The Lord Meets His Lady by Gina Conkle

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Gina Conkle who is celebrating the upcoming release of The Lord Meets His Lady, the third book in her Midnight Meetings series.

How to Create Page Turning Dialogue by Gina Conkle
Dialogue is a much-debated topic in romance. One day you’re at a conference and a bestselling author spouts rules of dialogue. The next day, you’re reading another bestselling author’s book, and she’s broken every one of those rules.
How do you navigate writing with mixed signals?

It’s maddening…like driving in Italy. My one trip to Florence highlights this point. Our car had the green light. We started to go when another car zoomed through a red light. My husband’s Italian colleague slammed the brakes and shrugged it off with, “Red lights. They’re suggestions.”

The same phrase was said in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. Maybe it’s an Italian thing, but the spirit of those words stayed with me. In writing, it’s good to learn the rules. Then you can break them. After all, your job is to woo your reader, draw them into the world you created.

This is why one rule guides me: Don’t get in the way of your story.

But every traveler needs a roadmap. Here are five suggestions:

1. To Tag or Not to Tag

You may have heard the only dialogue tags you need are said and ask. It’s true. You can get by with said and ask. But where’s the fun in that? I use whisper, coax, call, cry, murmur, or nothing at all. You know when dialogue sounds clunky. It can happen as easily with said and ask as yell or whimper.

The point is, tell your story. If an offbeat dialogue tag does the trick, be judicious, but go with it. It’s your voice. Don’t be afraid to drive outside the lines.

2. Nonverbal cues speak louder than words

Less than 10% of our communication comes from what we say. The next tier (more than 30%) comes from vocal elements such as tone, pitch, and rate of speech. The final tier (more than 50%) is pure body language with hands and eyes top contenders.
Here’s a challenge. Grab some paper and create columns for nonverbal cues: tone, pitch, rate of speech, breathing, eyes, eyebrows, mouth, nose, hands, fingers, chin, etc. Then, go through a current manuscript and put a hash in each nonverbal cue column. Did you discover certain writer habits? I once had a reviewer nab me for too much “head snapping” and you know what? She was right!

Mix up your nonverbal cues—like the boob shoulder. Marilyn Monroe made this pose famous: a woman’s coy glance past her shoulder (bare is better). Men view it as sexual. Women generally view it as favorable and friendly.

Actions speak louder than words in life and on the page. From page one to “The End” vary the body language.

3. Be aware of gender differences in speech patterns and behavior

Men tend to be less profuse with their facial expressions. They will tease or use more vocal cues such as sarcasm in dealing with sensitive topics, while women are more stream of conscious talkers. Men give less eye contact during conversation and frown or squint more. It means they’re mulling over what’s being said. They prefer being shoulder to shoulder in conversation while women prefer being face to face. Women tolerate interruptions more than men.

Don’t be afraid to turn gender norms upside down. While the above is scientifically proven, consider the outliers. There are blunt women and effusively verbal men. Consistency is the key to character authenticity.

4. It’s in the voice

Do all your characters speak like east coast college grads? If they are east coast college grads, fine. Now dig deeper. Look at their verb choices. Do they have pet phrases? A manner of speaking which reveals personality?

If number three above was the how of character speech, number four is the what. In one of my books, the hero was a well-educated man while the heroine was self-educated. She is fighting tooth and nail for every bit of progress. I made sure her voice reflected that on the page.

Men use commands more often than woman, and in a problematic situation, women ask more questions (to the chagrin of the males in the room). And that brings us to the next interesting point.

5. Dyads are it

Do you feel overwhelmed when writing a scene with three or more people? It’s a lot to juggle. Intimacy can get lost in the shuffle of setting and action. And what do you do when you’re writing, say a band of brothers series? Secondary characters need to shine for your readers to fall in love with them but not take over the book.

Dyads foster intimacy. In interpersonal communication theory, this means communication really is between two people and two people only. Person A speaks with person B and vice versa. They are both aware Person C is with them, but communication is always between two people. Person A can shift to Person C (thus creating a new dyad and Person B is out of the connection). This is why small group scenes can overwhelm. Ever had feedback like “There was too much going on” or “It was too much of XYZ characters”?

How does this translate to say a boardroom or ballroom scene?

Be aware of the dyads you create. More than ever, each word matters in an ensemble scene. You’ve heard the wisdom, if you show the reader a bat in chapter one, it better come back at later in the story (i.e. foreshadowing). Likewise, with your secondary characters and their dialogue, make it count.

Ask yourself, if their words reveal character? Move the story forward? Or feed the conflict?

If you find you’re writing group scenes, and the heroine and heroine’s arc is drifting, shift gears. Bring them together. Focus on a private moment in a crowd before returning to the ensemble cast. Your reader will feel the connection.

And that’s what dialogue in romance is all about.

Thanks for hosting me here. ~ Gina

Lord Marcus Bowles has stained his family’s reputation for the last time. Only after spending a scandal-free year restoring some far-flung property can this second son return in good graces. But Marcus isn’t one to abandon a lone damsel on a dark country lane.

One stolen kiss and Genevieve Turner’s handsome midnight savior disappears. Typical. No matter, Gen is finally on the way to her new post, and hopefully to finding her grandmother as well. Instead she finds her mischievous hero is her new employer. Surely a few more kisses won’t hurt…

Enjoy an Excerpt:

She yanked the door wide open, blinking at bright sunlight and an even brighter man.

Her breath caught. “Lord Bowles.”

“Miss Turner, how nice to see you again.” His greeting alone could be a proposition the way his voice caressed her name.

She stood mutely, the floor uncertain beneath her feet. Behind him the Beckworth geese waddled through the yard, their orange beaks poking the ground. The rogue followed her?

Her mind spinning, she blurted, “What are you doing?”

Hazel eyes glinted beneath his black tricorn hat. “I’m standing on your doorstep. Will you let me in?”

“No.” She stuffed the crumpled letter in her pocket. “Mr. Beckworth and his brothers aren’t here. They have business in Learmouth Village.”

Creases deepened at the corners of his friendly eyes. Lord Bowles wasn’t put off. There had to be a social nicety for this, but where she came from, if you didn’t want someone at your door, you told them.

“I know they aren’t.” His voice dropped lower. “I came early to see you.”

What was she supposed to do about this? A polite refusal formed, but his lordship’s vision snagged on her cleavage before popping back up to her face.

A scoundrel always showed his true colors.

She crossed her arms and leaned against the doorjamb, all pretense of a proper servant gone. “And who’d be calling? The honorable vicar?”

Lord Bowles chuckled. “I apologize for the surprise. Mr. Beckworth and I are longtime friends. I started to tell you about the connection when we repaired the coach brace.” He paused and took a measured tone. “But our road side conversation went in a new direction before I had the chance.”

She smarted when he said a new direction, a stinging reminder she’d pleaded with him to hide her true identity…from his friend no less. What a neat bit of trouble this was. Did his lordship think she was here to steal the family silver? A laughable thing since the humble Beckworth cottage had none.

“Then you would be the old army friend coming to dinner,” she said flatly.

“I am. Worse for the wear but not…so old.”

She shoved off the doorjamb, her mind assembling all the pieces. His lordship’s gentle humor was a balm in this clumsy moment. Lord Bowles was tonight’s honored guest and the reason for the small feast she was preparing in the kitchen. She wanted to tell him to come back later, but Mr. Beckworth might take offense if she did. What would a proper housekeeper do? There was also the matter of her character, such as it was. She didn’t want Lord Bowles thinking ill of her.

Mildly chastened, she clasped dough-flecked hands together. “I am not a thief, milord. If that’s your concern, please know I’d never cause harm to Mr. Beckworth or his family.”

“I believe you.”

Never had three words sounded so lovely. They’d rolled off his tongue without a second’s hesitation. She hesitated. Shutting the door on Lord Bowles wouldn’t be wise. Letting him in didn’t work either.

“I knew there was a possibility our paths might cross,” she said, stalling in hopes wisdom would strike.

“And you thought I’d pretend we’d met for the first time should we be introduced in the village.”

“Yes.”

Lord Bowles nodded, hands clasped behind his back. “While I don’t believe you’re out to harm Mr. Beckworth, this still makes me complicit in your deception…against my friend.”

Her status hung in the balance. Did he have concerns about her circumstances? Or was he in search of a dalliance? Power was his.

“Does that mean you’ll not mention my real name or The Golden Goose to Mr. Beckworth?”

“I already gave my word.” He flashed a disarming smile. “Now will you let me in?”

She was doomed. Lord Bowles was trouble on two legs. He knew how to open doors with his smile alone. A sculpted lower lip balanced his thinner upper lip, a scale of sensuality and wit. Her solitude and better judgement were about to be breached by a consummate flirt wielding his version of honor. Men were by no means a novelty. She was skilled at brushing them off or being unnoticed when the mood struck, but she’d have to face facts.

London allowed obscurity. Cornhill-on-Tweed would not.

“No harm in showing you to the parlor. Mr. Beckworth and his brothers should return within an hour.”

He stepped inside and passed his hat to her, sunshine crowning his chestnut-colored hair. “Any chance you’ll sit with me awhile?” He stretched free of his black redingote, the collar brushing curls at his nape.

“None. I clean the parlor, milord I don’t sit in it.”

He laughed at her bald rejection, and a single lock slipped free of his queue’s black ribbon. The curl hid behind his ear, the strands a sun-kissed contrast to the rest of his brown hair. The vulnerable lock of hair begged to be neatened. She hung his hat and coat on pegs, glad for her hands to have something to do. Lord Bowles stood less than an arm’s length from her at the cross roads of proper and intimate, a winsome smile on his face.

And her wish to be a respectable domestic slipped a notch.

About the Author: Gina Conkle writes sensual Georgian romance and lush Viking romance. Her books offer a fresh, addictive spin on the genre, with the witty banter and sexual tension that readers crave. She grew up in southern California and despite all that sunshine, Gina loves books over beaches and stone castles over sand castles. Now she lives in Michigan with her favorite alpha male, Brian, and their two sons where she’s known to occasionally garden and cook.

Website

Buy the book at Amazon, Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Chapters, iBooks, or Indiebound.

Comments

  1. Thanks for hosting me!

  2. An interesting point about not letting group scenes overwhelm a dyad, but sometimes a story needs a group scene so that the hero can see another side to the heroine (or vice versa) by observing how they behave to others,

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