Monday, March 19, 2018

Story Telling in 3D

By Debbie Roome

Those who know me well will be familiar with my love of travel. This dates back a few decades but recently has become a way of life. I’ll never forget the day that travelling changed from a postcard view to something more tangible. And no, it wasn’t the day I first climbed into an aeroplane or travelled to a foreign land. I had seen many glossy brochures of London and Europe and could recognise Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but it was a flat and one- dimensional view.

 My perspective changed the day I went to a travel presentation that incorporated a movie on a large screen. It was many years ago so wasn’t in 3D but it was filmed by someone walking through these famous landmarks, climbing spiral stair cases, walking around the back of the buildings and across bridges. It brought travel to life for me, offering depth and an understanding of where these structures were situated, and their size and grandeur. With today’s genuine 3D movies, this effect is even greater and the goggles that give us a full 360 degree view of a movie are amazing!

I was thinking about this recently and realised the 3D principle can also be applied to writing. Do we give our readers a flat, one dimensional view of our characters and settings or do we take them on a breath-taking tour through their lives? Are our settings conveyed in boring prose or do a few skilfully crafted words give them depth and colour.

Our first drafts maybe rather flat and bland but as we rework them, edit them and polish them, let’s make every effort to introduce the 3D effect. May our stories be rounded, have twists and turns, and burst with texture, perspective and life. Our readers may never travel physically to the locations in our books. They may never shake hands with our characters or cry with them, but through our writing skills, they can become immersed in their world.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Stories of Life: from private faith to public storytelling

By May-Kuan Lim

A few years ago, at a writer’s group, I sat on a sofa so low that it felt as if my knees came up to my chest. Someone handed out ‘Stories of Life’ fliers, saying, ‘A writing competition looking stories of faith and testimony.’ It could have been Mark or James, I forget, but what I remember is that I felt no compunction whatsoever to enter the competition.

I had been living in Australia for about eighteen years, but grew up in Malaysia. One of the things I sensed soon after I moving here was that it was impolite to talk about God or Jesus – unless I happened to be in the company of Christians. I felt people didn’t mind what I believed, as long as I didn’t talk about it too loudly. Well, some of the winning stories would be broadcast on radio in Adelaide. Talking about faith doesn’t get much louder than that.

The Malaysia I grew up in had a different spiritual mood. Almost everyone, from prime minister to street sweeper, revered God. I attended a government school in Malaysia, established and still run at that time by an Irish Catholic nun, whom all the girls loved. At school assemblies, staff and students of different faiths  – Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu – would pray to God, all of us bowing our heads in reverence.

I become a Christian when I was 12 years old, in this very school. Christian women from Navigators or local churches used to conduct Bible Study classes, open to any non-Muslim girl who wished to attend.

I was the first person in my immediate family to become a Christian. Soon after my conversion, my family faced a crisis. There were terrible dramas, private dramas. I was not in any physical danger, but the nature of the crisis created for me a private bubble of woe. I spent many days and nights in that bubble, unable to speak to anyone about what was going on at home.

In this aloneness I found great comfort in God. In my bedroom each evening before dinner, as I read my Bible and prayed, I would look out to hills covered in rainforest. All those years ago, the hills had not yet been denuded and built over with highways and high rises and squatters and shops. Many evenings, I admired pink and gold sunsets against deep green hills, and thanked God for such lavish calm beauty outside the house, a foil to the dramas unfolding inside. One particular evening, as I read Psalm 91:14 – because he loves me says the Lord, I will rescue him – the words leapt out as if God had spoken directly to me. In the privacy of my bedroom, my faith was becoming something precious and deeply important to me.

In Australia, I was in my mid-thirties when I started attending Adelaide Writers Week, and later listening to interviews of famous writers. As I strove to learn how to write well, I hung on to their words. I admired their skill and craftsmanship. But sometimes some of them would talk about the religious worlds they had left behind. Sometimes they mocked Christian religious traditions, people within those traditions, and, on occasions, God himself.

Reflecting on my initial disinterest in Stories of Life, I think I was afraid to even consider writing a story of faith. It would require me to bring my private faith into the public sphere. What if people laughed? It would be as if they saw into the privacy of my heart, upon which God’s word had been inscribed, and found me ridiculous.

Sue Jeffrey, one of the 2016 winners

Some months passed. I was driving to a friend’s house when I heard one of the Stories of Life broadcast in Adelaide on Life FM. It was a story by Sue Jeffrey. In the story, she had just moved to Canberra. I don’t have her story with me, but I still remember she described how she was feeling very low. She spoke of a puppy that slowly drew her out. I arrived at my destination before the story finished, but sat in my car, with the engine running so invested was I in the story. It was so real, so relatable, with no clichés. I felt drawn to the story, not because of my Christian faith, but because of my human vulnerabilities. I identified with Sue and loved the wholly surprising idea of deliverance in the form of a puppy.

When I turned the first pages of the 2017 Stories of Life anthology, The Gecko Renewal, I read of the improbable rescue of a young female prison officer, by a violent inmate with ‘heavily tattooed arms … biceps the size of my thighs’. The writer, Amy Ireland, credited it to God. I had been writing non-fiction stories of asylum seekers. My interviewees had described to me the hopelessness and bleakness of detention centres. But Amy’s story said: God is present and working, even in these places.

Further on in the book, I read ‘When Andy met God’ by Ester de Boer. When Andy, born with an intellectual disability, has a sudden change of behaviour, he tells everyone it’s because God has shown up. If Andy’s angry now, he just talks to God about it and he feels better.

The beauty of both stories is that the specificity of detail and authenticity of dialogue makes me think: Amy really worked in the prisons, Andy really is intellectually disabled, God really is there.
Where these two stories touched my intellect, ‘Not Alone’ by Glenda Austin helped me through a tough week. I was in Melbourne, helping my son settle in to university. I was in the guest bedroom of a friend’s house when I heard Glenda read her story in an audio file that I was uploading to the Stories of Life webpage. Glenda described how she saw her son, part of the Australian force in East Timor, on TV as John Farnham sang, ‘You’ll never walk alone’. Right then, I had the sense that God was assuring me that my son, too, would not walk alone.

I’m grateful to Sue, Amy, Ester and Glenda for being brave enough to share their stories with the public, because I wouldn’t have heard their stories otherwise. I’m grateful to them for taking the time to craft their stories well, so that the stories could be included in the anthology, and broadcast on radio. There are many other stories in the anthology, which I believe have touched many other people.

There are stories that were submitted that did not win prizes, and were not selected for the anthology, or for on-air broadcast. But the very act of telling a story to a child, a spouse, a neighbour, or writing it down, is an act of bearing witness. When we tell or write a faith story, we are acknowledging God’s work in our lives. I think God is pleased with that. This makes me think of Jesus’ commandment in Luke 8 to the person he healed. The man pleaded with Jesus to be allowed to travel with Jesus but Jesus said to him, ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’

The faith that Jesus called me to was never meant to only be a private faith, a faith only for me to draw strength in times of trouble. There is a public aspect that I overlooked. If those women hadn’t come to my school to tell the entire class about God and Jesus, where would I be?

If you have a story of how God showed up in your life, do consider writing it up and submitting it to either the short category (up to 500 words), or the open category (1000 to 1500 words). The Stories of Life competition runs from 1 April to 31 July this year. If you would like help to craft your story, register for our free writing workshop that will run on 12 April at Tabor Adelaide, that will also be live streamed on our Facebook page. There are also resources on our website on how to write a good story, including video presentation of last year’s writing workshop.

Your stories matter. We would love to hear from you.

Monday, March 12, 2018

‘I was lookin' for love in all the wrong places
Lookin' for love in too many faces
Searchin' their eyes
Lookin' for traces of what I'm dreaming of…’

Image courtesy of Castillo Dominici

That was me for far too many years; searching for a soulmate, ‘needing’ a fulfilling relationship, hoping for domestic bliss. Yet the harder I looked the further the prize receded into the distance.

It’s a basic human need, this need for love and belonging, and we reach a point in our lives where our spiritual and emotional growth can become stymied if we fail to satisfy that persistent yearning. We become ‘stuck’, unable to move on with other important tasks and milestones in life. Most of us settle down and marry in our twenties or thirties and muddle on with varying degrees of conflict and stress, peppered with romantic highlights and for those who get lucky, some hard-won joy and contentment.

Others of us turn to our careers or what we perceive to be our passion to fill that nagging ache within our hearts and souls. Still others care for parents and relatives, and some of us are besotted with our four-footed furry friends. Every path taken is valid and significant, and every twist and turn can be molded into a valuable lesson. For me personally, ‘real’ love remained elusive and I settled into my 56th year determined to find ways to live a meaningful life without a partner by my side. In fact, God sort of arranged it for me.

It’s not that I’d forgotten about God over the years or even ignored Him overmuch. I’ve been a believer for a long time now and constant communication between El Shaddai and this somewhat wayward daughter of His has been the norm. Yet, I still made some wrong assumptions that drove a wedge between us. I was still trying to fill the God-shaped hole, which exists inside all humanity, with human love.

But God pursued me relentlessly.

A fiancé (not the first) exited stage right (my front door) in a flurry of doubt and confusion, citing unfinished business and pressure from his adult children. It’s a long and somewhat wretched story that I’ll leave entirely to your imagination. (Cue in the musical score from Les Misérables.)

This time, the separation was so traumatic, following close after my mother’s death, that I decided to go it alone for the rest of my days. Well, not quite alone…for God had finally got my full attention. I was done with human relationships (family and friends excepted). Absolutely done, I tell you.

I’d voiced similar sentiments in the past but this was the first time I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I truly meant it. I finally handed the reigns entirely over to my Creator and King, and the fear began to dissipate. Grief remained for a time but not intolerably so. Over the following months, as I read more and more scripture, searching each page with new impassioned eyes, a mantle of peace descended. My shoulders eased. The panic attacks began to ebb away.

As I steeped myself further and further in Christian literature and reached out to my priceless, loving Christian friends, I began to really know my God.

And you know what? I liked Him a lot! In fact, it wasn’t long before I was pretty sure I was in love! And the revelation that left me the most ‘gobsmacked’ is that I knew I’d finally found the one true love; the only one who could completely cherish every inch of my being; the only one strong enough, wise enough and gentle enough to give my still-girlish heart the depth of love and security I’d craved all my life.

But God didn’t stop at sweeping me off my feet. In very short order He set about building our very first home. It was a dream I thought I’d never achieve, and truth be known, no one else believed I’d achieve it either. Financial advisers insisted that, at my age and having only a disability support payment as income, I had no chance of breaking out of that iron-maiden commonly called the rental trap. Real Estate agents shook their heads and showed me through shoddy little hovels they assured me were within my price range. It was disturbing to see the combination of pity and desperation in their eyes as I said no, time and again. God had better in store for me. I was certain of that much.

He knew and understood my special needs and He also knew the desires of my heart, as, of course, He still does. This was one guy I was going to trust to come through for me. We were a team now and I had to learn to work with Him, not under my own steam for a change. I listened carefully, and I stepped out in faith, asking Him to stay my hand if I misread His cues.

And so it was that I came to find a block of land in one of the most beautiful parts of the country; a bank to give me the very small mortgage I needed to secure it, and a builder to give me a fixed-price contract beyond all the odds, which just happened to fit my tiny budget. How those funds came to be in my bank account in the first place constitutes a whole parallel narrative to this story, but I’ll spare you those seemingly mundane details for now. In truth each step of the process was a miracle.

During this honeymoon period of ours, God flooded me with His miracles. It was a tsunami of blessing and abundance. Along the way, there were some headaches and stresses, but that’s to be expected when you build a house.  We took it in our stride. Mostly, we just had fun! What a happy time we had collaborating over building design and materials, flooring, paint colours, tiles…and all the little extras that make a house a home. It was effortless!
The House that God Built

We moved in about a month after the expected hand-over date but He had even that under control. At first I was disappointed about having to wait but I soon realized that, with my chemical sensitivities, I wouldn’t have been able to live with the odour of fresh paint. It would have brought me to my knees physically. And so God delayed things a little. By the time He carried me across the threshold (for real!) the odour had dissipated and all that remained was the heady fragrance of fresh mountain air.

For the finishing touch, He proceeded to fill my rainwater tanks with bountiful rain. They’re overflowing as I write.

I don’t know any human being who can pull that off, do you?

I think I might finally have met ‘the one’. And He doesn’t even mind if I find human love as well, as long as I continue to put Him first. Either way, I’m going to be just fine.

God makes a fine husband. In fact, there’s none better.
And the view's not too shabby, either.

Melinda Jensen is a writer concerned with social justice, spirituality, the environment, and equality. She authors a blog on domestic abuse, particularly as it pertains to its psychological and emotional effects. Over the years she has had a smattering of short stories and poetry published in national magazines and anthologies.  At the moment she is working on two fantasy novels with environmental themes, both aimed at middle school readers. And more importantly, she’s engrossed in a non-fiction work that focuses on thriving in a materialistic, consumerist world, while limited by a tiny budget.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

All for One, One for All

by Jeanette O'Hagan

Remember the image of a lonely, starving artist struggling in the garret, unknown and unrecognised until after his or her tragic death? Okay, some of you will, and some will be saying, 'What's a garret?'

According to that wise source of the hive mind, Wikipedia, 'A garret is a habitable attic or small and often dismal or cramped living space at the top of a house or larger residential building. In the days before lifts (elevators) this was the least prestigious position in a building. In this era, the garret often had sloping ceilings.'

So most of us don't live in garrets and most of us are not literally starving - though we might be if we tried to feed ourselves from our royalties (if we get royalties). And being seen and heard in a noisy, crowded book market can be daunting. So the struggles of artists and creatives maybe haven't changed that much over the decades, but one thing we don't have to be is lonely.

But, but ... we all know artists, particularly writers, are introverts (mostly). And writing is after all a solo pursuit - right? We sit down in our cave (or garret) with the door firmly closed and tap, tap, tap away at our keyboards composing masterpieces, engaging with our recalcitrant characters, patching up plot holes or wrestling with section headings, or daydreaming (hey, that's working) or reading, researching, (w)riting. Unlike musicians, scriptwriters and dancers - we do things alone and are responsible for set design, costumes, lighting, tempo, special effects, make-up, music, camera angles, and the gaffer's boy (whatever he or she does?!)- and also refreshments.

Well, yes, true the actual writing is often a solitary pursuit (though few strange writers like me don't mind writing in cafes and public places). Even so, it takes a team to bring a book into the world --- not just all the writers that have fed your imagination and inspired you to write, but also critique partners, beta-readers, editors, proof-readers, formatters, cover artists, publishers, printers, street team, reviewers and promoters. So yes, even writing is a team effort.

But what I really want to say today, is that we don't have to do this by ourselves. We don't have to be isolated and alone. We don't have to feel like we are stranded on a coral island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

For one thing, God understands. And chances are, if He has placed the passion in your heart, He has a purpose for it - maybe not always exactly how we envision it, but for something even better than we can imagine.

And in addition to that - you are not alone.

In fact, you are part of a crowd. And it's in banding together, in helping each other, in lifting each other up that we can flourish.  And how is that done?

  • Groups like Christian Writers Downunder (and Australasian Christian Writers, Faith Writers and Omega Writers) can provide encouragement, support, advice, inspiration. 
  • Critique groups and chapter groups.
  • NaNoWriMo  through buddies in November and cabins in April and July (we are forming one now), or Month of Poetry or other writing challenges.
  • Conventions, camps and retreats.
  • Courses, workshops.
  • Giving feedback, reading and reviewing others' works (though be wary of review swaps on Amazon). 

And if you are at the start of this journey or anywhere along the way - there are four events coming up that may be of interest:

Omega Writers Book Fair (Brisbane)

This Saturday (10 March).  We have over 25 local authors, editors and publishers with their books, plus a great workshop by Gary Clark on Inspiring Humour and - we praying for a big crowd of book fans :) FB Event page here.

Omega Writers Retreat (Toowomba)

4th-6th May
Week-end retreat with great seminars and a relaxed program - time to network and to write. Read more here.

CALEB prize

Opportunity to receive feedback as well as recognising the talents of aspiring and established authors. Read more here.

Omega Writers Conference

This year run in conjunction with Tabor College in Adelaide with fantastic guest speakers, workshops and networking.  This October 2018. Read more here.

And then there are smaller more focused groups.

Omega Writers chapter groups - as well as some online groups (check the webpage). 

Brisbane group - meets first Sunday of each month (2 pm) at St Francis College, Milton (next one in June - due Easter & May Retreat). Contact Judy Rogers.
Toowoomba - meets on the third Thursday of each month for some writing (7-9 pm), but also have other events on through the year.
Sydney group - next meeting is 7th April, from 2.30pm to 4.30pm at St Joseph's Centre for Reflective Living, Baulkham Hills. Contact Raewyn Elsegood.
Wangaratta group.  Meet every second month. Contact Susan Barnes.
Screenwriters group - Screenwriters meets via Skype on the third Monday of the month. People can join the FB group to stay up to date on the areas covered.
Sci-Fi/Fantasy group - meet via Skype once a month.

Other groups are in the Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Geelong, Adelaide, New Zeland - or include special interest groups in Writing for Children and Young Adults (COWS group) and non-fiction group.

There is sure to be other groups around - both Christian and secular - and if not, why not start one up yourself?

I wrote in isolation for some time - until I enrolled in a Master's Course on writing and then, almost by chance, went along to an Omega Writers Conference (it was run by Rochelle Manners and called World Word Fair at the time). That lead to me joining Christian Writers Dowunder and then, in time, Omega Writers. I can't tell you how much the encouragement and inspiration of other writers -- like Paula Vince, Anusha Atukorala, Nola Passmore, Adele Jones and so many others -- has meant to me. I love being part of the Omega Writers Sci-Fi/Fantasy group - with a monthly Skype call. I'm also a member of a secular Spec Fic group and Month of Poetry.

When burning coals are scattered the flames go out. Bunched together and they can set the world on fire.

Jeanette has just released her latest book, Ruhanna's Flight and other stories, a collection of short stories in the world of Nardva. She started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users. She has published numerous short stories, poems, two novellas and her debut novel, Akrad's Children. Find her on Facebook or at her webpages Jeanette O'Hagan Writes or Jenny's Thread.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Genre Trends

by Jeanette O'Hagan

Over the last year (2017), our CWD/ACW posts have explored different genres. We have just scratched the surface and will be looking at more genres in the coming months.  However, last year Ian Acheson suggested we look at current genre trends for 2017.

Why Worry about Genre Trends?

What difference does this make? Some genres tend to be more popular. Romance is generally big, and also thrillers, mystery and crime as well as science fiction and fantasy and children’s picture books. In non-fiction, cookbooks, self-help, biographies might be popular. In recent years, there have growing trends for Young Adult and Graphic Novels. On the other hand, literary fiction may have a more limited, perhaps refined audience whereas poetry – once the Queen of literature – is often hard to sell.

And different sub-genres – Amish or paranormal romance or dystopias or Nordic noir or solar punk - may be all the rage -- often on the back of a popular block buster (Twilight, Hunger Games, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) or ongoing trend (like Amish). Or, perhaps the once favourite genre is already passé.

Of course, trending could mean either what readers buying/reading OR what agents and publishers looking for/accepting. It stands to reason that what readers want and what agents and publishers are looking for are the same thing – but not always. For instance, publishers may choose more literary titles or have particular biases and interests. And there are often big differences between what sells from the big publishing houses compared to the big sellers for Indie authors.

 Knowing which genres are trending may help in choosing or refining our target audience and the genre we write in.  Writing to a popular genre or sub-genre can make a difference to how many readers and royalties we garner. If you have more than one potential project, knowing the trends may help choose which to write next. Or maybe we can tweak what we are already writing to appeal to a specific audience. 

Even so, there is often a niche audience for most sub-genres, even obscure ones. Besides, a trend may be on its way out of a saturated market by the time it takes to write our book and get it published. And predictions are just that – predictions – at best educated guesses based on current trends, at worst just plain wrong.

Besides, there may be good reasons why you don’t want to write a particular genre or sub-genre, no matter how hot it currently is. It’s better to write what you are passionate about, than to slog out a book in a genre you hate because it sells (readers will notice). 

So, what are the trends?

In General

In A D Hurley’s 2017 report on Amazon sells, Romance took 66% of books, with 87% of the top 100 selling slots. Other top-selling genres go to Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Non-Fiction, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Children’s, and Literary Fiction, respectively. Whereas, for the Big 5 publishers literary fiction heads the list, then 2. Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, 3. Children’s, 4. Non-Fiction, 5. Science Fiction/Fantasy and 6. Romance.  Small press publishers might have their own preferences and specialities.

Within the broader categories, some subgenres are trending.  Hurley reports (2017) ‘LGBT books have seen a 200% increase, comic books and graphic novels — an 119% bump, and Teen and YA novels are on a 63% rise.’ 

Dena of Batch of Books suggests that YA & Children’s books with diversity (people of colour, disability, woman and LGBT), unique or strong woman characters, humour and ‘love, hope and dreams’ will do well in 2018  Other pundits suggest an increase in mystery books. While some suggest, in contrast to the pessimistic dystopian books, the optimist Solar Punk is making its mark.

Other areas that is growing, according to Lauren Wise, are novellas, anthologies, and co-authoring and book bundles. In part as marketing strategies for authors, but also because shorter fiction is easier to publish as an e-book, and readers often have less time and appreciate shorter reads.

Some of these trends provides a challenge for Christian authors, but also an opportunity.

Christian Books

Non-fiction (Bibles, devotionals, Christian living and biographies) probably dominate the Christian market. How do genre trends translate into Christian Fiction?


Traditionally, in the USA, Christian fiction has been driven by romance, historical and biblical fiction – with a strong emphasis on Amish and bonnet fiction. 

For 2018, Publisher Weekly reports that some suggest Amish is waning, while others feel it is still going strong and that there may be a trend toward romantic suspense. Speculative fiction and mystery have struggled with CBA though there has been a trend for cross-over and edgier fiction with small press – such as Gilead’s acquisition of Enclave and expansive publishing model -- and a move to more realistic fiction that addresses difficult issues with some publishers.  (See also this.)


The Australian and New Zealand markets are much smaller, especially in Christian fiction and non-fiction with limited publication opportunities and difficulty competing with big titles from across the Pacific.

Christian readers downunder often favour more realistic, maybe edgier, fiction than the America market. Once again, romance is a major player, though Rhiza Press publishes a range of genres, and Stone Table Books is actively looking for speculative fiction. Perhaps mystery and (non-romantic) thrillers are underrepresented.

The Future

Whatever the trends, God holds the future. And while it’s in some ways harder than it was a few decades ago, there are different opportunities as well. Part of our challenge is to respond the heart cries of the world with the grace and hope of the gospel - whether explicitly or implicitly. 

So over to you – What trends would you predict for 2018? What’s your favourite genre or sub-genre to write or to read? And what’s the strangest genre you’ve come across?

ACW/CWD Cross post.


Jeanette started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users. She has published numerous short stories, poems, two novellas and her debut novel, Akrad's Children. Find her on Facebook or at her webpages Jeanette O'Hagan Writes or Jenny's Thread.

Monday, February 26, 2018

How To Write Awesome Dialogue For Your Film

Originally Published on The Independent Initiative

Today, I thought it might be fun to give all our CWD followers a bit of advice on how to write for film.

When it comes to knowing how to make movies, screenwriters should pay special attention to the dialogue they use for their characters. When it’s good, people don’t notice, but when it’s bad even your gran can tell.

You don’t want this.

I don’t want this.

So how do we write awesome dialogue?

There’s no magical formula -- creativity needs to breathe -- but I do think there are a few tools that can help you. Here are a few things I’ve found in creating awesome and strong dialogue.


My absolute favourite example of the subtle art of subtext comes from the classic When Harry Met Sally. It’s the final scene and Harry is professing his undying love for Sally (it’s about freaking time too) and then he waits for Sally’s response.

The novice writer for this romcom would have Sally say something like, “I love you too, Harry.”

But romcom genius, Nora Ephron, doesn’t have Sally say the mundane automatic response. Instead, Sally delivers the line in the clip below at 1:35, “... And I hate you, Harry ... I really hate you.” She’s saying, “I hate you” but her body language is professing her love.

This is perhaps one of the most obvious uses of subtext to date, but it’s brilliant. We love it. The audience loves it, the writers love it, and the actors love it because it allows them to speak the truth of the situation and not tell it through the words.

“Hello Jane, how are you doing today?”“Hello Bob, I am doing well. How are you doing?”
“Thank you for asking, Jane. I am not doing well today.”
“I am sorry to hear that Bob, why are you not doing well today?”
“Well Jane, I fell off my bicycle on the way to work and skinned my knees.”
Ok gosh, I can’t write any more of that! It’s too painful!
Clearly, we don’t talk in full sentences so as soon as you’ve got characters who talk like the above it sounds unnatural and bad. When it comes to your dialogue, it doesn’t have to be a dramatic change, it could simply be something like shortening “I am” to “I’m”.

For example how could you change the following?

“I am going to the store, is there anything you want me to get for you?”

There are many ways to change this to make it more normal, especially when you add on specific character traits of how someone talks. One person may use the word “like” more than another. Watching TV last night, I noticed how one of the characters says the word “honey” with every phrase. It doesn’t have to be a word you’d add, it could be the lack of words a person uses too.

If I took a look at the above example again, I may change it to something like this:

"Hey, going to the story, you want anything?"


This is something not many people think of when it comes to dialogue, but it can be more powerful than any words you use; after all, a picture’s worth a million of them. Enter the beauty of visual storytelling -- filmmaking. We’ve got the best of both worlds. We get to weave magical words to create an epic film, but we also have the amazing power of a moving picture.

Is there a conversation where you can turn someone’s response into a look, or better yet, can you write a whole scene between two characters where the “conversation” isn’t spoken?

These are only a few of the several tools out there for making strong, awesome dialogue, I hope it’s inspired you to write your own phenomenal and creative dialogue. The beauty of these, is how they can be used for novels too!

Charis Joy Jackson is working as a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organisation & is part of The Initiative Production Company. She loves creating stories & is currently writing a novel, which she hopes to create into a seven part series. 

Here's to a life lived in awe & wonder. 
Welcome to the adventure.