Friday, July 30, 2010

Jacqui Murray Guest Blog

Hi everyone! Please help me welcome guest blogger Jacqui Murray.

I was born in Berkley California to Irish-German parents. After receiving a BA in Economics, another in Russian and an MBA, I spent twenty years in a variety of industries while raising two children and teaching evening classes at community colleges. Now, I live with my husband, adult son and two beautiful Labradors and I write. I write fiction books, how-books, five blogs on everything from the USNA to tech to science, and a column for the Examiner on tech tips.

Blog Post:

Dialogue is a Window to Your Novel’s Soul

Think about your favorite books. Why do you love them? Without fail, it’s because
· The story was good. It might be great, or just good enough, but it kept you involved. It wasn’t mundane, ordinary or like all the other books you’ve read
· You liked the characters. The author made sure you got to know them, and when you did, you could relate to them. You got into their heads, you heard their inner thoughts, you found out they were good and decent people even when they weren’t perfect. In short, they were like you. Very few books survive with dislikable main characters.
· You learned from it. This doesn’t have to be factual knowledge. It might be life’s lessons, or how to think through an emotional problem, or how to handle a difficult person. Learning about survival is as important as book learning.
Doesn’t sound hard, does it? So how do you do it? There are lots of factors required for a book to be a best seller, but none more important than dialogue.
· How characters talk gives them a unique voice. You should know each character by how s/he’s presented in the book–his/her word choice, actions as they talk, mannerisms, accents.
· Dialogue moves the story forward while keeping you the reader intimately involved. Dialogue happens now. You don’t know what will happen next. That builds drama and excitement, makes you keep the book open as you turn the pages. Too often, in the narrative parts of a story, that intensity is missing. Readers are comfortable sitting back, relaxing outside of the real story, knowing it’s going to work out fine.
Here are some hints I’ve cherished in the years I’ve been writing. Read them over. Select those that you can own and remember them:
· Make dialogue authentic to your character. If you wouldn’t mention the beautiful roses, don’t have your character mention them, even if you’re desperate to flesh out the scene. Figure out a different way to do it.
· Don’t worry about your grammar, unless your character is a professor. How many people in real life make sure they don’t put a preposition at the end of a sentence?
· Watch those tags. ‘Said’ is fine. ‘Blustered’ and ‘lectured’ might not be. They might be affected. I often avoid tags altogether by having the character do something before he speaks, like ‘Zeke slurped his coffee. “I just said that.”‘
· Avoid dialogue that doesn’t advance the story or is the meaningless give and take routine in everyday conversation. Yes, we want dialogue to be true to life, but don’t bore us. Leave out the stuff about ‘she said hello, then she asked how he was, then she mentioned how hot it was.’ Get to the point or your reader will be so bored, s/he’ll put the book down.
· Add to the reader’s knowledge with dialogue. Don’t repeat what we already know. You can do that with a quick, ‘She told him what happened at the park’.
· Use dialogue to show and develop relationships between people. Isn’t that what conversations do in real life? Why not in your book?
That’s it. I’m not going to make this more complicated than it really is. By the time all of the above becomes routine, you’re ready for publishing.
For more tips on how to write, visit my blog at WordDreams (

Building a Midshipman: How to Conquer the USNA Application. There are lots of how-to books on getting in the Naval Academy, but they’re quite dry and impersonal. Mine is from the perspective of a woman who did it (my daughter!) and how she accomplished such a lofty goal. It’s very down-to earth and should give confidence to any teen, male or female, considering a military academy as their college of choice.

My Computer workbooks for grades K-5 and the Computer Lab Toolkits are geared for parents with nominal computer skills, homeschoolers and lab specialists. They outline the method I use in my classes that get kids from the most basic of computer skills in kindergarten to Photoshop by fifth grade. It’s a curriculum I developed over the years and I’m not surprised it works. It is now being used in school districts all over the country.

Anyone interested in my books, here is where you can find them:
*My publisher’s website is
*My action/thriller, To Hunt a Sub, is available as an excerpt on
*Anyone interested in the sequel to To Hunt a Sub, the techno-thriller To Hunt a Cruiser, please leave a comment on my WordDreams blog and I’ll let you know when it’s out.
*My six technology workbooks are available on and the publisher's website. The ebooks are available on
*My two computer lab toolkits are available on and the publisher's website. The ebooks are available on
*Building a Midshipman is available on and the publisher's website. The ebooks are available on
*My Building a Midshipman site is USNA or Bust.
*My Computer Lab Toolkit and Technology Workbooks site is Ask a Tech Teacher
*My writing tips blog is WordDreams
*I also write a column for I invite everyone to read that, add comments, follow me!
*Oh—my Twitter handle is @askatechteacher

Thank you Jacqui!


  1. As a homeschooling Mom--some of these look very interesting!

  2. You might like my homeschool site-- I have lots of free stuff there for teaching tech to kids.