Friday, December 26, 2014

The Key to Kickass Dialogue

Dialogue Secrets

Quick! After a person’s appearance, what’s the first thing you notice when you meet someone? If you’re like most of us, it’s what comes out of their mouths. First impressions and all that. But when you read, you can’t see the characters, so your first impressions are made based on what the characters say, not how they look.

Simple concept, right? Not so simple to deliver.


Give them something to say that is:

·      Believable
·      Fits their personality
·      Consistent, yet unexpected
·      Short and natural

        1)   Believable Dialogue

How do you know if it’s believable or not? Put on your walking shoes and get out your notebook! Head to the spot where the prototype of your character would go. Need to write teens talking together at lunch? Go to a fast-food restaurant near a high school. Want to know what couples say when they’re on a date? Head to a movie theater early and go see latest romantic comedy. You get the idea.

***HINT:  LISTEN AND TAKE GOOD NOTES. I promise you’ll forget the words and how they said them if you don’t.

       2)   Dialogue that fits the character’s personality

There’s a famous writing cliché that says a reader should be able to read a line of dialogue and know who the character is without the identifying dialogue tag.

The key is being the character when you write his or her lines. Imagine YOU are the sensitive butcher who is very observant––seriously! Picture yourself looking out of the eyes of the butcher with your hands on a raw steak and then write his or her lines. A great way for authenticity is to actually observe a butcher talking to his or her customers. Conduct a quick interview if you can, asking his top three concerns about his job. You might be surprised to learn what those things are…and so might your reader.

****HINT: SWITCH INTO THE MINDS of all of your characters (even the minor ones) as you write to create words that only THEY would say.


       3)   Consistent, yet unexpected? Huh?

Your job is to make sure your characters are real, that they speak the truth (or not, depending on who they are). In real life, characters might keep their thoughts to themselves. Not so in fiction. Characters that are pushed to the brink must speak out––to a best friend, to the cabbie, to the offending party, to the police.

Yes, we want dialogue to be authentic, but it IS a story and it does need to intrigue your readers. So let them speak their mind and propel the story ahead by providing interesting thoughts for your readers to mull over.

***HINT:  TO KEEP PACING ON TRACK, use frequent dialogue to break up paragraphs of exposition.

       4)   Short and Natural

Cut to the chase. No one likes listening to boring blow-hards, so don’t let your characters be one of those people. Remember tuning out a boring teacher? That’s what didactic dialogue and info dumps feel like to your readers. Only include information that’s absolutely necessary for the story’s sake and skip the rest. You need to know the backstory, but keep it to yourself if it isn't essential to the plot.

***HINT:  READ ALL DIALOGUE OUT LOUD. Change voices to the way you imagine the characters interacting and it’ll feel more “real.” If you’re bored with the conversation, so is your reader. If it doesn’t sound the way a person really talks, cut it or revise it. Listen to real people and you’ll notice most of us talk in short sentences with breaks for others to add commentary.

So there you have it. Write dialogue that’s believable, fits the characters, necessary, and natural and your readers will come back for more!

Hopefully you’ll find authentic dialogue galore in WANTED:  DEAD OR IN LOVE, which features two alternating POVs––one from Monroe (a modern-day teen who becomes possessed internally by the infamous Bonnie Parker), and the other from Clyde Barrow himself (who works hard to take over the body of Jack Hale, a teen male).

And if cultural humor is more your style, you’ll get a helping of Polish spirits along with a bounty of teen angst in ONE SMART COOKIE, a Polish teen who seeks the help of her spirit-conjuring grandmother to find the perfect boyfriend.

Kym Brunner



Kym Brunner's method of creating a manuscript: write, procrastinate, sleep, repeat. She's addicted to Tazo chai tea, going to the movies, and reality TV. When she's not reading or writing, Kym teaches 7th grade full time. She lives in Arlington Heights with her family and two trusty writing companions, a pair of Shih Tzus named Sophie and Kahlua. She's repped by Eric Myers of The Spieler Agency.




Wanted: Dead or In Love Book Trailer:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Magical Night at Anderson's Bookshop

Have you ever had one of those surreal moments when something BIG is happening and you can feel it in every nerve of your body and you want that feeling to last forever?

Well, that happened to me yesterday when I crossed a line through an item on my bucket list:  appearing at Anderson's Bookshop as an author.  I felt amazingly lucky to be on a panel with some of the friendliest, coolest, nicest, smartest YA authors around. How had we never met before?

Here are the brilliant authors of some super super cool books (all with an original dark element including:  OCD, cults, swamps, body sharing with dead outlaws):

LEFT TO RIGHT: Lindsay Currie (co-author of CREED), Natalie Parker (BEWARE THE WILD), Rachel Wilson (DON'T TOUCH), Me (WANTED: DEAD OR IN LOVE) and the other co-author of CREED, Trisha Leaver.

Here, expert storyteller Natalie is beguiling the crowd with her tale about going to GATOR RANCH in the deep, deep, deep South. Ask her to tell you about it sometime!

Some of our fabulous attendees! Thanks so much for coming out!

Some other fun tidbits: Shared dinner and sweet treats beforehand with the panel at Jimmy's. Delicious food and nonstop conversation that made my author heart happy. Thrilled to see my book on the shelf. Wahoo!

But the BEST PART OF THE WHOLE NIGHT was meeting Nathalie, Stephany, and her father who had driven over an hour to meet me and buy my book. You girls are both awesome and Nathalie, your enthusiasm for writing blew me away. I know I'll be seeing your name on a book cover one day in the future! Thanks for coming out!!
The adorably cute and effervescent Nathalie (left) and her artistic sister, Stephany!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Win A KLU Color Tablet! Enter the "MY GRANDMA IS ONE SMART COOKIE" contest!

by entering the

              1 Lonely Teen Girl
      +  1 Deal with the Polish Spirit of Love
                  (courtesy of her one smart, spirit-conjuring grandmother, of course)
            2 Tasty Boys (and a whole batch of deception)

16-year-old Sophie Dumbrowski’s grandma is one smart cookie. How about yours?

Is your grandmother (alive or deceased) one smart cookie? Does she do amazing things for her community, your family, or her health?  Does she go out of her way to make your life better? Does she bake the best cookies in the world? Then tell the world about it!

To enter, all you need to do is submit a photo of your grandmother (alone, with you or your family, in actionwhatever works!) and write a one to three sentence caption telling why she’s so smart / wonderful / generous/ (fill in the blank). Winners will be judged on the overall quality of the writing (conventions /word choice), the ability to make a connection to the reader, and having a clear photo that focuses on your grandmother.

Captions should begin with “My grandma (NAME) is one smart cookie because…”

Send your picture and entry electronically to: kymbrunner AT with the subject: ONE SMART COOKIE CONTEST or enter online at

Must be received by January 15th – Winner announced January 30th
All entries will be posted at


*donated /  no warranty / comes with charger
10" touchscreen tablet with 4 GB memory

Monday, October 13, 2014

Authors and Reviews - How We REALLY Feel


Naturally, if every bit of it is glowing, we cheer, nod, and say, "This person is brilliant!"

But what about when part of the review isn't all party cakes and rainbows?

Well for me, I'd say I have a LOVE-LEARN relationship with reviewers and reviews.

Some authors I know stopped reading reviews because it makes them sad/angry/vengeful or (fill in the blank). And ain't nobody got time for that, right?

But not me.

I can't wait to read them. I purposely didn't call it a "love-hate" relationship because that's not usually the way I feel when I read reviews about my novels. (Unless of course it seems like the reviewer has a personal vendetta against me from my high school days, or they only read the first two chapters....then I might not be so forgiving.)

And to be perfectly honest,  maybe I do hate it a little when I read negative things. After all, it did take me two years of writing and revising to finish the book, so it's human nature for some comments to sting a little. But overall, I think of it as a learning experience. Maybe because I've been a teacher my whole life...?

So here's the scoop:

I LOVE when reviewers read my books, flattered they spent their precious time choosing my book to read. I LOVE when they LOVE it and share their view of it with the world. that effect, a giant thank you to book reviewers, librarians, and friends who post reviews for my books on Goodreads, Amazon, and/or Barnes & Noble.

What I might not love is when they spot flaws in my characters, world-building, plot, or endings. But there are things I don't love in other books I've read, so why wouldn't others feel the same way about mine? The trick is to try and objectively view the review as if it weren't about my book, and to realize that the different tastes in reading material is what helps keep novels diverse.

Easier said than done.

Here's what I do when I read a review:

1) Look at the final, overall rating to prepare myself whether it will be meh, good, or great.
2) Read it quickly once and react however I'm feeling (but don't share that with anyone).
3) Read it a second time, but this time, I read it as if my editor is giving me advice about things I need to address.
4)  I note the things they liked and/or disliked.
5) If more than one person said the same thing, I'm definitely going to try to make sure that, in the future, those same flaws have been addressed.

If you're a reviewer, do you worry about how you phrase a negative review, or is it more fun to dish it dirty and not think about the author? Is there any sort of etiquette involved?

And if you're an author, do you read your reviews? Why or why not?

Til next time,

Monday, September 22, 2014

Margo Kelly’s Debut WHO R U REALLY? was Ripped from a Real Life Event

After her daughter narrowly survived a man she met in an online role-playing game, Kelly wrote a breathless young adult thriller with the hopes of helping others spot and unmask internet predators.
 When a Nampa, Idaho, police detective said to Margo Kelly’s daughter, 
“It is your job to tell others—your real everyday friends that you go to school with—tell them what happened to you, so nothing like this can happen to them.” … she agreed.

“My daughter is my hero,” Kelly said, “for being willing to share her personal choices, conversations, and feelings in order to help others, regardless of the negative judgment she might receive as a result.” Additionally, Kelly realized if she wrote a novel about her daughter’s experience, they could help more people avoid the trappings of internet predators. Who R U Really? is primarily a work of fiction, but the essence of the plot is what happened when Kelly’s daughter was nearly abducted. The fictional elements are based on what has happened to young women across the country on a too frequent basis.

“Inspired by her own daughter's terrifying story, Kelly has painted a realistic picture of how a smart girl can get caught up in something dangerous online,” said the School Library Journal. “Guaranteed to give readers goosebumps—particularly as events heat up toward the end. … A good choice for families to read together.” (

According to the Fall Preview issue of Kirkus Reviews, “Thea’s mistakes, while frustrating to encounter, are frighteningly plausible, and the relationships among characters are well–fleshed out, especially between mother and daughter. Kelly’s first novel is a suspenseful page-turner with multiple suspects, a little bit of romance, and a strong but not overbearing message.” (

Who R U Really? will be published in hardcover and e-book versions by Merit Press (F+W Media) on September 18, 2014.

More about Who R U Really?
When Thea discovers a new role-playing game online, she breaks her parents’ rules to play. And in the world of the game, Thea falls for an older boy named Kit whose smarts and savvy can’t defeat his near-suicidal despair. Soon, he’s texting her, asking her to meet him, and talking in vague ways about how they can be together forever. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit’s allure, and hurtles toward the very fate her parents feared most. Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea’s life spins out of control.

Buy online:

More about Margo Kelly
Margo Kelly is a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, she is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Who R U Really? is her first novel. Margo welcomes the opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs.
Follow her online:
Twitter: @MargoWKelly

      Scheduled Appearances:
September 26, 2014 – 5pm – Book Signing at Hastings in Meridian, Idaho
September 27, 2014 – 4pm – Book Signing at Hastings on Overland in Boise, Idaho
October 3, 2014 – 7pm – Book Launch Party at Hyde Park Books in Boise, Idaho
October 11, 2014 – 4pm – Book Signing at Barn

Friday, September 12, 2014

Top FIVE Things I Learned AFTER My Debut Novel Came Out

YAY! You're what?


After the exuberance at signing my first contract ebbed a bit, I set my sights on what it would be like following the novel’s release. I didn’t worry too much about the logistics of it, but I had imagined that over time, I would become pretty well versed on how things would progress.

I wasn’t.

Partly because there’s a lot to learn and experience, but also partly because, for everyone else involved, it’s not their first time to the publishing watering hole and they don’t know how much (or in my case, how little) you know about the after party. While it’s only been two months since Wanted:  Dead or In Love (Merit Press) came out and even shorter since One Smart Cookie (Omnific Publishing) was released,  I’ve already learned A LOT since then.  Here we go:

5. YOUR PUBLISHER WILL PROMOTE YOU, BUT…you have to promote yourself.  A LOT. Your publishing house has tons of authors on their lists, with more books being released each season, so keep on tagging them in your tweets and status updates and it works to doubly promote them and you. It’s a good thing.

4. YOU HAVE TO FIND YOUR OWN WAYS TO GET THE WORD OUT – no one wants a blowhard that says “Buy my book, buy my book!” all the time, so think hard about alternate connections to your books and make it fun. Run promotions that get readers involved. Make connections with librarians, appear at functions near your home (so it’s not too expensive)….just get out there and be visible and friendly, not pushy.

3.  GIVEAWAYS CAN GET YOU NOTICED…but if you offer a gift card along with your book, many people will enter for the money, but not your book. Something to think about.

2. YOUR FRIENDS ARE EXCITED FOR YOU, BUT MIGHT NOT BUY YOUR BOOK. And that’s okay. Not everyone is a reader. Try not to get too disappointed and don’t hold grudges. (But hopefully they won’t mind if you don’t buy their kids’ Boy Scout popcorn either…) Just kidding!! Okay, maybe not. See how hard it is NOT to be disappointed? J But to my wonderful friends, family, and fellow scribes who have supported me by coming out to my book launch events, purchased my novels, or spread the word, you’re the best!! I can’t thank you enough!

1. SALES TAKE A WHILE TO ACCRUE. While there will (hopefully) be a nice spike when your book first comes out, it takes time for word of mouth to build. Keep buzzing about your book because you might think everyone has heard, but many haven’t. Everyone needs reminders and fresh news about your book and appearances. Slow and steady wins the race. 

So there you have it…and the learning curve doesn’t stop there. What was something that surprised YOU about the publishing business after your debut came out?



Kym Brunner dreams entire novels in her head, but needs about a year to write it all down.  She wishes there was an app for this. She's addicted to chai tea, going to the movies, and reality TV. When she's not reading or writing, Kym teaches 7th grade full time. She lives in the Chicago area with her family and two trusty writing companions, a pair of Shih Tzus named Sophie and Kahlua. She's repped by Eric Myers of The Spieler Agency.

Wanted: Dead or in Love, Merit Press, June, 2014
One Smart Cookie, Omnific Publishing, July, 2014


Sunday, August 24, 2014

CREATE A PLAN TO BUILD A PUBLISHING CAREER - Taking Agent Laura Rennert's Advice

At the SCBWI-LA conference earlier this month, executive agent Laura Rennert from Andrea Brown Literary Agency wowed us with her knowledge about how authors should build successful careers.

She suggested that we view ourselves as being the CEO of our own company, which would make your agent your COO. After reviewing who her authors are, she develops very systematic plans for each of her clients and says we should do the same for ourselves.

Basically, you need to think about who you are as a person, who your readers are, and what your books are about, then build your brand and marketing efforts upon those ideas. So here are my thoughts on each of those topics:

Who am I as a person?
  • teacher/ author
  • outgoing
  • always striving to be humorous
  • am intrigued by things unique and unusual 
  • laid back and easygoing

Who are my readers?
  • teens
  • smart adults who dig YA
  • librarians? reviewers? teachers?

What are my books about?
  • everyday teens on the brink of something new
  • often suspense & plot driven
  • falling in love
  • humor + heart
  • something unusual or quirky such as:
  • Bonnie & Clyde, Polish superstitions, falconry, space camp.

So based on those bullet points...what's my plan?
I'm going to try and formulate one now:

I'll focus on writing blog posts, running contests, and appearing at events hoping to showcase my sense of humor, my knowledge of suspenseful writing, and showing my love for things that are quirky.

Hmm....I think I like it. At least for now.

Laura Rennert did mention restructuring now and then as you go along. Figure out what's working and continue doing those things, while at the same time, weed out the strategies that weren't so successful. What works for one author might not work for another, so don't lose hope. It may take years to develop, but keep working and hopefully you'll see sales rise and offers increase. (*see me grinning with sparks of hope in my eyes)

Now it's your turn to be the CEO of your book company. Write down the three categories listed in bold above, along with your bulleted lists that represent you, and then come up with a one-line plan. I'd love to hear what it is, so please share in the comments....



Writing suspenseful stories often leads me to investigating creepy places and  gruesome stories of real events.  Oftentimes what the adage s...