Topic: Evaluations

Evaluation for CJ

You presented this learning wish list at the start of this class:

1. Keeping the dialogue natural, while still furthering the plot.
2. Finding ways of characterizing the speech itself.
4. And effective dialogue- how to get a character to speak volumes, while saying very little.

I’ll base my evaluation on how I feel you’ve progressed on each of these points.

1. Thus far, I don’t see you having a large issue with this. The majority of your dialogue is focused, natural sounding, and quite effective. Do be careful with pleasantry dialogue, or with taking natural speech tangents too far—real life doesn’t always make for strong fiction.
2. I think you’ve done a good job with this one in the samples I’ve read. You can take it a bit further than you have in terms of ticks, habits or flaws in their speech patterns, but the majority of what I’ve read has been character rich. Just be careful not to fall back on vernacular as your only differentiation tool.
3. I hope the lesson gave you what you needed in this regard. If not, there are dozens articles out there that will aid you further. From my perspective, there were minor tweaks needed at the start of this class, but as far as I could tell, they were gone after you completed the lesson.
4. Because we didn’t get to spend more individual time on the art of employing subtext, it’s difficult for me to assess your samples fairly in this regard. My best advice is to Google the word: Subtext and read up on as much as you can find. You should also consider looking into getting a few books on this subject. The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot, by Charles Baxter, was a good one for me.

Since you have a little more experience under your belt, you’ve already worked through most of the common pitfalls covered in this class. I’d suggest your seeking further education at an intermediate or better level. Consider a few face-to-face workshops in your area if possible. Even if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for in terms of class, getting facetime with other authors is an invaluable resource that should not be overlooked.  I’d also suggest you join a writing organization, if you haven’t already. They too can be wonderful resources for writers looking to further their education and experience.

It was an absolute pleasure getting to know you and your writing. I look forward to watching you progress. Good luck!


Re: Evaluations

Evaluation for Wyatt.

You, dear sir, have come leaps and bounds ahead of where you were when you began this class. Congratulations for that—it is no small feat!

In comparing your dialogue from your original sample, to the work you submitted most recently, the largest difference that I can see is the addition of character voice. Loosening up the formality of speech, and adding a little vernacular color, has also helped your dialogue tremendously in terms of being believable.

You are also beginning to show improvement in the area of punctuation. You still have some work to do in that regard, particularly in in the area of how to correctly punctuate tags. My suggestion to you in this regard, is:

Copy and paste the following into a word program, blow it up large enough to see easily, and affix it to any surface near your writing computer:
Speech tags always require a comma: "You can be proud of your name," Lin said. OR Lin said, “You can be proud of your name.”
Action tags always require a period: Lin smiled. “You can be proud of your name.”  OR “You can be proud of your name.” Lin smiled.

One of the areas I think you need the most work is in not info dumping your dialogue. When determining how much information to include, I always ask myself one vital question: How much does the reader need to know?  It should always be the first, last and most important question. 

Too much info can bog the reader down and cause confusion as they get frustrated trying to find the story within the dissertation. Their focus becomes zeroed in on answering questions that are unimportant to the scene, instead of being focused on what is important:

“I know,” Bob says. “We can make a bomb with a pipe and trigger just like the one I made in Afghanistan when I stationed there as a Navy Seal.” 

Does the reader need to focus on a pipe, trigger, Afghanistan, or Bob being a Seal? No. What they do need to know is this:

“I know,” Bob says. “We can make a bomb.”
“Where’d you learn about bombs?” Jim asks.
“The Navy,” Bob replies.

If the information is for the reader's benefit, chances are you're dumping.
If the information is for the character's benefit (or detriment), chances are you should include it.   

Keep doing research in these areas, Wyatt. I promise you, the payoff will be tremendous. I’ve enjoyed working with you and I look forward to peeking in on your progress as you continue your quest to become the best writer you can be! I wish you all the best.


Re: Evaluations

Evaluation for Randy

You have come a very long way since the start of this class. I’m seeing improvement in many areas including, voice, loosening up formality, and adding a few tricks from the writers toolbox. Congratulations on dedicating yourself, so earnestly, to the lessons!

The main area you need to continue dedicating yourself to is not treating dialogue as a Randy vessel. In order for a reader to believe that your characters are real people, they need to sound like people, not vessels. I have another mantra for you: Dialogue is the place where my characters live & breathe. Anytime you are tempted to approach a piece of spoken word as a tool because of your needs—STOP—repeat the mantra, and try again.

Keep asking yourself: Do you want the reader focusing on me and my expertise?  Or do you want them focusing on your characters and their story?  This is a vital distinction for you to learn, know and always respect. 

You do have the added difficulty of unlearning habits that are detrimental to creating believable fiction. I actually had a long conversation about this with my husband the other day. We came to the conclusion that there is no magic pill, or pearls of wisdom that I can pass along to create the “Ah hah!” epiphany you need. The only thing that will help you is to keep practicing. The more time you dedicate to learning and repeating good habits, the sooner those habits will overtake the old. 

I also suggest you do a ton more research on this subject. There’s a plethora of information to be found on the internet. Google; expository dialogue and character voice. You’ll find clear explanations, exercises and tricks you can learn that will help you. I’d also suggest you read up on techniques used by the dialogue master, Elmore Leonard.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know you Randy and I can’t wait to watch you develop even further!!


Re: Evaluations

Hi LA,
Many thanks for the evaluation.  I've enjoyed the class and learned a lot.  As you say, now I need to put it into practice and keep working at it.  I've purchased several books (and my wife got me some for my birthday) on dialogue (3), conflict & suspense, character emotion, and strong verbs--strong voice. Between what I've learned here and after I finish the books, I hope to have a good handle on what I need to do.  I'm continuing to post new chapters of my novel right now, but will be going back to the 1st one to use my new tools to improve my writing (hopefully).  Thanks again, Randy

Re: Evaluations


It has been my honor and pleasure to work with you. Read and absorb as much practical information as you can--but really, practicing enough to form new habits will be the key for you. I'll be checking in on your writing often.


Re: Evaluations

Hi LA,
Agree with your assessment about practice, practice (and more practice).  That's what I had to do when I learned a foreign language.  Will keep at it and the books and notes are reference materials.  Thanks again for an excellent course!  Will get a note off to Sol.  Regards, Randy