The curse of dialogue

“Out of every aspect of writing,” he intoned bitterly, “Dialogue is the most painful part.”

With an understanding yet slightly mocking grin I said, “How do you mean? I find it as easy as speaking to you face to face.”

“Well and good for you then!” he snorted angrily, seeming to focus on the mockery I thought I had concealed in my tone. “I find it hard to step outside of myself and come up with what my characters would actually say to each other.”

“I see what you are saying; you find it as difficult to make your characters speak well as you do,” I was now openly snickering.

His face shot through with red splotches and he took a long moment to formulate a retort, “Easy for you to say. You have always known what to say and at the right moment, often at my expense.” He sighed, visibly drooping, “I have never been a talker, you know that. How can I know what my characters would say if I can’t even figure out how to carry on a basic conversation with anyone?”

Okay, now I felt bad. Not horrible, but enough to be uncomfortable, “Well, instead of feeling sorry for yourself maybe you should practice,” I said with as much love as I could muster and nearly gagged on the next words, “I guess I can help you if you want.”

His reaction would have been precious if I had been paying attention but I was too busy beating myself up. His face lit up and he stood as tall as his diminutive frame would allow as he brought his right hand to his chest in a childish gesture of respect, “I would be honored. You have no idea how much this means to me.”

I fought against the need to groan as my face fell into my hands. What had I gotten myself into?

I would consider myself to be more like the “he” in that back and forth when it comes to dialog. It was painful when I began writing the words that come out of the mouths of characters on paper. Punctuation was shabby and needed heavy editing. Little by little it has gotten easier until I almost feel comfortable when carrying on conversations, on paper at least. Is it a bad thing that the dialog of the bad/evil characters comes more readily to mind?

Here are some links to some great blog posts on dialog that have helped me personally.

Writing Dialog by Justine Larbalestier

Three writers discuss dialogue via threekookaburras



Creating Social Landscapes for Novels

Many, you might say most novels have ties to the real world; framing current or past social problems in another time and place. Sometimes the authors mean to make those ties while others writing is dissected by the reader. Personally, my novels were written with such things in mind.

The Astarian Humans are a mix of all aspects of a society. From the villagers that work the earth and sell their goods for next to nothing in the city, the city folk that are detached from the rest of the world, and the political classes that take care of the nobility and feel entitled to the abundance they control. At all levels there are those that are good and honest fighting to keep Astar afloat.

The Goblin race is a shunned and set apart race from the larger human population though their goods and craftsmen are coveted. They are objects of derision and are thought to be slow intellectually. In truth, the Goblin race is one of wisdom and well thought out action.

The Ash are feared as much as they are unknown and misunderstood. They are the things of myth and tall tales and have been shaped into demons in the consciousness of the mainland peoples. Living apart from the main Island, they are an enigma. Tenders of creation they are a peaceful race with a streak of powerful anger fueled by their history.

The Savoq are a tribal race that most consider savages living with the basest level of social function. They are perceived to be war mongering rabble that only live to fight with no hope of any real change. The truth is much more complicated and their moral code has much to be coveted.

The Seeker’s are human academics that hole themselves away to “better the world” through learning and science. They do not understand the world as it is and are content to live in their bubble of scientific progress. Skilled in thought and working with their hands, their passion to utilize nature’s own power for good is commendable.

It was fascinating to build the different races and attempt to bring some light to misunderstood people groups. If one truly wants to change their view of a people group, they must try to understand and appreciate them.

The Art of the Character

My recommendation is to always mold your main characters out of what you understand. Using bits of personality from people you know and respect as well as aspects of yourself allows you to write a truly life-like protagonist. I enjoyed coming up with and molding the characters in my Fantasy novels. I built separate personalities that not only resonate with me but have a lot in common with my own personality and those of their namesakes.

In Oliver, the scared, unsure, but ultimately determined and curious Seeker, I see myself. Not only as a boy but even now after a decade in the military I still tend to walk through life with an unsure determination and desire to do something good. I am still coming to terms with me and I and it was an interesting exercise to put myself in the story of The Seeker’s Burden and write Oliver’s character to reflect many aspects of my own character. This character is named after my son, a four year old boy who is one of the most alethic, bright, moody, and voracious learners I know. Every time he sees my first book with the cover of the older Oliver, he yells, “It’s the book about me!” 

In Ethan, the experienced, sure, and righteous leader I wrote in the aspects of character that I aspire to. Empathy alongside a commanding and assured presence in times of danger. Like Aragorn before, Ethan is a leader among men who fights for the weak and against whatever evil encroaches. He is as fearless and skilled as his namesake, the eldest son of a dear friend. A born leader he leads with passion and fury and yet with a tenderness as well.

Lucy is the strong willed personification of my daughter whom she was also named after (see a trend?). In her character I see the strength and willingness to offer help that I see and hope to always see in my two and a half year version. My daughter is a bulldozer who falls and pops right back up saying, “I’m ok”, and has a tender and loving heart. I shaped the book character around her and my hope for her future.

Writing the characters this way allowed me not only to put realism into their persons, but gave me a greater appreciation for the art of entwining the real world with the fictional. I wanted the characters to be relatable and realistic while still being heroic and inspiring to show that even the most common people have the spark of greatness. Heroes also feel pain and uncertainty, the only difference is they keep striving to do good in a broken world.


  I have an overactive imagination. It helped me enjoy my childhood as we often lived in the country and were homeschooled. It was me against the world when my brother or sister had other things to do. I took it so far that I would at times be both the good and the bad guys, shooting arrows in one direction, running to pick them up or pull them from trees and shoot them back. It was glorious fun. I was the wounded hero that sacrificed himself for those in need, struggling to stand and bring my weapon to bear against the charging enemy. I was and am a romantic adventurer with broad ambitions for glory. The history books and novels that I read fueled and established this baseline.

  When in college, I decided to follow my brother into the degree of Digital Media, a degree so new at least one class a semester was the first time it had been offered. My brother focused on web design and animation while I went the path of cinema. Amongst the graphic design and art classes I took classes studying the history of the movie and wrote many papers on the messages that can be taken from the stories on screen. I was forced to write script and come up with film ideas and even helped produce a very well-directed short film. This and the foundation of reading and imagining led to how I now write.

  I write in scenes. Before I ever put fingers to keyboard I imagine the scene and the interaction between the characters, the story and the world they inhabit. I see it so clearly that I often struggle to do the scenes justice on paper. Where in my mind is the entire scene, to include sound and music, on paper it seems bare. Writing in scenes is my way to take a snapshot before the images in my head fade. Only when I am able to read a passage and it takes me into the scene I had imagined do I feel comfortable to move on. Taking it scene by scene also helps me in time management as long as I start and finish an entire scene and the elements in it, I feel satisfied that the book is eventually going to be complete.

  The hardest part is the communication between imagination and my brain and fingers. My imagination is nearly limitless, my body and mind, not so much. I am still learning how to write and effectively put voice to the ideas that prance along their merry way in the world where I am king, pauper, cowboy, hero and creator; my imagination. 

Why is it that the best ideas come when unprepared?

  Why is it that my best book ideas hit me while driving or falling asleep? It is frustrating and though I have been able to jot things down every now and then, the majority of the time I spend the next morning dissecting the jumble of dreams to get at the wandering thoughts that so closely preceded them or when arriving at my destination wildly searching for pen and paper even as the ideas seep into my memory vaults, to be opened only at specific and ultimately unknown times…


  Anyone else ever experience this? How did you combat it? I have taken to carrying 5x7 cards with me during the day and having a pen or two around in case something strikes me.


This is a reply to a comment made on my last blog post and I thought it had something for everybody.


Thank you for the comment and welcome to the club! I agree on your point about the pressure to write and complete. It is and has always been mostly my own expectation and pressure to hurry up and write and not an external force.

Stealing from a blog post I wrote years ago:

“Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the fairest of us all? What do you see when you steal a glimpse of yourself in a reflection? Generally speaking we are our own worst critics, downplaying the good and highlighting the bad. If we have a positive thought about ourselves, we almost have to combat it with a negative to maintain the balance between me and I.”

We are cursed and extremely blessed to be the force behind our art. It necessitates a balance of writing time and time spent establishing oneself in other aspects. I often wish I had more time to write, a dark and quiet space that I can slink away to and focus. I have not achieved the balance yet and I am jealous of my time though I waste much of it.

One of the ways I reenergize my writing is focusing on a character or scene that grabs my attention and running with that string of events until it is complete and then look for another. I wrote my first book mainly in order but my second was written by character. Once I finished the books storyline for one I would go to the next. It was easier to force completion but harder to figure the chapter spacing. I spent many hours with the printed pages on my floor, fitting them together like a puzzle piece. Once that was done, I went back and wrote/edited the chapter endings to better transition to another character, etc.

There are all sorts of trick I have used to fool myself into writing! Thank you for purchasing my book and I hope you enjoy it!


Editing - A love/hate relationship

  I would like to say that my writing is impeccable, but my editors took my writing to a whole different level. The grammar, flow, and understanding were so much greater. It is hard as an author to look at your work in a detached way when you come to the editing part of things, especially since when there are gaps in the text, your mind instantly fills them in (as the story resides in the writers mind). Not so for the reader, those gaps may mean a lack of cohesion and being unable to connect with the story.

  I wrote the novel in about five months (over a couple years) and the editing process lasted nearly two. I had four people edit my novel using a couple different methods. I began by printing off newly written pages nearly every week and my wife read and marked up the draft with a highlighter. Having someone be able to give you feedback during the writing of a book is very important as discussions we had led to important changes or additions. The shape of the characters was molded and the world was more cohesive through this, and it also helped me know what to focus on.

  Once the final draft was complete I used Google Docs to share the text with three separate editors. IN this way we were all able to make changes and even use the IM chat feature to ask questions and provide guidance. The method we used was when anyone had a change they would input it like the following example (not actual edit):

wrenched from his grip, his sword tumbled (his sword was wrenched from his grip and fell)

  There was no deletion by the editors only the recommendations in ( ). Google Doc helpfully assigns a separate highlight color to each user whenever an edit is made. From there I would go in and either make the change or talk to the editor and discuss reasons I had to not take their recommendations. As the editing in Google Docs happens in real time each editor could work at their own pace and even see what sections each other were working on to make sure they did not work on the same text simultaneously.

   Once this long, but rewarding, process was complete I and my wife re-read the entire novel. We caught some minor grammar mistakes and I then uploaded it to Google Docs again for the editing team to take a final look. From there I published.

  Why is having an editor is important? In my mind there resides a fully fleshed out fantasy world filled with characters with their own separate histories. All the detail imaginable about the novel is in my head. The hard part, for me as well as many authors I am sure, is to communicate what is in the mind to paper in such a way as to not only make sense, but draw the reader into that world and experience it. Though the editing was painful at times, it ensured that my view of the novel’s world was translated for the reader. I believe this made for a much stronger and cohesive story and I am truly thankful for all the hard work by my editors.

Behind the scenes

   I went into the writing of An Emerging Threat with a few thoughts. First, I wanted to build a world and set individuals in it that used the space to its fullest. For example, the character of Oliver who begins at the Sun Fire Citadel and travels to the northeast and Ethan who begins in the south and travels to the farthest reaches of the north. Second, I wanted to have a few things that set it apart from the Fantasy I have read in the past. Examples are the Goblins, a merging of troll, goblin, and/or orc, injects of steam-punk, and even a touch of “undead”.

   Based on my experiences with certain authors, I decided to go the path of providing just enough detail throughout the novel. Some fantasy goes to the other extreme and throws encyclopedias of data at you about the world, the politics of every village, etc. While sometimes done well, it often left me feeling stifled. I believe providing every little smidge of information, while a testament to the author, does not allow the reader to experience the story in a personal way. In light of that, I tried to leave slivers of “white space” that the reader has the opportunity to fill with their own ideas, concepts, and memories. In that way, I invite the reader to become an active part of the journey. Though the story is told in a complete and connected way, don’t worry about that, the reader is empowered to close their eyes and color outside (between) the lines.

    Another opportunity that comes from leaving some questions unanswered is an ever expanding world that is filled through more novels! Book two of The Seeker’s Burden series is nearing completion and I have storyboarded the entire three novels. Believe me when I say that I have ideas for other series tied to the world that I have created.