Tag Archives: Eric J Gates

…he said, she said… dialogue as ‘voiced’ on the written page by Author pal, Eric J Gates…

…my mate, thriller Author supreme, Eric J Gates, knows more than just a thing or three about great writing… his new book, PRIMED, is launched as I type, a sequel to the maestro’s terrific, the CULL, the first of which series happens to be on offer FREE right now…

Primed.ebookthe CULL bk 1 - Bloodline

…here’s several excellent scribbling pointers for the rest of we quill-scrapers:



‘Dialogue, that’s what we need!’ she said

 Now here’s a thorny subject, if ever there was one.

Should dialogue in novels be real?

A definitive answer?


But first, a word from our Sponsors…


Every scene you write, nay, EVERY SENTENCE, has to do one of two things, at the very least:

It must either move the story forward or reveal character (or both). Never forget this; have it tattooed on your forehead (in reverse) so you can see it in the bathroom mirror every morning before sitting down to write.

And dialogue is no exception.

It can be one of the hardest parts of fiction writing to master. So let’s try to make matters as simple as possible:

Why do we use dialogue?

 Essentially there are four reasons:

  • Conflict: between characters, to perhaps show how they react to one another – a strong domineering personality against a weaker one, for example. Constantly examine if the conflict playing out is advancing the story though.
  • Character: to tell us more about how our characters think and react to the events we create on the page. Care though, you must show this, through speech, not simply tell it (see next chapter). Again, don’t get so involved in developing your character you forget to tell the story.
  • Place and/or Time: writers who produce fiction set in bygone times, or those setting their scenes in some futuristic or alien surroundings do this all the time. As an aside, if you get the chance to watch the excellent TV series ‘Ripper Street’, the dialogue there deserves an accolade for dancing the thin line between authentic English from the Victorian period and modern comprehension – it is so well done, the writers must have had to work very hard at it. This is MUCH harder than it looks, and I speak from experience: In ‘Full Disclosure’ I had to write a convincing US Presidential Address to the Nation – not an easy task for a lad from England. In the first book of ‘the CULL’ series I had to write a book within the novel, purportedly written in the late Victorian era and peppered with jargon and idioms that a military man would use. Both exercises took almost two weeks each, and only occupy a couple of pages in their respective novels.
  • Exposition: to inform the reader about events or knowledge we are not going to show in detail. Watch out for the dreaded ‘Information Dump’ though.

Now, stop reading for a minute, bookmark this blog, go out, find some people and listen to them. (Do not take part in their conversation, just listen).

Pay special attention to what they say, how they say it, and what they don’t say. How much additional information do they convey with body language or gestures and facial expressions? What about idiomatic expressions? Accents? Dialects? Are they just standing there throwing words at one another or are they doing something at the same time? Is one speaking and the others listening (it will be a group of men – we can only do one thing at a time, they say) or is everyone speaking and listening at once (women – it’s awesome – one of Life’s mysteries).

Now come back to your keyboard and try to write a conversation just like the one you have just observed.

It’s almost impossible, but even if you manage it, compare what you have with any piece of dialogue taken from any novel, of any genre, from an experienced author.

What a difference, right?

So how do they do it?

First, dialogue in fiction is nothing like dialogue in real life. We punctuate our speech with sounds (er, hum, humph, tsk, etc – no the last one wasn’t a sound). You should not do that in your novel unless you want to draw attention to it, and then, use very sparingly.

We also interrupt, constantly. Sometimes, if the participants are very familiar with each other, there won’t be a complete sentence!

We raise and lower our voices, give inflections to words that suggest meaning above and beyond the syllables themselves. You can use UPPERCASE to represent shouting, even BOLD UPPERCASE if things get very loud, but again do not abuse. To imply nuances, italicizing a word may help. Again, don’t go mad. Above all, if you do take this approach, be consistent throughout your novel.

Try not to use phonetic speech representation to simulate an accent – the extra work you put your reader through will most often not be appreciated, and you will destroy any pacing you have built. Ah, you might say, I’ve read your ‘CULL’ books and you’ve got an Irishman there and you use phonetics when he speaks! Yes, you’re right (and thank you for reading my novels) but I’ve stuck to a few, repeated ‘ticks’, such as dropping the ‘g’ at the end of a word, and using ‘yer’ instead of ‘your’ thus conveying what I want without making the reader work for it. I chose this form of writing deliberately to highlight that this character is an anachronism. Also, the character in question doesn’t speak a lot. I wouldn’t dream of having pages of dialogue with this character doing this. In my latest thriller, ‘Primed’, I have a Russian Mafia killer and to highlight his use of English I chose to drop whole words from the sentences. Sounds odd, right? But it works!

Regarding idioms and verbal ticks, in ‘the CULL’, again deliberately so in the first book, I had one character repeatedly employ the phrases ‘dearie’ and ‘my dear’ in her speech. It fit with the age and backstory of her persona. When this character does this in book two (twice) she is immediately called on it by another character – you see, it was a devilish plan to highlight the change that has taken place in the life of that particular protagonist. This was an exceptional case, however; normally I would suggest you keep idioms to a minimum. I even play with this in the same series of novels: one character uses the phrase ‘I assure you’ usually when they are lying through their teeth, and I have another character repeat the phrase when they are expressing total truthfulness to someone important – it was a wink within a wink for the observant.

Always be consistent with your colloquial spelling too. ‘Yeah’ or ‘Yes’ but no other variations.

Finally, regarding what’s said in between the double quotes, always read it aloud. Does it sound right for that character?

Now we come to the fun bit. How many times have you stopped reading a novel and had to count lines to work out who said what?

You shouldn’t overuse the name of the person being addressed inside the quotes:

“Well, Alphonse, I’m sure you understand…”

“Sorry, Billy, old chap, but it’s beyond me.”

“Then perhaps our friend, Wilma here can help you out? What do you say, Wilma?”

“I don’t know what you mean, Billy. Alphonse, may be we could talk in private?”

Try to use the content of what is being said to indicate who is saying what to whom.


This bring us on to another common error, he said.

Stick to simple tags to identify the speaker, and only when absolutely necessary. Replace the overuse of adjectives, he said quietly, with better verb choices, he whispered.

Flow is also extremely important in speech, as we have noticed in our listening exercise.

Here’s another extract from ‘the CULL’ which I hope will amuse as it illustrates this point:

Gripping her handset, she strode purposefully toward the door that connected with Katie’s office. As she walked through, the older woman gave a small jump in her seat.



“SANTA has found the trucker’s route data.”

“How do I make a phone call inside here?”

“I knew if I sent a Helper hidden in an email, they would let it loose on their network.”

“I need to call the hospital in Texas. How…?”

“Now I have the guy’s routing data for the last eight years. Let’s see if there’s a pattern…”

“KATIE!” Amy had raised her voice a little more than intended.

Katie looked up from her monitors.

“What? I…”

“I need to call out but my cell can’t get a signal.”

Notice the complete absence of tags and how the conversation flows. There are two people talking almost simultaneously, both focused on their agendas and ignoring the other person and what they are saying. It is a small vignette that also tells us a huge amount about our two characters – both are driven, but in different ways, and to different degrees.

People do not speak logically, not even Mr. Spock. They rarely respond exactly to what has been immediately said before. Machines do this; we humans are far more dynamic.

Something else to note from the extract too, although it may not be that obvious at first: both people are doing something as they talk. We move, eat, drink tea and coffee, scratch ourselves, drive vehicles, etc etc.

Dialogue is hard to master, as I’ve said, and you will probably work at improving how you have written it even more than on the narrative scenes. It can make or break a good tale, so it is very much worth the extra effort, he said.

…here’s the biz on Master Gates:

author of
Suspense Thrillers with a touch of Strange

Latest: Primed the sequel to Outsourced
What’s the deadliest gift a fan could send to a
novelist? And if that fan was a professional assassin?

the CULL- Bloodlinethe CULL – Bloodstone, the CULL – Blood Feudthe CULL – Blood Demon
(the CULL series books 1-4)

FULL DISCLOSURELeaving ShadowsFacets and 2012,
and the non-fiction

How NOT to be an ASPIRING Writer
available AMAZON (paper & e-book) and bookstores worldwide.

check out  http://www.ericjgates.com to read extracts and discover the inside secrets

follow Eric on Twitter: @eThrillerWriter  and on his Blog http://my-thrillers.blogspot.com/

…thanks for that, Eric… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…



Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff

…That Other Man, my Author chum, Eric J. Gates, lets me onto his blog playground…

…I feel less and less like a burglar and more and more like a welcome repeat House Guest when I’m allowed scribbling space on the blog of Author mate, Eric J. Gates… it’s a thriller-writer Paradise over there… here’s what he let me share lately:

My Guest: Seumas Gallacher

Seumas G.

This week I’m very pleased to have a return Guest on the blog; the inimitable Scots Scribe hisself. He’s joined the ranks of those of us who have written… Ay, but I’ll have the man tell you about it hisself. Lasses and Laddies…

Seumas Gallacher

…writing a series is a serious business…

…one of the many things I’ve been learning over the last several years of immersion in this writing gig is that constant surprises are the order of the day…


Amazon Link


…I finished scribbling the first Jack Calder crime thriller, THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACY in mid-2008 and thought I was done… the reality took a while to sink in… I was only just beginning… the simplicity of continuing with the same generic crime/action theme flowed into VENGEANCE WEARS BLACK… plot lines screamed at me daily… the characters had plenty of things left they wanted to get up to… hence the third offering, SAVAGE PAYBACK , and lately, the fourth, KILLER CITY, tumbled from the laptop… the fifth novel, currently Work-In-Progress, DEADLY IMPASSE, is bubbling away nicely… it had never occurred to me at the beginning that a series would evolve, but when the third book was done, it was an unavoidable truth… Jack Calder and the rest of the players had dug in their collective heels… they were here to stay… the take-up from my readership has been enormously gratifying, but I’ve discovered also, that I feel it comes with certain obligations…

front view SP

Amazon Link

…Lawd knows, I LUV the stories myself, else I wouldn’t be doing them, but I dread falling into the trap of ‘formula’ manuscripts and try to guard against it… the disease that all too often afflicts novelists I have read in the past… far be it from me to throw literary stones at some of the major recognised names in the industry, but there are far too many occasions when it’s apparent a successful author has simply produced ‘more of the same’ after a while… the ‘zip’ goes out of the story-telling… the freshness disappears… so, how to guard against the ‘repetition-depletion syndrome’?… here’s a few ideas from this ol’ Jurassic…


VWB cover

Amazon Link

…understand the difference between a ‘serial’and a ‘series’…

…a ‘serial’ is the same story with continuing chapters or sequences or books, and difficult to hold readers’ attention over a lengthy period… fresh nuances and new plot flows for the same story are limited… sustaining these becomes less and less feasible…

…a ‘series’ is a group or collection of independent stories, with something in common… a much easier quill-scraping road to take…

…therein lies the key to it all for me… and why superb Authors like Ian Rankin can produce such attention-holding books ad inforeverum… each book starts over… new twists… unique facets for the players to deal with… but, and the great ‘but’, is this… readers come to know, to recognise, and to like the qualities of the main characters who continue to populate the series… the learning curve for them has already been established… I try to ensure that my books tell a new reader enough about the main people, without flogging the detail to death… that way the new reader is enlightened, but regular followers of the series are not bored reading it again… tell it a slightly different way… allusion sometimes is more effective than labouring the fine points… most readers like to visualise things for themselves about yer characters…

Cover for Violin Man

Amazon Link

character development continuity is important for loyal readers, and that need not conflict with bringing new readers into the game… in fact, if the on-going development of the characters is done well, the ‘newbies’ may go looking for the writer’s ‘back list’… crime fiction with danger and raw action should reflect real life to a degree… it becomes less and less credible if the characters constantly encounter life-threatening or injury-threatening situations without some casualties or even fatalities taking place… I’m not advocating the Game of Thrones approach where every player is at short odds of surviving to the next episode, but life is not always fair… sometimes as an Author you have to bite the bullet and let one or two of yer wee lovelies meet their Maker…

overall continuity through the series for this writer lies in keeping true to the basic tenets that drove the very first book… the concept being that ultimately the good guys win over the bad guys… I make it clear as early as possible in each novel who are the true ‘nasties’ and why it’s a good idea to pursue the hell out of them… that will not change… developing sane reasons for my ‘people’ to be involved is important… I want the reader to join with me in discovering how the team gets there in the end… and it’s not always a ‘slam-dunk’… therefore, I’m obliged to keep my own writing wits about me in unravelling the narrative… and often surprise even myself in the denouements…

…and lastly, but by no means least… I have to enjoy re-reading the stuff I write… that way I attempt to keep true to my mantra… ‘I write for me… the kind of books that I would choose to read’… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…


SEUMAS GALLACHER escaped from the world of finance seven years ago, after a career spanning three continents and five decades.

As the self-professed ‘oldest computer Jurassic on the planet’, his headlong immersion into the dizzy world of eBook publishing opened his eyes, mind, and pleasure to the joys of self-publishing. As a former businessman, he rapidly understood the concept of a writer’s need to ‘build the platform’, and from a standing start began to develop a social networking outreach, which now tops 22,500 direct contacts.

His ‘Jack Calder’ crime thriller series, THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACYVENGEANCE WEARS BLACK and SAVAGE PAYBACK have blown his mind with more than 80,000 e-link downloads to date. His fourth, KILLER CITY was launched in August 2015.

He started a humorous, informative, self-publishers blog three years ago, never having heard of a ‘blog’ prior to that, was voted ‘Blogger of the Year 2013‘ and now has a loyal blog following on his networks. He says the novels contain his ‘Author’s Voice’, while the blog carries his ‘Author’s Brand’. And he’s LUVVIN IT!

When he’s not scribbling away in his cramped garret…

Seumas' pad

Seumas can be found here:

Blog:    http://seumasgallacher.com

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/seumasgallacher

Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/seumasgallacher

Email: seumasgallacher@yahoo.com

Once again I stand elightened by the man in a skirt, er, kilt. May your sporran live long and your haggis be fruitful. Thank you, That Man, for a superb article and wishing you all the success in the world (Scotland) for your new thriller (I have already read it and it’s his best yet, so don’t miss out, folks).

eric @ www.ericjgates.com

..thanks for having me aboard, That Other Man…



Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff

…BLUUDY SAVAGE, it is, this writing stuff, Mabel… the use or abuse of violence in literature… #TBSU…

…my good buddy and superb crime-thriller Author, Eric J. Gates asked me a while ago to do a Guest Blog Post with the topic, ‘the use of violence in our novel-scribbling’… he’s released that today on his web page  http://bit.ly/1h36Qi9  which yeez can click, or read the narrative here, without all the WUNNERFUL fancy cover pages, synopsis, Amazon Kindle links  and bio stuff he incorporated:


…I wonder how often and how many of yeez have the same thoughts that bang around in my little grey cells from time to time… today’s epiphany jumped in a wee while ago… ‘…God save us from those that want to save us from ourselves…’ …it starts when ye’re still an infant, still in yer short trousers… the ‘savers’ raise the alarm about how much violence gets peddled in the movie theatre cartoons… ‘…it’ll warp their minds… create monsters out of them… psychologically damage them forever…’ …well, I don’t know about how yeez all handled that stuff, but watching the likes of Tom and Jerry and the Road Racer invent thirty thousand different ways of bodily annihilation never ever put me off my mince… fast forward to the modern day and the birth of the eBook phenomenon… everybody and his cat wants to write a novel… the favourite literary poison of the day is crime thrillers… which generally means violence and killing on a scale seldom seen outside of World Wars… with the flick of a quill or a tap on a laptop keyboard, victims pile up for the bin men to collect… my ol’ Mama said yeez can never get enough of a good thing… but from a scribbler’s perspective, just how much violence is a ‘good thing’?… the writing clichés abound on how to make characters become ex-persons… all the way from ‘size 10 concrete footwear’ to ‘pluggin’ ‘em’ with three kilos of best cordite-smellin’ lead… ‘fess up time… I’m a crime thriller author… and, yes, there’s more than a tad of violence in my masterpieces…(I’m from docklands Govan in Glasgow, what do yeez expect?)… however, there’s a huge difference in the novelist’s use or abuse of violence… (… ‘gentle’ violence? …surely not?)… readers are not dumb… okay, they’re well-adjusted to the concept of ‘suspending disbelief’ in the interests of story plot flows… but we’re not talking horror genre here… so creating gallons and gallons of gore doesn’t necessarily make for good crime stories… neither does a mild tap on the back of the skull to induce corpses… yeez have to keep it real and credible… most authors will tell yeez that they’d like to have a ‘grab-‘em-by–the–throat-and-pull-‘em-in’ beginning… violence is fair game for that… startle ‘em a wee bit… but there’s the risk of ‘over-selling’ it… once yer character’s dead, leave him dead… don’t overkill him… if ye’re trying to provide descriptive evidence that a bad dude or dude-ess is really bad, he or she doesn’t have to strangle somebody to show that… a well-placed sneer fits the bill just as well… once a reader has made an early judgment on the evil protagonist, it sticks, don’t worry about that… instead, use the impending threat of violence as the tension-builder… oh, and by the way, if the baddies get taken out on the ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ ethos, then it’s perfectly acceptable to visit every kind of savagery on them… the only baddies I ever consistently rooted for back in the old days was whatever criminal characters Jimmy Cagney or Edward G. Robinson portrayed… but by and large, yer readers want the villains to ‘get theirs’… some writers create havoc in the body count and violence while others get by with perhaps a single mortality… it depends on the story context… just don’t make any of it gratuitously violent… there has to be a purpose, even if it’s merely retribution by killing the bad guy, or sculpting sympathy for the killing of an innocent character… it has to resonate with the reader… evoke some reaction… yeez don’t want the reader to actually feel pain, but it’s good writing to have them feel the emotional pain of those close to a ‘goodie’ ye’ve just topped… and nothing beats the reader’s inner cheer when the ‘baddie’ finally gets huge dollops of his own violent medicine… yeez want them saying, ‘…Yes! Yes! Got the s-o-b…’ …by the way, counterbalancing the violence with some ‘touchy-feely’ emotional passages is not only acceptable, but desirable… in the absence of outright humour, a lighter piece gives the reader a breathing space… lets them catch their second wind… believe me, they’ll be grateful and thank yeez for it… so, with all that in mind, go kill ‘em!…

wall copy


Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff

… and the next Guest Blogger, right in here, please … Eric J. Gates… #TBSU…

So , here we go, my great AUTHOR pal, ERIC J. GATES has the floor …

Leaving Shadows

Full Disclosure












Cull book 1











The NSA has let me down again!

Some of you may know I worked in computer security for many a year before turning my hand to the fabrication of fanciful fiction (Sorry about that. I read a book on Alliteration last week – The Absolute Alliteration Almanac for Aspiring Authors, available on Amazon, amazingly enough). Anyway, using my skills, I have been providing gainful employment to the spooks worldwide over the past few years, as I seed various blog posts, web articles and emails with tasty titbits (sorry). What, you cry! Have you been plotting the overthrow of our cherished way of life? No, hang-on a minute! I’m far more subtle than that.

What I’ve been doing is using the National Security Agency’s Prism interface in popular software (PIPS for short), as well as the FBI’s Carnivore system, and of course that old standby, Echelon II, to infiltrate the closely guarded confines (sorry) of Jeff Bezos’ In–tray.


Jeff Bezos. Mr Amazon, to you.

What have I been up to? Well, as any fellow scribbler knows, contacting the Big A with suggestions for improvement is like being an itinerant dragon-slayer in the 21st Century (sorry Wikidribble). I tried sending my well-thought-out improvements to sundry emails hidden within KDP’s support pages, to no avail. So, in a fit of rational reasoning (sorry) that won’t repeat (sorry, again), I hit upon my Master Plan.

In essence, I’d let my fingers do the stalking!

But all my efforts were in vain! Some Snowden bloke has focused all their resources on tracking him down, and they are ignoring me. It’s so frustrating. Here I am, with ideas galore, ways of improving Amazon’s author interface (sorry), yet I am not to be heard by Mr Bezos’ backups (sorry), or anyone that resembles them.

So I say to Big A, until the Snowden thing is sorted and we can all go back to being spied upon by the NSA, GCHQ, FBI, CIA and B&N, could you provide a virtual suggestions box so writers can help you improve the service you provide?

Not asking much, am I?

By the way, just in case the repeated mentions of intelligence and law enforcement services HAVE temporarily tempted (sorry) the said services to Seumas’ blog, I’ve just published my latest suspense thriller, ‘Leaving Shadows’, on Big A. It starts with the kidnapping of the Head of MI6 – that’ll get their attention! Please take note!

Sorry about apologising constantly; we Brits tend to do that. Sorry.

From Eric J. Gatesauthor of thrillers2012 , FULL DISCLOSURE,  The CULL and Leaving Shadows available AMAZON (paper & e-book) and bookstores worldwide.
check out  www.ericjgates.com to read extracts and discover the inside secretsfollow me on Twitter: @eThrillerWriter  and on my Blog http://my-thrillers.blogspot.com/


Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff

…#TBSU, #TBSU…to be sure, to be sure..#TBSU, #TBSU…how easy is that, then..?

ask me to recall the line-ups in soccer teams from years ago for specific matches, and I can probably spout them out faultlessly…I can still reel off tons of telephone numbers of even half-known acquaintances in the days before the mobile phone replaced human brain intervention…charts of the chemical elements, nuances of several languages, prime number derivations…no bother at all…BUT, come to trying to fathom what certain sets of initials stand for, and in barges the ‘DUH-WHAT?’ factor…a wordsmith I may pretend to be, a numerate genius perhaps, but an INITIALIST?…regrets, the single-character-letter  science doesn’t seem to register across my little grey cells…I’m the bloke who for years thought ‘V.I.P.’ meant ‘Very Im-Portant’, so go figure…current situation arrives…the emergence this week of THE BLOG SCRATCHERS UNION, and it’s pelting along famously…Author and Legend In His Own Lunch-Box, John Dolan, invented the hashtag #TBSU... and hey presto, it’s filling the web-waves as we type…now comes the question, how to remember it so we can bang it on to our tweets and stuff? …cometh the hour, cometh the mnemonic-interpretationalist (there’s a phrase you don’t see too often, eh?.. quality on here, Mabel, pure bluudy quality …)…that other splendid Lunch-Box-Famed-Celebrity Author/Blogger, Eric J Gates (@eThillerWriter) says it ‘sounds like’ (charades? this early before Christmas?)…‘T’B’SU’-re, ‘T’B’SU-re... brilliant, Master Gates, brilliant…so there you have it #TBSU (The Blog Scratchers Union), To Be SUre, To Be SUre…we’ll be giving classes on this stuff soon… meantime, while I scuttle away from Matron, here’s today’s batch of bloggers for you to follow, (reciprocate if you feel so inclined..) …

Blog Scratchers Corner


Blogs for you to follow:












Enjoy  …


Filed under Blether, Scribbling & Stuff