Hookline Books

About Me

Yvonne Barlow I love books, love reading - who doesn't? I also love to hear what other people think of books - we may agree or disagree, however I love the exchange of ideas. Tell me your thoughts, read our books and tell me what you think.

Writing dialogue - advice from a fiction editor

September 5, 2022


It’s good to reveal your characters motive through their own speech – tells us their priorities and what drives them. For instance, the reader can learn why they are doing what they are doing, what they really care about (money, love), etc.

Speech also gives us a sense of the immediate emotion – perhaps fear or that they have moved on to a decision: ‘I’ve pulled myself together and will state this straight.’

Dialogue can speed up a scene/action: ‘This isn’t working, we need to try something else.” It can be better than describing something and showing it as a failure.

It cuts description and pushes the story forward if a character says, “A bit dreary here, isn’t it?” Then you can weave in details as the characters’ talk:

“Hmm, I’m not sure I like this kitchen,” she said.

“It’s a bit dark,” he said.

“And dirty, do you think we can make it liveable? If we really work at it?”

He wraps his arm around her shoulder. “Knowing you, we can do anything.”

This allows us to find out what characters think: “Well this place looks like it should be pulled down.” Is better than a long description of decline.

Dialogue cuts background briefing by explaining why, what and who are at issue?

Dialogue can also reveal tension by showing how your characters interact with each other. For instance:

Anxiety, how does the voice change?

Pace of speech – if this changes, fast to slow or slow to fast, it can reveal a change in character’s emotion and heightens tension making us think, what is going on in his mind.

When using dialogue, think FAD - Feelings, Action, Dialogue. We feel, we act, we speak. It’s rarely any other way.

Julie felt a shadow move between them. She looked around to see a woman kiss the back of Brad’s neck. “Who’s this?” she asked.

Write a scene from your story two ways: all dialogue, all narrative. Which works best? Can you weave them?


What I've learned as a fiction editor - opening lines

August 22, 2022

The beginning

Authors need to set a strong scene in the opening sentence. Debut authors don’t have the luxury of beginning with a long and languorous description, such as a backstory, memory or reflections.

Your opening page needs to give the reader a sense of where, when and what is going on.

And you need to create some sense of dilemma.

Grab the reader as fast as you can and hold onto them.

Place your character in a specific setting (the reader needs to picture them).

Add something...

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Creating characters - what I've learned as a fiction editor

August 15, 2022


The reader should always know what a character wants – otherwise the character is aimless.

Mission by Paul Forrester-O’Neill – John wants to find his father, the one his mother lied to.

The Jacobite Wife by Morag Edwards – Winifred wants her husband to stop running up debts.

The Takers and Keepers by Ivan Pope – Allen wants to know where the missing women go.

What motivates your characters?

It could be:

Money – greed, need, coercion, blackmail 

Ideology – pow...

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What I've learned as a fiction editor - more about plotting

August 8, 2022


The sub-plot is dependent on the main plot, although it may not seem so at the time – it might provide twists, shows us how the main character reacts in other settings, provides depth to the story.

They often involve minor characters.

They move the story along toward an apt ending and help the reader get to know the characters better.

Very few novels can survive on one plot alone. Only two come to mind:

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal - a boy is put into foster care but miss...

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What I’ve learned as a fiction editor - and how this might help you write a novel

August 1, 2022

The truth is there is no simple answer, no easy template, no cookie cutter plan to follow. I wish there were. Instead, every novel charts its own course, heads in its own ship through mostly unknown waters. Often writers are surprised where they end up. ‘I thought I was writing about love,’ they say, after the romantic lead dies. ‘I wanted it to be a happy story.’ But where do you take happiness? Does happy ever after make a good story?
With this in mind I’ve decided to blog on what...

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Leonard Cohen, Hydra and Me

February 25, 2022

I’m not a fan of Leonard Cohen but I am a fan of the Greek island connected to his early fame. Hydra is where Leonard went as a young poet with little money but an earnest zeal to work on his art. Most of us know the rest of the story. Hydra’s calm gave him the peace to write Flowers for Hitler and Beautiful Losers, and it is where he met his most famous muse Marianne.

I probably know more than the average non-fan about Cohen. Primarily, because I edited The Water and the Wine by Tamar H...

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What Victorian women can teach us about life after menopause

February 9, 2022

What kind of life do we have after menopause? It’s a question that’s been much debated recently. I don’t want to go into hormonal issues, that varies so much from woman to woman. However, life after we reach our fifties oftentimes comes down to how we look at our future.

We can look backwards to all that’s passed and grow quite wistful because that time is over – our own childhood, parents, the teenage years, romance, marriage, kids. However, if we’re only going to look back at ...

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What do editors want from new writers?

February 2, 2022

We see a lot of manuscripts and sometimes, just sometimes, the opening paragraphs draw you in and immerse in the story almost immediately. When this happens, it is nothing but joy – just as it was in the ancient days of storytelling when the art began with ‘Let me tell you a story,’ or ‘Once upon a time’.

I do not know any editor who would disagree that an easy entry into a story is critical. First and foremost, we are readers, and it is the writers’ job to draw us in. If you do ...

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Listen and learn

January 24, 2022

I love audio books. However, I didn’t start out liking them. In the early days of listening to an 80,000+ plot, my mind would wander to other stories or events before eventually coming back to the novel and I would wonder what had happened while I’d been mentally absent.

However, a few years ago I found my eyes were often tired at the end of the work day, and I started listening to short Podcasts, then moved onto abridged novels on BBC Sounds. Lying on the sofa, eyes closed and listenin...

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Many of our authors are nice people

December 7, 2021

Many of our authors are lovely people. They care about their family and friends; they would help the elderly cross the street and many have a good sense of humour.

So why are their novels not on the best seller lists?

I ask because of the rise of celebrity authors. I’m not talking about memoirs, that’s a whole different genre and who better to write a life than the person who lived it. I’m talking fiction – and so many of them are at it – Dawn French, David Walliams, Graham Norton...

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