters, as an example, or the Harry Potter series characters and their unique lingo.

This sounds simpler than it is. And many budding novelist fail because they use everyday and modern language for their characters based on shallow observations. They forgot to do their research and hone their characters’ conversations and daily encounters. For instance, if your main character is a doctor, then wouldn’t it behoove you to research medical terminology and spend time in a medical environment as well as, interview medical doctors?

With all my screenplays and novels, I delved into research, interviewing people in various real-life situations, reading books, and even picking up dictionaries with terminology or foreign languages and still, I left much uncovered. For my screenplay Love and Intangible States, I observed a life drawing class as well as, I traveled to Vancouver, Canada where most of the story takes place.

And for my novel “Love Quadrangle” I set the story mostly in a local setting where I could visit the places where my characters inhabited. And for Quebec, since I wasn’t able to travel to the Canadian Province, I researched through books and interactions with people from Quebec as well as, a French language teacher who had a friend who lived in Quebec.

I also researched brain damage, and different types of music by sending questions to neurologists who study music and brain damage. And I observed an architecture firm to research my architect character and interviewed an architect. She also read one of my earliest drafts of the novel which she found realistic.

So, here is a list of learning the language and lingo of your characters:

  • Research, research, research
  • Read through terminology and language dictionaries for words
  • Interview people with the same professions as your characters
  • Hang out in the locales of your characters (for realism novels)
  • Join social media groups of your characters lifestyles, interests, and professions
  • Read similar books (but don’t just rely on that)
  • Travel
  • Spend time in a library collecting notes until your brain is overflowing with details
  • Write short scenarios with dialogue before beginning the novel
  • Interview your characters
  • Watch realistic movies (documentaries as opposed to fictional movies)
  • Try out your conversations and character languages on a native of that language or lingo or profession
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Some authors love research and others despise it. But there is nothing more enjoyable to the reader as a well-researched and defined novel. Readers need to gain trust with their authors and they do this when the authors make their stories believable. We all appreciate researched novels.

As a journalist, I gained research skills in my early twenties at the same time I was developing my poetic voice. Both skills have served me well. And I appreciate reading well-researched and engaging novels. I think we all do.

If you would like creative coaching with astrology, experience in the arts, and metaphysical tools, sign up for an hour session with me or we can negotiate a fee for a series of sessions. I have experience with self-publishing, the writing process (over 30 years), and motivation. Just ask. And check out Belle Author on Facebook and Patricia Herlevi on YouTube.