me thinks

when the characters snub the words I put in their mouth

I can’t seem to write dialogues that sound natural. Sometimes I can, but those times come very, very rarely. Usually what I write sounds hammy. As if I’m forcing the two characters to converse, or that I’m deliberately making them say stuff that left to their own devices neither would ever think to say.

I hate myself. I’m a crappy writer.

Okay, maybe not crappy – but way too amateurish.

In any book I read, conversation is always the highest selling point for me. I need to be sucked into the situation – need to think that these two/ or three/ or the whole army would really say things in a certain way. I get to know more about a character from what they say than what they do. They reveal their past to me, the reasons behind their actions, their feelings and what tickles their humour.

Without conversation the characters are dead to me. Sure, a poignant story can still be written without any conversation at all. Isn’t that what Flash Fiction all about. Haven’t we all had the same reaction when we first read Hemmingway’s little gem?

 For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.

I don’t deny it. But in a novel – a full-length story with all of 300 pages in it, every word typed in size 12 Arial or Times New Roman – I need words spoken between characters.

They are such powerful tools in the hands of the right author. More intimate than sex, sometimes sweeter than the sweetest first kiss and sometimes more brutal than any dagger stabbed and twisted in one’s guts.

Just saying. Words. Beautiful, wonderful words. When two lovers first meet what mundane, indifferent words pass between them? How well can the author later bring back those words and contrast them with the urgent, passionate exchanges that come with development of unexpected feelings?


I like to think that someday I’ll be good enough to write a scene where a commonplace exchange between a milkman and an elevator operator would hold my readers rooted to their seats.

Now, wont that be just great?



Book Country

For those of you who have been living in very, very isolated holes for the last month or so, here is something all readers and ‘will someday be great’ authors should know about.

Book Country is a Penguin subsidiary that allows members to join for free and upload their (original) works of fiction for other authors\members to read and critique. You don’t necessarily have to be an author to become part of the community. The site went into ‘open beta’ a week ago and is growing quickly. Every new member must review and critique at least three works of other members to be able to ‘post’ their own drafts on the site’s shelves. From there it is up to the author’s ability to critique, make connections and otherwise gain the notice of the community for their works to get reviews quickly and frequently.

The other ways for the story to get attention is its presence on the ‘yet to be discovered shelf’, the tags and genres the author has registered their story under (which get actively browsed through by lovers of a very nifty little thing called the ‘genre map’ and users of ‘search books’) and to be recommended to other members either by their connections or by the author themselves.

I’ll tell you how this site is helping me. I have uploaded two stories (only the first few chapters in each) in two different genres- epic\high fantasy and historical romance.

I joined last week and my books have got 3 and 1 reviews respectively. I think the reason my high fantasy story got more reviews is because ‘fantasy’ was the genre I concentrated on when I began critiquing other members’ works. Also, there are more authors of fantasy fiction on this site than historical romance. I’ll rectify this later when I have more time.

I’m not saying that it’s tit for tat. Even if you don’t do a single review beyond the first necessary three, in time (if your story is any good)  you’ll find reviews compiling on that book’s page. There are three separate star ratings that the reviewers give your books. These are calculated by the site in a complicated way that I don’t get. But what is obvious is that the more you review, the more you comment (basically, the more others give your comments ‘constructive’ points), the better advertisement it is for your books and the star ratings are affected too.

You also get badges for your activity on the site.

There are Buzz and Popular shelves for books that have either been reviewed and rated highly or have been picked up by the BC staff to grace the latter shelf. Generally the top ten in any genre can be found on these shelves.

You never know when your work might be noticed by someone who can help get you published, but the most important thing about the site is that almost every review you get is very thorough and almost always constructive. The community is small now, so maybe that’s why I haven’t seen too many badly or half-heartedly done reviews (there is of course the threat of a bad ‘constructive’ point affecting your own book ratings) but the staff is vigilant and I think this is better than most of the critiquing sites that authors pay to become members of to get opinions on their stories!

Every review I have got till now has (correctly) pointed out obvious gaps or inconsistencies in my narrative that I had missed. (Duh, I’m biased.) They also corrected my techniques and discussed my devices. Since many of the members are professional writer, critiques, agents and copy editors (not there to view our work but to get reviews for perhaps their own first novels) you have to take their words to heart the right way. No use being offended. If the advice seems sensible give them points for it and use it in your next draft.

Remember that it’s still in its beta mode, so there are silly beta troubles- but mostly they are more funny than annoying.

You can check the site out and see if you like it. If you want, visit my profile on book country and connect with me. If you can spin a good yarn, I’ll definitely read and review it. :]