Thursday, November 12, 2015

Writin' and Ropin' the Fundamentals of Talkin' Cowboy... and Those Who Don't!

Consider this a cover reveal, and consider me a VERY HAPPY AUTHOR!!!!


Meet Colt Stafford... A Lower Manhattan hedge fund manager, an Ivy League graduate of the esteemed Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, a man who has proven himself by gaining riches and prominence...

A man who's lost the cowboy within.

But I help him find that lost soul, that gentleman of the west, a man with a code of honor...

A cowboy.

But this post isn't about the story of "Back in the Saddle". (Although it's a very good story, and you will love it in about 4 months!!!)

It's about writin' cowboy and sometimes not talkin' cowboy, and keeping characters in proper format for their part, and switching back and forth.

Hi, I'm Ruthy and getting dialogue right is huge to me.

Every author has their idiosyncrasy. Mine is to make characters sound distinct, reflecting their age, stage, ethnicity, character arc, education or lack thereof and what region they might be representing. Because to me, that's what makes a book S-I-N-G with reality, grab hold of hearts, mind and souls, because it's not just the written word... it's the way they "speak" the written word. For today's exercise, I'm going to do a comparison of spoken lines, and why they're different, and how that reflects the character involved.

Here's my take on the Snowflake Method of dialogue, not to be confused with other Snowflake Methods of anything, that would give me agita. This is the dialogue snowflake simile:


Subtle differences matter. Colt is just back home to help his sick father, and he's licking his wounds from a market crash and wide-reaching Ponzi scheme in Lower Manhattan that tied up a bulk of his funds. As you read the following, these are examples of how "set-up" and not just spoken words are part of what set characters apart in a well-crafted book. Characters are all answering the question, "How do you expect to make it through the day?"

Colt, age 35, raised on a ranch, undergrad at University of Oregon, double Masters from Wharton Business School: "What I expect is that I'm going to be dog tired and plenty sore by the time I hit that pillow tonight, but nothing I couldn't handle before." He held Nick's gaze and didn't waver. "And nothing I'm afraid to handle now."

Hobbs, mid-sixties, 10th grade education, born to work range: "Well, if it's any o' your business, which it ain't...  I 'spect I'll end up dog tired and bone-weary by the time I fall into bed." He held Nick's gaze as tough and hard as he had twenty years before. "Nothin' I couldn't handle then. Or now."

Sam Stafford, owner of the Double S, tough, taciturn, aggressive, struggling to be a better person. And it's a REAL struggle for Sam. "I've been tired and sore before, and never let it stop me from doing what needs to be done. Handled it then." He aimed a steel-edged look at his middle son. "I'll handle it just as well now."

Nick, age 33, Colt's younger brother, raised on the Double S and stayed on the ranch, helping develop a nationally recognized embryo transplant program for superior meat-producing cattle: "I'm not afraid to get tired, sore or dirty if that's what we need to get the job done." He kept his gaze on Colt, but tipped the brim of his hat down, ever so slightly, a minimal challenge. But still a challenge. "Whatever it takes."

Angelina, raised by Ecuadoran immigrant parents, college educated Seattle detective, effective at role play for undercover work. (Now Angelina is a little different because she's got two identities. When she's Angelina, the Latina cook and house manager, she speaks with some Spanglish and a more thoughtful immigrant-style speech. When she's herself, she uses hints of Latina from being raised by Spanish-speaking/English speaking parents, but her speech is more All-American conversational English. So that was tricky...)  As Angelina: "It will, perhaps, make me tired and sore, but by the day's end it will be a job well done. And that is the end I seek."

As Detective Mary Angela Castiglione: She leaned close-- real close-- and he'd heard the term snapping eyes before, but he'd never really visualized it.

Now he did.

She held his gaze, held it hard. "I'll get through this like I've gotten through everything else life has handed me over the past few years, and if I'm a little tired and sore by the end of the day, I'll deal with it. Got it?"

As Isabo Castiglione, Angelina's widowed mother: "I will, of course, get through this as I have so many things because the Lord, my God has strengthened me. His will and grace surround me and offer me solace when the night grows long. It is in Him, I rest."

As Murt McMurty, former Double S Ranch manager, a man who tried to retire... and simply couldn't stay away, born to die in the saddle: "I've been tired and sore before. Expect to be again. Pass the biscuits."

As Trey Stafford, the youngest Stafford son, a country music superstar who owns a ranch in the hills of Virginia but rarely sees it: Trey faced Nick, peaceable as always, and that in itself was an aggravating experience. "I can sit saddle as long as I need to, and as good as any." He shrugged, cowboy-easy, making Nick wonder if he was as mellow as he appeared, or if it was just good acting. "If aching bones keep me up tonight, I'll find a place under a star-soaked sky and strum notes until a few of them make sense." He smiled then, right at Nick, and cuffed his arm. "And I'll make sure I dedicate it to you, all right?"

The art of creating dialogue reflective of the characters is by structuring the setting of the conversation (the action beats, or whatever you call them) to reflect that person... and then keeping their choice of words in character.

Now if anyone tells you all kids sound alike, laugh at them. The art of creating realistic children in your stories should never be minimized. If 75% of your readers are MOTHERS OR GRANDMOTHERS, then you need to be spot on while creating children.

Or don't use them. Honestly, if it's alien to you, and it doesn't feel right, minimize your use of kids in stories.

I've got three kids in this first book. Angelina's son Noah (age 3 and speaks well, complete sentences with an occasional stutter)

Cheyenne Stafford, Nick's oldest daughter, age 8.

Dakota Stafford, Nick's younger daughter, age 5.

Noah's speech is advanced because he's been raised in a solitary environment with his grandmother. She speaks with intent and few contractions in precise English as a second language style, so Noah's full sentences and enunciation are due to her influence.

Cheyenne is typical in-your-face American kid, with attitude. So when Cheyenne talks, she has a bite, a snark, a thread of anger over her mother's abandonment and her father's stubborn, boots-in-the-mud edicts.

Dakota is six years old, and she's a charismatic little thing, eager to please while she quietly breaks rules... she's just way better at it than her older sister because she appears to appease.

And by the end of the story, I've eased up on Noah's precision speech because now he's around other kids and adults and he's acclimating.

Cheyenne loses some of her snark, but not much because I need some for BOOK 2!!!

And Dakota stay's pretty much in character because she's not challenged by anything directly.

And she gets a kitten, reason enough right there for her to be nice, right?

What is your biggest challenge with dialogue? Or what are the subtle differences you fall down on?

Give us a shout about this, about cowboys, about holiday crazy, or the GREAT HARLEQUIN SALE going on right now!!!


All of our Love Inspired books are $1.99 for e-readers of all sorts! Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Google, whatever device you use: $1.99/book!!!! For $10 investment you can get 5 Ruthy books!!!!!


You can get all SIX "Men of Allegany County" books for less than $12!!!!! A-Stinkin'-Mazing!


You can get all SIX "Kirkwood Lake" books for less than $12!!!!!

Stock up time on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Google... you name it, they've got it!

And I'm looking to pick three readers today, three readers for "Back in the Saddle" who are willing to have a review ready to post on release day in March....

So let me know in the comments if you'd like to be tossed into the cat dish as a reader! I sure would appreciate it!

Coffee and cake inside.... and a pot of tea, as well!

Author of nearly thirty 4 and 4.5 Star novels, Ruthy Logan Herne drives small children and innocent animals crazy on her upstate New York farm while exploiting the little darlings on facebook to help sell sweet books! She loves God, her family, her country, dogs, coffee and chocolate.... and star-soaked skies. Visit her on facebook, or stop by her website or come and cook with her at the Yankee Belle Cafe today!


Marianne Barkman said...

Oh, yes, Ruthy. I would love to post a review for BACK IN THE SADDLE. Please put my name in the dish. I loved your post today. You do have the fundamentals of talking cowboy ( or not) down pat! Thank you

DebH said...

Love the differing dialogue samples. Uber cool.
Always in for ANY Ruthy book to read/review.

Up late dealing with what looks like yet another bout of ear infection in little guy. Prayers appreciated.

Love the post, Ruthy (love them cowboys too).

Ruth Logan Herne said...


Good morning, ladies!!!!!

Marianne, tossing your name in and thank you!!!!!! Deb, yours too, and I'm glad you liked the samples! Thank you!

I've got you both in and I'm sending Guppy hugs and kisses. And his mom, too!

Cindy W. said...

Hi Ruthy! Great post. I love dialogue that is well thought out. It makes for a greater story. Imagine elderly gruff men speaking like young teenagers, etc. It never works. I loved your examples. :)

I am flailing my arms here in Indiana. I would love to be a "reader" for your book Back in the Saddle. Please toss my name in.

I pray everyone has a blessed day.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Tina Radcliffe said...

And don't I just love that cowboy..I mean cover. Congratulations on your upcoming release!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cindy W, good morning!

I'm with you, dialogue that fits the person and the setting helps me see/feel the characters. And you're spot on, if the dialogue doesn't fit the person, then the reader is jerked out of the story... and back to reality!


I'm tossing you in, sweet thing, and thank you for your willingness!

Ruth Logan Herne said...





And the horse is "Yesterday's News" and he's mighty pretty, too! :) I'm excited to see if Myra even NOTICES the cowboy!!!!! :)

Lyndee H said...

HI Ruthy! I'm having Ruthy Hours this morning, but not for the reason we'd all hope. Meadow, my one year old Pom had her spay surgery last week and now she's decided she needs her mommy (me) about four in the morning, every morning and starts barking like a crazy girl. Since I moved my computer into the kitchen, I can now write while she sleeps in her cage next to me so at least my dh gets a full night. But I'd rather be sleeping, too! You know me. I'm the late-shift Ruthy Hours gal.

This is a great post and I love your examples. The first book that caught my attention with this topic was Debra Ulrick's 'The Unlikely Wife.' Now, of course, I'd ready other books with distinctively voiced characters, but Debra's really resonated with me. The light-bulb moment in unusual accents, if you will. I caught myself listening to other people speak, then in my head, putting their words into her heroine's voice. I learned a lot during that experiment. Only other writers might appreciate that admission!

Congrats on the new book! Would download your back-list, but I have them all! Although you're a hard one to keep up with, churning them out like you do. Such great reads. (Sigh...)

We've got gale force winds going here, outside of the Windy City. Serving piping hot chocolate for anyone needing a cuddle-weather boost!

Jill Weatherholt said...

An Ivy League Cowboy...Yowza! I can't wait to read Colt's story, Ruthy!
Your examples are terrific. I agree, giving our characters a unique voice is so important, and you do it so well. Great cover!
I'm loving the Harlequin sale...I've bought a ton of books so far!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Lyndee, I love having you here in the morning, I'm going to kiss the dog!!!! :)

Thank you for all of your kind words, my friend. They're lovely, and I know exactly what you mean because I tune in to how people talk, how they turn a phrase, how cray-cray they are and why.

How flat would it be if all the characters talked Western as in old-movie Western?

It would be terrible, so those distinctions open the playing field! Lyndee, I'll have some of that hot chocolate, darling!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jill, thank you!

Interesting note, I used my sons and their buddies to give me a solid mode for Colt. They were Ivy League middle distance runners, so ordinary guys from all over, plunked into an upper echelon existence... and now they're all these amazing professionals. I had the perfect examples of how to spin Colt realistically because I see these real-life "Colts" several times a year!

The one thing I kept in mind, that for all of Colt's high level education and dealings, he was cowboy "first"... and that helped him and me re-find the man within.

Suzanne Baginskie said...

Good Morning Ruthy, I really liked your column. Its down to earth and chock full of writing advice. Thanks for giving us tips on your unique style for creating characters and blending ithem all together. I have to say the cover is excellent! Beautiful horse, an attractive cowboy and a very catchy title. I wish you lots of success. This book will surely be a winner.

Put me in a review of Back in the Saddle for March. I'm sipping coffee and starting my morning which always begins with downloading the Seekerville column. Have a great writing day everyone.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Suzanne, good morning! Thank you so much for your kind words... I thought of using actual lines from the book, but then they're out of context, whereas doing it this way allows a visual... and a mental set-up approach.

You know how they say that five witnesses will report 5 different events?

I think it should be the same way with characters, keeping them in character throughout the story. I'm tossing your name in, Suzanne! And enjoy the coffee!!! No matter what color the cup is! :)

Jackie said...

Great post, Ruthy. I struggle with making each character sound distinct. A character in my current WIP is a veteran. I'm reading biographies and blogs by veterans trying to get a distinct voice. Any other hints?

I'm so excited about your book reveal. What a great cover! Happy Cover Reveal Thursday!

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, RUTHY! Great illustrations on making the voice of each character authentic to who they are--upbringing, region, personal experience. AND I'm thoroughly enjoying a "sneak peek" at the story behind that GORGEOUS book cover!! :)

Glynna Kaye said...

Oh, and don't forget everyone--that amazing $1.99 sale on Seeker & Seeker Villager e-books going on right now! Check it out!

Wilani Wahl said...

Ruthy, I would love to read Back in the Saddle for you and review it. I love your books. I love the children you create. As a lover of children I am drawn to them. I had an awesome welcome back from my Cubbies in Awannas when they kept hugging me. It was like they could not stop hugging

As I am writing my love for children spills over into my characters. I hope I can learn to portray them as well as you do.

I have loved the Harlequin sale this month and tried to stock up on Seeker authors as far as books I did not already have.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jackie, let's go to the basics. As a veteran, he might use military words easily, military phrases, but more than that, it would be how you frame him as a veteran.

What did he overcome? What did he sacrifice? How long was he in? Did he lose a love, a limb, a parent? Did it cause marital strife? When I look at him (Like Col. Brett Stanton, retired, the hero in "His Mistletoe Family", Love Inspired) I look at the whole of who he is, what he's done, how he'd react based on his character (strong, sacrificial, matured out of necessity, early regret (fathered a son out of wedlock as a teen) and then how later regrets compounded his early regret. (His brother and son followed him into the service and both lost their lives...)

So every word from Brett was compounded by the regret-filled but strong man within.

So when you look at your veteran, don't look so much at the uniform or the coined phrases describing military, but at the core of his character and why he is who he is.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Wilani, I love your kind words!!! I'm tossing you in the cat dish, darling, and thank you for loving my "Ruthy" kids, LOL! Of course I just plain out and out STEAL them from the ones I've helped raise! It's always such a pleasure to chat with you and see your reviews. Thank you, my friend!

Connie Queen said...

Good morning.

I sometimes struggle w/the kids' dialogue under four because all of my kids were so different. Some walked early (the boys), but didn't talk so much. Another walked late, because, hey, she had no intention of falling--ever, but she talked well and clear. I've had kids that attended speech. But I've received comments back from judges that say a three-year old should talk better.
You know, as I'm writing this I'm thinking it's probably all in the execution. Or lack of execution.

Enjoyed all your examples.

Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, great post on creating unique voices for our characters! I absolutely love this cover!! Your hero is the exact image of a cowboy I carry in my mind. Can't wait to get hold of this book!


Janet Dean said...

Love the Harlequin sale going on now!! $1.99 for all the Seeker's Love Inspired books!!


Tracey Hagwood said...

Hi Ruthy,
What horse? There was a horse on the cover? Didn't really notice, must go back and look, the only "Colt" I saw was wearing a cowboy hat and doing it very well I might add, haha.

I'd love to read BACK IN THE SADDLE and review for its March release. I've no doubt the review would be easy and practically write itself!

I've been a.w.o.l. this week reading an armload of Love Inspired books, what an amazing sale! I think I've bought books every day since last Friday! Can a person overdose on books? I think not ;) I'm buying a lot of those with either Christmas or snowy covers, perfect for this time of year.

Sally Shupe said...

My Pastor pointed out what you were talking about here, how different people will sound different, talk different. Take Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible. Each of them had a different take on the events that happened and how they saw them. Didn't change the events, but gave different perspectives.
I'm finding dialogue is very hard for me. The story I'm working on now could really use some dialogue help, so please put me in the drawing to read and review your book! Pretty please? Waving, jumping up and down, running around in circles, adn shouting for you to see me! Can you hear me and see me? I need your book! For research purposes. I will post reviews to my blog, facebook, twitter, amazon, goodreads, and wherever else the book is sold. I love your books and learn so much from them.
I love the horse on the cover. He seems to be so content standing there with Colt close by. Sigh.
In the story I am working on right now, the hero left town when he graduated from high school. He is now back, 5 years later, and I'm trying to realistically portray him as having changed so much nobody knows him. Course he isn't in close contact with most people. He was a scrawny teen, and while he was gone, he grew his hair long and has a beard and worked out. But in close conversations with the Mayor and his old Pastor, they figure out who he is. He is back in town, a changed man, to win back the girl he left behind. How can I "change" his speech so that when he talks to this girl she won't right off recognize his voice? He is the new English teacher at the high school and is putting on the community Christmas pageant which the Mayor has ordered his daughter, the girl he's trying to win back, to help him pull it off and make it a success. Thanks for the help!

Vince said...

Hi Ruth:

I just came across your "Sy Montana-liefling" -- the Afrikaans Edition. Do you think Mills & Boon would send you to South Africa for a book signing tour? BTW: Which book is that?


Tracey Hagwood said...

@Sally-I'm just wondering, is your returning teacher using a different name too? If not, it wouldn't take long for the hometown folks to realize who he is.

Cindy Regnier said...

Ruthy - please put my name in your cat dish. I can't resist Ruthy books or cowboys! I swoon when my guy talks cowboy to me. I've got a book called "Cowboy Lingo" I use sometimes. Might have been Myra that recommended that? Anyway, no respectable heroine is immune to that kind of talk. So want to read this book - like now!!!

Vince said...

Say again?

"But this post isn't about the story of "Back in the Saddle". (Although it's a very good story, and you will love it in about 4 months!!!)

Do you mean it takes four months after you read it to love it? Should you not be working with heavy machinery when that love hits?

The above sentence took me by compete surprise. I didn't think it had been established that the book was not already out; however, you were right. I checked back and I did miss the full ramification of 'consider this a cover reveal'… and so the cognitive dissonance was oversight-inspired.

(Now, who else could have written the above?) :)

So, is the lesson of this lesson to have characters say things in a way that only they would have said those things in that way?

I think that's a very good lesson.


"I'm not sure 'importance' is important, crystal clarity is."

Rachael Koppendrayer said...

Thank you for that super-practical example. Having them all answer the same question really helps me see the difference between character viewpoints and attitudes. I'm thinking I may need to tweak my dialogue some more!

Sally Shupe said...

Tracey, while he was in school he was known as Rand Stevenson. Now, he is going by RP. The people he works with at the school and his students call him Mr. Stevenson, haven't made a connection that he used to live there, but the heroine, the Mayor, the Pastor, only know him as RP. He hasn't been in town long. The heroine's younger sister actually puts them together at an event for the church, but she only knows him as RP right now and he didn't say much to the heroine. She thinks he's stuck up. She's still devastated over him leaving and hasn't moved on, or forgiven herself for why he left. So she's not looking too closely at him. Would his hairstyle changes, the way he carries himself, the way he talks, be enough to hide who he really is until he can sit down and talk to the heroine to see if they have a chance together?

Kathryn Barker said...


Fantastic example using the same line for creating different character's dialogue. I adore cowboys!! Your new book cover is perfect. And I'd love to read BACK IN THE SADDLE and have a review ready!!

I learned a lesson in creating cowboy dialogue when an editor for a short story I submitted said my cowboy didn't seem believable. He needed to talk more and have less action. But my "real" experience with cowboys, even the college educated ones, is that when they're working, like branding or sorting or trailing cattle, they grunt and point a lot and expect you to know what they mean! There isn't time for long sentences, explanations or eloquent speech. LOL

Now, in my stories cowboys talk!

Busted my book budget (ouch) with the Harlequin Sale!

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, WOW, Ruthy ... is THIS a keeper!!! EXCELLENT way to show the subtle differences in personality in dialogue -- WOW!!

I have to admit, one of my underlying worries with creating so my heroes and heroines in the O'Connor clan, and then the McClare clan, was how could I possibly make them all different??? I mean there are only so many hair and eye colors, then facial and body mannerisms you can use without using them again, so it's tough.

But it IS easier with dialogue, and you've just proven how effective that can be in fleshing out the character in your reader's mind.

Cannot WAIT to read your cowboy stories, my friend. Got a feeling they're gonna kick up a storm of dust as they ride into the sales sunset! :)


Myra Johnson said...

Such a fun post, Ruthy, and such great examples of how characters' voices vary and must reflect everything about their personality and background!

When I'm writing dialogue, I can actually hear each character speaking in my head, so I'm mainly "taking dictation." One of my very favorite characters to write was Pastor Henke from Autumn Rains. I loved making those big words come out of his mouth that made everyone go "Huh????"

Myra Johnson said...

LOL, Ruthy! Yes, I did notice the cowboy.

After I spent a good three minutes admiring the horse!!!!

Just Commonly said...

Hi Ruth! Another great post! Love your examples. Dialogues are so important, not only to the plot, but also the personality of each character. When I read a book, characters' personality can influence and sometimes define if I like what I'm reading or not. =)

Loves To Read said...

Your book sounds wonderful Ruthy - please throw my name in the hat - I would love to read and review!

Laura Conner Kestner said...

I enjoyed this post - thank you so much! As a life-long Texan I have to be very careful with my characters' speech since on a day-to-day basis nearly everyone I come in contact with in "real life" throws in a "y'all" or two...or three, no matter their education level or occupation. I never even notice it most times, but it sure doesn't look right when everyone does it in a book. Thanks for the samples and examples of the different dialogue - very helpful. I look forward to reading your new book!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Connie, it totally depends on the three-year-old, doesn't it? So yeah, then it comes down to execution:

If the child is struggling, Mom could be worrying about speech help, syndromes, etc. and needs to come to terms with why she's so worried.

Or the grandmother can be critical (or an aunt, or mother-in-law) because her kids all spoke fluently by age three, and one of the actually wrote the Gettsyburg address and was gracious enough to let Lincoln use it.

And the mother can be at ease about it, and then be criticized for not pushing enough.

The execution is huge, you're right, you want to make the language/speech/patterns on adults and kids next-door-neighbor believable.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I was gone for a little bit, I was the SECRET READER at Mary Ruth's kindergarten class today... so I went and read "When a Monster is Born", one of Mary Ruth's favorites... and she was so surprised to see me come in!!!! #happykid


And it's a great story, the kids got into it, I got into it, and I gave the teachers copies of An Unexpected Groom. A wonderful time!

Kav said...

Awesome illustration of dialogue -- I'm gobsmacked!!! I never considered dialogue being a tool to add another layer to the depth of a character -- at least not to that extent, but this is absolutely fabulous! Worth the price of admission. :-)

Dialogue that I take note of as a reader -- proper English conversation in a Regency. Not that I actually know how they spoke in the early 1800s but I delight in thinking I do. And Amish novels -- the use of Pennsylvania Deutsch strategically placed in the dialogue -- just enough to give the right flavour without making it hard to understand.

I'd love to be entered in the draw for Back in the Saddle. Will definitely read and review in any case.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Janet, isn't Colt a hunka hunka burnin' love? They did a GREAT JOB!!!! It is a smokin' subtle hot cover and it says so much. It lends itself to finding the cowboy within....

And writing Colt's story was fun because my son Luke is in hedge funds in NYC and he was my expert, and he was marvelous. When it was done, I felt like we nailed both sides of Colt and then blended them beautifully.

Ruth Logan Herne said...


I'm so pleased they're doing that!!!

I'm tucking your name into the dish, darling, and I appreciate your willingness to take one for the team, LOL!

I think you'll love it. I love it to pieces, it's a plunk yourself into an easy chair and read kind of story.

Did you see a horse on the cover???? :) LAUGHING!!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Ruthy, great lineup of characters. Can't wait to meet them in BACK IN THE SADDLE! Love the way you reveal each character's unique personality and a bit of his/her past history in the dialogue you used. You're a master at that!

As you mentioned, action tags are so important. Almost as important as the words the characters speak. Perhaps its 50-50.

The manuscript I just submitted has a pediatrician heroine. She speaks in long sentences sprinkled with a bit of medical jargon. The hero is a military special agent. He's more cut and dried. Even clipped at times. He's affirming though, and she's perceptive. Those differences were fun to work into the story.

Here's my question for you change your bio for every book? Or for every blog? They're always fun to read.


kaybee said...

Okay, I’ll play even though I really shouldn’t, I have work to do. But we learn by doing, so I adapted Ruthy’s concept to characters in the book I’m shopping around now, an Oregon Trail-based historical romance. LET’S IMAGINE that a supply wagon has overturned belonging to Hiram and Ina Prince, and the other characters are responding. Can you tell anything about any of them?
Michael: Michael pushed his hat back, exposing a nearly-white forehead under the black curls. “’Tis a mess and that’s for sure. Did they not heed the supply lists?” He picked up a blue-and-white china teacup and rubbed the dirt off on his soft flannel sleeve. “Were they expecting to have tea with the Queen?”
Pace: Pace folded his arms. “This will take an hour to clean up. An hour we ain’t got. We’re supposed to make Chimney Rock by nightfall. And it will take able-bodied people away from their own chores.”He kicked a rock, well away from the Princes’ loose possessions.
Martha: Martha fisted her hands at her plump hips as she surveyed the spilled items. “Shouldn’t take more’n an hour if we all pitch in. I’ll get the kids to help. Rachel, Esther, come here! Now!”
Caroline: Caroline brushed back a curl of sun-streaked brown hair. “I’ll help. That is, if Mrs. Prince wants me to.” But she was already down on her knees, picking up potatoes and onions and shoving them back in their sacks.
Ben: Ben stooped, wincing at the effect on his back. “I told them to check the axles. And told them. An’ showed Henry how. And did it for ’em a couple times. No point making this trip any harder than it is.”
Jenny: “Looky here, sheet music!” She waved the pieces of paper above her head. “Does Miz Prince expect to find a piano waiting for her in the woods? What an idjit. I would of brought more tools instead. If it was me. Which I’m glad it ain’t.”
Well, I learned something by doing that! Thank you, Ruthy! Excellent tutorial!
Kathy Bailey
Trying it out in NH

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sally, thank you, sweet thing! I love your enthusiasm, you just made me laugh out loud!!!

Okay, on your story, I don't think you've given enough distance/time.

Five years from 18-23 is a blink. And voices are a killer, and you can't get around it because the guy's the English teacher and they talk a lot, but how about this?

Make the time longer. Make it ten years or fifteen years, and I'll tell you why: Guys today don't mature as fast as they used to and it's because they're not pushed to do so. They don't have to jump into the work force at age 17 and support a family at age 20. So many of them are still having college drunk parties at 23....

So I'd age him for that reason first, because that seems real these days, and then that gives you a much better chance of keeping his identity quiet. Although it won't be real if no one knows him, I don't think. There are some folks who can't/won't be fooled, but might keep their silence.

Now on the voice thing, that's tough. Voices are imprinted on our brains, like finger prints. You know what I mean, you can hear a voice across a room, and instantly recognize someone you haven't seen in a decade. So there has to be either a reason his voice is different, or he's deliberately shielding it (talking like a Yank or Southern or whatever) but that seems a little far-fetched.

Anybody else have ideas? Of course puberty and voice changes are huge, but at 18, out of high school, most boy's voices have already deepened.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince!!!! His Montana Sweetheart in Afrikaans???? I had a young woman from South Africa who said she'd read my books, but I didn't know they'd translated!


Sherida Stewart said...

Ruthy, your examples of the characters using different speech patterns are really helpful! I definitely need to work on this area. Since I include children in my stories, I wish I'd taken notes from my teaching days about how my students talked. I certainly need to do more trips to visit my five- and two-year-old grandsweeties!

I'm waving my hand for a review copy of Back in the Saddle! Colt and my older son have some things in common. My son graduated from PENN and worked at Wharton. Being from Colorado and Wyoming, he was a bit of a cowboy, but more an outdoorsman. Fortunately, he isn't a lost soul, but a gentleman of the west and an honorable Eagle Scout. Your new book will be fun to read!

Thanks for the coffee and cake to snack on while I enjoy your beautiful cover! The gray sky and the green hills rising in the distance look perfect for central Washington...along with the perfect cowboy!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Vince, you are the cutest thing! No one else would have written that, but you, my buddy!!!!

So yes, it's coming out in March, I'm crazy excited, the Waterbrook Multnomah crew has been absolutely wonderful to work with, and I love writing cowboys... Which is Love Inspired's fault for asking me to be in on that Montana continuity! :) SO FUN!!!!

And then western historicals for the novellas. Oh, Vince, be still my heart again because I love writing them!

You will love this book. It's Colt's story, and I love that they let me do that, to use the hero primarily... and then to give them great heroines to match their strides.

After we fix everything, of course!

Jana Vanderslice said...

This was great! All of my friends have a key word that they say all of the time, like "Really??", "Seriously??", and even "ShaBamm!". I'm going to do that with my characters, but not repeating it to the point of annoyance.

Thank You!! LOVE the Ivy League Cowboy comes home story line!!! Nothing like a smart cowboy who needs to learn a few things! :)
Please put me in the drawing! Thanks Again!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

RACHAEL!!!!! I'm so glad it helped, that's just what I was going for. I figured it would make it more evident and concise... And make a better picture in our brains of what I meant, LOL!

Tracey Hagwood said...

Yes Ruthy, I sounded the "books on sale" alarm on Saturdays WE along with Rose. We book lovers always share the good stuff. So many choices and so little time!

Now that you mention it there was a horse, it just kinda blended into the background after I saw the cowboy hat and the scruffy jaw, also LAUGHING!

Btw: did you find the boys names you were looking for? There were lots of good suggestions, weren't there?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kathryn, I hear you 100%! A lot of the real ones aren't exactly the talkative types, if you know what I mean, missy! :)

It was fun to create the character types for the three brothers, all strong in their own rights, and all cowboys, and all different... with similarities.

And I wanted them to realize as they were all drawn back together that the tough times of childhood maybe weren't as bad as they remembered, that maybe the bad overshadowed the many "goods"... because that's so often how it is.

Big negatives take precedence in our memories and it's hard to move beyond them. I'm tossing your name in and thank you for your nice words and your willingness! SWEET!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Julie, thank you!!!!

I hear you about trying to make sure folks sound/act/seem different, and I think you do that so beautifully because you let emotion bleed through the page. That emotion helps to set each person apart in your beautiful books, and that's a wonderful thing!

I hope you love it when you read it, and I hope that feeling is universal because I sure do want to write more cowboys!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Myra, I still remember him from Autumn Rains!!!!! That says a lot right there.

And thank you for confirming the cowboy sighting on the cover, LOL! Although I'd love have a chat with Yesterday's News myself, too. What a beautiful horse!

And I've seen what Nick looks like, although not on his cover yet....

Sighing in pure female appreciation.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Thank you, J.C.!!!! I feel the same way, having the personality creep in/through is even more important than the chosen words... but those chosen words make a difference, too. Balance, right?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Loves to Read, my darling girl, you're in! I always appreciate the thought you put into reviews!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Laura!!!! You touched on such a good point. I know it happens in Texas, and up here, and everywhere in between, where you'll have folks talk with similar little patterns, but you're right: If we do that in a book, it doesn't sound real because we're missing the visual human element. We don't "see" the difference in how they say it, if they're saying similar things, so we have to paint that part of the pic from the author's standpoint... And you nailed that! Thank you!

kaybee said...

RUTHY, also, I would love to read and review your book.

Pam Hillman said...

Ruthy, this is brilliant!!! Having each character state in their own words how they'll handle the long, hard day in the saddle. I could picture each and every one of them perfectly.


Course all your posts are always well done, as well as your books, but still, this one is such a great teaching tool! :)

For some reason, as I read all their dialogue, I started picturing the characters holed up in that abandoned adobe church (I think it was a church) in The Outlaw Jose Wales. Maybe it was the tough, no nonsense attitude each of them had, even though they were all different.

And, I'm with Murt... pass the biscuits! lol

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Kav, thank you!!! I love gobsmacking you! :)

Using this book was a little easier than my other books because in the LI books, I'm limited in giving too much space/time to secondaries. And in "Refuge of the Heart", Lena's accent was so strong, that I didn't want to use too many other notable things, although I did give Francine Green a more precise speech, and the hero's mother a more haughty air/speech... but in that case I wanted Lena's ethnicity to stand out, first because Mitch was attracted to it, to the sound of her voice... but secondly, because it weighted the refugee aspect of the story.

I'm throwing your name in, but I knew you'd read it anyway, my friend!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Deb, I'm in the middle of Person of Interest and LOVING IT! I started it when MacKenzie got sick, so I had to put it aside for last week, but now it's on my table again! And even in that story, the differences in their approach and dialogue is strong.

And yes, I do change the bio all the time, depending on who/what/mood. :)

And season, LOL!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

KayBee, that was a WONDERFUL exercise!!!! Go you!!!!! I was grinning at how different they all sounded, and how the poor Princes were being embarrassed because (of course!!!) everybody knows better!

Oh, that was marvelous!!!!

Jeanne T said...

Ruthy, what a great post! I loved reading your different characters in your post. What fabulous examples of how dialogue "shows" the character.

I'm still figuring out the nuances of dialogueSometimes I nail it, and other times I'm too on-the-nose. There's a fine line between personality coming out and a heroine just sounding too snarky. I've erred on the side of the latter, unfortunately. But, I'm working on it. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sherida, I didn't know your son went to Penn!!! Matt and Zach went there, too! I love Philadelphia, I love it more than I can say! So much wonderful rich history and so many people.... and a melting pot, for sure!

And I've got a few Penn stories I can tell, but not on the WorldWideWeb. :)

I had a daughter at Princeton, too, and that would have been a different experience for the boys. Penn is Philly-enough and normal enough to grab hold of so much, and you'll find all kinds of people to get along with in the tens of thousands in University City...

Princeton, the town and the school, have a more reserved feel to them. When I wrote Try, Try Again I had fun with what some folks call the Princeton Perspective, and it's very interesting how that works... You could even pay extra if you didn't exactly live IN Princeton to have that as your mailing address.


So yeah, both Ivy Leagues, but so different! Both schools were great to my kids, though, no complaints!

I love the Penn burgundy and blue!

Bettie said...

Me too. Me too. I would love to review your book. I have all your L I books so I'm good. I really enjoyed the way you had all the different types of characters share their take of the same lines. Wowee!

Sandy Smith said...

Great post Ruthy. I will keep this in mind as I write dialog.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jana, you're in, darling! I loved this story line, too, and when I first was chatting with Waterbrook about this series, they said, "Give us cowboys... with a Christmas tree farm... see what you can do with that."

So then I had to examine geography... very few cowboy states have Christmas tree farms!

Story lines.... three brothers, but not full brothers, three motherless boys.... how and why?

And what brings them home?

I have had an absolute wonderful time delving into embryonic transfers, cattle dogs, broken hearts and wounded souls!

Gotta love me some Western!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Pam Hillman, I love Murt and Hobbs! They're so tried and true, and so devoted to doing a job right, and not taking guff from youngsters!

And Isabo, Angelina's mother... What a great character she is, I might have to invent another brother so I can keep her on stage!!!!

Pass the biscuits. :)


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jeanne, mine is never right the first time through.... or the second. By the third time, it's firmed up enough so it's usually minor tweaking for timing, so you take those snarks and do what you need to...

And sometimes that's as simple as having them bite back the snark so the reader sees it, but they never say it... and then the reader is impressed by their self-discipline or self-control.

Whereas I usually BLURT IT OUT like a goof!!!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Where is Connealy, anyway????????

Is she dissing me again? Youse remember a month or two ago when she finally showed up at NINE o'STINKIN' CLOCK AT NIGHT, and she be like "Oh, Ruthy, I can't believe I'm this late!!!!"

(Imagine the look on my face right now, IT IS NOT PRETTY!!!!!)

Whatever, Connealy.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Bettie!!!! I've got your name in the cat dish, darlin'! And thank you for lovin' my books!!!!! You just made my day!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sandy, thank you! Write on!!!!!

Barbara Scott said...

What a HUNK on your new cover!! Did I hear someone say there was a horse on it too? Could have fooled me. Yes, I'd love to read and review BACK IN THE SADDLE for its March release, so throw my name in the kitty dish.

I loved the way you illustrated how dialogue should reflect the realistic speech of your characters. I hope you copy this and hand it out at every writers conference!

Have I told you lately how talented you are? Can hardly wait for March!!!

Sally Shupe said...

Yay! Mission accomplished. I made you laugh out loud. I marked that off my list, but came right back...

Due to the plot I need him to come back in no later than 7 years. Could I make a lot of life happen to him in the interim? He was a carefree, happy-go-lucky kind of kid when he left, but when he returned the hardships of the world looked out of his eyes? Maybe give him a limp? A cane? to whack anybody over the head who remembers him before he wants them to? lol. I'm not sure yet why he left, but it was drastic enough he didn't tell the heroine he was leaving and when she needed him most, she had no way of getting in touch with him. Maybe he was raised by his grandparents and he left to take care of something? They died soon after he left and nobody knew how to get in touch with him or where he went.

"Although it won't be real if no one knows him, I don't think." -the Mayor knows who he is when they start talking. And makes him tell him. (the Mayor is the father of the heroine. But he agrees not to say anything. Right away, anyway.) The Pastor also figures it out.

"Now on the voice thing, that's tough. Voices are imprinted on our brains, like finger prints. You know what I mean, you can hear a voice across a room, and instantly recognize someone you haven't seen in a decade. So there has to be either a reason his voice is different, or he's deliberately shielding it (talking like a Yank or Southern or whatever) but that seems a little far-fetched."-The heroine catches the voice, but his appearance throws her off, and she's fighting remembering him b/c of the hurt, feeling of abandonment, and the what's going on due to the plot. She is more interested in not having to spend any more time with him than she has to, but they seem to keep getting thrown together. He knows his time is numbered and he has to figure out a way to tell her who he really is before she figures it out on his own and pushes him away for good.

Vince said...

Hi Ruth:

You didn't know you had books in Afrikaans? Why do you think all those Krugerrands have been showing up in the mail? You have noticed them, right?

Off to the dentist! : (

Wilani Wahl said...

Ruthy, in my wip I am doing for Nano My main character is a pastor's daughter. She teaches Sunday school with children in 1st and 2nd grade. In a few spots of the story I have included them as part of the story. Here is one of those times. Her romance interest is her helper.

The kids in Sunday School were extremely wound up. Dreama was finally able to get them all corralled into their seats. Andy was especially in a good mood. "Miss Dreama, did you know the donkey that Mary rode was named Caesar?"

"No, I didn't. The Bible doesn't say what the donkey's name was. It could have been, but we don't know."

She continued telling the Bible Story of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem.

"Excuse me! Excuse me!? Brady was waving his arm excitedly. Dreama knew he would not stop until she called on him.

"Brady, do you have a question?"

"I know what happens next! They knocked on the motel door, but the man told them there was no room."

"That's right, Brady."

"He told them to go stay in the barn," Andy interrupted.

"Yeah, an old smelly barn, Yuck!" Stephanie added, "I wouldn't want to have my baby in an old smelly barn.

Dreama continued telling the story, not minding the interruptions from the kids. She was thrilled that they were remembering the story.

I realize I am just learning and trying to incorporate all the special hints and lessons from all you wonderful Seekers. Do you have hints and suggestions for me with this.

I am also using these kids in the proposal scene. Can you imaging getting engaged in front of a children's Sunday School class.

kaybee said...

You are so lucky you got to read at kindergarten! Reading kids' books out loud is one of my favorite things to do.

kaybee said...

RUTHY, thanks. Honestly, though, the Princes are horrible...:) They take all kinds of crap on the trail and then end up throwing it out. Which is a metaphor for life...

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tracey, NO!!!! I didn't do the boys' names yet, MacKenzie went and got sick in the middle of putting them into the CONSIDERATOR and so I'm getting back to that this weekend... I had to jump back and forth and prioritize that week, so names got back-burnered. In the meantime I'm using throw-away names so that when I find and replace with the real names, we're good to go and I didn't have to slow down the writing! :)

And thank you again for shouting out the sale!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Aw, Barbara Scott, right back at you! Thank you so much!!!! I'm so glad we're buds!

And I'm tossing your name into that dish right now!!!!!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

VINCE!!!! THOSE WERE KRUGGERANDS????? I thought they were Chuck E. Cheese tokens, eee gads, that's a mighty pricey game of skee ball!!!!!


Tracey Hagwood said...

I think the last update on FB said MacKenzie was doing better, I'm thrilled about that! Her sweet little face and her laying in that big hospital bed made me want to cry and I prayed for her right then! Hope she was continued to improve!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sally, here's the first thing I learned when Melissa called me with a contract 5.5 years ago:

I will change anything I need to in the story in order to get published.

Now, that might seem like a sell-out, but it's not, and I had to beat myself over my thick Irish head and bushy hair to convince myself I wasn't God's gift to the writing world at large.

So never be afraid to change things to make the story deeper, stronger, more real to the reader. I've changed plotlines, I've re-written entire books, I've changed more timelines than I care to reveal.... :) I'm not even kidding, I mess up timelines and then have to fix them, so I'm not telling you anything I don't have to do on a very regular basis...

If you put the good of the story first all the time, the story is always much easier to write.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tracey, she is improving daily. She came home last weekend, and she was still peaked and napping a lot, but finally starting to eat. MacKenzie is like her Grandpa Dave, a born runner/gymnast/athlete. She's been throwing her wiry little body around for years, just like Grandpa. To see her unable to walk because of the joint swelling and not able to turn over because of the pain was dreadful... But what an amazing turnaround with the immunoglobulin and aspirin therapy.

So thank you for the prayers, I'd appreciate them right along because she's going to have to have heart check ups for a while to make sure it hasn't done heart muscle damage... And we're keeping her as germ-free as possible while she's on aspirin therapy so she doesn't contract a virus and lapse into Reyes Syndrome. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Mary Connealy said...

Ruthy's talkin' cowboys and I don't show up until 1:30??????????
What is the world coming to!!!!!!!????????????????????

My problem is I'm writing HISTORICAL cowboys and a lot of the lingo I use probably doesn't transfer.

I was told once that if you write a chunk of dialogue then maybe realize you're in the wrong POV and someone ELSE should speak that dialogue, you have to change it. This is the heart of finding a character. No two people would say something the same. You gave us great examples of that Ruthy.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm I'm being too nice. No one will believe it's me. Someone NICE has stolen my laptop and is busy trying to ruin my reputation!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Honestly Ruthy, I can't wait to see what you do with a cowboy. LOL It's gonna be great.

And didn't I hear that JULIE is writing a cowboy???

The world is going mad and I LOVE IT!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Wilani, I love this! I'm so glad you shared!!!

Okay, you are getting stronger with your kid roles, but I want to "see" them as well as hear them.

Is Andy's cowlick sticking up? Are his cheeks red? Did he lose a tooth? Maybe four teeth? Is Brady interrupting because he doesn't have a good example at home? Or is he a little firebrand that needs to be brought in line more often than most?

Telling us those little things about the kids helps us to see them in the first row, third seat... the cowlick... the striped rugby shirt.... Smelling like cinnamon and Elmer's glue, etc.

That's what I'd suggest here, the little details that bring them and the classroom to life around the teacher.

Good for you!

Mary Connealy said...

Louis L'Amour said in his books that folks in the west came from all over, the deep south, Europe, New York City. They were businessmen and gunmen and farmers and doctors and soldiers.
And before they'd been here long at all.................on the frontier............... they all started to sound the same. They just picked up the tone and the slang. They were usually leaving a life behind for a reason and were re-inventing themselves and finding a new western voice was part of that.

Now that's either true or Louis just didn't know how to write a former German nobleman with a western accent on top of his own accent so he said that (that is LOUIS said that) to make things easy on himself.

It doesn't matter. I WANT to believe it.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

It's 1:30 CENTRAL TIME and Connealy finally makes an appearance....


This beauty sleep thing is getting out of hand, Connealy!!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

And it might be too late, Ruthy, but for me, a cowboy never speaks a paragraph when a sentence will do. He never speaks a sentence when one word with do. And he never speaks a word when a grunt will do.

This is the heart of writing cowboys.

A cowboy will spin a yarn once in a while and then they'll talk, but in regular life, they are mighty quiet.

I think that's one reason I love Regency Romance. The men get to TALK.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, I'm watching "The West" the documentary by Ken Burns, and it's amazing how many different people from all points of the globe settled the west....

We tend to see it as Easterners heading west, but those Mexicans, and the deep southwest were always moving north, searching for better land, better opportunities, fortunes.

And the Chinese... The English.

So many.

And it's interesting in light of the current trend to teach kids how millions of Native Americans were wiped out by Europeans, that a lot of their cultures suffered demise in the west because of tribal fighting.

I have to send Ken Burns a thank you note. And Netflix!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, I took your advice to the bank. :)

Colt's a man of few words, and plenty of action.

Nick is positively taciturn.

Trey is a country music star, so he has to talk and SING for heaven's sake, but he keeps to himself, in true Stafford cowboy fashion.

You have taught me well, master.

Mary Connealy said...

If that was beauty sleep, I need to get my money back!

In truth I am away from home GRANDDAUGHTER SITTING!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh my gosh it is so fun.

My daughter is here but her husband is traveling for work and my job is to let her have her hands free for stretches of time.

She went for groceries. I stayed here with baby Katherine.

She is doing laundry.

I am watching Princess K sleep, seriously, I'm watching a baby sleep!!!!!!!!!!!!

Which is why I finally logged in.

You wouldn't know anything about this Ruthy. Just wait until you have grandchildren, it's the BEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...


Mary Connealy said...

I don't think I've seen Ken Burns and The West.

I'm looking that up.

Ken Burns handling of the Civil War remains one of my favorite documentaries.

Julie Lessman said...

Hey, MARY ... I am writing more of a "Western," actually, for my spring Seeker novella that will kick off my "Western" series entitled "Silver Valley Ranch." Think McClintock meets Ponderosa, so there yes, there's a ranch, which I guess means there are "cowboys" too ...

But when I think of cowboys, I think of Audra's book "Rough Ride Home," where the hero was a REAL cowboy -- a champion bull rider. My hero will be more of a younger, better-looking Ben Cartwright ... was a he classified as a "cowboy"??? ;)


Mary Connealy said...

Oooh, even more was it Ken Burns who did Louis and Clark Expedition. THAT ONE I really loved.

Mary Connealy said...

Did you just ask me that?????????
He is THEE Cowboy. Right up there with Marshall Dylan.

Mary Connealy said...

I like cowboys (historical ones) to be totally sexist in their thoughts, words and actions, at the same time they respect women on a level few 'modern thinking men' ever do.

Back in the old west when life was HARD a woman coming to a home changed everything for the better. And it took her working her BACKSIDE OFF and him doing the same to make a life and care for children.

There were no vacuum cleaners. No grocery stores. It was long hours of hard work to cook and clean and sew and wash and mend, to run a home. Women weren't 'treated as equals' they were treated as vitally necessary to survival.
Respect was not GRANTED a woman. It was just simple life and death common sense to respect the woman who was doing the HARD half of making a home.

Missy Tippens said...

Great examples, Ruthy!! I love to see how you handled each one. :) This is something I need to think about more during my second draft. I need to check to make sure my characters don't all sound alike--like me!

Missy Tippens said...

Also meant to say how much I LOVE that cover!

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, I never would have survived being in the old west!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL! My new favorite Mary Connealy quote: "...a cowboy never speaks a paragraph when a sentence will do. He never speaks a sentence when one word with do. And he never speaks a word when a grunt will do."

Sally Shupe said...

Thanks for your insight, Ruthy. I appreciate it. Possibilities have opened up... Thank you! And it will be more fun. Thanks!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, yes... I love his documentaries. They're absolutely amazing.

Mary Connealy said...

Well, Missy, I'm betting you've have come through, but seriously, people really did die like flies. I think that's where the term 'Hardy Pioneer Stock' comes from because if you survived, you were TOUGH.

Mary Connealy said...

PS I absolutely LOVE air conditioning.

Chill N said...

Super examples, Ruthy! I've entered and judged contests in which dialogue is worth 20 points out of 100. Soooooo important.

Question: Does Colt's speech shift as he re-discovers 'the cowboy within'?

Nancy C

Cara Lynn James said...

Ruthy, our cowgirl from New York! Who would've guessed? But you don't sound like one. As long as your cowboy characters do, it's ok.

Vince said...

"A cowboy only grunts when a nod or a look won't do."

Rhonda Starnes said...

I needed this post. Thanks, Ruthy! My heroines tend to be spunky, and I think it comes through in the dialogue. However, my heroes are a different story. I usually have to go through their dialogue and make changes so it sounds like a guy speaking. I loved your example using the same dialogue for several different characters. I think I may start doing that as a writing exercise just to help me understand my characters better.

Jackie Smith said...

I am so excited about your "cowboy" book, Ruthy! I would love to read it and review it...thanks for the chance!

Denise Hershberger said...

I would love to read and review this! It looks so good!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I cannot believe Julie asked that.


Ben Cartwright...


Little Joe....


And the Marshal.....

Oh be still my heart, but not until we give a nod to Rowdy Yates. :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jackie Smith, I'm tossing your name into the dish right now!!!!!

You too, Denise! Thanks for stopping in today!

Tanya Agler said...

Ruthy, Thanks for the tips on thinking about how each character would speak according to age, profession, life history, and more. I remember in one of my books how I tried to show the difference between my hero and his more straitlaced twin brother by the twin using longer words and no contractions, but you (as always) are urging me to dig deeper and go more in-depth with my writing.

What great hints for dialogue. Thank you.

Congratulations on your new book and the new cover.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Rhonda, it's a great exercise, isn't it? It brings the whole thing to mind!

Now I need some Abbott's Frozen Custard.... because they're closing for the winter.

I'm quite sad. And somewhat spoiled.

This (Abbott's) is my guilty pleasure.

I love them/it so much.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Nancy, it does slightly! Sam doesn't talk Western, but he talks cowboy... although he can rowdy it up and scale it down with the others as needed.

And Colt's mother spoke normally, and Colt loves and misses his mother, even now. So he gets more relaxed with lingo and less anal... :) But he still sounds polished.

Nick sounds educated but hard. He's got an ax to grind with just about everyone and we edge toward his fixing in book one, but he gets to mess up quite completely in book 2!!!! :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Tanya, thank you for getting over here, sweet thing!!!! So happy to see you!

Digging deep is clutch. I know I rag on that. I know I keep tellin' youse to write, write, write.

It's because I don't know any better, so it's fun to BOSS YOU AROUND!!!! :)

Hey, I brought ice cream. Mixed Berry. Oh mylanta, it's amazingly delicious.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, that's a great point about survival. I got an e-mail from someone for our last historical collection, because they loved that I made the women on Levi Eichas's spread as critical to survival as he was. Without each other, they'd have lost everything.

It took that kind of mentality to barrel through.

And yes on the sexist thing, too... in the same vein. It was wicked hard to survive on your own, and could barely be called existence.

I try to convince Dave of that now. :)

Donna said...

Ruth, I'm loving these examples! Thanks for schooling us on dialogue.

What a fantastic cover!! I can't wait to read Back in the Saddle. Please put my name in the dish.

Mary Connealy said...

VINCE I thought about taking that sentence one step farther. A cowboy doesn't grunt when narrow eyes will do.

Mary Connealy said...

Ruthy I had a western woman say recently, "I don't want anyone telling me how to live my life."
Very confused, he replies, "But I know BETTER how you should live your life than you do."

Mary Connealy said...

Oh My Gosh Rowdy Yates.

You know Eastwood is so old and gristled now, still very cool, but I think we forget just how BEAUTIFUL he was when he was young.


Walt Mussell said...

Ruthy, that is wonderful. I sometimes wonder if in my Japan-based novels that my characters sound too much alike. I have one manuscript (19th century Oregon) where a Japanese heroine speaks a decent amount of English. It was easier to put her verbally in character.

Valri said...

I would definitely love to review your book, Ruthy! You know I love your books! Cowboys are my weakness!!!! Loved the post!!!! Put my name in, please :) THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

CatMom said...

Thank you, Ruthy - - yet another awesome Seeker post that I NEEDED!! Going to re-read when I'm not so drowsy (heading to bed now - - maybe I'll dream about a Ruthy book...or cowboy!). ;)
Hugs, Patti Jo

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Ruthy, Sorry I'm late to the party. Great post and it goes with the great characters you always create. So talented my dear friend. Thanks for sharing how to accomplish that.

Terri said...

Yikes, I nearly missed Ruthy day! Love that cover. It is definitely swoon worthy. Also, I agree totally about writing kids correctly or leaving them out. I've read books where I adored the kids and books where they made me want to quit reading the story. It's all in how the author works her magic.

Trixi said...

Late to the still have tea or coffee or even some crumbs from the cake? It's been "one of those days".....(to coin your phrase) AYE CARAMBA!!

Okay all better now, see I'm even smiling :-) Please toss my name in for a swoooony cowboy story, I'd love to read & review for you. And with a cowboy who looks like that, it's not such a chore ;-) Thanks for the chance, Ruthy!

Vince said...

Hi Mary:

You did it. In fact, I think 'narrow eyes' makes a very good physical proxy.

bonton said...

Loved your post, Ruthy - thanks!!

And - I'd love to read/review 'Back in the Saddle', or any of your other books!!

Edwina said...


Great post!

Please put my name in the cat dish for "Back in the Saddle" or any of your books!


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hey, latecomers, how are youse????? I'm so glad I stopped back in, I'm adding your names into the CAT DISH right now!!!!!! :)

Connealy, I concur on Rowdy, then and now.... And Walt, that's the trick, my friend, and it's hard... when you've got a radically different setting, it's tricky to differentiate the stories when you're dealing with cultural integrity...

In a well-known, comfortable setting, the reader already gets it. A Western, Boston Southie, Southern, Texan (leave it to Texas to have its own category, right???), New York City, etc.

jubileewriter said...

Loved this post. Examples always help me wrap my mind around a concept. I'd love to do a review for you. Throw my name in the dish.
Cindy Huff

Vince said...

An authentic cowboy's body language can show you the answer to any question you might ask. Cowboys think talking is telling. And telling is bad form. Long before writing rules, the Code of the Cowboy was: 'show, don't tell'.

Vince said...

Cowboys were not sexist. They were Biblical.

Sierra Faith said...

Throw me in the dish to get a copy of the book :) i'd love to review it on release day!

Davalyn Spencer said...

Fun post, Ruthy. I swear, I know these people! And I'm just sayin', I can picture a stampede of women headed straight for the model on your cover. Which will bring them to your book. Black Friday's got nothin' on you - congratulations!

Carol Garvin said...

You've been getting the best covers, Ruthie! Love this one!

I appreciate your speech examples. My critique group points out that too often my male protagonists (who aren't cowboys) tend to all sound like they have university degrees, and I imagine that's because most of the men I know are well educated. Getting dialogue to sound distinctive for each character is a challenge. I have to go back and scrutinize every sentence, questioning how a particular guy would say the words. I think I need to watch more movies! LOL.

Deanne Patterson said...

You better believe I'd be thrilled to have a review ready for Back in the Saddle when it releases in March, Ruthy. You are your writing are both pretty "ah stinkin mazin"So throw my name in the cat dish, just don't show my cats they just may try to eat whatever is in the cat dish they can get pretty greedy.

Deanne P.