Q. I need a little help, I just can’t get the dialogue right but everyone loves the premise of my novel. What do I need to do?
A. I’m not sure what the scope of the problem is but I suggest you stop writing and just take some time to listen to the cadence of actual conversations that are occurring around you. People don’t converse in proper Queen’s English. They communicate with sentence fragments, punctuated by interruptions. They have facial expressions and different voice tones that can tell their listener just as much as words do. Have fun and just observe for a little while and then apply that information during your re-write.
Q. Assuming South Beach takes place in Florida, what will be the location of your third novel?
A. I’m undecided. It may be New Jersey or but I’m not sure. It really depends on which sibling I decide to develop a story around once South Beach is finished. If it’s Latrell’s story then the setting will be in Texas or Montana. If it’s Jaiden’s story then it’ll be framed by the character of New Jersey.
Q. What is the best advice you’ve received about starting a novel?
A. Romance writer, Mary Balogh said it best when she wrote, “Begin (a novel) by showing rather than telling. Action is an attention-getter. Present it uncluttered by explanation that can come later. The very lack of explanation can be part of the hook because it arouses questions: Who are these people? What is going on here? What is going to happen next?” It’s a piece of wonderful advice.
Q. Do you like using secondary characters, and if so what is one of your rules of thumb for inclusion in your novels.
A. I LOVE using secondary characters because no one lives in a vacuum and it would be a disservice to not include the colors and daily nuisances that other people bring to a setting. The best friend that calls during the heroine’s workday, the brother that has an opinion on the hero’s latest conquest. I can’t think of one of my favorite movies that didn’t include great supporting characters that I enjoyed just as much as I did the leads. As far as rules go, I think the best advice would be something that Romance writer, Susan Wiggs said, "The function of the secondary characters is to complicate the lives of, and contrast with, the main characters." Just keep that in mind and you’ll be on the right track.
I’m a writer so I see the world a little differently from… let’s say doctors, teachers, mechanics, reporters and politicians. Everyday I may hear or see something that may end up in the pages of my novel. Sometimes, I wish I wore a baseball cap that read, “Be careful because I write drama.”
Wow, I wonder if that warning would even work. Some people may become leery to say anything to me for a day or so then my cap will be forgotten and once again small secrets and idiosyncrasies will be revealed in personal interactions. That’s one of the BIG reason why I love writing. There are times when funny things happen and you just want to capture it in a way that transcends re-telling the story for the umpteenth time on a cell phone conversation or in an email.
I can think of a couple of things that happened today alone that will end up in my novel because people provide a wealth of material. Is it hard to work a main job and write on the side? Yes, but it’s the personal interactions of my main job that makes my writing shine. It also challenges me to get my scenes just right. There’s nothing more frustrating than to have a very funny situation happen in real life and not be able to capture the moment perfectly in writing. As you can guess, I have much respect for screenplay writers because they strive for that real-life feel with every scene they develop.
Now, I have a lot of friends that tell me I have their permission to use parts of their lives in my novels but I’m not a reporter. Yes, I may take a small universal fact that they shared and then smash and torture it until it doesn’t look anything like the story they gave me because my characters are living their own lives in the pages of my book.
Hey, that reminds me, have you every played the Sims game? It’s a computer/video game where you create a ‘Sim’ and the world they’ll live in. In a lot of ways the ‘Sim Creator’ (the player) is a good comparison to how writers feel when they are busy working on their stories. The only difference is that sometimes the characters drive the story instead of the writer.
I remember when I was writing a scene in South Beach with Laila and her best friends, Sofia and Marina. I knew how I wanted the scene to end but I didn’t know how I was going to get my characters there. It wasn’t until I was typing their dialogue and watching their interactions that THEY showed ME their wit, frustrations, vulnerability and ultimately the way to end the scene. The writing was fun and authentic because it held nuances of my own interactions with my friends and gave their friendship more depth.
I love my characters so if you find yourself in my presence and I get a silly grin on my face while you’re talking it’s because I can’t wait to dramatize what you revealed. Hey, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.
Professor Leo Buscaglia once said, “Psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists, anthropologists and educators have suggested in countless studies and numerous research papers that love is a learned response, a learned emotion . . . Most of us continue to behave as though love is not learned but lies dormant in each human being and simply awaits some mystical age of awareness to emerge in full bloom. Many wait for this age forever. We seem to refuse to face the obvious fact that most of us spend our lives trying to find love, trying to live in it and dying without ever truly discovering it.”
We live in a country where the divorce rate is 50 percent for first marriages, 67 percent for the ambitious second marriage and 74 percent for those who actually believe the third time’s the charm. Is this because pop culture promotes unrealistic expectations of love in our society, or is it because of a popular modern trend of settling for mates that arouse our lust but fail to stimulate our psyche and soul?
Some may think I’m downright naïve, but I believe that people that have never experienced real love are more willing to fall for relationships based on lust and people that have been hurt deeply will remain too ‘closed off’ to trust anyone fully. I think it’s time to let go of the fear and chose to love.
It is not enough to feel loving. We must be sensitive to the others “love language.” You know what I mean. For one person, love means gassing up their car and making sure the kids are picked up from soccer practice on time. For another it means a surprise weekend away. The critical issue is that you become sensitive to learning your mate's love language. A love relationship requires an ability to constantly set one’s agenda aside to be alert for ways to meet your mate’s love needs.
Love requires action – thoughtful action. It is not enough to feel it. Each of us wants to receive love in action. So, if you are really ready for love, you are ready for the work involved in learning your mate’s love language—even if it changes over time. You are ready to anticipate his or her needs.
"Love has no desire but to fulfill itself. To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving."- Kahlil Gibran
Being true to oneself is a skill. It might even be the single most important skill we can acquire. For many of us, the closest we’ve come to being true to ourselves happened during infancy. (We cried when we felt like crying, laughed when we needed to laugh, slept when we became tired. Somewhere along the way we taught ourselves to ignore our wants and needs. (We studied subjects we didn’t care to learn, we held our tongues when we wanted to be heard and we held jobs that we didn’t want to have.) Over time these actions taught us how to master denying ourselves the yearning of our authentic self.
To be true to yourself, you must know yourself. That is an ongoing process without end. We never really complete the task; we just get better at it. Many of us avoid getting to know ourselves because knowing involves uncertainty, and uncertainty is uncomfortable. It’s so much easier to mold personal myths about ourselves that we can cling to in order to avoid the discomfort of uncertainty. “I am such and such a person”, we tell ourselves — even though we do not act that way, or at least haven’t acted that way in years.
There are many ways to learn about oneself, but perhaps the best way is to watch what one does as objectively as one would watch someone else’s child at play. That requires considerable skill because it is not at all easy to dispassionately watch ourselves. Yet, that might well be the best way to learn about oneself.
Give it a try because it’s impossible to be genuinely happy in this life without being true to oneself.
Without deep feelings, two people can’t commit themselves to a relationship. Adoration is what ensures that a relationship grows and improves. But sooner or later, every good relationship bumps into bad things. And that's when honest people discover that feelings of the heart, no matter how sincere, is never enough to keep their relationship moving forward.
When I decided to go pass simply dating someone casually to a stronger bond of commitment, my relationship confidence doesn’t simply survive… it thrives. But here's the kicker: love in itself is seldom sturdy enough to support a couple when they inevitably run into bad things.
Countless couples out there cling to the sentimental, romantic notion of love expressed in pop culture. They believe that everything good in their relationship will get even better in time. But the truth is, not everything gets better.
Every successful relationship requires necessary compromises. For starters, forming a serious relationship with someone means coming to terms with new limits on one's privacy and independence. Like two weary soldiers taking cover in a bunker, every couple is bewildered by constant assaults to their love life. A relationship can be continually bombarded by unpredictable instances that interfere with being the kind of lovers they want to be. Couples can be torn apart by busy schedules, by words they wish they could take back, and by not giving all that the heart demands.
We can grow to know each other and to make better decisions about our relationships if we are realistic about the other important factors beside just romantic love. People can get hurt in relationships. For a couple who share a commitment to learning about each other's faults as well as perfections, feelings can mature and become something worth devoting their lives toward. The naivety of new love grows into a knowledgeable and confident love, one on which promises can be given in total confidence.
Pain, suffering and stress are the admission tickets to the game of life. But what would life be like without them? In a world without hurdles, there are no champions; without suffering, there are no saints; without battles, there are no victories; without rain, no rainbows. Isn't a world that includes pain is more rewarding than one that doesn’t? Haven’t we all heard of the ‘Refiner’s fire”? Isn’t an intense heat necessary to produce gold, pressure and polishing necessary to produce diamonds and adversity necessary to produce character?
Here’s how Henry Ford expressed the same sentiment: Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.
Each of us needs to recognize stress and difficulties for what they are: opportunities to lift ourselves to a higher level.Sailors caught in a storm should prayer not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear. Why should they accept the storm? Because a smooth sea never made a skillful mariner.
When an eagle believes her eaglets are large enough to learn how to fly, she begins to take apart the nest and push the eaglets out. After this rude awakening, the eaglets discover they have wings! They can fly! The universe is constantly nudging us, pushing us off one cliff after another, in the hope that one day we, too, will discover our wings and soar to new heights.
All of us make will make mistakes that will bring our world to a halt but we need to face our fear and let the circumstance mold our character. We’ll be better because of it.
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