Being a Better Writer: Fast and Slow Character Dialogue

Welcome back writers to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer, your source for writing advice, guides, and tips.

Well that sounded weirdly canned, didn’t it? Either way, we’re here, it’s Monday, and that must mean it’s time to talk writing.

Almost. We’ve got some news to tackle first. Starting with the elephant in the room: Starforge releases next week. Yeah, that’s right. It’s almost here. November 29th people! The countdown clock is nearing zero!

By the way, one more teaser dropped over this last weekend; a fun nod to trailers of film and game, but in literary form. You can take a look at it here, and don’t worry. I didn’t include any spoilers in my trailer. Just enough clips of the insane amount of action in Starforge to tease.

Speaking of teasing, some of you long-timers may recall that the finale in Colony (the first book of the trilogy) was a staggering 90,000 or so words (roughly 300 pages) worth of action. Well, Starforge‘s is something like—depending on where you decide the finale of the “finale” begins (there’s a lot of action in this final book, since it’s wrapping it all up) is around 171,000 words, almost 600 pages worth of chaos.

Don’t worry. As with Colony there’s spots in there to catch your breath and take a minute. And that’s far from the only action in the story, either. Death, destruction, peril, loss … it’s all in these pages.

You get the picture. Now to other related news before we move into today’s BaBW: Next Monday there will not be an installment of Being a Better Writer. Instead, I will be doing a Reddit AMA due to Starforge launching the following day. So, similar to Being a Better Writer, but instead I’ll be taking live questions from Reddit. There will be a link here on the site to the AMA when it goes live, so just poke your head in here around 12 noon MST (more notes on time as the day approaches) and bring some questions about Colony, Starforge, Axtara, writing … whatever!


All right, and with that, and a reminder that if you’re in the US, this weekend is Thanksgiving (so I hope you all have a great one) let’s get down to business. Today’s BaBW is a bit on the shorter side, since I’m itching to get right back to copy-editing on Starforge. But it’s one that I’ve wanted to have a small discussion about for a while, especially as I ran into someone a few months back that was arguing against it without realizing how terrible an idea it was.

What we’re talking about today is character dialogue and its relationship to grammar. Specifically with regards to situation, but also with regards to characters themselves and how they act and speak.

So to start, right below the jump I’m going to post two sentences. I’m not going to ask much except that you read them and have them both in your mind. Got it? Alright, hit the jump and let’s start!

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Being a Better Writer: Keeping Characters From Being One-Note

Welcome back writers! It’s Monday already, and that means that we’re once again back with another installment of Being a Better Writer. A little late, and I do apologize for that. But there is a lot going on at the moment. That’s right, before we dive into today’s writing topic, I do have some news to reveal and discuss.

First up, today I can officially reveal that A Power in Ink, one of the shorts I wrote last year, has been accepted for the upcoming LTUE Benefit Anthology Troubadours and Space Princesses! Now, this is the collection for 2024, so you won’t be able to get it for a bit of time yet, but it’s on its way!

Second bit of news, also pertaining to a release, but an even bigger and more urgent one—which I left as the second bit of news because most of you likely already know. But here it is again: Starforge is releasing November 29th. That’s right, the third and final installment in the UNSEC Space Trilogy is arriving at last, six years after Colony made its grand debut. And you won’t want to miss it. You can check out more news about that at this link and get some specific details about Starforge, read some excerpts from the first review, go right to the books tab and pre-order a copy, or find some previews (including the latest) at this tag.

Again, Starforge releases November 29th! So get those pre-orders ready!

Now, third bit of news we need to talk about. Once Starforge releases, most of my books will be going up in price. I’ve spoken about this before, but the short of it is that my prices have not changed in almost ten years and no longer reflect the current value of the dollar.

If you’re alarmed, don’t be. The prices will simply be reaching equilibrium with what price point direction I chose when I started publishing back in 2013. Tail-prices will be maintained. There will be a future post about this in the coming weeks explaining the details, but the gist of it is that everything is still going back to the price of a paperback in 1994. It’s just that that is ten years more than it was when I last set my prices.

There’s a second meaning to this, however: If you’re looking to grab something, now is the time. Prices will see a bit of a bump once Starforge is out. A dollar or so for most titles, but it’s still a bump.

All right. One last bit of news, and then we can dive into today’s—quite late—Being a Better Writing post. And this last bit of news is a bit of a downer, actually. But I’ve been having problems with my right wrist and arm. I think it has to do with all the repetitive work of editing on Starforge causing the muscles in my shoulder to tighten and cause a cascading effect down into my forearm, hand, and wrist—and this is the hand and wrist I nearly lost in that workplace accident a few years back, so it has a pre-existing set of scars to amplify that—but the truth is I don’t know and won’t know until I see a doctor. I’m letting all of you know on the chance that it impacts my writing in the weeks ahead. For now, I’m just doing Copy-Edit work on Starforge before release, which is work done with an ebook reader in my hand and moving around taking notes, so that’s all right, but it’s still something I need to keep an eye on. With luck, it’s just an out of position shoulder and getting it taken care of will result in the rest of the arm feeling fine again, but I’m giving a heads-up anyway just in case things take a turn.

Okay. That’s everything. A lot happened over the last week, didn’t it? But we’re all caught up. So, let’s hit the jump, and let’s talk about keeping characters from being one-note.

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Being a Better Writer: Reading VS Hearing

Welcome back writers! It’s Monday, and you know what that means. That, or this is your first time stumbling across this corner of the web and are just in awe or suspicion of what you’ve found. Maybe both.

Well, if you’re a writer or looking to do some writing, let me reassure you. This is Being a Better Writer, and you are in the right place.

Now, a quick aside before we dive into today’s promised topic, which is a … contentious one, to say the least. If you’ve not been on the site over the weekend, then you might have missed out on Saturday’s Starforge preview, which gave everyone their first look at what’s become of Annalyne Neres since the end of Jungle, plus her first steps in the finale of the UNSEC Space Trilogy. Action-packed steps, of course.

In related news, Starforge is getting closer to release with each passing day, but also now closer to a pre-order date. The Copy-Edit is nearing, and once the novel is in that phase, the pre-orders can go live. I’ll keep you all up to date on that as things progress.

Now, one more bit of spooky news before we head into today’s topic. Because it is the Halloween season, Dead Silver will be on sale starting tonight at midnight, and will remain on sale through October 31st. You can click that link there or find the book via the Books tab, but keep that in mind if you’ve not read it. It’s a perfect little spooky mystery for the Halloween weekend, so if you’re reading this after midnight, October 24th, do yourself a favor and snag a copy! It’s spooky good fun, and an enjoyable read.

All right, that’s all the news and whatnot taken care of. Now lets get down to business and talk about todays—as I warned—contentious topic.

This one I think is going to puzzle some, while being a revelation others. It’s one of those aspects of writing and publishing books that you really have to be immersed in some part of the production or output of to be aware of, but again as previously stated it’s also something that brings with it no small amount of controversy, especially among certain circles and with regards to both writing and editing a book.

You ready? Then hit the jump. Let’s talk about reading versus hearing.

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Being a Better Writer: The “Perfect” Book Is an Awful Read

Hello again writers! Welcome back, and welcome to Topic List #21! That’s right, we’re on a new list, with new concepts and ideas to explore! Writers, there is still time to make a request for additional topics to add to it over at the topic call post, but only for a few days more!

Anyway, how was your weekend, writers? Feeling recharged and reinvigorated? I am, and it was desperately needed. Not only was I able to get some relaxation and decompression in, but I also woke up today to some fantastic news: Axtara – Banking and Finance has cracked 50 reviews on Amazon.

Like I’ve said, she keeps sailing. I don’t doubt that before long Axtara will be neck-and-neck with Colony. Though the leader of the UNSEC Space Trilogy isn’t taking it lying down, especially as over the weekend we saw our first tease from Chapter 1 of Starforge. To applause, no less. It was clear to me from the number of hits that a lot of you were interested in that.

Banking dragon versus a Sci-Fi tale of empires old and new. Will Axtara tighten the race? Or will Colony pull ahead? I don’t know, but I’m thrilled either way as both take strong strides in bringing me toward that 10,000 copies sold milestone.

Anyway, that’s the news, writers. Keeping it short and sweet today so that I can dive into the first topic on our new list. Which is … a contentious one, to be sure. I already am aware that by the title alone there will be many who will be lighting their torches and gathering their pitchforks, ready to defend an incorrect philosophy that they themselves will likely never test.

Today, we’re going to talk about the “perfect” book. And why you’d never want to read it.

Hit the jump, folks. Let’s talk about writing.

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The “Ikea of Games” and Why Axtara is Such a Success

Hey writers! Got a short post for you today. Yesterday, after I wrapped up Being a Better Writer and started on some chores I had to take care of, I finally put on a video that had been sitting in my watch-later queue for quite some time and was immediately struck by the lessons in the video that apply to writing.

Specifically, this video explains why Axtara has been such a success, flying so far so quickly. As some of you might have gathered, sales numbers have been on my mind lately, as I’m pushing to reach that “10,000 total sales in ten years” number after finding out how close I was about a month ago.

Anyway, before I pontificate too much further, I’m going to link embed this video and encourage any of you writers who are looking at or wondering about your own sales numbers to take a look. This talk was given at the 2017 Game Developers Conference, or GDC, and so while it’s talking about lessons one can take towards game development from Ikea, it actually applies incredibly well toward writing and selling books. Give it a watch below the break.

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Being a Better Writer: The Problem With Proper Nouns in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Hello writers, and welcome back to another installment of Being a Better Writer, where today we’re going to discuss something that’s actually quite topical! So topical, in fact, that this discussion wasn’t even on Topic List #20. Instead, it was prompted over this last week by some real-life work and discussion.

It’s also a topic that is going to directly reference via-link someone else’s writings on the subject. But with that, I feel we need to move into an explanation directly.

See, the genesis of this post comes from my editing on Starforge. This titan of a book is now in the Beta phase, which means looking for typos, misspelled words, misplaced quotation marks, and all that jazz. However, it also means going through and ensuring proper capitalization of proper nouns. At which point, I ran into a bit of a conundrum. Said conundrum led me to Google, which in turn pointed me to this post from 2009 concerning a similar issue in Fantasy writing—though note that it does address Science Fiction as well.

Anyway, what is this conundrum? Well, before we dive into it directly, I have a sort of pop quiz for you. You can do it in your head, but if you’re really determined you can bring out a pen and pencil and do the classic grade-school exercise. It’ll only take a moment either way, but here we go. Correctly capitalize the following sentence:

The terran vehicle rolled up the hill, backed by dozens of terran marines.

That’s it. Got it? Placed those capital letters where they belong? Okay, check out the answers after the break.

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Being a Better Writer: A Long-Term Relationship – Part Two

Welcome back writers. We’re back with another Being a Better Writer post on exactly that topic, and aside from a small news blurb to stick in front of it, we’re going to get right down to things!

So, what’s the news? Two smaller items. First: I have a sore throat and a bit of a head cold. So this post might have a few more typos that slip by than normal, and for that I apologize. A chance of small typos is better than no post, I think.

Second, those of you who have replied or posted regarding the Starforge Beta Call may have noticed that there have not been e-mails sent out in response with the Beta Chapter List. This is because polishing of the last few chapters took a little more time than I anticipated. That said, everything I saw over the weekend says that the additional smoothing has been well worth the effort, and I can do the final checks and start putting out the Beta chapters now. Apologies for the delay, but with a finale like this, getting everything to land just right is important.

Which, in a way, does feed into today’s Being a Better Writer post. I said last week that most probably would be surprised by the topic, and expect something a bit more in the vein of today’s post, and noted that we would indeed get to that. Well, here we are. We have arrived at that point. Where last week we talked about writing a long-term relationship and showing it to the reader, this week we’re going to be discussing your long-term relationship with writing, as a hobby or as a career, and what that means for, well, everything.

So hit that jump, and let’s talk writing.

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Being a Better Writer: Improving Your Writing Output

Hello writers! So, full confession time: I’m not quite at 100% yet. In fact, I might even try for a nap after this post is over. We’ll see how I feel.

But I’ve got to be good enough to deliver today’s Being a Better Writer post! After all, I promised it!

Now, a quick bit of news prior to jumping into writing stuff: We are now just as day before one week away from the Starforge cover reveal! Though I’ve lost a few days to this blasted cold, Rest assured that Starforge is coming, and you’ll see the cover soon enough! If you missed the initial announcement, September 1st is the date you’re looking for!

Okay, with that news out of the way, let’s dive into writing. Today’s topic isn’t actually from the list, because in light of my current status as less-than-100%, I didn’t want to tackle one of the remaining items on the list because they’re fairly complicated concepts that both readily lend themselves to large posts and will likely require more brainpower than I was confident I could deliver for a sustained time.

But this writing topic, plucked from a run through the various feeds I check each morning? This one is straightforward, relatively simple, and easy to cover. If you’re a bit let down by this week’s BaBW covering something so basic, I would remind that remembering the basics is the best way to keep our writing output consistent in its quality and production.

So today we’re discussing a fairly simple but also common question often heard from new writers: How do I improve my writing output?

Hit the jump, and let’s get started.

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Being a Better Writer: Crafting Good Goals For Protagonists and Antagonists Alike

Welcome readers, to another Monday installment of Being a Better Writer! I hope that you all had a pleasant weekend, and that today’s post kicks off a glorious start to an even better week than the last. Especially where your writing is concerned!

So today’s post should be a little shorter. News-wise there’s very little I didn’t cover in last Friday’s news post, so if you’ve read that you’re all caught up. We’re inching closer to an official cover reveal for Starforge, but I don’t have an actual date yet. One other bit of news that has come to my attention over the course of the weekend will come out a bit later, but I’ll hint now that it’s good news and involves book sales numbers, which I am nearing a serious milestone for.

So yeah, most of the news that’s directly relevant was talked about on Friday. If you saw that, you’re caught up. If not, go give it a look and then come back here for a discussion on crafting good goals for protagonists and antagonists alike.

I admit, this may seem like a bit of a strange topic for some of you. Why should we talk about protagonist or antagonist goals. Aren’t those pretty simple? After all, it’s just what your character wants, right? How hard can that be?

Well … you got me. You’re right. Most of the time, this is pretty simple and/or straightforward. But for one, we talk about simple and straightforward things all the time on here. Secondly, it isn’t always simple or straightforward, and sometimes thinking about our characters’ goals a little more deeply than “They are at Position A and want to be at Position B” can free up our story in surprising ways.

So, hit the jump, and let’s talk about looking at (and crafting) good character goals.

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Being a Better Writer: Music to Write To

Welcome back readers!

Yeah, I know. That introduction has been said hundreds of times with Being a Better Writer … but that doesn’t make it any less true. Besides, I don’t have much else to say. While I’m writing this at my desk it’s in advance, because when this post goes up I’ll be out and away, so even if there were news to be had, I wouldn’t be able to comment about it.

Anyway, while I’m out and about, this post can still go on. So enough with my ramblings! Let’s talk writing. Or more specifically, music and writing.

I’ll admit, this is kind of an odd post, though it’s been one of the more requested topics I used to get back in the day. I just … didn’t quite know what to make of it, and there were always more important, immediately applicable posts to talk about.

However … recently I was thinking back on some of those old, odder requests and thought “You know, I could cover that. It’d be a bit strange, but I think I know what I could do for it.”

So today, we’re going to talk about a very odd writing subject: Music. Not writing about it, but what to write to. Because like a lot of other things with writing, it’s not quite as straightforward as it at first appears.

And then? Well then, we’re going to have some fun. So hit the jump, and let’s talk music,

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