Shark River

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Dindi is kidnapped to be the bride of a shark... To escape she must untangle a terrible curse caused by a love and magic gone wrong.


This stand-alone novella is set in Faearth, the world of The Unfinished Song. Available here ONLY.


The Unfinished Song - This Young Adult Epic Fantasy series has sold over  70,000 copies and has 1,072 Five Star Ratings on Goodreads.

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June 22, 2015

How to Improve Your Book’s Blurb (Guest Post by Rayne Hall)


by Rayne Hall


The blurb (book description) on the book’s back cover and online product page is the most important part of the book. Almost everyone reads or at least skims it before deciding whether or not to buy. It probably plays a bigger role in your sales than any other factor.



If the book description goes on and on, the reader gets bored—and looks at the next book in the catalogue instead.

Many authors load their book description page with a lengthy synopsis, subplots, commentary, author bio, purchased reviews and other material, in the hope that this will persuade the reader to become interested in the book. But the reader who visits your product page is already interested. Don’t bore her away!

The description needs to stir the interest into an urgent desire to read the book, so the reader either clicks to get the free sample or to buy the book at once.


Suggested Action:

Shorten your blurb. Cut all superfluous material—you may be able to use it elsewhere in your promotions. Model your blurb’s length on that of the bestsellers of your genre. 200-800 words is usually enough.



In an attempt to do the book justice and reflect every nuance of content, writers often cram too much into the blurb. This leaves the reader confused.

Better to focus on one aspect of the book, and present that well. Keep it simple.

Unlike a synopsis, the blurb should not reveal the plot. Otherwise, the reader doesn’t need to read the book to find out what happens.

A good blurb is a teaser. It presents an exciting situation that the reader can’t resist.


Suggested Actions:

Keep it simple and get straight to the point.

For non-fiction, show what benefits the reader will get. (Example: Writing Fight Scenes: “Learn step-by-step how to create fictional fights which leave the reader breathless with excitement.”) Add some key features of the content.

For a novel, focus on the main character’s major goal and conflict. Leave out subplots, minor characters and all the enchanting details.

Focus on the first couple of chapters of your book. Leave out anything that comes later.

Do you have a tagline, logline, elevator pitch or similar short teaser for the book? Flesh it out with a couple more sentences, and you’ll have an irresistible blurb.



Many blurbs leave the reader unmoved. Without emotional involvement, the reader doesn’t feel compelled to read the story.


Suggested Actions:

Here’s a powerful method to make the reader care. Start the blurb with the character’s goal. Whatever the character wants or needs that sets the events in motion, state it. Example: “Debutante Arabella needs a husband.”

Add the reason why, but without explanations. Simply reveal what’s at stake or what the dire consequences of failure would be: “Debutante Arabella needs a husband, or her brother goes to prison.”

If you can create a sense of urgency by mentioning a deadline, even better: “Debutante Arabella needs a husband, and she needs him by Christmas, or her brother goes to prison.”

A sentence “[Character] needs [goal] before [deadline], otherwise [drastic consequences]” is an irresistible hook for any reader who enjoys the kind of story you’ve written.

Add another sentence creating an emotional dilemma: “But the only man she loves is betrothed to her best friend.”

Finish with a question. “How can she protect her brother without betraying her friend or her own heart?”

This gets the reader’s imagination going, and she’ll want to read the story.



Your writing style for the blurb needs to be exciting and punchy. Many blurbs are vague, clumsy, or cluttered with phrases that add no content.


Suggested Actions:

Give every sentence at least one vivid verb and specific noun, and scrap most adjectives and adverbs.

Avoid Passive Voice sentence structure (“When her son is killed by native warriors…”) and use Active Voice where possible (“When native warriors kill her son…”).

Delete phrases that carry no content (“This book is about…” “This story tells how…” “What happens next…”)

Delete sentences in which the character thinks, considers, understands and realises things. Focus on the action.

Tighten the phrasing. Avoid “he starts/begins to” and “she finds herself”. Instead of “He starts to plot revenge” write “He plots revenge.” Instead of “She finds herself journeying into the jungle” write “She journeys into the jungle.”



Every genre has certain words which send delicious thrills down the reader’s spine and get her imagination going. They signal that this book contains the kind of story she loves.

In Regency Romance, words like ‘ball, governess, rake, rogue, elopement, scandal’ capture the reader’s imagination, while for Westerns it may be ‘stagecoach, sheriff, outlaw, hanging, posse, saloon’ and for High Fantasy ‘sword, wizard, enchanted, magic, prophecy, quest’. They act as an open-sesame.

If your blurb lacks the magic words, the reader will move on to look at another book.

Suggested Action:

Make a list of the thrill words of your genre (or genres, if your book straddles several). Choose the ones which fit your story and insert two or more into your blurb.



For a short while, I believed the ‘gurus’ who urged authors to make blurbs as long as possible. I wrote 2000-word blurbs and stuffed them with keywords. When book sales dropped instead of rising, I realised that readers don’t want to read long blurbs. They want to read books.

June 19, 2015

How to Write a Novel Without an Outline

Writing CraftSome writers out there might have objected to Shawn Coyne’s outline-centered approach in The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know.

Staurt Horwitz would agree. He hates the term “outline”… so he calls his system a “method.” I wondered if this was just semantics, but after reading both his books, Book Architecture and Blueprint Your Bestseller, I was convinced he has a unique approach worth studying.

Interestingly, Horwitz is used to coming at a book, like Coyne, as an outsider intent on evaluating it. In other words, he assumes the writer has a draft and now wants to do know what revisions the book needs to make it better, or make it “work.”

Coyne was working for a Big Publisher, so he learned to distinguish a viable commercial novel from a lovely but niche literary novel from a novel with no obvious readership at all. Coyne’s first loyalty had to be to the publisher, and, indirectly, the reader, so his question was: Who and how many would pay money to read this novel?

Horwitz worked for many years a Book Doctor. That’s a private content editor that authors who can’t get Big Publisher’s to buy their novels turn to in order to figure out how to make their books better. Or sometimes the writers don’t even care about publishing their book. It’s a private project, like a memoir or a spiritual declaration that they are writing for themselves. And then there are the deluded writers who think they can write something completely idiosyncratic, personal and possibly insane, like their True Life Memoir Novel about their Alien Abduction which is a Romance, Thriller, Historical War Story and a Spiritual Text for the New Cosmic Age as well as a transcription of Xthoww’s Infathomable [sic] Word, all at the same time…and they are convinced this will be a bestseller.

Horwitz’s job is to please the writer not the reader, even the demented followers of Xthoww’s Infathomable [sic] Word. He doesn’t ask if anyone would ever want to pay money to read his client’s books, but only strives to help each writer achieve their own vision for their novel.

In Blueprint Your Bestseller he provides 22 steps to revise a book draft, and these steps include finding your one sentence Theme, creating a Target with concentric circles of how closely a scene illustrates this theme and then figuring out which of your scenes are actually hit anywhere close to the Target. This is a great technique, but it still doesn’t tell you if your Target is the right one to aim for if you want other people to want to read your book.

Say you think you are writing a mainstream Romance, but your theme is “True Love Isn’t Enough,” and your story ends with the couple separating. (Maybe, as in the original ending of Pretty Woman, you have the heroine decide to go to college instead of getting her man.) Every scene in your so-called Romance novel could bullseye that target. It’s still not going to fly.

In fact, in Blueprint Your Bestseller, he tries to apply the same advice to nonfiction and fiction. To me, the needs of nonfiction and fiction are so different than any catchall approach waters down what is most important to know about writing each one. It’s much easier to see if a chapter is “on target” in a nonfiction book than in a novel, for instance. Repetition means something entirely different in nonfiction than in fiction. Finally, nonfiction its own multiple genres, as does fiction, none of which are differentiated by his method. (I still found Blueprint Your Bestseller a useful and worthwhile read, but for my purposes, Book Architecturewhich hones in on fiction with many case studies, better matched my focus.)

However, although for me, the commercial viability of a book is an important consideration, it’s not my only consideration, or even (to my husband’s consternation) my main consideration. We all know of books that are so formulaic they feel emptied out of real content. Indeed, these kind of books are what give us a horror of formulas in the first place. I want my stories to be riveting, but I also want them to be beautiful.

Charles Baxter discussed this ineffable feature of a story in an essay in his book Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction.

It’s customary to talk about effective language or effective dramatic structure in fiction, but almost no one ever talks about beautiful action. At first glance, it’s a dubious category. For years I have wondered how to define beautiful action in fiction, and whether it’s even possible. I don’t mean actions that are beautiful because a character is doing something noble or good. I mean actions that feel aesthetically correct and just–actions or dramatic images that cause the hair on the back of our necks to stand up, as if we were reading a poem. My conclusion is that it often has to do with dramatic repetition or echo effects. I think of this as rhyming action.

…When we see two similar events separated by time, it’s as if we are watching an intriguing pattern unfolding before we know exactly what the pattern is. I don’t think that the pattern has to explain itself to be beautiful. It doesn’t even have to announce itself. In fact, I think it’s often more effective if the echo effects, the rhyming action, are allowed to happen without the reader being quite aware of them.

I love this idea of “rhyming action,” but how to employ it? Horwitz, although he doesn’t call it “rhyming action,” gives examples from well-known novels and novellas that illustrate this technique. As in his first book, Horwitz shows the method in action at the simplest level first, in a Children’s story, “Corduroy.” (This does make the method clear, though it also shows how even a Children’s book is much, much more complex and harder to write well. This explains why so many people think they could “easily” write a Children’s book…after all those books are short!… but they can’t.)

He applies the method to The Great Gatsby and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, to Catch-22 and to Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, as well as to the shooting scripts for Slumdog Millionaire and The Social Network. (You can see how some of thee stories have a more exclusive readership and some have mass market appeal, so even here, he doesn’t give any help figuring out whether your book will be commercial or literary.)

All of this might sound as though there’s nothing useful in his method, however, which is not true. Horwitz’s method is useful in shoring up some of the weakness of the Coyne/Bell model.

Coyne, like James Scott Bell, often illustrate their Narrative Structure formula with movies. Many of the rules they lay down, especially Bell, apply well to mass market movies and novels with a linear structure: a single hero, a limited period of time marked by a deadline, an A-plot supported by a B-plot that kicks in at specific intervals….

What about story that spans years, decades, or centuries? What about showing multiple points of view? What about flash-backs or flash-forwards? What about introducing cultures or whole species that are unknown and alien to the reader? How does the 15-point Bell Formula handle that?

Pretty much, it doesn’t.

It gives you a place to start. But you need more.

What I love about the Horwitz method is that it shows how to handle complex novels: multiple points of view, multiple timelines, and multiple storylines. It teaches how to braid storylines.

I have only one more grievance with Horwitz: his choice of term. He calls the central feature of his braiding method a “series.” But since every single novel I write is part of a series, in the usual sense of being part of a connected universe or even single narrative arc, I find this term more than distracting, I find it downright vexatious. It confuses me every time I see it. So, I’m not even going to use that term in my blog. I’m renaming it a Reiteration.

Reiteration: The repetition and variation of a narrative element, such as a character, a setting, a relationship, a symbol, or a phrase, so that it becomes dynamic and creates meaning. Each repetition with variation is an iteration of the narrative element.

Reiteration Arc: A Reiteration must have at least two iterations. If it has at least three iterations, it also has an arc. This can be a Narrative Arc, following the Aristotelian structure of rising and falling tension, or it could follow its own logic of ups and downs. Even in a commercial book, not all the Reiteration Arcs need be Narrative Arcs, if they are the storylines of supporting players, or if the type of Reiteration is a setting or a phrase. One of these Arcs will be your central storyline and the others will be supporting story elements.

Reiteration Grid: A Reiteration Grid allows you to track all your Reiteration Arcs visually. You can use graph paper or an Excel file to write track each arc in parallel columns. My method which I learned from my father is to color code each arc/PoV scene on different stick-it notes and put them in a notebook.

Reiteration Target: Each Reiteration asks a question—the same question in every iteration. The final iteration answers the question. Examples of Reiteration questions are, “Who is the murderer?” (Each clue is an iteration.) “What is the heroine’s secret?” (Each instance the secret prevents her from declaring her love for the hero is an iteration.) “Will the One Ring corrupt even the good-hearted hobbit?” (Each time the hobbit puts on the Ring, or is tempted to do so, is an iteration.)

Theme: Every Reiteration question relates to a single overarching question for the book, answered by the end of the story. This question is simple and timeless, which means that standing alone, it may sound cliché, as naked, timeless truths always do. Justice will prevail. Love is more powerful than prejudice. Compassion has a strength beyond mere brute power.

Next, I’ll look at how this method can help us write a Genre book along with a strong Narrative Arc, which is of more interest to me than a literary novel that may or may not have a traditional plot or clear ending.

Buy  Book Architecture and Blueprint Your Bestseller.
Sign up for my Writer’s Tips newsletter if you would like to enter a drawing to win a signed & numbered print edition (one of a limited collector’s edition of 250) of Stuart Horwitz’s book.

June 12, 2015

What Are the Obligatory Scenes for Genre Fiction?

Writing CraftI’ve been reading The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne. It’s a meaty book on writing, from the point of view of an editor who has an eye for highly popular, commercially successful books.

His method is similar to Scott Bell’s Save the Cat outlining method, and since I’m a fan of that, I found this highly useful as well. My biggest takeaway is the concept that any given Genre has certain Obligatory Scenes along with its usual conventions.

For instance, he lists the Obligatory Scenes for a Mystery. My order is a little different than his, and I’ve added my own nicknames to the steps:

  1. The Crime: A crime is committed—usually a murder.
  2. The Crime as Trigger: The crime must occur reasonably early in the story.
  3. The Criminal Mastermind: The criminal must be clever enough to have hidden his identity sufficiently that it’s not obvious from the start who committed the crime.
  4. The Detective: The investigator must be clever enough to solve the crime. If he’s not a professional (cop, PI), he must have some special skill or knack that helps him uncover clues others miss.
  5. Now It’s Personal: At some point, the investigation becomes personal for the investigator.
  6. Clues & Red Herrings: The investigator finds clues, but some clues are red herrings.
  7. J’accuse: The investigator uncovers/confronts/denounces the criminal.
  8. Justice Theme: The ending results in justice, injustice, or ironic justice.

In a Medical Drama, like House, the Obligatory Scenes are exactly the same, but the “criminal” is a disease and the “detective” is the diagnostic doctor. The “suspects” are not being accused of a crime, but they are people who must be interrogated to find clues about the true identity of the mystery disease. As in any other mystery, many of the suspects lie to protect themselves for various reasons, leading to red herrings.

For Horror, he lists these Obligatory Scenes:

  1. Fate Worse Than Death: Something more than life is at stake. A fate worse than death is possible, such as torture or damnation.
  2. Monster: The villain is far more powerful than the hero, possibly even supernatural.
  3. Speech in Praise of the Villain: Early one, someone describes how insurmountably powerful and/or awesomely evil the monster is.
  4. Hero at the Mercy of the Villain: There’s a scene near the climax where the protagonist seems to be utterly powerless against the villain.
  5. Double Ending: There is a false ending where the villain seems defeated, but isn’t, followed by the real defeat of the (real) villain.

Thrillers, he says, are a combination of both these kinds of Obligatory Scenes.

Those are the genres he’s most familiar with, so unfortunately, he doesn’t give his take on other genres more of interest to me, such as Romance, Fantasy, or Science Fiction. So I’ll try my own hand at it.

For Science Fiction/Fantasy we’d need:

  1. We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: We must learn early on that this universe differs from ours because it has some magic/tech that our universe does not.
  2. Rules of the Universe: We must have some insight into how the magic/tech works—not the mechanics of it, but the global rules, such as who can use it, what it allows, etc.
  3. All Magic Has a Price: There must be limitations to the magic/tech, a cost to using it.
  4. Magic Makes Trouble: The magic/tech must shape the character and/or society in a way that drives the plot. The magic/tech or the society it enables, creates the problem.
  5. Magic Aides the Hero: The magic/tech must also be relevant to how the problem is solved. (Even if the solution involves destroying it, as in Forbidden Planet, or being destroyed by it, as in 1984.)

Hm. I’m not sure if those are really Obligatory Scenes, in the same way that “Hero At the Mercy of the Villain” is a scene. I think there’s a real danger in both fantasy and science fiction of making those “telling” rather than “showing” scenes. Hence, the dreaded infodump: a pitfall for any novel, but speculative fiction especially. It is better if each of the above Obligatory features of sff are crafted as scenes.

If many of the usual scenes one might expect are missing, it’s because we often conflate Fantasy (especially) with a Quest plot. A Quest plot or an Epic plot has its own Obligatory Scenes and conventions, such as the Search for the McGuffin or Acquiring the McGuffin, the Final Stand Against Evil, etc.

But not all Fantasy, and certainly not all Science Fiction, involves a Quest or need be Epic in scale. I do think all fantasy & sf, even odd forms such as Literary Fantasy/SF, need to have the five features I’ve listed.

I’ll give Romance a shot. I think it’s easier, ironically, because there are more strict requirements.

  1. The Cute Meet: Meeting the each other is an unusual, even life-changing event, or occurs during some life-changing event. (If they knew each other long ago, this is replaced by an Unexpected Reunion. Sometimes, the Cute Meet is included too, as a prologue or a flashback.)
  2. The External Problem: Something outside the heroine and hero keeps them apart.
  3. The Internal Problem: Some internal wound keeps the heroine and hero apart.
  4. The Draw: Despite the problems, something forces the heroine and hero to spend time together.
  5. The First Kiss: The heroine and hero express their attraction for the first time.
  6. The First Fight: The heroine and hero quarrel, but overcome their difficulty.
  7. The Commitment: The heroine and hero admit to loving one another or in some way commit to one another.
  8. The Betrayal: Despite their commitment, either the external force or internal force keeping the lover apart threatens to separate them forever. There seems to be no way to overcome this.
  9. Love Conquers All: The heroine and hero overcome the betrayal, proving the strength of their commitment (even, in a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet, or a romance without a HEA like The Titanic or The Notebook) despite death). In other almost-romances, or romances involving very young teens, an ambiguous “happily ever after for now” is acceptable.
  10. The Happily Ever After (HEA): In a true sits-on-the-romance-shelf genre Romance, as opposed to a strongly romantic story that might end tragically, the hero and heroine remain in love, remain together, and remain alive: they live happily ever after. Their HEA may be confirmed in an epilogue, or whenever the couple shows up in later books (about other couples) of the same series.

Just as Coyne says you can figure up the Obligatory Scenes for a Thriller by combining Mystery, Action, and Horror requirements, so you can figure out the Obligatory Scenes you’d need for a Paranormal Romance by combining the Fantasy and Romance requirements.

For instance, you still have a Cute Meet, but it should also let the reader know that magic exists in this world. (For instance, she finds a lamp and a sexy, overpowering Genie appears, offering to be service her every whim; or she is a werewolf hunter saved from a werewolf ambush by a mysterious hunk.) You will still need an External or an Internal problem, and it should be caused by magic. (For instance, the Genie despises her for enslaving him, but she has no way to free him from the spell; he doesn’t want to tell her that he’s a werewolf too.)

Knowing the Obligatory Scenes is not the same as having an outline for a novel. Not even close. These are simply the minimum requirements needed to center a novel within a certain genre.


Buy The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne

June 1, 2015

How to Write Riveting Captivity Scenes (Guest Post by Rayne Hall)


If you’re writing a novel, is there a scene where the heroine is imprisoned or locked up against her will?

Here are some techniques to make this scene powerful.

  1. If possible, make the room dark or semi-dark. Perhaps she’s locked up in a lightless cellar, in a dungeon where only the flames of the torches flicker in the gloom, or in a chamber where the villain has cut off the power supply. Maybe there’s a single window is so high up and narrow that it lets in scarce light.
  2. Solitary confinement is scariest. If your heroine is alone in that room, with nobody to talk to, the reader worries for her. She may shout “Is anyone out there? Can you hear me?” and get no reply. Alternatively, she may have a companion in her captivity – until that person gets led away for execution.
  3. Let it be cold. The place is unheated, the protagonist is not wearing many clothes, the air is chilly, the concrete floor is cold, and if a blanket is provided at all it is much too thin.
  4. Use sounds. Sounds create unease and fear in the reader’s subconscious – perfect for this type of scene. Here are some ideas:
  • Rodents’ feet
  • Shuffling straw
  • Fellow captive’s sobs and snores
  • Agonised screams from another cell
  • Clanking door
  • Rattling keys
  • Screeching lock
  • Guard’s boots thudding outside
  1. Mention an unpleasant smell or two:
  • Sour stench of urine
  • Excrement from previous prisoners
  • Old sweat
  • Blood
  • Rodent excrement
  • Rotten straw
  • Mould
  • Food
  1. Mention how something feels to the touch. This works especially well if the place is dark.

The fetters/handcuffs/bonds chafing at the wrists/ankles

  • Pain from bruises
  • The texture of the wall
  • Texture of the door
  • Cold hard floor
  • Rough blanket
  • Cobwebs
  • Sodden straw
  • Chilly air

Perhaps you can involve the sense of taste as well. However, this may not be appropriate for all captivity scenes.

If the villain has gagged her, you can describe how that gag tastes. If she’s in a dungeon or prison, describe the flavour of the food. The food quality is probably appalling, but if she’s hungry, it won’t taste too bad.

  1. While she’s imprisoned, she can’t do much beyond explore her surroundings in search of a way out. She will probably think more than she does during fast-paced action scenes. When sharing her thoughts and feelings, make sure she doesn’t wallow in despair. Although she may feel dejected, she keeps searching a way out. Create a tiny hope, let her plan. Later, this plan will fail, but it’s important to show some hope in order to create suspense.


If you’re planning or revising a captivity scene for your novel and have questions, leave a comment. I’ll be around for a week and will reply. I love answering questions.

November 7, 2013

Only a Couple Days Left To Join my NaNoWriMo Workshop!

Registration for the 30 Day Novel Workshop closes soon so sign up today and get day-by-day and step-by-step video tutorials and tips for writing your NaNoWriMo novel. You can follow the videos at your own pace and will have access to all the videos through the end of the year. In addition to the free workbook, there are resource guides and special bonuses to help you achieve your NaNo goals!

Check out the FREE intro videos here. They’ll only be available for a couple more days!
With the 30 Day Novel Workshop you’ll get:
  • Daily tutorial videos targeted to fix any problems arising with you novel, and speed you past creative blocks into a whirlwind of creative brainstorming.
  • Practical, easy tips and tricks you can apply IMMEDIATELY to make your plot rock and your characters connect with your reader.
  • Blueprints, workbooks and resources you can turn to for help with specialty scenes — how to write sensuous love scenes, how to build suspense, the special rules to follow to write exciting brawls and battles — and much more.
Not doing NaNo? This is still a great resource for anyone dreaming of writing that novel someday!
October 22, 2013

Writing Craft: How To Give Your Novel a Gut-wrenching Black Moment

A guest post from Rayne Hall. 

If you’re writing a novel, consider a Black Moment about two thirds into the book.

At this stage, everything and everyone has turned against the hero (who can, of course, be a heroine).The hero is under pressure and close to giving up. Internal and external conflicts have increased to the degree that your hero can’t bear it any more. His girlfriend has broken up with him, his allies have deserted the cause, he has been fired from his job and evicted from his home, the villain’s henchmen are closing in, and his big secret has been exposed in the press. Under pressure, he is close to giving up. To make matters worse, his girl has been abducted and will die unless the hero surrenders the proof of the villain’s machinations… and he can neither rescue her nor deliver the documents because he’s locked up in a prison cell. All seems lost.If you can think of another way to make it still more difficult for your hero, pile it on.Make it still more difficult by taking away his means of communication – the mobile phone (British) or cellphone (American), the internet connection, the humans who might carry a message.

Only a tiny shred of hope remains that the hero will achieve his big, important goal.

The hero feels rage, despair and a whole cocktail of other emotions. Consider adding fear: he fears not only for himself, but for the safety of his abducted girlfriend, as well as for the people in the building the villain is about to bomb, for the survival of the human race, or whatever is at stake in your story.

Turn the suspense volume up as high as you can. The “ticking clock” technique works well. The hero has only a certain amount of time – perhaps one hour – to escape from the villain’s clutches and rescue his girlfriend, defuse the bomb or save the world. He is aware of the time ticking away. You can emphasise this by actually showing a clock. The hero sees he has thirty minutes left… then fifteen… ten…five…two…one. This builds enormous suspense.

Let the reader feel the hero’s physical responses to the tension: the aching neck, the dry throat, the sweat trickling down his sides.

The blacker you make the Black Moment, the more exciting the Climax and the more rewarding the End.


If you’re a writer and have questions, please leave a comment. I’ll be around for a week, and I’ll reply. I love answering questions.

About Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror StoriesSix Scary Tales Vol 1, 2, 3, 4 (creepy horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight ScenesThe World-Loss DietWriting About VillainsWriting About Magic and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.

Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England.

October 15, 2013

Writing Craft: Body Language in Dialogue Scenes

A guest post from Rayne Hall. 

Body language can add another dimension to your dialogue scene, because it reveals a person’s intentions, feelings or mood.

The five main types of body language are gesture, posture, movement, facial expression and tone of voice.

Gesture Examples

She pointed to the orchard. “I saw him there.”
He slammed his fist on the table. “I’ve had enough.”
She scratched her chin. “Are you sure this will work?”
“Welcome.” He pointed to the couch. “Why don’t you make yourself comfortable?”

Posture Examples
She raised her chin. “You can’t make me do this.”
He locked his arms across his chest. “No way.”
She leant away from him. “This isn’t working between us.”
“I consider this an insult.” He stood with his shoulders squared and his legs braced. “Take it back.”

Movement Examples

“Maybe another time.” He turned to leave.
She walked faster. “I told you I don’t want a date.”
“All right.” He shuffled forward.
“Follow me!” She leaped across the brook.

Facial Expression Examples

Her eyes narrowed. “You expect me to believe this?”
His cheeks turned tomato-red. “What do you mean?”
“I’m sorry.” She stared at the floor. “I didn’t want it to be this way.”
The corners of his eyes crinkled, and his lips twitched. “Really?”

Tone of Voice Examples

“We will stand together in this.” His voice was deep and resonant like a church bell.
“I’ve told you a hundred times, and I’m telling you again.” Her voice sounded like a dentist’s drill, high-pitched and persistent. “Why don’t you ever listen?”
“You know that I’m going to kill you, don’t you?” His sounded as casual as if he were discussing the weather. “Do you prefer a shot in the heart, or the head?”
“You’ve been with that floozy again, you cheating bastard!” Her voice was loud enough to wake up the whole neighbourhood.

Body Language instead of Dialogue Tags

Using body language allows you to cut boring dialogue tags (he said, she asked, he answered) because it shows who’s talking.

Tag versions:
“What about the girl?” he asked.
“Bastards!” she shouted. “I won’t let you get away with this.”
“What now?” he wondered aloud.

Body language versions:
He jerked his chin at her. “What about the girl?”
“Bastards!” She slammed her fist on the table. “I won’t let you get away with this.”
He scratched his head. “What now?”

Point of View

Most people aren’t aware of their body language. Therefore, use body language for the character who is not the PoV.

If the body language is intentional, for example gestures, you can use it for PoV and non-PoV characters.

Lies and Secrets

Advanced writers can use body language to hint at secrets and lies. The characters’ words say one thing, but their body language another.

“Yes, tell me the rest of your life story, it’s so exciting.” She glanced at her watch. “It’s a pleasure to hear all about it.”
He hugged his arms around his chest. “I’m not frightened.”
His face paled. “That’s all right, honey. It doesn’t matter at all.”

If a character avoids eye-contact, this suggests that they’re not telling the truth or are hiding a secret.

“Don’t wait with dinner for me tonight, darling. Arabella and I will have to work late again.” He did not meet Sue’s eyes. “It’s a bore, but the workload is getting heavier every day.”

About Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall has published more than forty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), 13 British Horror StoriesSix Scary Tales Vol 1, 2, 3, 4 (creepy horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight ScenesThe World-Loss DietWriting About VillainsWriting About Magic and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, Spells: Ten Tales of Magic, Undead: Ten Tales of Zombies and more.

Rayne has lived in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal and has now settled in a small dilapidated town of former Victorian grandeur on the south coast of England.