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Dialogue Versus Conversation

When I began my career as a fiction writer, my peers sometimes praised my “good ear” for dialogue. After publishing three novels, I gravitated to screenwriting and playwriting, and the shifts in form taught me that a good ear alone isn’t enough to craft believable dialogue. Being attuned to cadence and verbal tics is a […]

Making Conscious Choices

In my Introduction to Fiction Writing class, I tell undergraduates that if they learn nothing else in our time together, I’d like them to absorb the idea that creative writing is about making choices. That means selecting everything from plot to characters to setting to POV to theme. It doesn’t mean picking and choosing at random, although—as […]

What’s a Sensitivity Reader…and Do I Need One?

The fairly new term “sensitivity reader” might make warning bells go off for authors, who need to have artistic freedom and be free from fear of censorship. No fiction writer or memoirist wants to have their portrayal of characters from a different race, class, gender, or culture than their own stamped with a big “WRONG.” […]

The Power of an Author’s Note

I have a confession to make: If a novel contains an author’s note, I read it before I launch into the first chapter—even if it falls at the end of the book. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember—both before I ever tried to write a book, and now that I […]