Tag Archives: Dialogue


grodgers-write-deadly-fiction-cover-online-use-3debook-sml[1]Crime fiction is the second largest-selling book genre, slightly behind romance. It’s a craft an author must have passion for, as well as having the writing skills and subject knowledge to make their story believable—and hold their reader’s interest. Passion has to pre-exist in the writer but, thankfully, the techniques can be learned. I’m betting that 808 Killer Tips on How to Write Deadly Crime Fiction will help.

The No BS series of crime fiction guides is a project I’m passionately working on. It started as a self-teaching venture when I began fiction writing. I quickly found that, although I might be an adequate technical writer, I knew little about the tricks of the fiction trade.


grodgers-write-deadly-cover-online-use-3dbook-sml[1]I researched and developed a list of pointers—mostly notes to self—on some of the most important tips. Thinking it would be helpful to others, I published it as a pdf under the title Dead Write with 99 tips and offered it as sign-up bait for my blogsite. It’s now matured as Guide One with a more professional look as 101Killer Tips on Writing Deadly Crime Thrillers. It’s still available free on this site.

The series goes beyond diction and syntax. It gives writers a unique look into the real side of crime writing based on my actual experience and a hell of a lot of research—never mind help from a gem of a source.

AA2My friend and fellow crime writer, Sue Coletta, generously offered to critique and edit the guides. Sue is an accomplished author on her own with a new crime thriller Marred hitting the shelves on November 11, 2015. Sue recently renovated her website and it’s an excellent source of information for crime writers and fans. Visit Sue at www.suecoletta.com and get her own free tips: 60 Ways To Murder Your Fictional Characters.

grodgers-deadly-selfedit-cover-online-use-sml[1]Guide Two is How to Self-Edit Deadly Crime Thrillers. Researching this has taken my writing knowledge to a whole new level and I hope it does the same to others. What’s opened my eyes is how the process of editing actually works. The takeaway—it’s as vital to learn editing skills as it is to develop writing skills. Editing is revision. Re-Vision.

Writing Deadly Crime Scenes is the third guide. It deals with what really goes on behind the ‘Scenes’. People. Places. Processing. It gives you tips on how crime scene investigators recognize evidence and how you can accurately portray the scenes in your books. The guide has sections on legal requirements, responsibilities of investigative roles, and how personalities intertwine on the CSI ‘food chain’.

grodgers-write-deadly-dialogue-cover-online-use-3debook-sml[1]Deadly Dialogue goes beyond the do’s and don’ts of fiction dialogue. It gives a look at how cops and crooks think, hence how they talk. There’s tips on formatting dialogue so your novel will read like a crime book and not like some soap-opera script. There’s also a glossary of crime terms to get it just right.

Guide Five is on Characters. Let’s set this straight. Plot is all about characters doing something to forward the story and their own development. It makes you think about development of your characters on three levels. One dimensional that have no names. Two dimensional with an occasional appearance as supporting cast. And the three dimensional stars of the show that your reader needs to love or hate.

grodgers-write-deadly-forensics-cover-online-use-3dbook-sml[1]With Guide Six, the series takes a scientific turn and looks at the world of Forensics which no crime story can ignore. You’ll get tips on fingerprinting and footwear impressions. A tour through the lab. Recognize bloodstains and semen stains. Microanalysis. Fires. Explosions.Trace evidence and toolmarks. Entomology, serology, and odontology. It covers psychiatric profiling and you’ll take a ride on the polygraph. (Tough to compress this into 101 single tips.)

You’ll get a bang out of Guide Seven. It’s all about Firearms where you’ll get tips on ballistics, lands, grooves, and striations. It covers types and terminology as well as ammunition and actions. You’ll learn about yield thresholds and fragmentation, the difference between GSW and GSR, and how to snipe off a suspect. You’ll never again call a cartridge a bullet, or a primer a casing, and you’ll know where to turn to for help.

grodgers-write-deadly-autopsies-cover-ebook-interior-1024px[1]Guide Eight takes on Autopsies and the role of forensic pathology. You’ll bag some bodies and slice some Y-incisions; cross-section organs with the tools of the trade and meet with who’s who in the morgue. Experience the stages of mortis (changes in death) and understand why things smell the way they do. How to Write Deadly Accurate Autopsies helps you write convincing causes of death and backs it up with scientific support from the lab.

All eight guides will be condensed into one resource titled How to Write Deadly Crime Fiction — A No BS Guide with 808 Killer Tips. The individual guides will be available online as eBooks with an internal link to printing it as a pdf. The big guy, 808, will be in both digital and print-on-demand.

Guides Two through Eight will be out in the fall of 2015, date TBA. In the meantime, help yourself to Guide One: How to Write Deadly Crime Thrillers — A No BS Guide With 101Killer Tips. I’d appreciate your feedback, so please comment with your thoughts and suggestions.


How to Write Deadly Crime Thrillers — A No BS Guide With 101 Killer Tips.

PS – If you’re already a subscriber to DyingWords and want the new guide, email me at garry.rodgers@shaw.ca and I’ll send you the pdf direct.


Are you overwhelmed with crime writing tips?

Killer Ficton 2Frustrated by ‘expert’ penmonkeys that don’t know squat about crime-writing? Sick of literary snitches that sell you false clues? Stuck for real leads on what makes for good blood & guts scoops?

Well, it’s up to you to solve your style, but I’ve got some solid evidence on what makes or breaks a crime-fiction story. Here’s five good tips.

1. Understand what story is.

question-markStories are about something that happens. Pure & simple. Oh, there’s all kinds of BS out there about character-driven or plot-driven, literary or commercial, and first-person vs. omniscient crap. That’s good for writing seminars, but for the reader… it’s all about what’s happening. It’s not show vs. tell. Readers don’t care about that and they don’t recognize a good alliteration from a bad head-hop.

They care about what happens next. It’s not perfect prose they’re looking for. It’s the overall story question – What’s going to happen?

Keep your reader questioning and you’ll keep them reading to the end. And it’ll make them buy your next book. And the one after that.

So forget most of that ‘expert’ garbage and, like Stephen King says, just tell the goddam story. And, if you really want to lean something about story-telling, go read Lisa Cron’s book Wired For Story. YYou’ll never think about stories the same way again.

2. Open with a bang or a body.

Think James Bond. Or Agatha Christie. James Patterson. Or Garry Rodgers. AK-47s. Or dismembered hookers. Biological bombs. Or a corpse hanging from a meat-hook. A sharp hook… which is the oldest storytelling device and still the best.

You’ve got about ten seconds to hook your reader and keep their face in the page. So start off fast and slowly add backstory. Build it up, then end with a bang. Maybe another body, too.

3. Big, struggling characters.

TerminatorEvery great story is about the human struggle. Good & evil. Right & wrong. Order & chaos. Those sorts of things. Protagonists and antagonists who are larger than life; who are not perfect, but are trapped in the story arch – outwitting others to survive. Great characters that have to lie, cheat, doublecross, and undermine to overcome. Great characters with great dialogue… the second greatest storytelling device. So sharpen your dialogue, as well as your hook.

4. Red Herrings.

Nothing in page turners can be as it seems.

Is the good guy bad? Is the bad guy good? Are the gays straight and the straights queer? How come the prime suspect’s DNA doesn’t match. Why does everyone drive a black truck? Who the Christ is Archibald Wiggers? How come he knows why the informants had to be murdered yet the reader doesn’t till the end?

But in ‘The End’ everything has to make perfect sense. Looking back, it has to be entirely expected and the only way the story could have unfolded.

5. Accurate details.

SluethJust the facts, Ma’am. Nothing will blow your credibility quicker than screwing up things like calling a 9mm a revolver, or saying the cadaver was prone on its back. So much information is available today. A quick Wikipedia or Google search will prevent a set-down- never-to-finish read or horrible, horrible trashings on your Amazon reviews. Time lines are critical and reversing your sequence of events is inexcusable.

Do your research. Do your homework. And be careful out there.

Writing crime fiction really is basic. It’s all about reader experience.


Your dialogue sucks.

Feeling a little sheepish about your dialogue craft?

Feeling a little sheepish about your dialogue craft?

At least you think so, if you’re like most crime / thriller writers.

Writing crisp, realistic dialogue even for seasoned vets is a struggle. It’s like being nervous about public speaking. You convince yourself that you’re gonna bomb before you start.

Even the pros tremble. But they don’t show it when they come on page, because they work hard at polishing their craft.

I’m no seasoned vet when it comes to fiction writing, but dialogue comes naturally for me and that’s something I’ve been complimented on. It’s because I’ve spent hundreds of hours editing tapes and transcripts from police interviews, interrogations, and wiretaps. Now that’s real-life dialogue.

So I want to pass on five things I’ve learned.

Lucy1. Know your characters.

Everyone has unique speech. Crooks & cops. Teachers and terrorists. Priests and pundits. It’s our word choice. Our tone. Accent. Education and social background. Pet phrases. In wiretaps, you can pick out the speaker right away from a few words and it’s no different for your readers if you develop characters to be real entities in your mind. Their speech will jump out in print. Let the characters be themselves and the reader will know them.

2. Speech attributes / Dialogue tags.

The golden rule is ‘He said/She said.’ and it’s gospel. The shorter the tags, the better. Never invent cutesy crap like ‘She moaned cunnilingusly’ or ‘He suddenly knew, laxatively.’ Kill the adjectives and adverbs. Go with strong verbs and nouns. Let them do the work. But I think it’s fine to occasionally mix your character’s name in place of ‘He/She’ and let them refer to each other as they naturally would.

3. Beats.

Beats are separations between dialogue blocks. They’re vital to give a sense of place, point of view, further the story and set the pace, as well as giving zip to the conversation. Beats replace tags. Spend as much time tweaking beats as scripting dialogue.

4. Foul language.

Foul LanguageSwearing is a fact of life. It goes that a NYU PhD would talk different than a Nanaimo Hell’s Angel and it’s crucial – absolutely vital – to be true to your character. A friend recently recommended a Harlan Coban novel. Partway into it, I sensed something was wrong. Coban’s protagonist had to use the F-word – no way around it – and Coban wrote ‘F@#!’   I’m serious! He didn’t have the balls to print it. He lost me, so I put the book down and went the fuck to sleep.

5. Read it. Out loud.

The most important thing you can do. Read it. Out loud. Or get a friend to read it. Out loud. Use voice memo on your smart phone to listen to yourself. Read it out loud. Listen to the words. It has to sound real.

Real for your characters.

Because your readers will sure know an orgasm when it’s fake.

Based on a true crime story where many believe paranormal intervention occurred

Based on a true crime story where many believe paranormal intervention occurred

Here’s Chapter 41 from No Witnesses To Nothing where Robin Ghomes, a real Hells Angel, is crossed by Tracy Williams, his money launderer.

Thursday, August 2nd

11:40 am  

United States Federal Correctional Complex

Terre Haute, Indiana


“Where’s my fuckin’ money, Tracy!” Ghomes screamed into the phone. “I need my fuckin’ money to pay my fuckin’ lawyer! That slippery cocksucker Sleeman won’t do fuck all without money up front!” He smashed his palm against the thick, riveted-steel door locking him inside a tiny, vomit-green, concrete communications booth, then kicked it hard with a shackled-up, woolen-socked foot.

Three trollish guards eyed Ghomes through a foot-square, Lexan window at the centre of the maximum security United States Penitentiary where Kingpins were held. It also held federal inmates facing execution. They were kept in a nasty quadrant called the Special Confinement Unit, the place where Ghomes might face the end of his days.

“You no longer have money, Robin,” Tracy said, on a disposable cell phone from the aft deck of the Bandazul.

She’d made sure of that. She’d also made sure she was long gone from Vancouver by the time they had this conversation.

“Whut the fuck you mean?”

“Robin. I want you to listen carefully. I am only going to say this once.”


“I have destroyed you financially.”


“I have drained your bank accounts. Your investments no longer exist. I have sold off your stocks, your bonds, and your GIC’s. I have liquidated your bullion. I have also shut down your credit cards and closed your lines of credit. All that cash in the safety deposit vault? It is gone. The same with your valuables in my safe.”

Ghomes gaped at the cinder-block wall.

“Listen further. John has had proceeds of crime forfeitures placed on your properties, vehicles, and material assets. I have given information to the tax people which put you massively in arrears. I have also developed a profile on your credit rating which appears horrible.”

“Whut the fuck you talkin’ about, Tracy!” Ghomes managed a croak.

“You are broke, Robin. Flat busted.”


“You heard me.”

“Fuck you, Tracy! You filthy slut! You get my fuckin’ money right fuckin’ now or my guys’ll come and carve your fuckin’ cunt out!”

“That will not happen, Robin.”

“You know it will. Yer all fucked if I go down.”

“That will not happen either.”

“Yer fuckin’ rights it will!”

“You know that package which you gave to Wiggers?”

Ghomes hesitated. “How you know ‘bout that?”

“You should have been much more careful about who you trusted with such sensitive information. Some of your funds went to purchase that back from him.”

“Yer dead, Tracy.”

“You are at much more risk of that than me. John has released his coded informant file on you to the Nomad chapter.”

Ghomes was the colour of a ghost.

“And I would like you to hear something else.”

Ghomes could not speak.

“I would like you to think back many years to the time when you poured salt on a poor little slug on my parent’s walk. You delighted in its suffering. You forced me to watch and I shuddered in horror. And that night? You know of it. You fucked me when I was defenseless. Now I have done it to you. It is your time to suffer. I have transferred all your wealth through untraceable accounts and I created a philanthropist who has donated it all to charity. The children’s hospital.”

“You Fuckin’ Slut!”

“Rot in hell! You…You… Fucking… Bastard!”

Tracy slammed the cell into the deck. It bounced across the planks, through the rails, spiraling down into the cold, green-black of the Pacific.

She stood, said a silent prayer, and made the sign of the cross.

Email me at garry@dyingwords.net if you’d like a free digital copy of No Witnesses To Nothing