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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Writing Ideas - New Novel, part 348, Building Tone Conversation Example

24 March 2015, Writing Ideas - New Novel, part 348, Building Tone Conversation Example

Announcement: My new novels should be available from any webseller or can be ordered from any brick and mortar bookstore.  Information can be found at  Check out my novels--I think you'll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with

I'm using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I'll keep you informed along the way.

Today's Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website and select "production schedule," you will be sent to

The four plus one basic rules I employ when writing:

1. Don't confuse your readers.
2. Entertain your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don't show (or tell) everything.
5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.

All novels have five discrete parts:
1.  The initial scene (the beginning)
2.  The rising action
3.  The climax
4.  The falling action
5.  The dénouement

The theme statement of my 25th novel, working title, Escape, is this: a girl in a fascist island nation will do anything to escape--a young cargo shuttle pilot not following the rules crashes on the island.

Here is the cover proposal for Lilly: Enchantment and the ComputerLilly is my 24th novel.
Cover Proposal
The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene.  I'm writing about the initial scene of my newest novel, "Escape."  Escape is the working title.  I'll decide on the proposed title when I finish the novel.  I'm at the seventeenth chapter right now.  That means I've written about 340 pages.

A huge problem for many inexperienced writers is conversation.  They believe their writing of conversation sounds trite and forced.  They want to know the tricks to writing good conversation.  This is a great aspiration and an important skill.  My novels are about 90% conversation.  I love to write conversation, and I see it as the major tool of the novelist.  I'll spend some time defining what makes good written conversation in a novel, and how to write it.

Here is the example from my novel Valeska.  I'll use this as an example of conversation in a novel.  I've used this before to discuss conversation.  Let's review my guidelines for conversation.

1.  Cultural norms (greeting, introduction, small talk, big talk)
2.  Logical response (characters must respond to each other in the conversation)
3.  ID the speaker
4.  Show us the picture of the conversation
5.  Use contractions (most of the time)
6.  What are you trying to say?
7.  What is unsaid in the conversation?
8.  Build the tone of the conversation.

Review the following conversation and try to identify the characteristics above in the development of the conversation.  Today, I'm looking at building tone.  Tone is built and conveyed through description of the way the conversation is said, and the actions of the conversationalists.

The butler stepped to the side, “Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Long, may I present Mr. George Mardling and his niece Ms. Heidi Mardling.”

[The tone is nonchalant.  Look at the action description.  There is no agitation or description of the way the words are said.]

Mrs. Long stepped forward and put her hand out to Heidi.  She had a very bright smile on her face.  She took Heidi’s hand, and her eyes went wide.  Heidi released her hand immediately.  Mrs. Long was breathless.  She stammered a little, “Good evening.  I’m Sveta Long.”

[Tone: At first very pleasant.  The bright smile and the greeting tell us this.  Sveta's response: eyes, breathless, stammered.  Heidi seems to know what is going on immediately, she simply releases Sveta's hand.  Notice, the conversation doesn't show us what they are thinking--the action and response shows what is going on--the tone.]

Heidi made a deep curtsy, “Thank you very much, Mrs. Long for inviting us to your party.”

[Tone: Heidi is absolutely in perfect control.]

Sveta reached out to Heidi again.  Heidi stepped back, but Sveta connected with Heidi’s shoulder.  Sveta froze, and her head came up.  She stammered again, “You are very welcome.  Make yourself comfortable in our home,” but her face clearly said exactly the opposite.

[Tone is fear and worry: it is not conveyed by the words, but by the froze and stammered.]

Heidi glanced in Sveta’s eyes, then quickly turned her head away, “What I really need is a glass of sweet wine.”

[Tone is absolute control.  The image is one of changing the conversation.]

Sveta looked like she was about to say something, but she lowered her head and stepped back.

[Tone is still worried and fearful.  Heidi's words changed the conversation in such a way that the topic must change.]

Heidi sighed.

[Tone is conveyed by the sigh.]

Daniel’s lips twitched, “I’m not sure what is going on, exactly.”  He grabbed George’s hand and shook it, “Good to see you back in England, old man.”

[Tone curious and congenial.  The undercurrent of the tone of the lady's conversation is not lost on Daniel.]

George forced a smile, “I’m glad to be back.  I’m looking for a new assignment as soon as possible.”

[The tone is wary.  Conveyed by forced a smile.]

Daniel clapped George on the shoulder, “I really hoped to keep you here in London for a while.  I have some new recruits and training for you to supervise.”

[Still congenial.  Clapped on shoulder is the means.]

George grimaced, “Sounds long term.  I guess we’ll make do.”


“Heidi and I.”

Daniel frowned and put his head back, “Don’t tell me you are sharing your flat with this young woman.”

[Daniel is professionally concerned.  Frowned and head back.]

Heidi blinked, “I am happy to have a place to stay while I’m visiting in London.”

[Tone is defusing.  Conveyed by blinked and the words.  Notice, this is the first definitive point where the words begin to convey some of the tone.  In the other parts of the conversation, the actual tone of the conversation was mostly unspoken and the character actions conveyed the tone.]

Sveta stepped forward, “No, you should stay here.  As I understand, the single flats the organization is assigning now are barely suitable for one—I can’t imagine a young woman having to put up with such close quarters…”

[Tone is action: the conversation is now driving the tone--Sveta's words are very action oriented and demanding.]

Heidi glared at Sveta, “I would feel completely out of place anywhere else.”

[Tone is angry: the glared conveys this, the words do not.]

Sveta glared back, “I insist.”

[Tone is exultant and angry.  The words don't convey, the glared does.]

“I equally insist and respectfully decline—Mr. Mardling is my guardian.  It would be unthinkable for me to stay anywhere else.”

[Tone pleasant but insistent.  Continuation of the previous tone.]

Sveta squinted her eyes at Heidi and Heidi squinted back at Sveta.

[Tone is beginnings of anger.  The appraisal tells you that--no words in the conversation.]

Daniel stepped between them, “Sveta, dear, I’m certain I can assign George a larger flat.”

[Tone is soothing:  Both the words and the action convey this.]

Sveta let out her breath.  She visibly calmed, “Yes… I’m sure we can work things out.  Are you certain, Heidi, you don’t want to spend your time here until we can get George a larger place.”

[Tone is petulant:  letting out breath and words.]

Heidi didn’t back down.  She made a slicing motion with her hand, “I will not.”

[Tone is anger: the words and actions convey this.]

Sveta forced a smile, “Very well.  But, I do think you are a bit young to drink wine.”

[Tone is petulant:  Sveta forces a smile and then disses Heidi's apparent age.]

At that moment, a maid carrying a platter of filled wine glasses walked by.  Heidi gracefully plucked a glass off the platter.  She downed it in a swallow and turned Sveta a deep frown, “I do not like dry white wines.  Do you have something more acceptable to my palate?”

[Tone is angry and distracting.  Heidi's actions and words are insulting.]

Sveta’s eyes bulged.  She took a step toward Heidi and appeared like she was about to leap.  Heidi crouched slightly.

[Tone is anger:  no words in conversation.]

Daniel grasped Sveta’s arm, and she came to herself.

[Tone is pacifying: conveyed by the actions no words said.]

George raised his hands, “Heidi is much older than she looks.  We just came from Poland where there are no age limits for drinking alcohol.  She usually has a glass or two every evening.”

[Tone is calming: the actions and words are placating and explaining]

Sveta squinted her eyes again, “I see.  Heidi,” she almost spat the name, “You may drink as much as you desire in my house.  Harold, please bring up a sweet German Riesling for Ms. Mardling.”

[Tone is obvious anger: the squinted and spat convey this.]

Heidi raised her head high, “An auslese, if you have it.”

[Tone is saucy: head high.]

Harold, the butler, bowed, “Yes, ma’am.”

Heidi glanced at Sveta from the sides of her eyes, “Thank you again for your hospitality.”

[Tone is conciliatory: actions again are not exactly what is conveyed in the conversation ]

Now that you've seen the conversation, you can note. 
1.  Cultural norms (greeting, introduction, small talk, big talk)
2.  Logical response (characters must respond to each other in the conversation)
3.  ID the speaker
4.  Show us the picture of the conversation
5.  Use contractions (most of the time)
6.  What are you trying to say?

7.  What is unsaid in the conversation?
8.  Build the tone of the conversation.

The tone of the conversation was not build through the words that were spoken, but through the response or the way the characters said the words.  In no case, did I tell you how they thought, but rather showed you their reactions.  No one was said to be angry or any of the tones of the conversation--the actions and words of the characters simply led you to see the picture of the conversation.  This is how you write conversation.

More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site, and my individual novel websites:

fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing,

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