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Truth and lies in fiction—how to write an unreliable narrator

I’m excited about this blog post. While most of my articles are on common topics that you can find information about all around the Internet, the subject of unreliable narrators doesn’t get a lot of ink. And that’s probably because relatively few fiction writers know about the literary device of unreliable narration, and if they do, they haven't any notion of how to create it or use it to best effect. In this post, I'll get you started with techniques for successfully writing an unreliable narrator. Continue reading ➝

Dialogue in fiction: Part V – Writing your characters’ thoughts

Written fiction is the only art form that allows its audience to know a character’s internal, unspoken thoughts. Only in novels can a reader delve into a stranger’s mind and learn of his fears, his insecurities, his motivations, his rationale for planning a proposal of marriage or an affair or a murder. Because of this, it’s possible to develop a far more intimate relationship with characters in fiction than it is with those in film or on TV. Throughout the history of literature, authors have used the unique platform of the novel to reveal to readers their heroes’ and villains’ innermost thoughts, such as stream-of-consciousness (half thoughts, impressions, subconscious associations) or conscious inner talk. Continue reading ➝

Dialogue in fiction: Part IV – The nuts and bolts, cont’d.

This is the fourth article in my series on how to write effective dialogue in fiction. In the first, I wrote about accents and dialects. The second covered the essentials: realism through artifice, the four purposes of dialogue, and creating distinction between characters. In the third, I discussed the balance of dialogue to narrative, dialogue in your opening pages, dialogue tags, action tags, Tom Swifty adverbs, and gave you some extra dialogue tips. Today, after looking the broader issue of conciseness, I’ll focus on more mechanics of dialogue—contractions and punctuation—and then I’ll discuss information dumping. Continue reading ➝

Dialogue in fiction: Part III – The nuts and bolts

This is the third article in my series on how to write effective dialogue in fiction. In the first article, I covered foreign accents and dialects. The second covered the essentials: realism through artifice, the four purposes of dialogue, and creating distinction between characters. Today, I’ll focus on the mechanics of dialogue—dialogue tags—but first I'll explain how to balance dialogue and narrative. Continue reading ➝

Dialogue in fiction: Part II – The essentials

In this article, Part II of a five-part series on writing effective fiction dialogue, I'll look at creating realism through artifice, dialogue’s four primary purposes (creating emotional tension and conflict, advancing the plot, providing information and backstory, and conveying character), and how to create distinction between characters. Writing effective dialogue for your fictional characters is just one of many important skills to master if you want to be a successful fiction writer, and often it's not one that comes naturally or instinctively. It takes study and practice. Continue reading ➝

Dialogue in fiction: Part I – How to write authentic dialects and foreign accents

Of the many things to master when writing dialogue in fiction, creating authentic dialects and natural-sounding foreign accents for your characters is possibly the most challenging. If you don’t get the accent just right, you risk having your characters come off looking like caricatures. Worse, you alienate readers, who don’t like being slowed and confused by a lot of nonstandard spellings. And worst of all, you may appear to be discriminatory or even ignorant if you stereotype your characters through their accent alone. In this post, I’ll take a look at ways to make your characters’ English dialects and foreign accents as realistic as possible without reducing them to goofy stereotypes. Continue reading ➝
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