The Art of Implementing Dialogue into Your Story

Dialogue is conversation—language as we speak it. Forget that you are writing, and listen. Otherwise your characters will sound stiff and pedantic. No one speaks perfectly correctly in real life: if your character does, he/she will not sound real.

Characters come to life when they speak. Good dialogue is the key to making your characters come alive. Hear the conversation in your head. Say it aloud. Then write it down. Playwright Arthur Miller said he could not create characters unless he could hear them speak. In his early days he spoke the words aloud: later on he was able to hear them in his head. That is what every writer needs to do.

Anyone can create flat, two-dimensional, “cardboard cutout” characters. The hard thing is to create someone the reader wants to know. In real life we can recognize one another by voice.
 If your dialogue is good, every character will have a distinctive, recognizable “voice,” too.

Listen to people’s speech patterns, their peculiarities, hesitations, repetitions, wrong use of words. You have to listen to get your dialogue right and make it individual, so that it carries the particular stamp of the speaker.

One author wrote, “I don’t have a very clear idea of who the characters are until they start talking.” We use words to express our thoughts and feelings. You have to be your character to speak with his voice. When you know what he is thinking and feeling, the dialogue will come.

Dialogue in a story:
–  helps to create and reveal character
–  moves the story forward
–  imparts essential information
–  provides drama and excitement

Get to the dialogue as soon as possible in your story. Go for speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a heavy piece of prose at the start. Conversation is far better than description. And action is better still.

This excerpt was published in MAI’s booklet, Effective Story Writing by Pat Alexander. This and more practical tools for writing are available on MAI’s website.

<<Have you registered yet for our free upcoming webinar on May 20,  “Writing for Children” with award-winning children’s author Emily Lim of Singapore? Register online now.

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The Answer Was Blowing in the Wind

By George Koshy

Thomas slumped in the corner of a busy bus station in Kerala, India, and wondered cover-photo-from-annahow to end his miserable life. He had fallen into financial trouble the last few years, and his debts were piling up monstrously. Money lenders had begun harassing his wife and children too.

Thomas saw only darkness ahead. He wondered whether he should he hang himself, drink poison or throw himself in front of a train.

The wind began to blow fiercely. Candy wrappers, ticket stubs and other bits swirled around Thomas’s legs. He was too preoccupied to brush them away. Then another gust blew away the papers except for a small booklet. Absentmindedly, Thomas picked it up and began to read.

george-koshy-booklet-coverTitled You too can be a winner, the booklet described the love, peace and hope that Jesus Christ offers. A local pastor had distributed the booklet earlier that day. Some people accepted it, and others threw it away. One of the discarded copies had clung to Thomas’s leg.

Thomas hungrily absorbed every word and committed his life to Christ in that noisy bus station. He also contacted the pastor, using the information in the leaflet, and today Thomas is a happy member of God’s family.

Since I wrote this booklet in 2010, some 14 million copies have been printed in the Malayalam language. Several thousand evangelists are disseminating it across India.

<<Email us for a free copy of George Koshy’s booklet, You Too Can Be a Winner. Email George for permission to reproduce and translate the booklet for no charge. ([email protected])

Indian author and publisher George Koshy credits MAI trainers with encouraging him geoge-koshy-headshotimmensely. In return, “I decided to make use of every opportunity I get to support and encourage other writers,” he says.

Readers are finding new hope in Christ around the globe via books, articles and other materials created by our training partners like Indian author George Koshy. MAI equips publishers and writers knowing that God uses the written word to transform lives.

Edit with Respect

This is the third post in a three-part series, Do’s and Don’ts for Rookie Editors WorkingBeng Alba-Jones headshot with Respected Writers,” based on MAI’s recent webinar, “Who? You edit me?!” How can a neophyte editor work effectively with a prominent church leader?

By Beng Alba-Jones

You might be wondering, “How do I communicate respect to an author while editing his manuscript?” First, keep his voice. You can’t force him to sound like a hipster, urban preacher when he is more used to speaking King James style. Your goal is to simply get his message across. As much as possible, don’t leave the writer in the dark. Tell him what’s happening.

Stuart Miles Freedigitalphotos guy at computerAlways be a professional in your dealing with the writer. Use words that communicate respect in your correspondence. Be friendly but not overly-familiar.

Keep boundaries with the opposite sex. If you’re single, be careful not to send mixed signals. You are working together to help develop a book, not your feelings. If the author is married, try to get to know the wife or husband and help the spouse feel there’s nothing to worry about.

If you’re working with a popular church leader loved by thousands, be careful you don’t fall into either of these two traps of thinking:

“Wow, for somebody so young or so new in editing, don’t you think I am a great editor for working with this hotshot author? I have arrived!”


“ Will this writer ever believe what I’m ever going to say? He, is, after all, already way up there when I am way down here. I’m afraid to tell him to rewrite. Might get mad at me.”

Beware of both pride and insecurity. Both will get in the way of your becoming an excellent editor.

And last but not the least, saturate everything in prayer. As a beginning editor, you need all the help you can get. If God can help young David slay the giant Goliath and help Nehemiah build the walls, He can also help you slay your giant fears and build your confidence.

Like Paul, you can say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Missed part one? Read “Overcoming First Impression Fears
Part two? Read “Dealing with Deadlines, Encouraging Writers

Beng Alba-Jones is a freelance editor and former assistant editorial manager for OMF Literature, Inc.

<<Register for our free upcoming webinar on May 20,  “Writing for Children” with award-winning children’s author Emily Lim of Singapore. Register online now.

Photo above courtesy Stuart Miles, Freedigitalphotos

Dealing with Deadlines, Encouraging Writers

This is the second post in a three-part series, Do’s and Don’ts for Rookie Editors WorkingBeng Alba-Jones headshot with Respected Writers,” based on MAI’s recent webinar, “Who? You edit me?!” How can a neophyte editor work effectively with a prominent church leader?
By Beng Alba-Jones

Once a writer has agreed to publish with your house, give him enough time to submit the first draft. Being a well-known leader in the church, his schedule is probably packed with responsibilities. You can’t expect him to drop everything and write eight hours a day. Be realistic and generous in giving him time.

After your agreed on deadline has passed and there is still no manuscript in your inbox, follow up. But do so with gentleness and courtesy. Be patient. No responsible person deliberately misses his deadline unless there’s a reason. Give the writer the benefit of the doubt.

ID-100104792Is there anything you can help the writer with? Is he struggling with his outline? Offer to help. You can do this by asking for whatever material he already has and critique it. Some writers need direction and an editor can help guide the writer find his way.

Encourage, encourage, encourage. Writers should know that they have their editors’ confidence and respect. Send an email, text, let the writer know that you are still excited to receive the manuscript from him. But don’t overdo it by pestering him and violating his personal space.

We need patience, courage, wisdom and faith in working with a difficult writer. You need to be patient in waiting for the writer to submit his manuscript. You need courage to tell him what he needs to hear so he can communicate with the readers. You need wisdom in knowing what to say, when to say it and how. You need faith in God who, ultimately, is in sovereign control over all.

Do you have any suggestions for dealing with difficult writers? Leave us a comment.

<<Coming soon: Part three “Edit with Respect”. Missed part one? Read “Overcoming First Impression Fears

Beng Alba-Jones is a freelance editor and former assistant editorial manager for OMF Literature, Inc.

<<Register for our free upcoming webinar on May 20,  “Writing for Children” with award-winning children’s author Emily Lim of Singapore. Register online now.

Photo above by watcharakun, Freedigitalphotos

Opening Up: The mutual gift of ghostwriting

By Cecil (Cec) Murphy

I’m a ghostwriter/collaborator. That is, I make my living by writing for other peopleCecil Murphy headshot and trying to capture their voices and personalities on paper. My goal is to grasp who they are and write their stories to help them connect with readers.

As we work together their trust level increases, and they share their anguish and failures. Sometimes they cry. In the process of opening up to me, they also hear themselves and often gain deeper self-awareness.

I don’t say a great deal while I tape material, but I listen intently. Those for whom I write enable me to accept them at their most pitiful level, love them in the midst of their tragic failures, and cheer for their triumph. I connected with their experiences—obviously not by what they did but by the way they interpret the meaning of those inner battles.

I learn about them, and, to my surprise, I’m changed by being a witness to their lives. In some mystic, unexplainable way, they help me become more open and compassionate. That may be obvious, but it was a startling revelation to me.

I had been a ghostwriter for at least a decade before that insight filtered through my consciousness. Until then, I wrote about others to help them tell their stories and to expand their self-discovery. They told of forgiving others, forgiving themselves, moving beyond failures, and living with peace in the present.

In doing so, I accepted them and learned to accept myself more fully. And that transferred into my being more loving and acceptable of others. When people open up so I can understand their painful journey and I truly listen, they teach me to be more forgiving and compassionate.

It’s amazing to me how this works. And I wondered why it took me so long to figure out the principle: The more I give myself to others through listening and sensing their pain, the more healthy and whole I become.

Is it possible that might be God’s plan for humanity?

Veteran author Cecil (Cec) Murphey has written or co-written more than 135 books, including the New York Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Dr. Ben Carson). His books have sold in the millions and have brought hope and encouragement to countless people around the world. This post was originally published in his April 2014 e-newsletter and is used here with his permission.

<<Register online now
for our free webinar on April 15- “The Power of the Story: Getting started in writing fiction” with award-winning novelist Jeanette Windle, US. 8 AM Central Time. Get a free ebook of Veiled Freedom when you register. Check out our complete webinar line-up for topics that interest you.