“See, when talking you should be assertive, not passive aggressive. Try one of the ‘I feel blank, because blank’ statements!”

“I feel angry because you’re a total bitch.”

“That’s.. not how it works.”

submitted by anonymous

Masterpost of Writing Advice

For a full and updated list of writing advice, click here.
All advice is by Marina Montenegro and originally posted on Writing the Words blog. (This list is updated to include August’s Romance section)

Getting Started

Prewriting 101
Setting Up Your Space
Starting Again (if you’ve stopped)
Where to Start
Writing the Beginning
Writing What You Don’t Know
5 Truths About Being A Writer

Characters:

Character Building
Non-Binary Characters
Writing A Hero
Writing Non-Humans
Writing Women
5 Ways to Name Your Character
5 More Ways to Name Your Character

Dialogue:

Dialogue
Improving Dialogue: Eliminate Exposition

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo
Tips & Tricks for NaNoWriMo

Planning & Outlines

How to Start Outlining
Is My Idea Good Enough?
Should you Outline?
7 Things to Do Before You Start

Plot:

Details
Fight Scenes
Sex Scenes
Sexual Assault in Literature
Story Arcs

Publishing:

When and Where to Publish
Rejection Letters

Romance:  *new!*

LGB Relationships
Romantic Subplots
Writing a Romance Novel

Setting:

Description
When Setting Really Matters

World Building:

Creating World Maps
World Building

Other

Editing
Making Time to Write
Point Of View
Prologues

Why I Write
Writers Block
Writing with Sound
5 Signs You Treat Your Reader Like an Idiot
Instead of “Said” (Dialogue Tags List)

Normal

  • Added
  • Affirmed
  • Commented
  • Conceded
  • Continued
  • Mused
  • Remarked
  • Said
  • Spoke
  • Stated
  • Suggested
  • Told

As a Question

  • Asked
  • Begged
  • Inquired
  • Probed
  • Queried
  • Questioned
  • Quizzed
  • Tested

As an Answer

  • Answered
  • Began
  • Countered
  • Clarified
  • Described
  • Elaborated
  • Explained
  • Informed
  • Replied
  • Responded
  • Retorted

Happy

  • beamed
  • cheered
  • chimed
  • giggled
  • laughed
  • praised
  • rejoiced
  • thanked

Angry

  • Argued
  • Bellowed
  • Berated
  • Chided
  • Countered
  • Demanded
  • Fumed
  • Goaded
  • Growled
  • Hissed
  • Ranted
  • Reprimanded
  • Roared
  • Scolded
  • Shouted
  • Snapped
  • Sneered
  • Thundered

Sassy/Playful/Sarcastic

  • Bantered
  • Bragged
  • Hinted
  • Jested
  • Mimicked
  • Mocked
  • Quipped
  • Smirked

Bossy

  • Challenged
  • Commanded
  • Decided
  • Demanded
  • Detailed
  • Determined
  • Insisted
  • Ordered

Anxious/Sad/Worried

  • Cautioned
  • Groaned
  • Gulped
  • Stammered
  • Stuttered
  • Trembled
  • Whined

Of course this is not a complete list, so feel free to add on!


((NOTE: Because I’ve seen a couple people comment on this, I thought I’d add that of course you don’t want to change every single “said” to one of these. This is just for inspiration and to help people find a word they might want to use instead! Happy writing!))

Dialogue Prompts

1) “I want people to tremble when they see me.” “And I want some coffee sweetheart, and let me tell you, only one of these wishes is gonna be coming true.”

2) “I’m not as damaged as I seem, I swear.”

3) “I will move sea and sky to ensure their safety.”

4) “This isn’t me, I’m not this person.”

5) “I’m so sorry.” “Don’t you dare say that word like it changes anything you’ve done.”

6) “Hey, hey, calm down, they can’t hurt you anymore.”

7) “Stop treating me like a little kid!” “You are a little kid.” 

8) “If you keep screwing around like this you’re going to get yourself killed.” “I hope so.” “You shouldn’t joke about things like that.” “Who said I was joking?”

9) “I have no words left for you, I won’t waste my time here.”

10) “Darling don’t try that, you know it’ll never work.”

11) “You make me sick to my stomach, in all honesty, I’d be fine never seeing you again.”

12) “So from the bottom, of my cold, dead heart, screw you.”

13) “Don’t waste your time on me love, I’m a lost cause.”

14) “The skies are crying for you darling, some call it rain.”

15) “You’re wrong.” “I’m always wrong.”

16) “Please don’t do this, you’re only going to hurt the people you love.” “Who said I ever loved them?”

17) “I know this isn’t a smart decision-” “Then I would recommend not doing it.”

18) “I hope you know how much I-” “Awww, love me?” “No, hate you.”

19) “I trust you.”

20) “Well this has gone horribly wrong.”

Dialogue/Description Balance

Every writer falls into one four categories of capability. Either they excel at writing description (but not dialogue), at dialogue (but not description), at both, or at neither.

What I usually find is a person tends to be in one of the first two categories: either they have great description but their dialogue is lacking in some capacity, or their dialogue is great but the description is weak. I tend to fall in the latter category.

Nevertheless, I’m going to be talking all about dialogue and description, how to fake it if you can’t do one or both, and how to find a balance between them so that the story flows effortlessly (well, that’s the hope).

Before I start in, I just want to clarify that description includes not only of the setting and characters but also of their actions in scenes, how they move and react as they converse.

Also, as a general rule, if you are lacking in one or both of these areas (or any part of writing), don’t worry about it when you’re writing the first draft. Just get it down. Then go back in after its done, knowing your weaknesses, and revise the hell out of it.

Description Writing Tips

  • Study the art of good description: To improve your description writing skills, read description that you like, from any story or piece of writing. Really try to break down what exactly you like about it, what they do, where they put the description, what they don’t describe, etc.
  • Practice: get a photo you like—or better yet, go outside (gasp!)—and try to describe the scenery, every detail you can. Be excessive, over the top. Just practice noticing the little details.

  • Details make characters feel real: This is fairly obvious. But what may not be is what details should be included. Many writers do the typical hair and eye color (which I’m guilty of too). This is not a bad thing, but it is nice to try to move beyond that or at least add to it. In any case, any description you have of a character, try to use it for more than just a description. It should be incorporated into the story. Think about what details would be important. Why is it significant that his eyes are blue? Is it because they look haunting or mystical? Because they affect others or perhaps the main character? This is just a simple example, but hopefully you get the idea.

Dialogue Writing Tips

  • Study conversations: Similar to the description section, it’s helpful to study good dialogue in stories, noticing everything about it, like the things being said, what’s not said, and even how it’s being said. Also listen to people converse in real life…Listen to the way they talk, how they say certain phrases, their tones, facial expressions, body language. It’s all a part of the dialogue.
  • Practice: To start off, just try writing the same sentence/thought/idea, but have different people say it. How does it change if someone is shy? Bold? Angry? Bossy? Now pick one character, and try changing who this person is saying it to. Everyone speaks differently depending on the person and situation. For instance, if a character is at work, are they polite and respectful? Formal? Loud and obnoxious? This will say a lot about them as character, without you having to describe it!

  • Not everything has to be said: Whether they’re best friends or enemies, a lot is passed without saying a thing. Maybe two characters are close and read each other’s minds or finish each other’s sentences. One glance could equal not only a whole conversation, but also say a ton about the nature of the relationship between the two characters. Maybe two characters are in the relationship, and it’s clear that they’re not happy, not because they say they’re unhappy, but just by their actions and words (or lack thereof). For instance, if they’re angry at each other, they’ll probably avoid one another very purposefully and use very short, direct statements. It’s also important to note that some pieces of dialogue are just filler and can be taken out. For instance, if you have a scene with a conversation that takes place on a phone, you don’t want to include the formalities like “Hi.” “Hey.” “How are you?” “I’m fine…” Etc. That will just bog the story down and add clutter to the writing. We all know that people don’t just start right into the meaty part of a conversation. The only instance I can see these formalities being used is if it’s purposeful and says something about the characters’ relationship. For instance, maybe they were close, but now it’s awkward as they both clearly don’t know what to say.

How to Balance Description and Dialogue:

  • Placement of description is important: When it comes to describing scenery, there are separate paragraphs dedicated to it. Usually the details are broadly scoped, with a few smaller, significant details. As the characters move through the scene, smaller and smaller idiosyncrasies should crop up. Sprinkle them in with the dialogue and movement. When it comes to description of a person, it’s rare to find a large paragraph dedicated to just the outer appearance. Maybe a small, flash description (like the first one or two things someone would notice about the person), with more details sprinkled in as the scene/dialogue progresses. It’s important to find a balance so that it doesn’t feel like its separate chunks of description and dialogue. They should mix together a bit in a scene.
  • The point of view can change the balance: If it’s in first person, there will probably be a bit less description than when writing in third. Most people don’t think in such detailed descriptions, so it doesn’t feel quite realistic. Of course, there’s always room for breaking rules. For instance, if the point of view character is an artist of some sort and that’s part of their personality to be flowery and excessive in their thoughts and probably their speech as well.
  • EVERYTHING should push the story forward: it’s difficult to truly know what should be said, what should be described, and what should be perhaps left out altogether. My piece of advice is that whatever you’re writing, it should push the storyline forward. Basically, everything has a purpose in the story. We learn something important to the plot or characters or situation that is relevant. Of course not everything has to relate to the “main plot”, but it should be relevant in some capacity.
  • General things to keep in mind:
    • Conversations will say something about the relationship of the characters speaking. It just will. What that says can and should affect the plot, in some way.
    • The more detailed the description, the more the reader will think that place/person is significant. If you focus on it, you’re drawing attention to it.
    • Read your writing aloud! I can’t stress this enough. If it sounds/feels awkward. It probably is. Focus on that section, and work with it. Take your time to figure it out. If you can’t fix it or even identify those awkward parts, try to get some readers. Preferably not close friends or family as they can be biased or not what to hurt your feelings.
    • Everyone has their own style of writing. It’s not an exact science.
    • Test styles out. Try a new format. Experiment with a new point of view. Take the time to find what works for you.

Hope this helped. And I’m happy to answer any questions or clarify if needed. Happy writing.