61: Mastering the Art of Dialogue with Jeff Elkins

Jeff Elkins, aka, the Dialogue Doctor, who is an author, podcast host, and writing coach. Jeff shares his experience of conducting over 200 coaching sessions to help authors improve their dialogue and create engaging characters.

He explains that the ideas and techniques in his book, “The Dialogue Doctor Will See You Now: How to Write Dialogue and Characters Readers Will Love,” were developed through collaborative efforts within the dialogue doctor community. He emphasizes the importance of dialogue in immersing readers in a story and discusses the distinction between dialogue and exposition.

Jeff also provides insights on crafting character voices and building a dynamic cast of characters that excite readers. He suggests techniques like grouping characters together, using vocalizations, body language, and dialogue tags to bring characters to life, and introducing engines (characters that help growth) and anchors (characters that hinder growth) to create conflict and facilitate character development.Read the accompanying post at WritingPursuits.com: LINK

The question of the week is: Who are your favorite lone wolf characters?

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Jeff Elkins – https://www.dialoguedoctor.com

The book – https://www.amazon.com/Dialogue-Doctor-Will-See-You-ebook/dp/B0C7D1WNZL/

(The Dialogue Doctor Will See You Now: How to Write Dialogue and Characters Readers Will Love)

Links:

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Instagram: @WritingPursuitsPodcast

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Transcript
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Getting those hazard characters in there. And then showing them

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repeat allows us to demonstrate that character growth over time

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in a way that doesn't feel heavy handed to the reader.

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Hey, Writing Pursuits Authors. Welcome back to the podcast. To

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those of you who are new, I want to extend a special welcome. My

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name is Kathrese. McKee. And I'm glad you're here. If you are a

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writer seeking encouragement, information and inspiration,

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this podcast is for you. Let's get to it. Today we're going to

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have deaf Elkins, the dialogue doctor on the programs, and I'm

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very excited. Yeah, Jeff. Yeah, Jeff Elkins is the author of 11

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novels, the host of the dialogue Doctor podcast, and a writing

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coach. Since launching the dialogue doctor in 2020. He's

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helped more than 200 coaching sessions. Wow. With authors,

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helping them write dialogue and create characters that will

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engage readers, which is the main thing, Jeff is also the

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author of the dialogue doctor will see you now. Great title,

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by the way, how to write dialogue. And characters readers

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will love a primer on all the dialogue Doctor community has

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learned about writing great dialogue. Oh, wow. 202 Thomas's

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the hate you give. And she's another one. Man, she has these

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scenes of like five, six characters. The whole indie

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climax are a string of scenes with like, six, seven and eight

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characters at a time. And she just balances them so well. But

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it is it is hard. And there's craft to it. And there's things

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you got to pay attention to like, make sure it works for the

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reader's imagination. I had a question about that. Because

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yeah, when you get, let's say six characters on a page, and I

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just had a book where there were like, frequently there were six

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characters on age. And it was it it fell into this pattern where

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it was either Sally said, Ben said, you know, whatever said or

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it was

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it was Sally nodded line.

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Don did this line. And it went on in every, every every

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paragraph started begin with a character's name or hat. Yeah,

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it became can get tough.

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Yeah, it can get tough. And the key is to work that like body

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language. The key is to understand how your

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vocalizations sound coming out of the character's mouth. That's

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the first thing because you can work your tags and your body

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language into the middle of vocalizations. As long as you're

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finding the right beat of that vocalization, or as long as your

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word choices, like it sounds like the character, it is

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something they would say and the way they would. Absolutely. And

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so having dynamic character voices really helps with that.

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Because, you know, if you if you had let's say you have a scene

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of Well, let's look at TJ clues of this, really and see where

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he's got a scene of like, eight characters at a time of those

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eight characters. One of them is nonverbal, and just

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communicating and chirps and body language. So if something

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chirps, you know that that's that character.

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Another so now we're down to seven, right that we got to use

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tags with. One of them has a very distinct voice and in the

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topics that he discusses, right, like, he's obsessed with

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bellhops so if you if somebody has a line about a bellhop, you

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know, it's that character. So like, now we're down to five,

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right? Like, one of them is the Antichrist and is constantly

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talking about setting things on fire and burning them and

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maiming people. Again, another one that we can like, okay,

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every once in a while this character can stand without a

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dialogue tag, or without body language, because we know that

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specific vocalization belongs to Lucy, right? Like, no one else

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is going to say that. And if somebody else does say it, you

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need to recognize that that's them. So now we're down to, you

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know, four, well, a four person conversations way more

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manageable, especially if you're spacing in these other

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characters that don't necessarily need the tag or the

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vocalization or the body language. But even with those

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four, you know, another key I think, another mistake writers

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make, and I do talk about this a little bit in the book. Another

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mistake writers make with these big,

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large scenes is they think that in every segment, so every

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portion of the conversation, every character has to be

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involved. And like in a routine, so like you have to have

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character a character B, character C, character D

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character a character B, character C character D,

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character, a character B, and then you're like, Okay, wow,

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this isn't this isn't how

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real conversations work, right? Like,

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yeah, a and b are gonna talk a lot more, and C and D are just

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gonna not, right. So the key is like, let A and B have the

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conversation. And then every couple segments touch back in

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with C, and D, and just let us know how they feel about what's

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going on through their body language. But you don't need to

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put them all together. And if you've got, like, you know,

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eight characters in a scene, consider grouping some of them

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together in a chorus. And what a core speaking chorus is like the

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Greek chorus in Greek literature, where a bunch of

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people stood on the stage and spoke in unison, or like,

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considerably. So going back to the example of how some of the

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certainly and see it one of the later chapters Clune has a mob

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scene. And so you've got two characters in the mob, that kind

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of represent the mob, and they have their own voices coming out

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of the mob. And then you have three characters kind of

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standing against the mob. And then you've got the mob. And it

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says, like the mob, yelled, the mob, shouted the mob, stomp

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their feet, right, like, what you're doing is you're taking a

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whole ton of characters, and you're putting them into a

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chorus, so that they operate as a single character. And you

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allow you that way you can cut down on the number of voices you

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have to manage, you can manage a group as a single character. So

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you don't have to have a mob to do that. You could be like, you

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know, these Well, JP Ryan flesh, and I write a valid together.

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And there's two characters that I will often group together.

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And, you know, it's Doris, and Trevor blah, blah, blah. And so

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like, they usually respond to things the same way. They

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typically have similar opinions on things so I can put them

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together, when like, you know, Doris, and Trevor laughed,

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right, like, so I don't have to have like a door slam and Trevor

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laughs like, I can rob them into a chorus, they can operate as a

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single character. So the key is like finding us trying to group

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characters in that way, so that you can check in with them and

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not have to, like, keep bringing them back in the conversation

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all the time. Well, and I think sometimes, one, one character

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will speak for both. Yeah, if yes, by then by, at a certain

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point, the reader is going to know that they have similar

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opinions. And the if one of them doesn't disagree, well, then

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they obviously kind of agree, you know, so that that's a good

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way to do that. Why are the terms hero villain inside

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character? Because we were talking about all the things?

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Yeah, not helpful when it comes to designing your characters

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growth. Yeah, so this is something we talked about, at

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the end of the book, one of the problems we were having in the

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community is we would sit down to like, plot out the novel. And

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specifically, the problem would be like, my character doesn't

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grow. And I don't understand my themes. Or like, I'm struggling

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with the themes of my book, and my character is not growing. So

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I'd be like, Well, if we can figure out how your character is

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going to grow, we can go from there to your themes, right,

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like so if your character is moving from innocence to

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adulthood, then your one of your themes is coming of age, right?

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Like, if your character is struggling with coping with

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their depression and finding healthy ways to cope with your

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depression, then a theme is depression, right? Like so, we

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find our themes like finding how our character grows. And so if

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we, we started looking at it and be like, Okay, well, so, you

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know, who's encouraging your character to grow and who's

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hindering your character to grow so that when we build a scene,

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we can say, like, Okay, I need my character to struggle here. I

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got to put somebody on the scene to hinder and be like, well,

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this is the villain with the villain doesn't really hinder

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character growth, the villain kind of encourages character

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growth, and she's not really the villain, not really, like, you

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know, she's actually just, you know, misunderstood and she's

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got, you know, this, she has her own perspective. And, and that

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way, this is the best friend so, I guess if I needed an ally in

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the scene, I should get the best friend but the best friend's

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extra kind of a jerk and doesn't really, like get along with the

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character and you know, and you know, this per character is

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gonna be the villain of the first book, but then by the time

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of the end the book The character is actually going to

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be redeemed. Right? Right. So I just described like some

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problems and Angie Thomas's the hate you give, right? Because

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there are no villains. There are no like there is a hero. But the

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allies aren't always allies. The villains aren't always villains,

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people are constantly Trading Places in the book, which is

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great. It makes for a super dynamic story, but it stinks

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when we talk about how do you get her character to grow right

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in comparison to these other characters, because it makes all

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of the characters feel a little schizophrenic. So because

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sometimes this character is helping sometimes this character

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is hurting, hurting what's going on. So we started using the

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terms engine anchor, engine beam, you know, addition not

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your lead character, but other characters that help your lead

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character grow are in

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gens, they help your character go. And then anchors are

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characters that hold your character back. Right? So Oh,

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yeah, okay. Yeah. So if you want a scene where your character is

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going to be tempted to behave as the worst version of themselves,

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and not grow or remain static and not grow, put an anchor in

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the sand. And then you have somebody who's going to

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encourage that character not to grow. That anchor might be the

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villain, that anchor might be an ally, that anchor might be, you

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know, that anchor could be the character's mom, that anchor

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could be the character's best friend, right? Like in the hate,

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you give the anchor. One of the anchors is the character's best

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friend at school, right? Like, every time she comes around star

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the lead character is, is tempted to be the worst version

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of herself, right, like so. It's that and then if you want to see

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him doing things, right, yeah, if you want to see where you

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want your character to be conflicted, put into a scene

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with an engine and an anchor, right like and let the edge of

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the anchor fight it out. So like Lord of the Rings, we have this

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in The Lord of the Rings saga, which people love. There is this

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like section of the book, this plotline of the book that is

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very slow in comparison to the frontlines it is Sam and Frodo

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marching to Mordor, right? It's a lot of walking through swamps,

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walking and walking. Trudging, trudging through the desert. And

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Sam has an engine to Frodo. Sam is constantly like, let's go

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let's do it. We got this we can do this right like Mr. Frodo,

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you've got to keep going. You can't give up? What about the

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Shire? Remember the things you love? If it's just Sam and

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Frodo, than we are on an encouraging and slow walk with

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little conflict, besides will they catch us, which stops being

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fun after the third time you don't get caught? So that

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what you do is you take an anchor of Gollum, and you throw

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Gollum into the mix, or smuggle. And now you've got a character

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who's constantly telling Frodo take the ring for yourself

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become the worst version of yourself. It's our precious we

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can have it, you know, stop sharing it with the filthy

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hobbitses. And then you've got Sam that's like, Hey, we got to

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keep going into the Shire. And now you have conflict in every

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scene, just with the presence of these two characters. Right,

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right. Absolutely. So I see in your book that there's vehicle

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engine, anchor and hazard, what are the vehicle and the hazards?

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Oh, so we talked about the vehicle as your lead character,

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because they're the character you're on the emotional journey

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with, right. And then the hazard. hazard is defined that a

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lot of times in, in when I'm working with authors, they'll

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have like side characters, right, that third character or

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whatever, yeah, and the side character will, like, you know,

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you'll have your two characters are in an Uber, and there's an

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Uber driver. And a lot of times the scene will be a little

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bland, because you've got to get you gotta get like your engine

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and courage in your vehicle in the back of an Uber, right,

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like, and it's like, yeah, you have to have this scene, you

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have to have this moment of encouragement, but not a lot of

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fun is happening, right, like so. If you want to seem to be

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more fun, make use of that side character and turn them into a

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hazard make their voice super big. Take one trait from their

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voice and blow it up, make them big and loud. And then they're

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either super shy, or they're super passionate about

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something. Or they're, you know, super nerdy, or they're super,

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take a trait from them make it huge blow their voice up. And

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now you have a hazard in your character's journey that your

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character has to navigate around it during the same so it just

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makes it seem more fun. Like save the cat does this too in

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their plotting line, they'll say like, Okay, now whenever you you

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have a slow point in the plot, put a pope in the pool, right,

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like, put something crazy happening in the background. And

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so it's the same here. Like, if you've got a scene that feels

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kind of dud dovish, you know, there you've got your two

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characters sitting in a coffee house, trying to have a serious

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conversation with you like, Man, I don't want this to feel so

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heavy. Make the waitress fun, right? Like make them make the

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barista big hazard character that your vehicle is gonna have

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to swerve around in order to in order to create a seat and what

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I find what's funny about us as writers is, when we successfully

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write a hazard character, we end up wanting to bring them back

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all the time. Oh, absolutely. Because they're super fun to

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ride. It's fun to do. Yeah, they're super fun to ride so

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we're constantly wanting to bring them back. So you know,

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they end up being a great tool for character growth. Because

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you ever repeated seen with the hazard character. You can put

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them at multiple times in your book and we can see how your

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lead character responds to them. Different time the way he grows

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along way so I love it. One of my

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favorite authors, Friedrich Bachman, who wrote a band called

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oath, he has a repeated scene at the beginning of the end of the

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book, where oh goes to the Apple store to try to get his iPad

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fixed. The Apple store employee is definitely hazard character,

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he is a generations separated from of the just the pure

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stereotype of that generation. And so the first time he goes

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out, he gets angry, and he ends up not getting what he needs.

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And he's mad, and he kind of storms off. The second time, he

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goes in with a friend. And we see that of his grown, he's

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learned to embrace community, which is a part of a big part of

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the plot of OBEs AUVs character growth. So it's that getting

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those hazard characters in there, and then showing them

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repeat, allows us to demonstrate that character growth over time

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in a way that doesn't feel heavy handed to the reader. Right,

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right. Like, it doesn't feel like something. The reader is

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not like, Oh, I see what you're doing here. The readers just

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enjoying the scene. It seems organic. It seems organic, if

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you want to see this, like if you want to see this on

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steroids, the old movie with Bill Murray, Groundhog Day,

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right? Oh, my God is Bill Murray, his love interest and

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then an entire cast of Hazzard characters. He just keeps

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they're all big personalities. They're one note, right? Like,

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and he just keeps encountering them over and over and over

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again. And that's the whole that's it. Yeah. That that that

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Flanders, right, like, it's just this like constant. You know,

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let's repeat the same characters over and over. And we can see

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Bill Murray like change around them. So grow, change and grow

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as he encounters them over and over, finally, becoming the kind

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of person who could like function in this community in a

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positive way. Right. And actually deserved the girl, you

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know. Yeah. I mean, maybe there's a I have questions about

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the ethics of that movie, but it's great for hazard

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characters. Not so great for morality. That's a whole

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different

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question, especially the part about the piano. Yeah. Yeah. So

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weird. Yeah, totally convinced us that piano teacher that she

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does eat. Yeah. And there's a it's funny, there's a, there's a

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theory online or not a theory. There are blogs online dedicated

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to figuring out how long he is in that movie. It has to do what

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it is, it is hundreds of years to do the things that the master

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the skills that he masters, hundreds of years of living that

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same day over and over again. Awful

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fun to watch. So when you pull him back to the dialogue and the

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balance between dialogue and exposition, how should dialogue

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look in your novel, and I think it does have an appearance. It

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does. I feel like well, the first thing I do when I edit a

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piece is I just open the Word doc up and scan it. Because I

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can tell. I can tell like, Oh, if this is exposition heavy, I'm

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gonna see a whole bunch of heavy pod like heavy paragraphs

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paragraph after paragraph after paragraph. I tell writers like,

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hey, try to keep it less than a, if you keep it less than five,

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three to five is kind of the sweet spot of like how many

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expositional paragraphs you can have in a row. Try to keep it

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less than a bit, I'll get documents especially in like

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fantasy and sci fi. Were were like 15 to 20 paragraphs in

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weird pages. And before Yeah, I have a line before we have a lot

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of somebody talking. But the best writers, you know, I just

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picked up a John Grisham, he has a book of short stories. He's

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one that I grew up with love read his work. And I was just

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again, like, every time I pick up a new book by a writer who's

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you know, made an impact. I'm always like, I wonder if these

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things play out. So I picked it up and I was reading it and sure

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enough, he never goes more than five paragraphs without having

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somebody speak to somebody else. And it's not necessarily that we

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need them speaking is that we need them interacting with each

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other, right? Like we need a scene, we need a moment where

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they can get together so when I'm looking at dialogue and

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exposition, the first thing I do is I skim the page with my eye

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and I can tell like okay, this there's a lot of exposition

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here, we got to figure out why. There's or there's there's not

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enough dialogue. The other thing I can see right away is like,

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are you giving the good segments of dialogue? Are there like good

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interchanges between characters? Or are you breaking those

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exchanges? Those interchanges up with exposition in between? So a

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lot of times authors write like, you know, good, you know,

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exchange. Character A says this character B says this paragraph

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of summary of character A's thoughts. Character B says this

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character a says this paragraph of somebody of character A's

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thoughts, and when you drop in those paragraphs, you lose all

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of that great energy you're getting from these characters

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interacting, that the reader really wants to be present.

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You're keep zooming in and out of the scene and you're good

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To give the the reader whiplash by like, pulling them in the

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same tone of malice and pulling them and pulling them out. So

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when I scan a document, I'm like, Alright, do we have a ton

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of exposition? Or do we have good segments of dialogue where

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I can be like I can see in this manuscript, where the characters

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are interacting, if I can get those two things down, then we

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have something to work with. Otherwise, I'm having to do like

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seeing or construction, like, all right, we're gonna rebuild

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these scenes from scratch, right? I think people who are

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very able to have a single character on the page, and it's

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very dynamic, but there's generally something else going

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on in the background, to help them along, and they're

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interacting with their environment in some way. And

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also maybe having an inner exchange. But that's pretty much

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the only thing only time I want to see them kind of alone. If

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they're really fighting it out with themselves, and a dog that

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they can talk to.

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I was working with one author. Yeah, well, so you know, the

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ideal is characters interacting, because we get the exchange of

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emotions and expectations between the two characters. If

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you really have a lone wolf character who's by themselves

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all the time, then there are some cheats you can use to like

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substitute that character interacting, you can get them

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talking to inanimate objects, right? Like you get them talking

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to things that are around them that they deal with, like a

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famous example of Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway, right? We

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cannot watch him for two hours on a beach by himself will go

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insane. Nobody will tolerate that. So the game of volleyball

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they put a face on it gives the most dynamic conversations with

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this stupid volleyball. And the way they do it is that the

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volleyball actually at times looks like it's responded to

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him. So it's that like, you know, you can get them talking

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to inanimate objects. A lot of times they'll see authors have

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them talk to pets, or talk to other animals that don't

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respond, but kind of get like a personalization. That's not the

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right word. Personification, there we go, that they give you

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they give the animal personification where it's not

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speaking, but it's cocking its head, it's, you know, whining,

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it's barking, or if they're like me, they actually say the lines

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for the animal. Yeah, my animals are always talking to me because

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I give them voices. Yeah. Why not? But it's that key to like,

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have your giddiness in the scene by showing the character

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interacted with something. Andy Weir's The Martian. That, yeah,

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he interacts with all kinds of things. And the better example

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that I think is his book, Holy, Holy Grail, holy grail. No, Hail

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Mary. Hail Mary. Exactly. Hail Mary project. Yeah, where he's,

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he's constantly interacting with a spaceship, and he's talking to

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it. It has a computer voice that talks back to him. But he's

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starting to do it even when the computer voice doesn't interact.

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And then an alien comes into play that can't talk back with

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him. But they're interacting constantly, and their

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interactions are so interesting. And that's what we want, we want

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the thing about interactions is that it's not that people

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talking to some magic thing was like, Oh my gosh, we gotta be

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talking. It's that character interactions drive us into a

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scene and we want to be in the scene, the easiest way to do

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that is to get characters interacting. You know, if you

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don't have to characters interact, you got to start

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figuring out like, don't have to care just talk to each other.

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You got to start figuring out like, Okay, what is the lead

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character interacting with? What's the vehicle interacting

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with, that allows the vehicle to communicate expectations and

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emotions, right? I've seen, I've seen books where the vehicle

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talks to themselves, and you have their inner thought and

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their exterior vocalization, right? Like so. They're

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literally having a conversation with themselves, like it's, you

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know, but you just have to get that vehicle interacting with

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something when he says vehicle, he means like, the main

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character, the main character, yeah, the lead character.

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Sorry about that. Not the spaceship. I folded the

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dialogue. Dr. Lego, the dialogue is, you know, you have the main

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character. Yeah. Not the vehicle. Yeah, the main

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character gets him like interacting with something. I

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love that. Yeah. And I thought the Tom Hanks Castaway example,

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was really great. And people should go study it when they're,

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how am I going to write my characters solitary scenes,

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because there's almost always at least, there's almost always one

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scene where they really need to kind of be alone with themselves

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and figuring stuff out. But that doesn't mean you can't add

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hardship. Yeah, interaction with the environment. And again, I

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wouldn't go Yeah, and I would encourage you don't have one,

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have if you're gonna have one have several, because we want to

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see the character change over time. So you have to give us

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those repeated scenes. So you can see that changing come over

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time. So don't just if the character is going to talk to

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their car, don't talk to the car wants. Talk to the car four

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times, have four conversations with the car. So we can see at

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the beginning and at the end how the conversation

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The car changes over time, right? Like, if your character

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is going to talk to the dog, don't just talk to the dog one

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time, talk to the dog multiple times so that we can see, you

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know, in the house of this really and see, the character

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lioness is alone a lot he talks to his cat. And the cat is

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definitely personified in its body language. Right like, so

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it's that like, figuring out how to get that character

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interacting with something, I think is so important for those.

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For those lone wolf for those lonely isolated characters.

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Writing pursuits is run by Kathrese. McKee, who has been

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trusted by fiction authors since 2014. To take their writing to a

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new level of excellence. Guthrie's is a three story

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methods certified editor who specializes in story

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diagnostics, coaching, and line editing to help you prepare your

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story for the journey ahead. For more information, go to writing

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pursuits.com. The link is in the show notes. And now, back to the

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podcast. One more question. Yeah, in the process of writing

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a book, do you recommend just writing from the top, you know,

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as it comes to scenes, exposition, dialogue, whatever?

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Or do you, you know, in your personal writing? Do you do it

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like a screenplay, where you're writing the dialogue? And maybe

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a couple of beats along the way? I'm going to answer it in two

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ways. The first way, the first I'm going to answer is like, how

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do I recommend you write the second one, I'll give you an

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exercise to improve your dialogue. So I recommend you

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write in whatever way motivates you to write Writing is hard

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enough. If you're big into plotting, like I'm a big

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plotter, I cannot start a book until I have a spreadsheet. And

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my spreadsheet will have every major plot point. Now as I'm

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writing, they all change, I can't start until I know where

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I'm going. Right? That's part of my personality. I also can't go

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on a trip until I know where I'm going. Right? Like, it's part of

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who I am. I know writers who like if they know where they're

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going, they feel like they've already been there, they can't

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know where they're going, they have to just sit down and start

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writing and figure it out as they go. That is also beautiful.

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If that's what excites you do that. The key is, however you

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write however, whatever we are motivated to write, keep the

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dialogue centric, keep the character interactions that like

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zooming into scenes, the majority of what you're doing so

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if you're a plotter, I tell writers like okay, every scene

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you plot, it has to be this character and this character are

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what are like these characters are what right, like, we got to

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get that conflict, we have to get that scene described as the

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characters interacting, just go ahead and do it in your plot

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that you know Jake meets with X character and this happens or

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like, Jess goes to find a new apartment. And don't stop there.

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Be like and sits down on a couch with code Coach Nick and Schmidt

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to and they interview her right like take it to the take your

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plot beat all the way to the character interaction. Because

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that's the scene you're actually writing. Don't start with

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Jessica is to find an apartment, give us like what happens, like

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go ahead and plot out what happens. If you're a pantser.

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Start with the characters talking to each other, you can

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always come back later. And add in whatever scene you know,

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whatever description you need, or summary you need. Or if you

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have to start with a summary because I know writers I've

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worked with writers that are like I have to summarize what's

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been happening before the scene to get into the scene. I'd be

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like, great, write your four paragraph summary. Get into the

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scene. And then before you save it, go delete those first four

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paragraphs, theater, like if that's what you got to do to

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write. Do what you got to do to Write Right Just be ready to

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like I'm deleting all of that. Like for me. I have to I have I

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have a weird thing in my brain. I have to start a scene

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describing the room. It's the weirdest thing I cannot not do

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it. i Every scene I write. I start describing the room there.

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And so I've just learning to the rule though, because I have seen

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so many writers who they're just, you know, bla bla bla bla

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bla bla bla and you don't know where they are? You don't know.

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Yeah, gotta give them special context. Yeah, well, I in the

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book I talked about you need four things in a scene you need

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spatial context you need to, we've talked about it is in the

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dialogue or community is like the stage of the reader's

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imagination. So in the book, I talked about the stage of the

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reader's imagination. on that stage. I have to have the

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scenery. I have to have the characters I have to know who's

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in the room. If the Toby who's there. Do not surprise me. Three

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pages in that Carlos has been here the whole time. Don't do

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that. If Carlos has been there the whole time. I better know a

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couple paragraphs in that Carlos is also here.

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You know, I'd already Carla's talking. He was sitting Carlos

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sitting over in the corner silently brooding, that's fine.

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I just need to know that he's there in the room, because his

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presence in the room changes the scene. So if he's not there,

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like, if you give him to me three pages in that I have to

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reimagine the whole scene. Oh, crap. Carlos has been here the

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whole time. So no wonder Willie was acting really weird. So

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that's like, I need the scenery I need who's in the room, I need

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the emotional tone, I need to understand how I'm supposed to

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feel about this. Specifically, how that vehicle character that

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lead character feels about what's going on. I need to know

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that I need to know what the conflict is, I need to know and

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all of the all four of those things I got to know early, I

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got to know like, what is the problem here that this scene is

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trying to solve? So if I can get those four, but that being said,

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there is an exercise I encourage writers to do, which I tell

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writers, if you write 10,000 words this way, my experience is

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you'll never go back. So not you'll never go back to writing

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your normal way. You'll never go back to writing non dialogue

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centric scenes, right? So write 10,000 words. Yeah, right,

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right. 10 scenes to 10. Because we usually, I find writers

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typically write 2000 to 3000 words in a sitting, I do. Yeah,

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write for 10 times, write only the dialogue, initial the

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character's name, what they say initial character's name, what

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they say what the initial, what they say initial what they say.

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And then after you write only the dialog, then come back and

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fill in the exposition you need. If you and then then you can be

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done with your scene. If you do that 10 times, you will

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transform how you see scenes, because you will start thinking,

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okay, what are we talking about? What are we talking about in

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this soon, you'll start getting there. And now also more than

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ever, because we're so we're living in this golden age of

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visual media, visual media, I was gonna say the same thing

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where we can, we can binge to our heart's desire. And, and and

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if it's not gripping, we can turn it off and go somewhere

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else. Absolutely. I realized that.

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This was just a couple of weeks ago, I realized like, Oh, crap,

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I live in Baltimore. And I love Baltimore, there's a Baltimore

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movie in the diner that's very famous that launched a ton of

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careers that I've never seen. I was like, I should go watch

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that. I had it in 30 seconds, right? Like it is a movie from

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the 80s. There's no reason when I was a teenager, if I wanted to

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watch the diner, I might have to get like two to three different

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blockbusters to find the one that might have it in stock, and

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then I could rent it. But I can get a hold of whatever I want.

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And so knowing that, we just have to take into account that

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like, our books need to feel more like movies than they have

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before. Right. And that's so that means they have to be

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dialogue centric, they have to be screenplay ready. So I

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encourage writers like take 10 turns, take 10 writing sessions,

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and just write write it as a screenplay. First, you don't

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have to do all the formatting, you don't have to do the leg

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loglines none of that I don't want any of that. I just want

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you to write the characters talking first, and then come

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back and fill in the exposition. And it'll change how you write

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after you do it. 10 times you can go back to writing how you

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normally do. I actually tried that experiment, by the way. So

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how did you did it? How did it work? Yeah, it worked great. And

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I thought it strengthened strengthened my grasp of writing

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entirely. I mean, I have written, I've written five

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books, and I'm writing a six. And the sixth one is the one I

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did that with, I just use it as an experience. And yeah, I can

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testify here, that makes me super happy. sure about the

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verdicts we have. And all those things about the big seats with

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a lot of characters. You know, I I bit off more than I could do

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there. Yeah. Yeah. Where I had like, six people on the six or

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seven people, they almost all the time. Say, Yeah, you know,

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after struggling and struggling, it was oh, you know, split into

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groups have some Yeah, that are on stage, have some that are off

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stage. If they come across the stage, well, then, you know,

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that's fine. But

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you know, it's been an interesting byproduct of all of

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this work I've done over the last two and a half years on,

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like understanding dialogue and building these tools and you

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know, it's down. I appreciate the Masters so much more than I

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used to. Right. Now. You know why they're great. You know why

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they're great. Now, I picked when I pick up a Stephen King

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novel, I'm like, Man, this guy, nails character interactions, he

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crushes character interactions. He makes you feel so much that

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his lead characters feel and it is you're like yeah, that's why

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Yeah, he writes horror. Yeah, he's you know, he right. He's

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kind of defined the horror genre. Yeah. But the reason he

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could do all that is because

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As this guy can just slam character and actions, right,

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you know, I read toward Toni Morrison. And I'm like, Yeah,

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Toni Morrison stands the test of time we continue to read her

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work, beloved is a forever classic. Because Toni Morrison

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can write hell of some great dialogue. Like it's just, and

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you're just blood, her character Sethi and Paul D, have such an

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Denver have such amazing voices. And beloved, the four characters

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in the book have such amazing voices, and their scenes with

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all four have a minute, and they're incredible scenes.

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They're just, and it is what reading is like reading a map.

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It is reading a master work, you're like, Yeah, this is a, I

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am watching a true artist wield these tools in a way that I

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can't do it on my own. Or it's like, we study it, and you study

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it. Yeah, I study it, I read it, I improve and I watch it. And

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I'm like, Man, this is incredible. Or I tease the dial,

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we have a running joke in the dialogue, Dr. community that,

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you know, I always bring up Infinite Jest by David Foster

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Wallace, because it is it is the prime example of a book with no

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plot. It has no plot, it is just a it is a insanely long book of

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scenes that are taken completely out of space and time. They are

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just, there's actually a mathematical formula. I've one

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of the dialogues sent me one time that like, well, if you do

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this mathematical equation and rearrange the chapters based on

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this equation, you get to find the plot of the book.

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And so I was like, I'm not doing that. But people love people

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love that book. And the reason I love that book is because he is

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a master of dialogue. There's a scene, one of the opening

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chapters, there is a scene of a character who is being talked at

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by he's a tennis player, and he's being talked out by his

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parents and professors and their like, his coaches are there and

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they're having this big conversation. And as they're

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talking, he's going he feels like he's having a seizure. It

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is the most amazing scene that you know the conversation is

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just the dialogue is incredible. The way he works all the

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characters integrate their the modulation of their voices to

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express emotion is just flat out mesmerizing like it is and you

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read it you're like yeah, that's why people read this book, even

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though it has no plot like this is this or like I really like

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Cormac McCarthy who's has weird grammatical things going on in

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his books, man. The character interactions in the road are

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incredible. The father and the son on the road are just

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heartbreaking to watch these two characters interact, or like I

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just read I just reread Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale. All

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right, I had forgotten talk about authentic and well

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designed character voice, I had forgotten how powerful because I

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watched the TV show and the TV show that will kind of blended

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in my head together. I forgot how powerful the vehicle

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characters voices. And she's got these scenes, these chorus

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scenes where ALL OF THE HANDMAID'S are together in the

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room and the two odds lady and I can't remember the other answer.

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I can't either. Yeah, are talking or putting these women

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in the center of the room. And, you know, saying this, kind of

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having them confess their sins, and then the chorus that they

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don't it's not called the course of the book, but the chorus of

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voices that you know, and we all said Shame, shame, shame, right,

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like grouping all of the other handmade sales to get

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together in that singular voice, right. And then to allow the

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lead character, one sentence of reflection about how it felt

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good, and just crushes you, just like this is that it's just that

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understanding. You know, Margaret Atwood knows how to use

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her tools. And she is just a master craftsman swinging those

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tools around and it just you know, is I think studying

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dialogue in this way has not just made me a better writer but

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makes me a more appreciative reader. More readers will speak

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in a book so like, talk to me about the book and when and how

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people can get it and Okay, before Yeah, so the book, it's

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weird to transition talking about Master writers to talking

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about my book because

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this is the funny truth.

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So the book is, don't do that.

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Okay, well, so let me say I Kevin intentionally short, I had

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a debate with some of my editors. About like, should we

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Hey, call these masterworks we've been looking at it and put

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it in there and make it like a Robert McKee size book of like

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700 pages, right? And I was like, you know, the problem with

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those is that I read them slowly, and I read them like

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reference material, I don't read them like a book. And so it was

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like, well, let's get, let's keep all of those, like, let's

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keep all of that big weighty stuff out. And let's just get to

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the principles. Let's keep it hard and dirty, and, and fast.

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And like, Hey, here's the concept, here's the tool, here's

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what here's the way to use it. That's good. Here's some

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exercises to do. Like, here's some examples. Here's some

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exercises to do. So I is a incredibly practical book,

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there's eight tools, you're gonna pull out of it around

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dialog, we go big to small, it looks at the first set of looks

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at like the construction of dialogue, versus exposition, and

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then the actual like components of dialogue. And then we talked

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about the different types of scenes, we talked about the

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different ways to open scenes, and then we get into character

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voice. We talked about character voice, we talked about voice

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modulation. To show emotion. We talked about voice modulation to

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show character growth. And then finally, we talked about

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Cassville. They're like, let's put it that tells me is that is

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highly usable. That's the goal. This is something you can read

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the day and will ideally walk away going like okay, there's a

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couple concepts in here. I can start trying immediately.

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Yeah, so it's, and you can get it anywhere. It's it's wide. So

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right now as as of this recording, it's on preorder as

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an ebook everywhere, people find you, oh, people can find me the

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dialogue doctor.com That's the best place to find me. And you

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can find me in a lot of ways there. There's a free newsletter

Speaker:

that comes out once a week, there's the podcast that comes

Speaker:

out once a week, the podcast is a lot of me. Part of what I'm

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excited about for the book is that, you know, like I said, the

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community has been going for two and half years, and we have

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developed our own shorthand. And even people who like aren't part

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of the Patreon, who just come on the podcast to do editing

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sessions. It's really fascinating me if you if we

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listen to our early editing sessions, I do a lot of work of

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like, Hey, don't summarize, hey, pull this summary out, Hey,

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don't, you know, let's take this summary. And let's make it into

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a scene. I don't I haven't done that for like a year, because

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the people doing sessions with me have been listening for a

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year. So they have the shorthand. Yeah, they all have

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the shorthand, and we'll get on a call. I realize a lot of times

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like, well, this last episode, I was on with Ponterio. And

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they've been a part of the community for a long time. And

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they are an excellent writer. And then I've done tons of

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sessions together. And, you know, we were just throwing out

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like engineer include anchor vehicle hazard without

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explaining them. And I was like, Man, I gotta get this book into

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people's hands so that they can actually listen to the podcast.

Speaker:

So you can find me on the podcast, I do master classes on

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August 8, sorry, August 5. I think it's August 5 is a

Speaker:

Saturday, I'll be teaching a four hour masterclass on using

Speaker:

the Enneagram to design character growth. So we'll talk

Speaker:

about like the nine archetypes and then for 30 minutes, we'll

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look at the nine archetypes and then we'll spend three and a

Speaker:

half hours talking about like, what is character growth? How

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does character growth work? Like how can we use these archetypes

Speaker:

as examples of like showing characters that grow like so?

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Yeah, so there's all kinds of places you can find me there.

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And then I will say, if you're gonna buy the book, I recommend

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the paperback because there's a lot of charts in the book. And

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it's tough to know how big the charts are going to be on your

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ereader. So if you're reading it on your phone, I cannot

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guarantee that the type of those charts will not be 2.4. So

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microfiche? Yeah, I would recommend getting the paperback

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because the paperback I can't control the size of the charts.

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So right, right, right. There's a lot of there's a lot of charts

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where we're like comparing things. That's awesome. Okay,

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well then that's called the dialogue doctor will see you now

Speaker:

how to write dialogue and characters. Characters readers

Speaker:

will love they would get the whole subtitle and by Jeff

Speaker:

Elkins e LK ins and you can find Jeff at dialogue. dr.com Thank

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you so much for Thank you. This was fantastic. I love talking to

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you every time. I enjoy it. You. Well have a great evening. You

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too. All right. Thanks. Thanks. Bye. Thank you for listening to

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the podcast today. If you enjoyed this episode, please

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leave a star rating and follow the podcast. If you're new

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around here. I hope you will sign up for writing pursuits

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tips for authors, my newsletter that comes out most Thursdays

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when health and life permit that link and all the links mentioned

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in today's episode are in the show notes and writing

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pursuits.com

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Please join us on Wednesdays for new episodes and keep writing my

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