Dialogue with Elizabeth George

“To avoid bad writing, think of the events in your novel as dominoes. Lets call them dramatic dominoes.”

“When I free write and when I employ stream of consciousness, what happens is that the essential elements of the plot become apparent. Why? Because I begin to see the relationships between characters. I learn what the characters strengths and weaknesses are, I see the conflicts clearly, and I begin to understand the time. I also get ideas for subplots. Indeed, I generally end up with many more ideas than I can possibly use in one book. It’s an amazing process and it never fails.”

“Ever character’s behavior has a number of motivations behind it. Some of these are superficial: right there on the surface for everyone to see…But some motivations are buried within our personalities, part of who we are. These are essentially basic needs although some of them are more complicated than others.”

“I believe it’s critical to know the basic need each character has in his life because the denial of that need leads directly to the second area that I consider crucial in developing a character. This is his pathological maneuver. Better said, it’s what the character does when he’s under stress…The pathological maneuver is generally the flip side of the core need.”

“Decide what the character wants in the novel…try to keep in mind that what someone wants isn’t always directly expressed, nor is it always simple. It can arise from mixed motives, and it will be colored – in any individual scene – by the character’s core need.”


Elizabeth George strongly encourages the writer to know almost everything about their protagonist, antagonist, and all of the other major characters. All interesting stories have character conflict, character struggle, and character growth. Knowing what motivates your characters, what they want, and how they act under stress is more or less knowing your story.


The project is coming to a conclusion – it slowly came together. One thing I haven’t really talked much about yet is my revisions. Throughout most of my repetends and crots, I’ve revised them numerous times. It seems like not matter how much advice you get on dialogue or writing or story-telling, it doesn’t mean a thing without the emphasis on revision. In order to be a good writer, it’s important to work stuff like an artist working with clay on a spinning wheel. You have to reshape it and reshape it and make changes until it works.

I think characters become more real when you see them experience a wider range of emotions. When you see a character laugh, cry, get mad, get super focused, help someone out, loose control – they just seem to be humanized. I really liked the earlier advice from one of the books about humanizing villains and giving protagonists flaws. It just gives the characters more depth. I’ve really enjoyed this format of research – the more genres you approach a topic from, the more layers you can kind of unfold.

Works Cited

George, Elizabeth. Write Away. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004.

Published in: on February 23, 2010 at 5:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

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