How do I come up with the dialogue and little details in a scene?

by A.J.

I have an unlimited number of story ideas. My outlines are thorough and complete. I can give a summary of each chapter, know how I want the overall story to begin and end. My problem is that when it comes to writing dialogue and articulating little details of what happens within the scene. I fall flat. I draw a blank. I lose interest in the action of the overall story.

To combat this, I hired a ghostwriter to write a couple of my books based on my detailed outline (James Patterson does the same thing with his co-authors). The ghostwriter was able to fill in the technical details of dialogue and description and make my book complete. The results were great! However, I want to be able to do that myself.

How do you find the ideas for the creative little details of each scene that help tie the overall story together? I seem to like shorter works that are fast paced action, leaving little room for back story or drudging along. Is that a clue that I should be paying attention to?

Answer: Yes, you do have to pay attention to your emotions as you write. You should always be interested, if not excited, by what you are writing.

That said, writers do have different natural styles. Some are more verbose, others more terse.

Whatever your natural style, you can only get good at description through practice.

Some people, like you perhaps, are better at figuring out the big picture of how the story will unfold.

Others are naturally better at the storytelling level--the actual words. They may start out writing poetry or short stories, but find a novel-length plot too daunting.

Whatever your natural tendency, you have to practice the aspects of writing where you are weaker so you can develop what is missing.

In your case, you might practise with writing prompts (google this term, you'll find lots). As a weekly exercise, try writing one short scene at a time, or a piece of poetry, or a conversation.

At the same time, pick some books whose style you like and pay close attention to how the author writes each scene. You might even try coping sections in longhand, which forces you to concentrate on each word.

Another exercise you may find useful is what I call the secret of specificity. Here's a link to an article showing you how to build a scene using this technique...

Best of luck.

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