Characters, Dialogue and Scenes

Anne here, and today I'm responding to questions sent in from a reader, Diane E, who therefore wins one of my books.

Anne, I have a question about your writing a novel – how do you set-up a dialogue or a scene. Do you have an idea of what each person is going to say. How do you keep it straight – one's thoughts from another's. When I read I start thinking about how the author decides what each person says – what topics they talk about, how big is the family? Is this a silly question? I'm curious. I really enjoy the Word Wenches articles and enjoy your books.

Not a silly question at all, Diane, and for asking it, you've won one of my books. I don't know how other authors do it — every writer approaches writing differently, but here's how it works for me.

How many characters, or how many in a family?
Every character in a book must earn their place in the story and have a role that no other character can play. Generally the number of siblings in a family depends on whether that family is the focus of a series — and whether I have a story for each sibling. It gets tricky, because I've found that the appearance of any sibling, no matter whether they play a large role or not, will get people asking for their story. SummerBrideUSMed

Charles Dickens was famous for his minor characters, and I admit to a weakness for them, too. But sometimes they want a bigger role and I have to be strict with myself —and them—not to let them distract from the main story. Sometimes I prune them back, sometimes they win — eg Daisy, in The Autumn Bride, was initially supposed to be a very minor character who brought a message to the heroine, but she sprang to life on the page and I loved her, and so. . . she joined the family. And now has her own book — The Summer Bride (out in June). Lady Beatrice was another minor character who refused to stick to the small role I'd initially imagined for her. So characters can be tricky. And pushy.

Setting up a dialogue or scene?

When I'm about to start a new scene, I first think about the previous scene(s) — what happened and what effect did it have on my characters. In other words — what are they thinking/worrying about now? I simply close my eyes and think my way into their situation and the moment, putting myself in place of whichever character's point-of-view the scene will start in. And then I start writing.

Sometimes I make a list of dot points about what I want to achieve in the scene — eg to introduce a new problem, to reveal something, so have a character challenge someone — every scene has a plot reason to be there. I'll often jot the steps or events in a scene on the back of an envelope.

If I'm not sure what a scene ought to be, I will start by asking myself and answering — in writing —  questions such as; what does s/he want now? How is s/he feeling? What are his/her choices? What will s/he do? And soon I find myself writing dialogue and I'm off and running.

Usually I just write the scene as it comes to me, and then edit it to make it sharper, or more relevant.  I try to make sure there's a core of conflict in every scene, not always big, and thinking "tension" rather than yelling or arguing. Classically a significant scene will have an inciting incident, a problem, a climax and some kind of a resolution, as well as some kind of hook to draw the reader on, but I rarely try to follow that scheme unless I feel the scene isn't working. That's when I go in and analyze and fix it.

I don't always know what characters are going to say beforehand. Sometimes I start writing, thinking they're going to talk about x or y, and then it changes. In The Spring Bride, in the middle of an argument,  Jane suddenly told Zach "Oh grow up!" — that was a complete surprise for me (and him) and showed she was stronger than I'd realized. And it changed the course of the plot.

Occasionally I wake with a scene unrolling in my head like a movie — action and dialogue — and then I grab the nearest notebook and pen and write it down. This happens often enough that I sleep with a notebook and pen beside me, and I've even taught myself to write with my eyes closed, because somehow that keeps the scene fresh in my mind.

AG-PRakeSome of these "waking dream" scenes have been pivotal in a book, some have even been the inspiration for a book. In The Perfect Rake, the scene where Prudence first meets Gideon was one of those "waking dream" scenes. I still have the notebook with my scribbled down notes and the dialogue is almost identical to the finished book. 

In The Autumn Bride, the scene where Abby meets Lady Bea — that scene came to me long before they had names or any kind of a story. But it was vivid enough and intriguing enough for me to keep thinking about it, until I worked out what the story was.

The ballroom scene in my very first book — Gallant Waif — was one that came to me out of the blue and it inspired the story. I had to work out who these two people were and how had they come to this point, but when I came to write the story, that  scene happened right near the end of the book.

I never get characters mixed up. It's almost like I can hear them talking in my head, Daisy in her Cockney accent and Flynn in his Irish one, Lady Bea in her posh drawl.

Once I'm into the writing a book — "in the zone" — snatches of dialogue between characters come to me out of the blue at all times and places. I might be in bed, drifting off to sleep, I might be sitting on a bus or in traffic or reading the newspaper, and something will spark and thought and suddenly there's a conversation happening and I have to grab a pen and write it down, or else I'll forget it.

I don't always know where these snatches of dialogue will go, and of course, not all get used in the final book, but I love it when it happens because it means the characters have come to life in my head. Sometimes one of these "in-head" dialogue exchanges will make me chuckle. At other times it will make me think more deeply about the story and wonder why a character would say that — and I discover more about them, and the story.

So it's a journey of discovery. I know a lot of authors sit down and plan their stories out beforehand, but for me it feels a bit like archaeology — the story and the characters are there, I just have to uncover them. And it's always an adventure.

So what about you? if you're a writer, how do your scenes and characters come to you? Any tips? And as a reader, do you have any favorite minor characters? Or any beloved and unforgettable scenes that stick in your mind long after you've finished reading them? 

130 thoughts on “Characters, Dialogue and Scenes”

  1. One thing I’ve seen in some rather amateurish self published romances I’ve sampled is that characters begin conversing and just maunder on and on for page after page. Perhaps the authors think it all goes to characterization, but it would be nice if some of it furthered the story as well. It makes me wonder if the author was starved for conversation — they say writing is a lonely job 🙂
    One thing I dislike about dialog in some books is that after a page or two of snappy remark and rejoinder, I forget who is speaking and have to count back ping-pong speeches to figure out which one it was. For the love of God, couldn’t the author drop a name or a pronoun in from time to time? Or differentiate the speakers enough such that I wouldn’t need a marker? Not to speak of the bickering. If I wanted to listen to people bicker all day, I could go back to work 😉
    Preachin’ to the choir, I know. None of the Wenches would be inept enough to commit those particular sins 🙂

    Reply
  2. One thing I’ve seen in some rather amateurish self published romances I’ve sampled is that characters begin conversing and just maunder on and on for page after page. Perhaps the authors think it all goes to characterization, but it would be nice if some of it furthered the story as well. It makes me wonder if the author was starved for conversation — they say writing is a lonely job 🙂
    One thing I dislike about dialog in some books is that after a page or two of snappy remark and rejoinder, I forget who is speaking and have to count back ping-pong speeches to figure out which one it was. For the love of God, couldn’t the author drop a name or a pronoun in from time to time? Or differentiate the speakers enough such that I wouldn’t need a marker? Not to speak of the bickering. If I wanted to listen to people bicker all day, I could go back to work 😉
    Preachin’ to the choir, I know. None of the Wenches would be inept enough to commit those particular sins 🙂

    Reply
  3. One thing I’ve seen in some rather amateurish self published romances I’ve sampled is that characters begin conversing and just maunder on and on for page after page. Perhaps the authors think it all goes to characterization, but it would be nice if some of it furthered the story as well. It makes me wonder if the author was starved for conversation — they say writing is a lonely job 🙂
    One thing I dislike about dialog in some books is that after a page or two of snappy remark and rejoinder, I forget who is speaking and have to count back ping-pong speeches to figure out which one it was. For the love of God, couldn’t the author drop a name or a pronoun in from time to time? Or differentiate the speakers enough such that I wouldn’t need a marker? Not to speak of the bickering. If I wanted to listen to people bicker all day, I could go back to work 😉
    Preachin’ to the choir, I know. None of the Wenches would be inept enough to commit those particular sins 🙂

    Reply
  4. One thing I’ve seen in some rather amateurish self published romances I’ve sampled is that characters begin conversing and just maunder on and on for page after page. Perhaps the authors think it all goes to characterization, but it would be nice if some of it furthered the story as well. It makes me wonder if the author was starved for conversation — they say writing is a lonely job 🙂
    One thing I dislike about dialog in some books is that after a page or two of snappy remark and rejoinder, I forget who is speaking and have to count back ping-pong speeches to figure out which one it was. For the love of God, couldn’t the author drop a name or a pronoun in from time to time? Or differentiate the speakers enough such that I wouldn’t need a marker? Not to speak of the bickering. If I wanted to listen to people bicker all day, I could go back to work 😉
    Preachin’ to the choir, I know. None of the Wenches would be inept enough to commit those particular sins 🙂

    Reply
  5. One thing I’ve seen in some rather amateurish self published romances I’ve sampled is that characters begin conversing and just maunder on and on for page after page. Perhaps the authors think it all goes to characterization, but it would be nice if some of it furthered the story as well. It makes me wonder if the author was starved for conversation — they say writing is a lonely job 🙂
    One thing I dislike about dialog in some books is that after a page or two of snappy remark and rejoinder, I forget who is speaking and have to count back ping-pong speeches to figure out which one it was. For the love of God, couldn’t the author drop a name or a pronoun in from time to time? Or differentiate the speakers enough such that I wouldn’t need a marker? Not to speak of the bickering. If I wanted to listen to people bicker all day, I could go back to work 😉
    Preachin’ to the choir, I know. None of the Wenches would be inept enough to commit those particular sins 🙂

    Reply
  6. I’ll sometimes read something and I’ll get a spark of inspiration for a character or I’ll become interested in something and a character comes out of that historical period or trend or whatever. It can be so random sometimes.
    But when they start talking to you and guiding you through the story, it’s always a good thing!
    I had a minor character in a past project who really caught the eye of a beta reader–and that character was my favorite of all the characters, definitely the most fully defined. So much so that I rewrote the story to be hers and published it as a novella.

    Reply
  7. I’ll sometimes read something and I’ll get a spark of inspiration for a character or I’ll become interested in something and a character comes out of that historical period or trend or whatever. It can be so random sometimes.
    But when they start talking to you and guiding you through the story, it’s always a good thing!
    I had a minor character in a past project who really caught the eye of a beta reader–and that character was my favorite of all the characters, definitely the most fully defined. So much so that I rewrote the story to be hers and published it as a novella.

    Reply
  8. I’ll sometimes read something and I’ll get a spark of inspiration for a character or I’ll become interested in something and a character comes out of that historical period or trend or whatever. It can be so random sometimes.
    But when they start talking to you and guiding you through the story, it’s always a good thing!
    I had a minor character in a past project who really caught the eye of a beta reader–and that character was my favorite of all the characters, definitely the most fully defined. So much so that I rewrote the story to be hers and published it as a novella.

    Reply
  9. I’ll sometimes read something and I’ll get a spark of inspiration for a character or I’ll become interested in something and a character comes out of that historical period or trend or whatever. It can be so random sometimes.
    But when they start talking to you and guiding you through the story, it’s always a good thing!
    I had a minor character in a past project who really caught the eye of a beta reader–and that character was my favorite of all the characters, definitely the most fully defined. So much so that I rewrote the story to be hers and published it as a novella.

    Reply
  10. I’ll sometimes read something and I’ll get a spark of inspiration for a character or I’ll become interested in something and a character comes out of that historical period or trend or whatever. It can be so random sometimes.
    But when they start talking to you and guiding you through the story, it’s always a good thing!
    I had a minor character in a past project who really caught the eye of a beta reader–and that character was my favorite of all the characters, definitely the most fully defined. So much so that I rewrote the story to be hers and published it as a novella.

    Reply
  11. “eg Daisy, in The Autumn Bride, was initially supposed to be a very minor character who brought a message to the heroine, but she sprang to life on the page and I loved her, and so. . .”
    If she had just taken off that night we met her, saying not to worry about her, I would have always worried (and imagined the worst)! I’ve reread The Autumn Bride a number of times, and I’m so glad Daisy got to stay on.

    Reply
  12. “eg Daisy, in The Autumn Bride, was initially supposed to be a very minor character who brought a message to the heroine, but she sprang to life on the page and I loved her, and so. . .”
    If she had just taken off that night we met her, saying not to worry about her, I would have always worried (and imagined the worst)! I’ve reread The Autumn Bride a number of times, and I’m so glad Daisy got to stay on.

    Reply
  13. “eg Daisy, in The Autumn Bride, was initially supposed to be a very minor character who brought a message to the heroine, but she sprang to life on the page and I loved her, and so. . .”
    If she had just taken off that night we met her, saying not to worry about her, I would have always worried (and imagined the worst)! I’ve reread The Autumn Bride a number of times, and I’m so glad Daisy got to stay on.

    Reply
  14. “eg Daisy, in The Autumn Bride, was initially supposed to be a very minor character who brought a message to the heroine, but she sprang to life on the page and I loved her, and so. . .”
    If she had just taken off that night we met her, saying not to worry about her, I would have always worried (and imagined the worst)! I’ve reread The Autumn Bride a number of times, and I’m so glad Daisy got to stay on.

    Reply
  15. “eg Daisy, in The Autumn Bride, was initially supposed to be a very minor character who brought a message to the heroine, but she sprang to life on the page and I loved her, and so. . .”
    If she had just taken off that night we met her, saying not to worry about her, I would have always worried (and imagined the worst)! I’ve reread The Autumn Bride a number of times, and I’m so glad Daisy got to stay on.

    Reply
  16. I had to chuckle when I read about bits of dialogue coming to you at the oddest times out of the blue. My coworkers at the bakery are very used to my stopping in the middle of something, whipping out my index cards and scribbling like mad. When those who do not know look at me as if I have lost my mind, my coworkers say “Don’t worry. She does that all the time. She’s writing.” Like you I have jotted down bits and bobs of scenes and sometimes entire scenes and had to figure out where they go in a story. And sometimes I keep them in a file box until I realize the story therein.

    Reply
  17. I had to chuckle when I read about bits of dialogue coming to you at the oddest times out of the blue. My coworkers at the bakery are very used to my stopping in the middle of something, whipping out my index cards and scribbling like mad. When those who do not know look at me as if I have lost my mind, my coworkers say “Don’t worry. She does that all the time. She’s writing.” Like you I have jotted down bits and bobs of scenes and sometimes entire scenes and had to figure out where they go in a story. And sometimes I keep them in a file box until I realize the story therein.

    Reply
  18. I had to chuckle when I read about bits of dialogue coming to you at the oddest times out of the blue. My coworkers at the bakery are very used to my stopping in the middle of something, whipping out my index cards and scribbling like mad. When those who do not know look at me as if I have lost my mind, my coworkers say “Don’t worry. She does that all the time. She’s writing.” Like you I have jotted down bits and bobs of scenes and sometimes entire scenes and had to figure out where they go in a story. And sometimes I keep them in a file box until I realize the story therein.

    Reply
  19. I had to chuckle when I read about bits of dialogue coming to you at the oddest times out of the blue. My coworkers at the bakery are very used to my stopping in the middle of something, whipping out my index cards and scribbling like mad. When those who do not know look at me as if I have lost my mind, my coworkers say “Don’t worry. She does that all the time. She’s writing.” Like you I have jotted down bits and bobs of scenes and sometimes entire scenes and had to figure out where they go in a story. And sometimes I keep them in a file box until I realize the story therein.

    Reply
  20. I had to chuckle when I read about bits of dialogue coming to you at the oddest times out of the blue. My coworkers at the bakery are very used to my stopping in the middle of something, whipping out my index cards and scribbling like mad. When those who do not know look at me as if I have lost my mind, my coworkers say “Don’t worry. She does that all the time. She’s writing.” Like you I have jotted down bits and bobs of scenes and sometimes entire scenes and had to figure out where they go in a story. And sometimes I keep them in a file box until I realize the story therein.

    Reply
  21. Anne, my writing process is not unlike yours, though since you’re a veteran teacher, you explain it all better! I didn’t realize that Daisy wasn’t intended to be a Chance sister, but including her in the family was SO RIGHT on so many levels! I’m really looking forward to her story.

    Reply
  22. Anne, my writing process is not unlike yours, though since you’re a veteran teacher, you explain it all better! I didn’t realize that Daisy wasn’t intended to be a Chance sister, but including her in the family was SO RIGHT on so many levels! I’m really looking forward to her story.

    Reply
  23. Anne, my writing process is not unlike yours, though since you’re a veteran teacher, you explain it all better! I didn’t realize that Daisy wasn’t intended to be a Chance sister, but including her in the family was SO RIGHT on so many levels! I’m really looking forward to her story.

    Reply
  24. Anne, my writing process is not unlike yours, though since you’re a veteran teacher, you explain it all better! I didn’t realize that Daisy wasn’t intended to be a Chance sister, but including her in the family was SO RIGHT on so many levels! I’m really looking forward to her story.

    Reply
  25. Anne, my writing process is not unlike yours, though since you’re a veteran teacher, you explain it all better! I didn’t realize that Daisy wasn’t intended to be a Chance sister, but including her in the family was SO RIGHT on so many levels! I’m really looking forward to her story.

    Reply
  26. As a reader, I like a lot of dialogue – although it can get confusing at times.
    Thanks for the insight into your creative process. Makes me appreciate you ladies all the more.

    Reply
  27. As a reader, I like a lot of dialogue – although it can get confusing at times.
    Thanks for the insight into your creative process. Makes me appreciate you ladies all the more.

    Reply
  28. As a reader, I like a lot of dialogue – although it can get confusing at times.
    Thanks for the insight into your creative process. Makes me appreciate you ladies all the more.

    Reply
  29. As a reader, I like a lot of dialogue – although it can get confusing at times.
    Thanks for the insight into your creative process. Makes me appreciate you ladies all the more.

    Reply
  30. As a reader, I like a lot of dialogue – although it can get confusing at times.
    Thanks for the insight into your creative process. Makes me appreciate you ladies all the more.

    Reply
  31. I often have a scene pop into my head too. Sometimes it turns out to be the beginning of the story and sometimes it doesn’t come until near the end. You never know. And extended dialogues sometimes take place while I’m trying to fall asleep.
    I love the scene where Prudence first meets Gideon—especially the reticule.

    Reply
  32. I often have a scene pop into my head too. Sometimes it turns out to be the beginning of the story and sometimes it doesn’t come until near the end. You never know. And extended dialogues sometimes take place while I’m trying to fall asleep.
    I love the scene where Prudence first meets Gideon—especially the reticule.

    Reply
  33. I often have a scene pop into my head too. Sometimes it turns out to be the beginning of the story and sometimes it doesn’t come until near the end. You never know. And extended dialogues sometimes take place while I’m trying to fall asleep.
    I love the scene where Prudence first meets Gideon—especially the reticule.

    Reply
  34. I often have a scene pop into my head too. Sometimes it turns out to be the beginning of the story and sometimes it doesn’t come until near the end. You never know. And extended dialogues sometimes take place while I’m trying to fall asleep.
    I love the scene where Prudence first meets Gideon—especially the reticule.

    Reply
  35. I often have a scene pop into my head too. Sometimes it turns out to be the beginning of the story and sometimes it doesn’t come until near the end. You never know. And extended dialogues sometimes take place while I’m trying to fall asleep.
    I love the scene where Prudence first meets Gideon—especially the reticule.

    Reply
  36. Thanks, Janice. I do think that some of the craft has slipped from some of the self-pubbed work I’ve seen. And in the effort not to use speech tags (he said, she said) which is seen by some as old-fashioned and unnecessary, some people have gone a bit far.
    Ten years ago all the writing sites were talking craft of writing; now there’s more how to self-publish and do promo. Cart before the horse, maybe.

    Reply
  37. Thanks, Janice. I do think that some of the craft has slipped from some of the self-pubbed work I’ve seen. And in the effort not to use speech tags (he said, she said) which is seen by some as old-fashioned and unnecessary, some people have gone a bit far.
    Ten years ago all the writing sites were talking craft of writing; now there’s more how to self-publish and do promo. Cart before the horse, maybe.

    Reply
  38. Thanks, Janice. I do think that some of the craft has slipped from some of the self-pubbed work I’ve seen. And in the effort not to use speech tags (he said, she said) which is seen by some as old-fashioned and unnecessary, some people have gone a bit far.
    Ten years ago all the writing sites were talking craft of writing; now there’s more how to self-publish and do promo. Cart before the horse, maybe.

    Reply
  39. Thanks, Janice. I do think that some of the craft has slipped from some of the self-pubbed work I’ve seen. And in the effort not to use speech tags (he said, she said) which is seen by some as old-fashioned and unnecessary, some people have gone a bit far.
    Ten years ago all the writing sites were talking craft of writing; now there’s more how to self-publish and do promo. Cart before the horse, maybe.

    Reply
  40. Thanks, Janice. I do think that some of the craft has slipped from some of the self-pubbed work I’ve seen. And in the effort not to use speech tags (he said, she said) which is seen by some as old-fashioned and unnecessary, some people have gone a bit far.
    Ten years ago all the writing sites were talking craft of writing; now there’s more how to self-publish and do promo. Cart before the horse, maybe.

    Reply
  41. Michelle, I’ve experienced the same thing. And I have a stack of emails asking for questions for some of my minor characters. I too am planning to write them into a novella — when I get the time.

    Reply
  42. Michelle, I’ve experienced the same thing. And I have a stack of emails asking for questions for some of my minor characters. I too am planning to write them into a novella — when I get the time.

    Reply
  43. Michelle, I’ve experienced the same thing. And I have a stack of emails asking for questions for some of my minor characters. I too am planning to write them into a novella — when I get the time.

    Reply
  44. Michelle, I’ve experienced the same thing. And I have a stack of emails asking for questions for some of my minor characters. I too am planning to write them into a novella — when I get the time.

    Reply
  45. Michelle, I’ve experienced the same thing. And I have a stack of emails asking for questions for some of my minor characters. I too am planning to write them into a novella — when I get the time.

    Reply
  46. Thanks, Sonya, I felt much the same about her. When a minor character springs to life on the page, throwing a shadow and large as life, there are three choices — weed her out and replace her with someone less noticeable, prune her back hard — or let her grow and live and take a bigger part of the story. Gardeners and writers have a lot in common.

    Reply
  47. Thanks, Sonya, I felt much the same about her. When a minor character springs to life on the page, throwing a shadow and large as life, there are three choices — weed her out and replace her with someone less noticeable, prune her back hard — or let her grow and live and take a bigger part of the story. Gardeners and writers have a lot in common.

    Reply
  48. Thanks, Sonya, I felt much the same about her. When a minor character springs to life on the page, throwing a shadow and large as life, there are three choices — weed her out and replace her with someone less noticeable, prune her back hard — or let her grow and live and take a bigger part of the story. Gardeners and writers have a lot in common.

    Reply
  49. Thanks, Sonya, I felt much the same about her. When a minor character springs to life on the page, throwing a shadow and large as life, there are three choices — weed her out and replace her with someone less noticeable, prune her back hard — or let her grow and live and take a bigger part of the story. Gardeners and writers have a lot in common.

    Reply
  50. Thanks, Sonya, I felt much the same about her. When a minor character springs to life on the page, throwing a shadow and large as life, there are three choices — weed her out and replace her with someone less noticeable, prune her back hard — or let her grow and live and take a bigger part of the story. Gardeners and writers have a lot in common.

    Reply
  51. Louisa, I can imagine it perfectly. I was once meeting some writer friends for lunch, and a scene came to me and I sat in the car, writing it down. One of them walked past, knocked on the window of my car and said, “What are you doing? Lunch is down the road.” I showed her my notepad, she laughed and kept walking. I got to the lunch 15 minutes late but nobody was bothered. They all understood completely. One of them even greeted me with “Good scene?”
    I also have a pile of jottings of stories and characters and dialogue exchanges between characters I have yet to give a story to.

    Reply
  52. Louisa, I can imagine it perfectly. I was once meeting some writer friends for lunch, and a scene came to me and I sat in the car, writing it down. One of them walked past, knocked on the window of my car and said, “What are you doing? Lunch is down the road.” I showed her my notepad, she laughed and kept walking. I got to the lunch 15 minutes late but nobody was bothered. They all understood completely. One of them even greeted me with “Good scene?”
    I also have a pile of jottings of stories and characters and dialogue exchanges between characters I have yet to give a story to.

    Reply
  53. Louisa, I can imagine it perfectly. I was once meeting some writer friends for lunch, and a scene came to me and I sat in the car, writing it down. One of them walked past, knocked on the window of my car and said, “What are you doing? Lunch is down the road.” I showed her my notepad, she laughed and kept walking. I got to the lunch 15 minutes late but nobody was bothered. They all understood completely. One of them even greeted me with “Good scene?”
    I also have a pile of jottings of stories and characters and dialogue exchanges between characters I have yet to give a story to.

    Reply
  54. Louisa, I can imagine it perfectly. I was once meeting some writer friends for lunch, and a scene came to me and I sat in the car, writing it down. One of them walked past, knocked on the window of my car and said, “What are you doing? Lunch is down the road.” I showed her my notepad, she laughed and kept walking. I got to the lunch 15 minutes late but nobody was bothered. They all understood completely. One of them even greeted me with “Good scene?”
    I also have a pile of jottings of stories and characters and dialogue exchanges between characters I have yet to give a story to.

    Reply
  55. Louisa, I can imagine it perfectly. I was once meeting some writer friends for lunch, and a scene came to me and I sat in the car, writing it down. One of them walked past, knocked on the window of my car and said, “What are you doing? Lunch is down the road.” I showed her my notepad, she laughed and kept walking. I got to the lunch 15 minutes late but nobody was bothered. They all understood completely. One of them even greeted me with “Good scene?”
    I also have a pile of jottings of stories and characters and dialogue exchanges between characters I have yet to give a story to.

    Reply
  56. Thanks, Mary Jo. Yes, Daisy became many people’s favorite character and I was so happy to be able to write her story. Most editors aren’t keen on romances starring servants or working class people, and if I’d proposed a story with a heroine who was a former Cockney maidservant who’d grown up in a brothel, I’m sure it would have been turned down. As it is, Daisy has earned her place.

    Reply
  57. Thanks, Mary Jo. Yes, Daisy became many people’s favorite character and I was so happy to be able to write her story. Most editors aren’t keen on romances starring servants or working class people, and if I’d proposed a story with a heroine who was a former Cockney maidservant who’d grown up in a brothel, I’m sure it would have been turned down. As it is, Daisy has earned her place.

    Reply
  58. Thanks, Mary Jo. Yes, Daisy became many people’s favorite character and I was so happy to be able to write her story. Most editors aren’t keen on romances starring servants or working class people, and if I’d proposed a story with a heroine who was a former Cockney maidservant who’d grown up in a brothel, I’m sure it would have been turned down. As it is, Daisy has earned her place.

    Reply
  59. Thanks, Mary Jo. Yes, Daisy became many people’s favorite character and I was so happy to be able to write her story. Most editors aren’t keen on romances starring servants or working class people, and if I’d proposed a story with a heroine who was a former Cockney maidservant who’d grown up in a brothel, I’m sure it would have been turned down. As it is, Daisy has earned her place.

    Reply
  60. Thanks, Mary Jo. Yes, Daisy became many people’s favorite character and I was so happy to be able to write her story. Most editors aren’t keen on romances starring servants or working class people, and if I’d proposed a story with a heroine who was a former Cockney maidservant who’d grown up in a brothel, I’m sure it would have been turned down. As it is, Daisy has earned her place.

    Reply
  61. Lillian, we’re two of a kind then. It’s such a nuisance when a scene or conversation comes as I’m drifting off to sleep — but the times I’ve been too lazy to write it down, sure I’ll remember it in the morning . . . Nope. All gone, except for the memory that it was a Really Good Scene.
    Thanks for the lovely comments re Gideon and The Perfect Rake. Glad you enjoyed the reticule. 🙂

    Reply
  62. Lillian, we’re two of a kind then. It’s such a nuisance when a scene or conversation comes as I’m drifting off to sleep — but the times I’ve been too lazy to write it down, sure I’ll remember it in the morning . . . Nope. All gone, except for the memory that it was a Really Good Scene.
    Thanks for the lovely comments re Gideon and The Perfect Rake. Glad you enjoyed the reticule. 🙂

    Reply
  63. Lillian, we’re two of a kind then. It’s such a nuisance when a scene or conversation comes as I’m drifting off to sleep — but the times I’ve been too lazy to write it down, sure I’ll remember it in the morning . . . Nope. All gone, except for the memory that it was a Really Good Scene.
    Thanks for the lovely comments re Gideon and The Perfect Rake. Glad you enjoyed the reticule. 🙂

    Reply
  64. Lillian, we’re two of a kind then. It’s such a nuisance when a scene or conversation comes as I’m drifting off to sleep — but the times I’ve been too lazy to write it down, sure I’ll remember it in the morning . . . Nope. All gone, except for the memory that it was a Really Good Scene.
    Thanks for the lovely comments re Gideon and The Perfect Rake. Glad you enjoyed the reticule. 🙂

    Reply
  65. Lillian, we’re two of a kind then. It’s such a nuisance when a scene or conversation comes as I’m drifting off to sleep — but the times I’ve been too lazy to write it down, sure I’ll remember it in the morning . . . Nope. All gone, except for the memory that it was a Really Good Scene.
    Thanks for the lovely comments re Gideon and The Perfect Rake. Glad you enjoyed the reticule. 🙂

    Reply
  66. That’s so true 🙂 Sometimes I have awakened in the middle of a dream that was so good that I wanted to get back into it to find out what happened next! Or to spend more time in the company of someone I loved who has passed. But I can’t do it 🙁

    Reply
  67. That’s so true 🙂 Sometimes I have awakened in the middle of a dream that was so good that I wanted to get back into it to find out what happened next! Or to spend more time in the company of someone I loved who has passed. But I can’t do it 🙁

    Reply
  68. That’s so true 🙂 Sometimes I have awakened in the middle of a dream that was so good that I wanted to get back into it to find out what happened next! Or to spend more time in the company of someone I loved who has passed. But I can’t do it 🙁

    Reply
  69. That’s so true 🙂 Sometimes I have awakened in the middle of a dream that was so good that I wanted to get back into it to find out what happened next! Or to spend more time in the company of someone I loved who has passed. But I can’t do it 🙁

    Reply
  70. That’s so true 🙂 Sometimes I have awakened in the middle of a dream that was so good that I wanted to get back into it to find out what happened next! Or to spend more time in the company of someone I loved who has passed. But I can’t do it 🙁

    Reply
  71. I know — it’s so frustrating, isn’t it? And sometimes I wake in the morning after a dream in which someone I know – sometimes it’s someone I haven’t even thought of for years, let alone seen — did something really awful to me — and I spend the next few hours being angry at them — when the poor things never did *anything* bad. LOL

    Reply
  72. I know — it’s so frustrating, isn’t it? And sometimes I wake in the morning after a dream in which someone I know – sometimes it’s someone I haven’t even thought of for years, let alone seen — did something really awful to me — and I spend the next few hours being angry at them — when the poor things never did *anything* bad. LOL

    Reply
  73. I know — it’s so frustrating, isn’t it? And sometimes I wake in the morning after a dream in which someone I know – sometimes it’s someone I haven’t even thought of for years, let alone seen — did something really awful to me — and I spend the next few hours being angry at them — when the poor things never did *anything* bad. LOL

    Reply
  74. I know — it’s so frustrating, isn’t it? And sometimes I wake in the morning after a dream in which someone I know – sometimes it’s someone I haven’t even thought of for years, let alone seen — did something really awful to me — and I spend the next few hours being angry at them — when the poor things never did *anything* bad. LOL

    Reply
  75. I know — it’s so frustrating, isn’t it? And sometimes I wake in the morning after a dream in which someone I know – sometimes it’s someone I haven’t even thought of for years, let alone seen — did something really awful to me — and I spend the next few hours being angry at them — when the poor things never did *anything* bad. LOL

    Reply
  76. Thank you, Anne, this was really interesting and illuminating. I particularly agree with the point about always having notepad with you to capture the flashes of dialogue or plot points that suddenly materialise!

    Reply
  77. Thank you, Anne, this was really interesting and illuminating. I particularly agree with the point about always having notepad with you to capture the flashes of dialogue or plot points that suddenly materialise!

    Reply
  78. Thank you, Anne, this was really interesting and illuminating. I particularly agree with the point about always having notepad with you to capture the flashes of dialogue or plot points that suddenly materialise!

    Reply
  79. Thank you, Anne, this was really interesting and illuminating. I particularly agree with the point about always having notepad with you to capture the flashes of dialogue or plot points that suddenly materialise!

    Reply
  80. Thank you, Anne, this was really interesting and illuminating. I particularly agree with the point about always having notepad with you to capture the flashes of dialogue or plot points that suddenly materialise!

    Reply
  81. “One thing I dislike about dialog in some books is that after a page or two of snappy remark and rejoinder, I forget who is speaking and have to count back ping-pong speeches to figure out which one it was.”
    Yes! There is one NYT bestseller from about fifteen years ago who writes about six pages of dialogue at a time, with no indication who is speaking!
    I think it’s hard to find the balance between too much telling who is speaking, and not enough.
    But I’m like you. I end up going back and counting the lines to ty and figure it out. Even then, sometimes it’s incorrect.

    Reply
  82. “One thing I dislike about dialog in some books is that after a page or two of snappy remark and rejoinder, I forget who is speaking and have to count back ping-pong speeches to figure out which one it was.”
    Yes! There is one NYT bestseller from about fifteen years ago who writes about six pages of dialogue at a time, with no indication who is speaking!
    I think it’s hard to find the balance between too much telling who is speaking, and not enough.
    But I’m like you. I end up going back and counting the lines to ty and figure it out. Even then, sometimes it’s incorrect.

    Reply
  83. “One thing I dislike about dialog in some books is that after a page or two of snappy remark and rejoinder, I forget who is speaking and have to count back ping-pong speeches to figure out which one it was.”
    Yes! There is one NYT bestseller from about fifteen years ago who writes about six pages of dialogue at a time, with no indication who is speaking!
    I think it’s hard to find the balance between too much telling who is speaking, and not enough.
    But I’m like you. I end up going back and counting the lines to ty and figure it out. Even then, sometimes it’s incorrect.

    Reply
  84. “One thing I dislike about dialog in some books is that after a page or two of snappy remark and rejoinder, I forget who is speaking and have to count back ping-pong speeches to figure out which one it was.”
    Yes! There is one NYT bestseller from about fifteen years ago who writes about six pages of dialogue at a time, with no indication who is speaking!
    I think it’s hard to find the balance between too much telling who is speaking, and not enough.
    But I’m like you. I end up going back and counting the lines to ty and figure it out. Even then, sometimes it’s incorrect.

    Reply
  85. “One thing I dislike about dialog in some books is that after a page or two of snappy remark and rejoinder, I forget who is speaking and have to count back ping-pong speeches to figure out which one it was.”
    Yes! There is one NYT bestseller from about fifteen years ago who writes about six pages of dialogue at a time, with no indication who is speaking!
    I think it’s hard to find the balance between too much telling who is speaking, and not enough.
    But I’m like you. I end up going back and counting the lines to ty and figure it out. Even then, sometimes it’s incorrect.

    Reply
  86. I don’t believe that I have any favorite minor characters or scenes that I remember as such.
    Sometimes a scene will rise up in my mind, reminding me of a book I haven’t read for a while; I then go find that book to put in my reread pile. And enjoy the “revisit” with those old friends — but it could be ANY scene.
    What I have noticed since I first read this post is that sometimes a character won’t let go for a time after I have finished a read. Recently I have been rereading all of Mercedes Lackey’s stories set in Valdemar. I finished the final novel about her most recent character with a sense of satisfaction about what happened to Mags. I continued on with the remaining stories. I also finished those and started on the set of stories Alan Dean Foster wrote about Flinx and Pip. I am enjoying these. But I keep expecting to find Mags in ALL the stories I’ve read since I finished his final adventure. Right now he just won’t let go.
    This has happened to me before, but without this blog I might not have noticed it. He will let go eventually. And sooner or later another character will haunt me for a while. When those characters do haunt me, I know that a good writer has done an especially good job.

    Reply
  87. I don’t believe that I have any favorite minor characters or scenes that I remember as such.
    Sometimes a scene will rise up in my mind, reminding me of a book I haven’t read for a while; I then go find that book to put in my reread pile. And enjoy the “revisit” with those old friends — but it could be ANY scene.
    What I have noticed since I first read this post is that sometimes a character won’t let go for a time after I have finished a read. Recently I have been rereading all of Mercedes Lackey’s stories set in Valdemar. I finished the final novel about her most recent character with a sense of satisfaction about what happened to Mags. I continued on with the remaining stories. I also finished those and started on the set of stories Alan Dean Foster wrote about Flinx and Pip. I am enjoying these. But I keep expecting to find Mags in ALL the stories I’ve read since I finished his final adventure. Right now he just won’t let go.
    This has happened to me before, but without this blog I might not have noticed it. He will let go eventually. And sooner or later another character will haunt me for a while. When those characters do haunt me, I know that a good writer has done an especially good job.

    Reply
  88. I don’t believe that I have any favorite minor characters or scenes that I remember as such.
    Sometimes a scene will rise up in my mind, reminding me of a book I haven’t read for a while; I then go find that book to put in my reread pile. And enjoy the “revisit” with those old friends — but it could be ANY scene.
    What I have noticed since I first read this post is that sometimes a character won’t let go for a time after I have finished a read. Recently I have been rereading all of Mercedes Lackey’s stories set in Valdemar. I finished the final novel about her most recent character with a sense of satisfaction about what happened to Mags. I continued on with the remaining stories. I also finished those and started on the set of stories Alan Dean Foster wrote about Flinx and Pip. I am enjoying these. But I keep expecting to find Mags in ALL the stories I’ve read since I finished his final adventure. Right now he just won’t let go.
    This has happened to me before, but without this blog I might not have noticed it. He will let go eventually. And sooner or later another character will haunt me for a while. When those characters do haunt me, I know that a good writer has done an especially good job.

    Reply
  89. I don’t believe that I have any favorite minor characters or scenes that I remember as such.
    Sometimes a scene will rise up in my mind, reminding me of a book I haven’t read for a while; I then go find that book to put in my reread pile. And enjoy the “revisit” with those old friends — but it could be ANY scene.
    What I have noticed since I first read this post is that sometimes a character won’t let go for a time after I have finished a read. Recently I have been rereading all of Mercedes Lackey’s stories set in Valdemar. I finished the final novel about her most recent character with a sense of satisfaction about what happened to Mags. I continued on with the remaining stories. I also finished those and started on the set of stories Alan Dean Foster wrote about Flinx and Pip. I am enjoying these. But I keep expecting to find Mags in ALL the stories I’ve read since I finished his final adventure. Right now he just won’t let go.
    This has happened to me before, but without this blog I might not have noticed it. He will let go eventually. And sooner or later another character will haunt me for a while. When those characters do haunt me, I know that a good writer has done an especially good job.

    Reply
  90. I don’t believe that I have any favorite minor characters or scenes that I remember as such.
    Sometimes a scene will rise up in my mind, reminding me of a book I haven’t read for a while; I then go find that book to put in my reread pile. And enjoy the “revisit” with those old friends — but it could be ANY scene.
    What I have noticed since I first read this post is that sometimes a character won’t let go for a time after I have finished a read. Recently I have been rereading all of Mercedes Lackey’s stories set in Valdemar. I finished the final novel about her most recent character with a sense of satisfaction about what happened to Mags. I continued on with the remaining stories. I also finished those and started on the set of stories Alan Dean Foster wrote about Flinx and Pip. I am enjoying these. But I keep expecting to find Mags in ALL the stories I’ve read since I finished his final adventure. Right now he just won’t let go.
    This has happened to me before, but without this blog I might not have noticed it. He will let go eventually. And sooner or later another character will haunt me for a while. When those characters do haunt me, I know that a good writer has done an especially good job.

    Reply
  91. I love it when characters haunt you long afterwards, Sue. And you’ve prompted me to dig out my old Mercedes Lackey books — haven’t read them for ages and I don’t remember Mags at all. Thank you.

    Reply
  92. I love it when characters haunt you long afterwards, Sue. And you’ve prompted me to dig out my old Mercedes Lackey books — haven’t read them for ages and I don’t remember Mags at all. Thank you.

    Reply
  93. I love it when characters haunt you long afterwards, Sue. And you’ve prompted me to dig out my old Mercedes Lackey books — haven’t read them for ages and I don’t remember Mags at all. Thank you.

    Reply
  94. I love it when characters haunt you long afterwards, Sue. And you’ve prompted me to dig out my old Mercedes Lackey books — haven’t read them for ages and I don’t remember Mags at all. Thank you.

    Reply
  95. I love it when characters haunt you long afterwards, Sue. And you’ve prompted me to dig out my old Mercedes Lackey books — haven’t read them for ages and I don’t remember Mags at all. Thank you.

    Reply
  96. Anne, I hope you have some more of those waking dreams! The scene in The Perfect Rake when Gideon meets Prudence is one of my favorites.

    Reply
  97. Anne, I hope you have some more of those waking dreams! The scene in The Perfect Rake when Gideon meets Prudence is one of my favorites.

    Reply
  98. Anne, I hope you have some more of those waking dreams! The scene in The Perfect Rake when Gideon meets Prudence is one of my favorites.

    Reply
  99. Anne, I hope you have some more of those waking dreams! The scene in The Perfect Rake when Gideon meets Prudence is one of my favorites.

    Reply
  100. Anne, I hope you have some more of those waking dreams! The scene in The Perfect Rake when Gideon meets Prudence is one of my favorites.

    Reply
  101. It’s interesting to me that the questions you ask yourself when you start a new scene are similar to the questions we teach children to ask themselves when writing a story. I teach grade 3 and just today I told them to plan a story by deciding: somebody, somewhere, wanted, but, so, then. We spent time looking through picture books answering those same questions in “real” stories. The parallels are so interesting! Wait until my kids hear these are questions “real” writers use when writing books!

    Reply
  102. It’s interesting to me that the questions you ask yourself when you start a new scene are similar to the questions we teach children to ask themselves when writing a story. I teach grade 3 and just today I told them to plan a story by deciding: somebody, somewhere, wanted, but, so, then. We spent time looking through picture books answering those same questions in “real” stories. The parallels are so interesting! Wait until my kids hear these are questions “real” writers use when writing books!

    Reply
  103. It’s interesting to me that the questions you ask yourself when you start a new scene are similar to the questions we teach children to ask themselves when writing a story. I teach grade 3 and just today I told them to plan a story by deciding: somebody, somewhere, wanted, but, so, then. We spent time looking through picture books answering those same questions in “real” stories. The parallels are so interesting! Wait until my kids hear these are questions “real” writers use when writing books!

    Reply
  104. It’s interesting to me that the questions you ask yourself when you start a new scene are similar to the questions we teach children to ask themselves when writing a story. I teach grade 3 and just today I told them to plan a story by deciding: somebody, somewhere, wanted, but, so, then. We spent time looking through picture books answering those same questions in “real” stories. The parallels are so interesting! Wait until my kids hear these are questions “real” writers use when writing books!

    Reply
  105. It’s interesting to me that the questions you ask yourself when you start a new scene are similar to the questions we teach children to ask themselves when writing a story. I teach grade 3 and just today I told them to plan a story by deciding: somebody, somewhere, wanted, but, so, then. We spent time looking through picture books answering those same questions in “real” stories. The parallels are so interesting! Wait until my kids hear these are questions “real” writers use when writing books!

    Reply

Leave a Comment