The Art of Dialogue: How to Write Engaging Conversations

Dialogue in fiction serves to advance the plot and reveal information about characters, but it also brings the story to life. Many authors struggle to write dialogue that feels natural and engaging. To help with that, here are some tips for writing more effective dialogue.

Dialogue should sound like real people talking, but try to avoid filler words like “um” and “ah” and overly formal or stilted speech. Too many filler words and pauses slow your dialogue, thus slowing the pace of your narrative. Consider the setting and culture of the characters in your story, as the way people speak in a small rural town will be different than in a big city. Also, the way people speak and the slang they use will be very different in a historical piece than in a modern one.

Another important aspect of dialogue is subtext, which refers to the underlying meaning of what characters say. Subtext can add depth to a conversation, making it more interesting. For example, a character might say “I’m fine” when they’re clearly not; the subtext is that they’re hiding something.

When writing dialogue, also consider the pacing. Long monologues can be boring and slow down the narrative. Instead, break up the conversation with shorter exchanges and include nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions to make the conversation feel more natural and engaging.

Another thing to consider is a character’s personality and motivations. Each character should have a unique voice and way of speaking. This can be achieved through the use of different filler words, patterns in grammar, and sentence structure. For example, a character with a more formal education might speak differently than a character that dropped out of high school. A scientist might think of everything in scientific terms (e.g., “clavicle” instead of “shoulder bone”).  

Dialogue should serve a purpose. It should reveal information about the characters, advance the plot, and create tension. Avoid including dialogue that doesn’t add anything to the story, including long conversations about small talk. Consider picking up your conversations in medias res (Latin for “in the middle of things), eliminating lengthy greetings. Similarly, don’t be afraid to stop reporting on conversations after the important things have been discussed but before their natural conclusion.

Lastly, when editing your dialogue, read it out loud to make sure it sounds natural and believable. If it sounds forced or unrealistic when spoken, it will likely sound the same when read.

Writing dialogue is an art form in and of itself, requiring practice and attention to detail. If you keep the techniques discussed above in mind, you are bound to create engaging and believable conversations that will help reveal character, build conflict and suspense, and keep your readers invested in the story.

The Process of Self-Publishing

including how to format and upload a book to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing or other platforms

Self-publishing has become a popular option for authors in recent years, allowing them to bypass traditional publishing routes and take control of their own work. However, the process of self-publishing can be daunting, especially for those who are not familiar with the technical side of things. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to format and upload a book to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or other platforms.

Step 1: formatting your book

Before you can upload your book to any platform, you will need to ensure it is properly formatted. This includes ensuring that the text is properly aligned without errors or inconsistencies. There are various tools and software available to help you with this process, such as Scrivener, Microsoft Word, Vellum, and InDesign. For eBooks, Amazon provides free software called Kindle Create and Kindle Kids’ Book Creator for children’s picture book eBooks. Each platform has its own set of parameters for paperback and eBooks, so be sure to check out these specifics before beginning.

Step 2: cover design

Your book cover is the first thing that readers see when they come across your book. It’s important that your cover is professional, eye-catching, and relevant to your book. You can either create your own cover or hire a professional designer to do it for you. Begin this process with a Google search for book covers in your genre to see what’s currently in fashion or for ideas. 

Step 3: choose a platform

There are several platforms available for self-publishing, including Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo Writing Life, Barnes & Noble Press, and Apple Books, to name a few. Each platform has its own set of requirements and guidelines, so be sure to read through them carefully before deciding which one to use.

Step 4: uploading your book

Once your book is formatted and your cover is designed, you can start uploading your book to your chosen platform. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is one of the most popular platforms for self-publishing. The process of uploading your book is relatively simple and straightforward and can be completed in a few easy steps.

Step 5: marketing and promotion

Once your book is live, it’s important to promote it. This can include using social media, book clubs, and online communities to spread the word about your book. You can also consider offering promotions and discounts to attract new readers and increase sales.

Self-publishing is a great way for authors to take control of their work and reach a wider audience. Formatting a self-published book can be a daunting and frustrating task, so it is important to be patient and persistent as you navigate the process.

If the process proves too daunting and frustrating, let EMSA Publishing do it for you. Contact us for a quote.

New Merchandise for the Sassy Writer or Editor

Brand new merchandise, suitable for writers, editors, or lovers of English grammar.

These t-shirts are Gilden unisex ultra cotton tees

  • 100% Cotton (fiber content may vary for different colors)
  • Medium fabric (6.0 oz/yd² (203 g/m²))
  • Classic fit
  • Tear-away label
  • Runs bigger than usual

Purchase a sassy saying t-shirt through my Shopify store at emsapublishing.myshopify.com

5 important Tips for Writing a Compelling Plot

A good plot will keep your readers interested in your characters and events. Without a lively and multi-layered plot that leads to a satisfying resolution, readers are unlikely to finish your book. Here are five important tips for writing a compelling plot:

  1. A strong idea will set the stage for the story and guide the characters and events. Start with a strong concept that is clear, interesting, and unique, with the potential for adding twists and turns as you build toward your climax.
  2. Characters are at the heart of any story, and readers must relate to the characters if they are to care about them. Characters should have distinct personalities, motivations, and goals, and they should be fully developed and well-rounded if they are to pass as real people.
  3. Tension and conflict drive a story forward toward the climax by generating suspense. Conflict is rooted in the characters’ goals and desires. The character’s journey toward attaining their goals and dealing with the conflicts they encounter provides the tension of a story, which should escalate as the story progresses. This is what keeps the readers on the edge of their seats, wondering what will happen next.
  4. Use subtext—the story’s underlying meaning—to add depth to your plot and complexity to your story. It is also what makes it multi-layered and gives it a deeper meaning. Subtext is usually incorporated into your story with the use of symbolism, metaphors, and themes.
  5. The story should come full circle at the end, with the characters having faced and resolved all conflicts in a way the reader will find satisfying and fulfilling.

In the end, it’s important to remember that writing a compelling plot takes time and effort. It’s a process of trial and error and is not always easy, but by following these tips and continuing to practice and improve your writing, you can create a story that will keep your readers engaged until the very end.

Maximizing your reach: the importance of marketing for self-published authors

1. Introduction

As a self-published author, it is essential to understand how important marketing is when it comes to the success of your book. Though it can be tempting to focus only on the writing and publishing process, your book may struggle to reach its audience and achieve the sales you desire without a strong marketing strategy.

Marketing helps increase the visibility of your book and attract potential readers. It is a crucial part of the publishing process and can mean the difference between a successful book and one that goes largely unnoticed.

As a self-published author, it is important to focus on maximizing your reach. With so many books available, it is imperative to find ways to stand out so you can reach as many potential readers as possible. A comprehensive marketing strategy can help you do just while ensuring your book has the best chance at success.

2. Marketing Strategies for Self-Published Authors

As a self-published author, there are several strategies you can utilize to market your book and increase visibility. Some effective marketing strategies for self-published authors include:

Building an online platform: An online platform, such as a website or blog, can be a powerful tool for marketing your book, providing a central location where readers can learn more about you and your work. It can also help establish you as an authority in your field.

Utilizing social media: Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, can be excellent tools for connecting with potential readers and promoting your book. Posting regular updates, excerpts, and other engaging content can help to build an audience that will drive book sales.

Networking and building partnerships: Building relationships with other authors, industry professionals, and influencers can be a great way to market your book. Forming partnerships with others can provide opportunities for cross-promotion, joint events, and other collaborative efforts that can help increase your reach.

Running paid advertising campaigns: Paid advertising, such as sponsored posts on social media or Google Ads, can be an effective way to reach your target audience to drive book sales. These campaigns can be tailored to specific demographics and locations, making it easier to reach your ideal reader.

3. The Importance of a Strong Online Presence

In today’s digital age, it is essential for self-published authors to have a strong online presence. A well-designed website can serve as a central hub for all of your marketing efforts and portray a professional persona for potential readers. Your website can include information about your book(s), an author bio, media appearances, and other relevant content.

Email marketing is another powerful tool for reaching potential readers. Building an email list allows you to communicate with your audience directly to promote your book through newsletters, special offers, and other updates.

Utilizing search engine optimization (SEO) techniques also helps increase your website’s visibility, making it easier for potential readers to discover your book(s). Optimizing your website’s content for specific keywords can help improve your search engine rankings, increasing the chance that you and your book(s) will be found by readers.

4. Traditional Marketing Strategies for Self-Published Authors

While the Internet has significantly changed the way books are marketed and sold, there is still something to be said for traditional marketing strategies for self-published authors. Some traditional marketing strategies to consider include:

Utilizing local resources and events: Local events, such as book festivals, author talks, book clubs, and gift shows, can be excellent opportunities to promote your book(s) and connect with potential readers.

Reaching out to bookstores and libraries: Many bookstores and libraries are willing to stock self-published books, especially if they are locally based or written by local authors. Reaching out to these institutions and offering to do readings, book signings,  or other events can be a great way to promote your book(s).

Utilizing traditional media outlets: Traditional media outlets, such as newspapers, magazines, and radio programs, can be excellent ways to promote your book(s) to reach a wider audience. Consider reaching out to these outlets to offer to do interviews or write articles to promote your book.

Local writing groups: Besides offering master classes and networking opportunities, many local writing groups have connections to booksellers and book-selling opportunities in your community. Those with a membership fee might also subsidize tables at events, allowing authors to participate in expensive, large shows, such as Word on the Street, that they might not otherwise be able to afford. Go online to see if you can join an active writing group near you and the perks they offer when it comes to connecting with other authors and booksellers in your area.

5. Conclusion

It is essential for self-published authors to understand the importance of marketing when it comes to the success of their book(s). To increase your visibility, reach potential readers and drive book sales, create a comprehensive marketing strategy, including both online and traditional tactics.

By focusing on maximizing your reach and increasing your visibility, you will give your book(s) the best chance of success. Don’t be afraid to try new marketing strategies and continuously evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Once you have a strong marketing plan in place, you can effectively promote your book and be on your way to reaching your publishing goals.

Do you have a tried and true method for increasing your visibility as an author and reaching more readers to increase book sales? Please share what has and/or has not worked for you in the comments below.

4 Ways to Avoid Information Dump When Writing

According to The Cambridge Dictionary, information dump is defined as “the practice of giving too much information at the same time, or a piece of writing that does this.” It is also a common writing mistake made by many new and independent authors. Bombarding the reader with a character’s entire life history all at once may help to introduce a new character in the story, but it also serves to slow down the narrative. To be more precise, it drives the action to a complete halt because nothing is actually happening to advance the story while you’re giving the reader all of that information. This will likely cause your reader to question what’s happening and forget where they are in the plot.

As a reference, here is an example of information dump I’ve composed expressly for this blog post:

Braelynn chose that exact moment to enter the room. She was no stranger to danger, having inherited her grandmother’s ring the year before. The lawyer reading her grandmother’s will tricked her into putting it on, and now it was stuck. At first, she didn’t want to wear it, but then she mellowed to the idea. It seemed to come in handy when she realized that her first boyfriend was a vampire. She dusted him when he tried to bite her in his car. Then, she killed her boyfriend’s best friend (who just happened to be the leader of a gang of supernatural creatures) and threatened to vanquish the bugbear who was stalking her. Braelynn had only been fifteen at the time. She was sixteen now and still living with her parents, but they were over-protective and frequently got on her nerves. Her mother had inherited her own grandmother’s ring when she was Braelynn’s age, and she spent a good deal of her youth and young adulthood hunting supernaturals, but once she was married and had Braelynn, she retired and became a sort of life coach. Braelynn’s father was okay with her mother’s line of work now, but he wasn’t always sure he wanted to marry into a line of supernatural hunters. Her parents had cut ties with Braelynn’s grandmother when she was born, hoping it would prevent her from catching the family curse, but even in death, Braelynn’s grandmother—who was a crotchety old woman in both life and death—had circumvented that plan from beyond the grave…

From “Braelynn’s Birthright–Book 2: Fallen Angel” by Elise Abram

Wow!

Lots to unpack there.

And all of this from Braelynn having entered the room.

If this is Braelynn’s introduction in the book, it is bound to leave the reader questioning why they are being given all of this information at this point in time.

Rather than dump all of this on the reader at once, it is much better if you mete out the information as the reader needs it to understand the story.

For example,

Braelynn chose that exact moment to enter the room. She scoped the room for danger. Satisfied that there was nothing supernatural within her bubble (her grandmother’s ring was still room temperature, the sapphire in its centre still dull), she tried to blend in as best as she could. Still, she reached into her messenger’s bag to feel for the stake she kept there. Ever since her boyfriend, Seth, had turned out to be a vampire and she had to stake him, you never knew what might be lurking in the shadows.

“Camille,” she exclaimed, removing her hand from her bag and using it to touch Camille’s shoulder; it was warm to the touch. Hunting supernatural creatures was a given after she’d inherited the family’s curse, and she was relieved she wouldn’t have to count Camille among those she’d vanquished.

By working in the information as the reader needs it, they get the same backstory only it is spread out, intertwined with the action that builds suspense and ushers your reader toward the climax. It is also more descriptive. In the second example, we still learn that Braelynn is a supernatural hunter, that she inherited her grandmother’s ring, and that she’d vanquished her one-time boyfriend along with other supernatural creatures. The stuff about her mother and father might be brought into a scene including her mother and father. Her approximate age can be revealed in a scene that takes place at her high school. She might hear the house settling and have a flashback to the bugbear incident. If her parents prevent her from going out one night, the narrator might let the reader know that she hates how overprotective her parents are, and so on.

The narrator isn’t the only one who can dump loads of information onto the reader. Characters can also do this in their dialogue. This is the equivalent of meeting someone and having them tell you everything that has happened to them from the second they woke up until the very moment they are talking to you. In other words, they overshare. A little character info dump is usually considered acceptable, used, for example, at the end of detective novels when they inform the other characters how they figured out who the murderer was, but other than that, information dump should always be avoided.

Here is an example of a character dumping information from my soon to be published book, Braelynn’s Birthright—Book 2: Fallen Angel:

“And who, exactly, is Samael? I mean, besides being a fallen angel who may or may not be the actual devil.”

“That depends on your system of beliefs,” Percival explains. “The Talmud says he’s an archangel, a high-ranking angel with destructive powers who is also one of the main angels of death. He is said to have opposed the creation of humankind and descended to earth in the form of the serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. He also slept with Eve to produce Cain. 

“In Christianity, he’s a fallen angel with parallels to Satan, although he’s also known to destroy sinners, which could be construed as a good thing—”

“Unless you tempt the person into being a sinner like he did with Eve,” Piers interjects.

“Yes, well, he’s also known as a seducer because he tempts people toward evil. He’s also credited with bringing death and disease to the world, and due to his function in the pantheon, he may also be the antichrist.”

“So, he’s powerful,” I say.

In this snippet, the characters are about to smoke out the fallen angel at a crossroads. The information is given in small bites and worked into a conversation in which one character (Percival) assumes the role of “expert” and he is informing the less experienced character (Braelynn, the point of view character) about what she will need to pull off the next phase in the rising action. This technique prevents the narrator from dumping all of the information at once and dragging on for a page (or pages), essentially teaching the reader everything they need to know about demons at crossroads.

To avoid information dump, ask yourself:

  • Is this information is really important for the reader to know at this particular point in the narrative? If not, move it to a better place and time.
  • Will it ever be important for the reader to know this? If not, eliminate it. In the first example, will it ever be relevant that her grandmother was crotchety? Probably not unless Braelynn’s mother compares her gentle approach to Braelynn’s grandmother’s more my-way-or-the-highway one. Will it ever be relevant that her father almost didn’t marry her mother because of their curse? Probably not unless Braelynn’s father resents her mother, and their relationship is failing because of it.
  • If there is a lot of information that the reader absolutely needs to know at this particular point in the narrative, is there a way to make it a part of the scene, or can you write a scene around it? For example, can you work it into a flashback? Can you have the character briefly recall a similar experience that is mentioned in passing?
  • Is there another way you can get this information across? For example, rather than tell us that Braelynn is still living with her parents, have her walk through the door of her house and say something like, “Mom, I’m home.” Her mom might respond with something like, “I thought I told you to do the dishwasher and clean your room before you left.” This would show the reader that she lives with her parents because she walks in unannounced. That she is a teenager might be evidenced by the fact that she has been assigned chores she does not do. To hit that fact home, her mother might also ask her if she had any homework.

Avoiding information dump will help engage your readers. Without it, the action in the story and the ongoing tension building toward the climax will keep going, and the reader won’t be left with useless information to sort through, wondering where it fits into the narrative. It will also make your narrative more creative in that you must now figure out ways to cleverly and surreptitiously impart this information without dumping a truckload of disjointed facts in your reader’s lap.


Like what you see and want to read more about writing and the writing process? Buy The Shape of Stories: A Comprehensive Guide for Fiction Writers, now on sale for 30% off the eBook price.

3 Popular Points of View

Point of view is one of the most essential elements of fiction. When done correctly, it helps the reader walk miles in your character’s shoes. When done incorrectly, it affects the flow of the narrative and will turn most people away from reading your manuscript to its conclusion and climax.

The best way to write is to choose a point of view and stick to it throughout, although chapter and section breaks represent opportunities for shifts in point of view and/or point of view characters. Deciding on which point of view you will use in a work of fiction might take some consideration. Some characters don’t feel right as point of view characters, and some points of view might not do your narrative justice. When in doubt, try on a few, writing and re-writing some of your scenes from different points of view to see which one fits best.

Again, the secret sauce of point of view is to be consistent.

There are five main points of view, but the three most common are first-person limited, third-person limited, and third-person omniscient (the other two are second-person and third-person objective). Here is an overview of the three most common points of view.

First-person point of view

First-person point of view selects a point of view character as the narrator of a story. The story unfolds based on what the point of view character sees, hears, feels, smells, tastes, and knows. In first person point of view, the narrator cannot report on what other characters see, hear, feel, smell, taste, and know as they cannot assume to have access to this information. As the point of view character, I can surmise what the other person is sensing, but I cannot know for sure. The narrator doesn’t have to use phrases like “I thought” because the whole narrative details the character’s thoughts and motivations. Giving the reader a peek into the inner workings of the point of view character’s mind helps the reader bond with the character, putting themselves into the character’s shoes so they will understand and come to identify with the narrator of the manuscript.

First-person point of view uses first-person pronouns (e.g., I, me, my, etc.) in the narrative. It is best if the narrator avoids second-person pronouns (like “we”) as I cannot know for sure that if I am cold or I hear something, my partner in the scene will, too.

Because first-person point of view may be limiting in that the narrator cannot report on anything that happens when they are not there, you might want to switch up the point of view character or point of view itself in different sections or chapters. For example, if my story is written from Character A’s point of view, but I want to show Character B scheming against them, I might choose to show a few scenes using Character B as the point of view character. To really differentiate the viewpoint, I might choose to write Character B’s scenes in a different tense or in third-person omniscient.

Here is an example of a narrative in first-person point of view;

We order and sit at a round bar table in the back corner. There’s music playing in the background and people talking, and he has to lean over the small table for me to hear him when he speaks. Social distancing protocol alarms go off in my head—some habits are hard to break—but if he is a supernatural, I have nothing to worry about as they can’t transmit the virus. That begs the question: do I really want to date another supernatural? Granted, I didn’t know about Seth until he tried to take a bite out of me, but would I have willingly dated him if I’d have known beforehand?

from my upcoming NA novel, Braelynn’s Birthright—Book Two: Fallen Angel

Third-person point of view

Third-person limited point of view is similar to first-person in that it selects a point of view character and sticks with them. The narrator of the story—which unfolds based on the information the point of view character is likely to have—is a disembodied voice that is not a character in the story. All of the parameters given for first-person hold true for third-person limited, with the exception of the pronouns, which are also third-person (e.g., them, they, he, she, etc.). Also similar to first-person is that the narrator should give the reader an intimate window into the point of view character’s thoughts, feelings, and motivation.

Avoid placing the point of view character’s thoughts in italics, working the inner monologue into the  narrative.

Here is an example of a narrative in third-person limited point of view:

Nigel thought about it for a moment. Though Daniel was only his lab assistant, their academic rivalry was known throughout campus. He’d always thought of Daniel as somewhat of his muse. The more Daniel pushed, the harder Nigel worked to best him. He’d always planned to be the first human through the arch to explore other times—was he willing to compromise that dream for Daniel of all people? More importantly, could he allow himself to compromise that dream?

from Chicken or Egg: A Love Story?

Third-person omniscient

This is the most difficult of points of view to do expertly.

In contrast to the other two points of view, third-person omniscient regularly dips into the heads of multiple characters. For this to be recognized as third-person omniscient and not an error in first- or third-person limited, the point of view character must change regularly and consistently throughout the manuscript.

Like third-person limited, third-person omniscient uses third-person pronouns (e.g., them, they, he, she, etc.). The narrator is disembodied and God-like in that they are all-seeing and all-knowing.

Here is an example of a narrative in third-person omniscient point of view:

“Please,” Balor begged. He jumped from his seat, leaped across the room, landed in front of Samael on one knee, and bowed his head. Had the man’s hands not been pinned behind his head, Balor would have gladly kissed a ring on any of his fingers. In absence of a ring, one of his knuckles. “Not now.”

Samael sighed. They all pleaded to break their deal in the end, but a contract was a contract. He’d held up his end of the bargain, awarding them their most coveted desires—was it too much to ask for them to hold up their end as well?

from Braelynn’s Birthright—Book Two: Fallen Angel

Whatever point of view you select, be sure to use it consistently throughout and mark all shifts in point of view with a “hard” section break, such as a symbol (***) or chapter break, to avoid confusing your reader. Once you have learned the particulars of each point of view and how to use it correctly, you are sure to forge a bond between your characters and readers that will transcend the pages of your manuscript.


If you are in doubt about your manuscript’s point of view, why not contact me for a manuscript evaluation? I would love to work with you to put your hard work out into the world. Please click on “Contact” in the menu at the top of the page or send me an email.

Come out to say hi

EMSA Publishing was at the Third Annual Jingle Bell Christmas Market this past Saturday. Thanks so much to Bare Canvas Management for the opportunity.

Cookies and Holly Jolly Christmas Market

The next show is on Saturday, November 26, 2022 at Monsignor Percy Johnson Catholic Secondary School, 2170 Kipling Avenue, Etobicoke, ON M9W 4K9 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. I will be bringing all of my books, Heddy, Harry, and Luna dolls, and a selection of handmade blankets, including two new crocheted designs.

Holiday Market

Hot on the tails of Cookies and Holly Jolly is the Holiday Market at Temple Sinai Synagogue, 210 Wilson Avenue, North York on Sunday, November 27, 2022 from 2 pm to 5 pm.

Come on out for a great assortment of holiday gifts (and in some cases, like my blankets, one-of-a-kind gifts!).

Merchandise at Etsy

EMSA Publishing’s Etsy shop is now open for business featuring characters from books Heddy is Sad, Harry has A Lot of Energy, Luna is Afraid of Storms, and Luna has Nothing to do.

Also featured are a number of beautifully handknit blankets to snuggle under while reading our books.

GTA customers: contact me directly at admin @ emsapublishing.com for information on how to purchase these items for pick-up to save Canada Post fees.

Check out EMSA’s Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/EMSAStore.