Tag Archives: Holly Kench

Guest post: Thinking About Dialogue, by Holly Kench

English: Parallel dialogue (2008)

English: Parallel dialogue (2008) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Today I’m thrilled to welcome back Holly Kench, who has agreed to do another guest post for me. You may remember Holly’s last guest post for this blog, and the several plugs I’ve given to her website (because it’s, well, awesome). Today she’s giving us her thoughts about dialogue, which in my experience always comes in handy when writing fiction. Take it away, Holly!


Writing effective and convincing dialogue is difficult. Great dialogue seems to come effortlessly to some authors, but for most of us, it takes a lot of hard work and attention.

It’s important to realise, though, that even the worst dialogue writers can eventually learn to write good dialogue. Like most professions or hobbies, writing is the performance of innumerable skills, and while some of these skills might come naturally to certain writers, they are ultimately accessible to anyone who has the endurance to keep working at it. And writing is nothing if not a study in endurance. As is so often the case when working on writing, reading is the best way to improve one’s dialogue. Take note of the dialogue you read. If it’s good, what makes it good? If it’s bad, why? Read, think, learn and rewrite.

Make your dialogue great, because it is essential for making your story enjoyable and convincing. In the meantime, don’t forget to carefully consider the stylistic choices you make regarding how to contain that dialogue. The mechanics of your dialogue, the dialogue tags and beats (or action tags), that hold your dialogue together are an important part of the flow of your narrative. They pull the dialogue into a scene. Furthermore, fixing and improving your tags and beats is so much easier than working on the dialogue itself, once you know what you are doing.

As almost every writing style guide will tell you, avoid overly complicated dialogue tags. The simple “said” option is usually best because, as readers, we ignore the tag while comprehending the speaker attribution. I’m not as fussy as some readers and editors when it comes to this. Some people suggest that “said” (and possibly “asked”) should make up your only dialogue tags, that you should let your dialogue do the rest of the work. However, sometimes other tags are useful. For example, consider:

“Cute,” Lucy said.

“Cute,” Lucy squealed.

“Cute,” Lucy said, with a squeal that pierced my ear drums.

All of these can work for the same statement with a different purpose. The first would work best as part of a dialogue heavy scene, in which the statement “Cute” is the purpose, but the second contributes to Lucy’s characterisation. The third affects the characterisation of two characters, but focuses on the response of the narrator. There is nothing wrong with the second option though because it affects our understanding of the character and the development of the story. Just make sure that, if you choose to go with a more complicated tag, it has a purpose. And no, mixing it up is not a satisfactory purpose.

Of course, speaker attributions are not always necessary and sometimes they act more to disrupt the dialogue than contribute anything. A simple “Cute.” might be all you need. Equally, dialogue beats are always useful. They can act to provide speaker attribution, place dialogue within a scene, provide a rest between lengths of dialogue, contribute to characterisation, move the story forward with the assistance of and yet outside of the dialogue, etc, etc. Consider the option:

“Cute.” Lucy sprinted towards a pair of red Manolo Blahniks, before picking one up and clutching it to her chest as though it were a new born baby.

Providing movement with your dialogue mechanics is also a good way to keep your scene from feeling stale as dialogue progresses. I have to admit that, because of their clear potential, using dialogue beats can become somewhat addictive, particularly for those more comfortable writing narrative than dialogue.

However, the flow of your dialogue is the most important thing to consider. Avoid using any of the above options too frequently, and instead attempt to create a balance between tags, beats and dialogue without attribution. Mix it up so your reader doesn’t become bored with your scene.

The most beneficial process you can utilise for your dialogue is to read it aloud. This is worthwhile advice for all forms of writing. Often the words we write sound fabulous in our minds but when we read them aloud we are more able to hear the flaws. Reading dialogue aloud is all the more important as the rhythm of our dialogue attributions becomes apparent.

Rhythm, flow and variety are the keys to dialogue mechanics that will ensure your dialogue is read in the best possible light.


Thanks Holly! For those who found this useful, Holly is planning a follow-up post on internal dialogue, to be published later in the year. :)

Holly Kench is a writer and feminist, with a classics degree and a fear of spiders. She enjoys writing fantasy and humor, and is convinced we can change the world with popular culture. Holly writes about her life as a stuffed olive at www.stuffedolive.com.au and manages “Visibility Fiction” for the promotion and publication of inclusive young adult fiction at www.visibilityfiction.com. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.



Filed under author guest post, writing

The Friday blog-hop!


BLOG IDEAS (Photo credit: owenwbrown)

Yes, something different today – rather than feature a single author in my Friday post, I’m going to feature a number of them as a way of giving some love back to my favourite bloggers. I may have mentioned some (or indeed most) of these people before, but these are some of the the blogs I just don’t want to miss each time. Now, I’m not going to say this is a conclusive list, because it’s not – first of all, I couldn’t possibly fit all my favourite bloggers in one post and do them all justice. Secondly, I’m bound to forget someone. And thirdly, I want to leave this open so I can do it again! :)

Okay, here goes, in no particular order:

  • Confessions of a Stuffed Olive, by Holly Kench. You may remember Holly as one of my first guest bloggers, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned her on other occasions, but Holly’s blog is one that I read every single time – and I can’t say that about everyone, I’m afraid. (Mostly that’s due to time pressures rather than a lack of interest, but it is still the unfortunate truth.) Maybe it’s her sense of humour, maybe it’s that I like the way she thinks, maybe it’s the incredibly amusing illustrations she does – or maybe it’s a combination of all of those. Regardless, Holly’s blog is one that you really should check out, if you haven’t already.
  • The Monster’s Ink, by Alyson Miers. Often political, Alyson’s blog is one that always makes me think – and one that I usually agree with, despite the fact that we live in different countries and therefore different political climates. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with Alyson’s thoughts. Sure, she can be provocative (and if you’re American and voted Republican in the recent election you would probably not share her views) but if you need something to read that’s going to stay with you for a while, I recommend checking her out.
  • Dy Loveday’s blog. I featured Dy a couple of weeks back to celebrate the release of her first novel, Illusion. Well, now she’s offering to give away a kindle to someone who can answer three questions on  the book. Sound enticing? I thought so. Even if you haven’t read Illusion, it’s worth checking out Dy’s site just to see the progress of someone who has recently joined the ranks of the published novelists. From idea to completion and beyond, it makes fascinating reading. And did I mention the kindle giveaway? :)
  • The Third Sunday Blog Carnival. Not an individual blogger but instead a collection of really interesting posts, which comes out (you guessed it) on the third Sunday of each month. It’s a really good place to find new blogs to read, or if you so choose somewhere to display your own wares. Looking for something to read? Check it out. Want to expand your audience? Submit to them. Every month there is something new to whet your appetite and make you think.
  • Poeta Officium, by Virginia. A blog by a fellow first-time novelist who is trying to make her way in this strange world of writing, I find myself relating to practically everything she writes about. She’s much more ambitious than me in the blogging sphere in that she tries to post almost every day (I have no idea how she finds the time!), but that doesn’t mean she runs out of things to write about. Essentially, hers is an engaging blog that most people who try to find time to write on top of their everyday life would be able to relate to.

So, that’s it for this week. I will try to do some more blog-hops every now and then in the new year (and if I missed you this time, you could well see your own blog listed in the coming months). In the meantime, do yourself a favour and go look at some of these blogs. You might find one that really appeals to you. :)



Filed under blog, blog hop

The Liebster Blog Award!

Well, well, well, this is about as tardy as it’s possible to get.

AGES ago, back in MAY (yes, that’s right, two whole months), the very lovely Holly Kench nominated me for a Liebster Blog award. And do you know what? While I thanked her for the nomination, I totally forgot to do my bit and pass on the award to those bloggers I thought worthy. Until now, that is.

To quote Holly’s explanation, the  Liebster Blog Awards are basically chain letters of love for baby-bloggers. It’s all about sharing links and love to your favourite sites (at least those with under 200 followers). And, while I would love to have more than 200 followers, if having less than that number means I can share some blog love, then I’m all for it. :)

It seems the requirements for accepting the award are linking back to the person who nominated you (done!), and then nominate five other blogs that you think deserve some attention. I have to admit that a large proportion of blogs out there don’t give follower stats, so I had to do a bit of guesswork. (I know that WordPress stats aren’t necessarily correct anyway. Last week, it showed that overnight I had gone from 90-odd followers to over 850. My own stats show that the 90-odd is still correct, so forgive me if I sometimes take readership stats with a grain of salt.)  Anyway, my apologies if you’re listed here and do have more than 200 followers; I hope you’re not offended by my presumption. So, in no particular order, here goes.

1. Pauline Conolly‘s blog 

2. Alison Wong’s blog, Think Write, not Wong

3. Sarah L Fox’s blog, The Write Fox

4. Mike Lambson’s blog, The Writer’s Zone

5. Elizabeth Lawrence‘s blog (warning: link contains adult content)

I hope (a) I got the follower numbers right, and (b) you go and check out what these lovely people have to say. Also I thoroughly recommend you subscribe to Holly’s blog, linked to right at the top.

Thanks again to Holly for the nomination … and share the blog love!


Filed under blog, blog awards