Monday, December 27, 2021

So You Want to be a Writer --Quiz

 Do you have what it takes to be a fiction writer? Here's a true or false test to find out.  

Be brutally honest. The only person you will be cheating is yourself. Choose TRUE if the statement describes you or what you believe, FALSE if it does not.

1. I don't need to know grammar and spelling. That's the job of the editor. My job is to tell the story.

2. Most authors make lots of money. That's why I want to write.

3. I want things NOW. I'm just not a patient person.

4. Friends or family want to watch a movie you really want to see, but you haven't written your quota for the day. You usually stay at the computer and write.

5. If I don't write every day, I get grumpy or edgy.

6. There's one secret to writing a publishable story, and when I learn what it is, I'll succeed.

7. Criticism really hurts me. If someone criticizes my work, I feel like a failure.

8. If someone criticizes my work, I will change it immediately.

9. I love to read a certain kind of story, and that's what I want to write.

10. It's easy to write and sell a novel. All I will have to do is sit down and write it, then I will sell it.

BONUS POINTS QUESTION: I dream of stories to tell, or characters demand their stories be told, or I envision whole scenes, and I want to find out what happens next.


1. FALSE Editors are busy people, and they don't have the time to correct simple mistakes. Simple mistakes indicate a poor writer, as well, and usually brings a fast rejection. WORTH 10 POINTS

2. FALSE Most authors are very poorly paid, expenses are high, and the time required is intense. The average writer can't support herself or her family on several books a year from a major publisher with good distribution. A few self-published writers do but most don’t.  WORTH 10 POINTS

3. FALSE Traditional publishing is an excruciatingly slow process. First you write the book, then you wait for months as you send out queries, more months for them to look at a portion of the manuscript, and even more months to look at the complete manuscript. And if they want to publish it, it will take a year or more to see print. Even self-publishing a book, if you do it correctly with an editor, etc., takes many months of work.  WORTH 10 POINTS

4. TRUE You have to create writing time and that means you have to give up other things. You have to want to write, or you'll never succeed. WORTH 10 POINTS

5. TRUE Writing is an adrenaline addiction. WORTH 10 POINTS

6. FALSE There is no one secret to creating a publishable novel. There are, however, a few things you need to do. The first is sticking your rear in a chair in front of the computer with some consistency and writing. WORTH 10 POINTS

7. FALSE A tough skin must be standard equipment if you want to be a novelist. Every step along the way will be filled with criticism and rejection. The trick is to realize that they are talking about your work, NOT you. WORTH 10 POINTS

8. FALSE Writing isn't a project by committee. You know your work best so you must decide if a suggestion has value or not. The trick is determining what changes are part of learning craft and what changes force your voice or story in the wrong direction. WORTH 10 POINTS

9. TRUE You have to enjoy, respect, and read the types of stories you write. This gives you a good basis for knowing what works and what readers want.

Nothing is more obvious to a reader or an editor than a writer who doesn't read in her field. This is especially true in romance. A reader can spot someone who is writing for the money really fast. WORTH 10 POINTS

10. FALSE Writing is a craft that must be learned. You are as likely to have the natural skills to be a publishable writer as someone who has never played basketball would have the skills to play professional NBA basketball.

The first novel rarely sells. Most published writers write several before they sell. Some can write up to a dozen novels before selling. WORTH 10 POINTS

Bonus Points Question: TRUE If this doesn't happen to you, you really aren't meant to be a fiction writer. All the other things above can be learned, but this can't. WORTH 100 POINTS


0 to 99 A writing career isn't for you. Do a happy dance because you have escaped such an evil fate and can go read and have a life instead.

100-145 If you're willing to change and work hard, you can become a professional writer.

145-190 Congratulations. You are completely insane and the perfect candidate for being a professional writer.

Monday, December 20, 2021

What a Christmas Carol Can Teach a Writer

 "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."  The only character more interesting than a villain is a villain who is redeemed.

"Oh, Holy Night.”  A powerful story is often best told simply.

"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”  Sometimes, something innocent can become creepy.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  A one-sided romantic relationship is boring.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  The underdog with a reviled talent makes a great hero.  

"Frosty the Snowman.”  A great character often deserves a sequel.  ("I'll be back again, some day." ) 

"Carol of the Bells.”  Driving rhythm can pull the reader forward.  

"Do You Hear What I Hear?"  You can tell a story through dialogue.

"Silent Night.”  A few simple images can create powerful emotions.

“Let It Snow, Let It Snow.”  The quiet, homey moments are often filled with the greatest emotions and memory.

"The Christmas Song.”  ("Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…." )  Setting alone can show strong emotion and story.

“Last Christmas.”  A bad romance character can’t tell the difference between love and sex.  

“Blue Christmas” sung by Elvis.  Some songs are meant for only one singer, and so are some stories.  

“I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.”  A fantasy plot makes much more sense with lots of details.  (“There's lots of room for him in our two-car garage.  I'd feed him there and wash him there and give him his massage.”)  NOTE: Best Christmas novelty song ever!

"Good King Wenceslas.”  Sometimes, a character is remembered more for kindness than power or glory.

"I'll Be Home For Christmas.”  Home and family are two of the most powerful goals within the human heart.  

"Baby, It's Cold Outside."  "This is for your good, not mine" is a great seduction.

“Is that You, Santa Claus?”  Every good thing may disguise a bad thing.

"Jingle Bells" and "Jingle Bell Rock.”  The times and tempo may change, but the story remains the same.  

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  Sometimes, the character's emotions and the message aren't the same.  

"Santa Baby.”  With the right voice, even Santa and a chimney can be made into a double entendre.

“All I Want for Christmas Is You.”  Love is the greatest gift.  

Monday, December 13, 2021

The Camera Viewpoint as Pacing

In my blog entry on participant viewpoint, I talked about the dangers of using camera viewpoint in writing scenes, but the idea of a camera shooting the action can be useful when you are writing description.

As you describe a room from a character's viewpoint, imagine that the character is that camera as he scans the room as he enters. 

In a scene which doesn't start with high action such as a fight, he would scan right to left or left to right, and the important objects would be described in relationship to those near it. The character would see the piano, then the bar, then the poker tables on the far side. 

If some object or person is important--the character is looking for it or meeting him, etc., then that object or person is described first with the general impressions of the room then the details of the room can be filled in as needed. For example, if someone is coming at the viewpoint character with a sword, he won't notice the piano or the bar except as possible objects to hide behind.

When writing that description, the idea of the camera shot can also keep you from making a mistake in visual pacing.

For example, you are describing the room, then you put in a character's brief mental comment about something, then you go back to describing the room. That's the equivalent of beginning to pan the room with a camera then jerking the camera toward the main character's face, then the camera returns to panning. 

By thinking of the visual description as camera work, you are less likely to make mistakes in visual and action pacing.


NEW PUBLISHING SCAM:  In the last few weeks, I’ve been receiving phone calls about offering promotion, reviews, and printing of GUARDIAN ANGEL.  The same people have given me three different names of their service including tying it to Powell’s Books.  The caller has an accent that’s probably Middle Eastern yet gives a different American/English name each time.  So, it’s obviously a scam to sell services to ignorant authors.  Beware! 

THIS YEAR IN REVIEW:  Nathan Bransford, a long-time expert on traditional publishing, gives his opinions of where publishing has gone over the last year and provides links to some interesting articles.

Monday, December 6, 2021

What to Describe in a Scene

Sometimes, it's hard to decide what to include in a description of a scene.

The trick to deciding is to remember that you're in a character's viewpoint. Ask yourself what is important to that character. 

A cop entering a room where a gunman may be hidden is seeing different things than an interior designer who enters a room a rival has just decorated. The cop doesn't give a damn about the charming shade of blue in the wallpaper, but he'll notice the large pieces of furniture someone could be behind, the amount of light and shade in the room that makes seeing movement tricky, and the possible exits.

At the same time, the character will be aware of the sounds and smells in the room-- the faint smell of gun oil, the Chanel No. 5 of the wealthy woman who owns the home, the tap of the nails as a toy poodle moves across the oak floor, and the slight rustle of something moving behind a curtain. 

With just the right specific touches, the room will come alive for the reader and at the same time you're building tension and giving character details, and you're not stopping the action.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Suddenly, a Pirate Ship Loomed Over the Horizon

QUESTION: In action scenes, I use the phrases "suddenly" or "all of a sudden" a ridiculous amount of times when describing fast-paced action scenes. What other words or phrases can I use?

If you write the scene correctly, you don't need "suddenly" or any other synonym or phrase. The reader is smart enough to know the fighters in a physical battle are moving fast so everything is "suddenly" unless we say otherwise.

The trick is to get into the head of one of the characters and stay there. Let the reader see what the character sees and feel what the character feels.

You don't say, 

Suddenly, the other fighter pulled out his knife and jabbed at him.

You say, 

Sam dodged the other man's fist. The hand that should have been blocking his next blow moved downward toward the man's knife sheath. 

A flash of steel. 

Throwing himself backward away from the other man's knife, Sam slammed into the ground on his back. 

Or, if you are describing a battle of many men, you don't say 

Suddenly, a line of cavalry surged over the top of the hill toward them.

You say, 

On the hill just above the soldiers, the drumming of many horse hooves and the Rebel yell of hundreds of men warned them. 

The Yankees spun around as the Confederate cavalry charged toward them.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Showing vs. Telling

QUESTION: Is there one hard and fast way to always show instead of tell?  

If you stay firmly in the viewpoint character's head and feel and see what she/he feels and sees, you will never tell rather than show.

Take the example of fear.  If you are afraid, you don't just think to yourself, I am afraid. If you think that, you really aren’t that afraid.

Instead, you may feel a shiver run down the spine, your heart will pick up speed, your body could tremble, etc., etc. 

If you write about what the fear feels like, that's showing.  If you just say that the character is afraid, that's telling.

How do you get so firmly in a character's head?  Part of it is practice.  Part of it is acting.

One of the most popular methods of learning acting these days is called The Method.  The actor is supposed to immerse herself into the character so that she isn’t acting, she’s actually the person.

One variation of The Method is called Being in the Moment.  I like that as a metaphor for what a writer does.

Put yourself in the moment of the scene.  

When you are ready to write a scene, close your eyes and imagine where your viewpoint character is.  What surrounds her?  Are any of the objects around her of importance?  How are they important?  What are the sounds?  The smells?  Who else is around her?  How does she feel about them?  How will she physically react to them?  

Now open your eyes and start typing.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Viewpoint as Camera or Participant

The most common mistake in writing third person viewpoint is the writer becomes a camera rather than the actor in the scene. In other words, the writer is sitting in the corner scribbling away as they describe the movie going on in front of them.

As a camera, the writer would write:

Faith struck at him with the edge of her hand, but he caught her wrist and held it.

"Don't," he said harshly.

She clawed at his eyes, but he dodged. Yanking free, she came to her knees but paused.

He took advantage of her slowness by throwing himself on top of her and pinning her to the bed.

She kicked at his groin and missed. Screaming and twisting, she tried again.

The correct place for the writer to be is in the brain and body of the viewpoint character. She should describe what the viewpoint character sees and feels to make the scene come alive. Here's the same scene through the filter of viewpoint character, Faith Cody.

Faith struck out with the edge of her hand, but the self-defense blow which should have smashed his windpipe was as clumsy and slow as the rest of her drugged body. He caught her wrist in steel fingers.


His hard-voiced command spurred her from her hopelessness, and she raked at his eyes with her free hand. His hand loosening her wrist, he dodged. 

Yanking free, she came to her knees in bed. She wore only a large tee shirt.

Shocked by her vulnerability, she paused before attacking again or fleeing. In that moment, he threw himself at her, pinning her to the bed, his hands manacling her wrists to the sheets.

Her knee seeking his genitals, she twisted, but her knee glanced off his inner thigh. Screaming like an angry jungle cat, she writhed beneath him as she tried to hit him again with her knee.


The trick to being in a character's head is to create a reality for the reader. Use visual language. Make the reader SEE what the character sees. Make the reader FEEL what the character feels.

Don't say, "Pamela was afraid." 

Say, "Shivers ran down her back like cold fingers." 

In other words, show, don't tell. If a character is angry, don't have him shout dialogue or "say angrily." Use his actions instead. If he's grinding a wadded paper to pulp in his hand while he's talking, you can be darn sure he's mad.


Camera or panoramic viewpoint does have a place in fiction, particularly in epic fantasy or historical novels, where the writer wants to show the large overview of a great battle or event. Tolkien in LORD OF THE RINGS often uses the camera viewpoint. 

If you are considering using camera viewpoint within most genre, you need to decide if the larger viewpoint is worth the loss of immediacy. In most cases, it isn't. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Hot, Warm, and Cold Viewpoint

 QUESTION: What exactly is hot viewpoint? How is it different from other types of viewpoint?

Hot viewpoint is about the viewpoint character's emotional reaction to what is happening. Hot viewpoint is full of sensual details, strong emotions, and important/dangerous/violent actions. Most hot viewpoint moments are action scenes full of adrenaline, love scenes, or physical or emotional fight scenes which can include an argument between characters.  

Cold viewpoint has almost no emotion involved. It’s a simple recital of facts or what’s happening.

Warm viewpoint is halfway between them with emotions of importance, but not extreme importance.


COLD: Pamela glanced at the doors' numbers as she passed them. Room 82 should be just ahead.

WARM: Pamela smiled as she glanced at the hotel room number.  Tom said he's be in in Room 82.  He'd promised her champagne, roses, and a night of passion. A night to remember.  She could hardly wait.

HOT:  The slight cheesy stench of the alien made Pamela's nose twitch as she leaned against the hallway wall.  Her hands were sweating so much she feared she'd drop the Colt she held in her right hand.  With a quick prayer for courage, she eased toward Room 82 then kicked in the door.

For a writer, it's not so important to know the difference in an intellectual way, but to understand it instinctively as we write. If we are inside the character and feel what she feels, we are more likely to get it right.

Monday, November 1, 2021

More than One Type of Viewpoint in a Story

 QUESTION: I want to use first person point of view for my hero, and third person for my other characters. What do you think?

As a rule in popular fiction, you don't switch from first to third POV or vice versa.

Some writers have done this, but many readers and reviewers don't like this because they find it so jarring it knocks them out of the story.

This would be a particularly dangerous for a newer writer who doesn't have the experience and control to handle these changes or the reader's trust that they know what they are doing.

I can't suggest which type of POV to use. Only you can decide on that. Consider your comfort level with the different viewpoints, and the ease of telling the story with that POV. 

With first person, you must also be certain you can hear the main character's voice well enough to stay in that voice for the whole novel. 

If you do decide to write both first and third POV, you should have a very particular reason for it.  

Monday, October 25, 2021

Omniscient, Just Say No

 On one of the blogs I follow, a reader asked about whether she should use omniscient viewpoint in her first chapter.  In omniscient viewpoint you read the thoughts of all or most of the characters' heads as well as get an overview of what is happening outside of the character viewpoint.  Here is my reply.

These days, people have so many ways to entertain themselves that reading has a hard time even being considered, let alone being in the top five of how someone wants to spend their down time and money.  As writers, we have to figure out why our stories should be part of that down time.  What does reading this story give that no other entertainment gives?  

Science has helped here by studying the brain activity of readers.  "Being there" is what readers want.  They want to be in the story and feel, see, taste and sense through character viewpoint.  The character's reactions make our brains experience the same thing, and this makes the brain and reader very happy.  Omniscient viewpoint's main target is the intellect which works for some readers, but it doesn't offer those wonderful I'm-there brain reactions a majority want.  

Another reason not to use omniscient is that newer writers suck at it, every single time.  It's a landscape of bad craft land mines that the ignorant writer skips happily through, blissfully unaware that the reader experience is being destroyed in his path.  Once the craft is master level after years of writing and the writer reaches excellence, he may decide omniscient POV should be tried.  Even then, he'll probably start a few chapters then go "Hell, no. This is tripe."  End of omniscient experience.  

As a writing teacher, I'm guessing that the real reason the question asker wants that fantasy first chapter as omniscient is she wants to info dump all her worldbuilding in one spot because she thinks the reader needs this pile of worldbuilding vomit NOW.  Spoiler alert:  They don't.  

So, listen to agents, editors, other authors, writing teachers, and readers, and just so no to omniscient.  

Monday, October 18, 2021

Listen to the Force, Luke Skywriter

 I'm of the firm belief that a writer's subconscious is busy planting things the writer is blind to at the moment. 

When I rework a novel, I'll find lots of foreshadowing of events I didn't think I'd planned until the moment I wrote it, and I'll discover that certain types of metaphors or images keep appearing that fit a theme or event I didn't know was coming.

Part of the trick for a writer is going back over your work and building on the bread crumb hints left by your subconscious.  Make it obvious enough that the reader’s subconscious also picks up these crumbs to create more resonance in the novel.  

NOTE: My subconscious  just showed its unhappiness of my comments by making me unable to spell "subconscious" which is a word I normally spell with ease.

Monday, October 11, 2021

No One To Talk To

 A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on characters having conversations with themselves so I thought I’d talk about similar situations in my own writing.

In my novel, STAR-CROSSED, my hero has no one but the heroine to talk to in the first part of the novel.  To cover topics he wouldn’t discuss with her, I didn't want lots of internal monologue or flashbacks which tend to be boring.  

What I ended up doing was letting him have imaginary conversations with his best friend.  Since he was also stuck in one place, I put these conversations at interesting locations from their shared past that showed more about the hero and his past.

The first conversation, for example, was in a bar on a Wild West style planet where the two friends have rescued a sweet young thing during a bar fight.  The two characters shared a beer, talked a bit about the good ol' days, and the hero spilled his guts about what was bothering him.  

At other times, the best friend was the devil's advocate for one side of a choice that the hero was trying to make.  

If you do something like this, it needn't be as elaborate as an entire scene.  It can just be the mental presence of someone whose opinion the character either values or can't escape. Most of us, for example, can hear our mom or dad in our head reminding us to do or not do something.  

I’ve also had a character talk things out aloud to a horse he was grooming or a cat she was stroking.  The animal’s actions, as if commenting with a purr, a snort, or the shake of the head, gave a nice light touch as well as making the scene more interesting than internal dialogue.

If you want the hero himself as the other character, you should choose some aspect of him you want to emphasize. Say Dr. Indiana Jones--the scholar versus Indiana Jones--the adventurer.

Set up the use of the mental dialogue/scene fairly early in the novel or story so that the important scene when the character finally must make the big decision won't make the reader go "huh?" when the other side of his personality or an imaginary character shows up to discuss the matter.

In other words, have the mental character show up a few times so the hero can tell his other side to shut up or whatever.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Writing Witty Dialogue

 Witty dialogue is found in most Regency romances, and the comedies of Shakespeare are rife with word plays and banter between clever characters, but it also has a place in other writing.

Put two clever characters with a sense of fun together and let them at each other so they duel with words, and the reader is in for a treat that requires as much attention to the word play as the characters must pay.

This is from an unpublished contemporary novel.

"You have the tail of an ass," Ariel said. 

David raised one eyebrow haughtily. "Women have told me I have a nice ass, but not one has mentioned a tail." 

"They told tales." 

"I am happy you are named for the sprite Ariel and not Puck. I could wake up with the head of an ass." 

“Don't toss Shakespeare at me, amateur, or speak of Bottom. Why change your head into an ass? It would be redundant since you act like one already." 

Witty dialogue, particularly in a romance, is emotional and personal foreplay.  It reinforces a sense that these people “get” each other and are equals emotionally and intellectually.  

Outside of romance, the most surprising and common use of witty dialogue is between the hero and the villain who also “get” each other.

Dueling with words can be just as much fun for the characters and the reader as dueling with swords, and just as dangerous.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Talking to Myselves

QUESTION: I am trying to write a dialogue scene in which a character is arguing with himself yet it seems that there are two distinct persons talking, almost as if the good side of him is arguing with the bad side. What is a good way to show this?

You could do it like regular dialogue between two people. The "real" character could give his better self some kind of snarky nickname which you could use as a dialogue tag.

Jon sneered as his other self.  "Why don't you shut up, Angel Fart. I stopped believing in virtue and nobility years ago."

"If you stopped believing, why am I here?"

Or you could do it like normal internal monologue but with the good Jon’s comments underlined/italics.

Jon fought to ignore his inner voice.  He knew what he had to do, and he'd do it.  He'd stopped believing in doing the right thing years ago.

If you stopped believing, why can you hear me?

Monday, September 20, 2021

Dialect in Dialog

 QUESTION: I want one of my characters to be a boy from England. How do I get the language and vocabulary right?

Like the US, Great Britain has regional accents and expressions, and their language and accent is also affected by class and education so you need to figure out where that British kid comes from and what his social class is before you start your research.

Most writers seem to forget about class and region when they write, and I always snicker when the housemaid is mistaken for a lady, or the Southern character doesn't sound or act remotely Southern or is from the wrong part of the South.

Take care, though, not to be so accurate that your character is unintelligible to most readers.

The trick is to give the feel and rhythm of the language without making the reader scratch her head over the slang and expressions.

The Internet is a glorious place full of resources and the ability to contact people from all over the world so you should be able to find someone to help you with the specific language and sound of your character. Ask around on reader and writer lists or among your Facebook friends for someone from that area. If that doesn't work, do some search engine hunting.

You should also ask around about movies or TV shows that have characters who sound right for the character you want to write.  If you can “hear” that character’s voice when you write, you usually won’t go wrong.  

Monday, September 13, 2021

Using Text Messages in Fiction

 QUESTION: I need to include multiple lines of text dialogue in my story. My question is about rendering the punctuation of it.

For example, in a rapid fire text exchange with short snappy one word answers, in real life, the writers would be unlikely to use much punctuation including periods. Can I eliminate them in my rendition of it to the page?

ANSWER: As long as what you write is clear to the reader, I see no problem with doing the punctuation or lack of it as you wish. Just be consistent.

One thing to consider is who your reader is. If your book is aimed at younger readers, they will be much more comfortable with nonstandard punctuation than the older reader.

To differentiate the text dialogue from the regular text, I suggest you narrow the margin on both sides of the page by another inch and use names in the same way as in movie and play scripts.  You can also italicize if you wish.  Just be consistent in your choice.

JANET: OMG OMG Dirk asked me to the prom.

MARY:  WTF He asked me, too!

Monday, September 6, 2021

Figuring Out Paragraph Lengths

 QUESTION: I have trouble trying to figure out when to begin and end paragraphs and when to have dialogue included in the paragraph and when to have it stand on its own as an independent paragraph. 

Unlike nonfiction, there are no hard and fast rules for paragraphing in fiction.  Much of this is the writer's choice which is informed by experience as well as their need to emphasize certain things or break between actions.

And, surprisingly, some choices are as much visual as mental.  Most readers, these days, don't like long paragraphs so many writers paragraph more frequently than did past writers.  Visual space makes the page more attractive to the reader.  

Here are some good rules of thumb, though.

When you start with narrative followed by dialogue, the narrative should be about the person who will speak.

Adam studied the book's page then glanced back up at his friend.  "Pete, we have a problem here."

If the narrative is about Pete, Adam's line would be in a new paragraph.

Pete watched his friend anxiously as he read the rule book.

"We have a problem here,” Adam said.

If you have a long bit of narrative, it's usually a good stylistic choice to paragraph before the character's lines.  This breaks up the lines visually, and it also emphasizes the dialogue.

When you are writing a long speech by a character, you paragraph to emphasize subject, changes in subject, and the rhythm of the scene.

If you aren't sure about any of the above, read the dialogue aloud as the character would speak it.  Notice when you have natural pauses.  That's a good place for a paragraph break.

Dialogue shouldn't be too long, though.  Break it up with a bit of narrative. 

Adam shook his head in disgust and continued,

Or have other characters react or comment.  

"I can't believe Pete said that.  It doesn't sound like him."

For straight narrative with no dialogue, you should paragraph when the action shifts to another character.

Pete tripped but caught himself before falling flat on his face.  

Behind him, the sound of Adam's running feet moved toward him, then his friend stopped at his side. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Making Your Characters Sound DIfferent

 QUESTION:  My critique partners say most of my characters sound alike in dialogue.  Help!

Cast all your characters with actors you are very familiar with so you can hear their voices when you write dialogue.  Unless you have a tin ear for speech, you will rarely have two characters sound alike.

When you pick your actor, consider what part of the country or country of origin your character is from.  Make sure their voices reflect that. You don’t want an actor from DOWNTON ABBEY to play a cop from Philly.

Writing dialogue as what it sounds like rather than the proper spelling is frowned upon these day unless used very sparingly so don’t go overboard with phonetic spelling ("Yo' ole father doan' know yit what he's a-gwyne to do. Sometimes he spec he'll go 'way, en den agin he spec he'll stay.”--from HUCKLEBERRY FINN) or apostrophes to show words that are slurred together. (“If’n you think I’s stupid.  You be wrong!”)

If you aren’t that familiar with a region’s speech, be very careful how you write it because it’s easy to stereotype or get it wrong.  For example, most of us in the Southern US don’t use “y’all” that often, and, when we do, it’s in very informal speech and means more than one “you.”   (Jennifer turned to her cousins and smiled sweetly, “Y’all come home with me and have some supper.”  Her voice turned frosty as she glared at her brother.  “You don’t come, period.”)

You should also consider social class and education.  Someone with a college education and an upper middle class background won’t sound the same as someone who never finished high school whose parents never finished high school.

Read your dialogue aloud or in your head to see if you’ve got different voices, or ask a few friends or family to read your dialogue like a play to see how it sounds.

Another good test is one line of dialogue that isn’t attributed to who is saying it.  If a reader can tell who is saying it by how and what is said, then you’ve succeeded at your task.