Category Archives: Reflections

How Much Dialogue is Too Much? By Joanne Guidoccio

How Much Dialogue is Too Much?

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When I first heard the expression, “You can go blind listening to that story,” I took a second look at the prose in question and agreed with the comment. The long stretches of unbroken dialogue were tiresome and cut off all senses with the exception of hearing.

And then I revisited my own writing.

I love dialogue and often fear that I overuse it.

While dialogue serves many important functions, it is only one element of fiction. Weaving in action and narrative helps balance the scenes and engage the reader. Dialogue definitely has its place, but it shouldn’t take over the story.
How much dialogue is too much?

At a local meet-up, one author suggested that thirty percent of the novel should be dialogue. Elsewhere, I read that the percentage should be closer to fifty.
I don’t think there is a magic number out there. Instead, I try to keep in mind that characters who talk too much can be just as annoying as real people who dominate conversations.

As an experiment, I selected an excerpt from my recent release, Too Many Women in the Room, and removed the descriptive and narrative elements.

Dialogue-Only Version (146 Words)
“Thanks for coming,” Luke said and turned toward the female officer. “Detective Irina Banicki will be sitting in. Sounds like quite a shindig last night. Do you want to tell me about it?”

“It was our rehearsal dinner for the opening of—”

“Rehearsal dinner? You mean like for a wedding?”

“Not quite. David and Susan had planned to test-drive some of Xenia’s signature dishes and reveal our new venture to everyone.”

“So, you were a silent partner in this venture until Michael Taylor spilled the beans. That must have upset your plans…made you angry…”

“I felt a surge of anger at both David and Michael, but it passed. We were there to celebrate the opening, not spar over pettiness.”

“I think it was more than—”

“Why did you keep your involvement a secret?” Irina asked. “Were you afraid or embarrassed to tell your friends?”

Here’s the Actual Excerpt (436 Words)
“Thanks for coming,” Luke said and turned toward the female officer. “Detective Irina Banicki will be sitting in.”

Irina Banicki. I racked my brain but couldn’t recall the name. Was she new to the department? I hadn’t seen her at the Christmas party. I would have remembered the tall, willowy brunette with razor-sharp cheekbones. Late thirties. Maybe early forties. Young and on the upward spiral.

She inclined her head. I nodded but said nothing. There was no need to engage in conversation and allow myself to be distracted. Instead, I turned and focused on Luke.

Frowning, he rustled through the loose pages filled with scattered handwriting. After locating the right page, he cleared his throat and made eye contact. “Sounds like quite a shindig last night. Do you want to tell me about it?”

Tell him how we planned it or how everything went south? The question was too open-ended. Was that part of his plan? Get me to tell everything and later sift through for any incriminating nuggets. “It was our rehearsal dinner for the opening of—”

“Rehearsal dinner? You mean like for a wedding?” Luke asked innocently enough, but I could hear the amusement in his tone.

A giggle escaped from Irina.

I forced myself to smile and make eye contact with Luke. “Not quite. David and Susan had planned to test-drive some of Xenia’s signature dishes and reveal our new venture to everyone.”

“So, you were a silent partner in this venture.” Luke alternated between raising and dropping his Magnum eyebrows while still maintaining eye contact. A talent he must have perfected in his younger days. “You were until Michael Taylor spilled the beans. That must have upset your plans…made you angry…”

Angry enough to kill? I’ve been told I wear my emotions and would make a terrible poker player. With my feelings about Michael, I must have shown thunderous anger and disapproval all evening. Intuitive Jean would have been able to read my face and then share her observations with Carlo. “I felt a surge of anger at both David and Michael, but it passed. We were there to celebrate the opening, not spar over pettiness.”

Luke’s eyes widened in surprise. “I think it was more than—”

My nostrils picked up a musky smell. Not too unpleasant but a bit overpowering. A woman’s scent, one I steered away from at the cosmetics counter. I turned and looked up into intense green eyes.

Irina had decided to become an active participant in the interrogation. “Why did you keep your involvement a secret? Were you afraid or embarrassed to tell your friends?”
I couldn’t resist putting on my math-teacher hat…
The dialogue-only version represents 33.4 percent of the actual excerpt.
When Gilda Greco invites her closest friends to a VIP dinner, she plans to share David Korba’s signature dishes and launch their joint venture— Xenia, an innovative Greek restaurant near Sudbury, Ontario. Unknown to Gilda, David has also invited Michael Taylor, a lecherous photographer who has throughout the past three decades managed to annoy all the women in the room. One woman follows Michael to a deserted field for his midnight run and stabs him in the jugular.
Gilda’s life is awash with complications as she wrestles with a certain detective’s commitment issues and growing doubts about her risky investment in Xenia. Frustrated, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers decades-old secrets and resentments that have festered until they explode into untimely death. Can Gilda outwit a killer bent on killing again?
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Author’s Bio

In 2008, Joanne Guidoccio retired from a 31-year teaching career and launched a second act that tapped into her creative side. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.
Where to find Joanne…

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Posted by on June 22, 2017 in Reflections


The World of Publishing

Last month, I was fortunate enough to attend a writers’ conference where the keynote speaker was New York Times bestselling author Erica Spindler. During her address, she discussed how much the publishing world has changed in such a short time. Not long ago, during writers’ conventions, new authors hoping to get published were asking for tips on query letters and keeping their manuscripts out of the dreaded “slush piles.” Today, their primary concerns lie in marketing and social media exposure.


The internet has dramatically changed the world of publishing, giving new authors a better chance of landing, if not a big-named publishing contract, at least one with an indie publisher, willing to give hopefuls their first break. The advent of self-publishing, too, has been a game changer. While this shift has helped many get their foot in the proverbial door, it has also come at a cost. Online stores like Amazon and Barnes & Noble are inundated with books and ebooks, making it more difficult to keep any particular title in the now.


While an author and publisher’s job of marketing may be more time consuming now, it is not impossible. Blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter are just a few of the social media tools available to those hoping to get their books noticed. And, for the most part, these tools are free. As an author looking forward to the upcoming release of my second novel, Lost Distinction, an opportunity I may not have been awarded had it not been for this shift in the world of publishing, I am grateful for this change and I look forward to watching the future of publishing unfold, one page at a time.

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Posted by on September 14, 2014 in Reflections


The Power of Imagination

It’s amazing when you consider the impact of imagination. Imagination is idea – it cannot be seen, or heard, or felt, but the results of it are beyond compare.

The reason man has succeeded in many seemingly-impossible endeavors is imagination. It’s the reason the Wright Brothers invented the airplane, the reason Steve Jobs created the iPhone, and the reason Christiaan Barnard performed the first heart transplant.


Like every other part of the human body, the imagination must be exercised or it may become weakened or even lost. A great way to exercise imagination is through reading. There are books on every idea conceivable, and thanks to inventions like iPads, Kindles, and Nooks, books and the information they possess are easier than ever to obtain.

One of man’s greatest gifts may be wonderment – a feeling that leads him to seek out knowledge beyond his realm and a desire to use that knowledge to better himself and others. The results of human imagination into the 21st century have been staggering.


As we continue into this new century, new ideas and inventions will continue to arise. While some will be better than others, they will all come into existence, thanks to man and his unquenchable imagination.

“COLD AMBITION” Available Now on Amazon!

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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in Reflections


Writing Styles: Personalities On Paper

One of the most fascinating aspects of a writing career is an author’s writing style. Most authors write within one main genre but, on occasion, will travel outside their regular realm. A prime example of this occurred when fantasy author Anne Rice decided to write Christian novels. While it is always interesting to read the work of a favorite author who has taken on the challenge of venturing outside the proverbial literary box, the aspect of writing I find most fascinating is the manner in which an author takes an idea and from it, creates a novel.


There is much that goes into the formation of an author’s writing style, including choice of genre, method of outlining, and even how many words per day he or she writes. Author Stephen King talks extensively about his own writing style, including how, when he sets out to write an novel, his goal is to finish it within a season and that he writes at least two thousand words per day on average.

When I meet fellow authors at conventions, I enjoy talking with them about their own writing rituals. While a great deal of authors like to map out every aspect of a novel, chapter by chapter, I prefer to keep things basic. First, I start with a concept. Then, I mentally map out the beginning, the middle, and the end. Finally, I write.


I try not to put too many restrictions on my characters because I find that by leaving my outlines vague, I give them a better chance to come to life. Sometimes, my characters will take a story in directions far different from where I had originally intended. In all instances, however, it’s rewarding to watch a story develop.

Writing, like life, is an ongoing process and an author’s writing style will often change with time. The most important thing is to keep writing. The more you write, the better you will be at your craft. The more you write, the more your own style will flourish.

“COLD AMBITION,” available now on Amazon!

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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in Reflections


COLD AMBITION: The Making of a P.I.

It is said that people write what they know. Based on my own personal experiences, I would venture to say this old adage is true. Jordan James, the main character of Cold Ambition, the first book in the Jordan James, PI series, did not appear out of thin air. She did not come to me in a prophetic dream. She came, instead, from life experiences.


I’ve often said that Jordan lives the life I might have led had my own life taken a different turn. I say this because there are many similarities between Jordan and myself. We’re both from New Orleans, love New England, are so fiercely independent that this trait has been, on occasion, mistaken for stubbornness (although I personally don’t see it), and dreamed, at one time, of becoming a private eye, thanks in large part to the ’80s hit show, Magnum, PI.

While there are many similarities between us, there are also many differences. These differences exist because Jordan James is not me. In fact, she is not even the same girl she was when I first began writing this novel. She is, in my opinion, far better.

As the story has progressed, she has transformed from a simple character on paper to a strong, independent woman determined to make it on her own while following a life-long dream. I look forward to readers getting to know Jordan as she begins this new journey, a journey filled with fun, excitement, and many, many new life experiences.


My name is Jordan James, and I am a twenty-four- year-old woman. I just wanted to get that straight from the beginning. I am well aware that Jordan is commonly a boy’s name, but for some reason my parents decided that a normal name like Melissa or Amanda would not suit me. Regardless, my name has not caused me any trouble since an unfortunate teasing incident in the third grade. In fact, it has been quite useful in my line of work. But again, I digress.

I’m originally from a suburb of New Orleans but moved to the Northeast to attend Brown University. I spent four fabulous years in Providence and graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in psychology. Like most bright- eyed, eager graduates, I assumed jobs would be thrown at me as soon as I was handed my diploma. I assumed that I could take my pick. The world was my oyster. To make a long story short, my ideas and reality did not match. After several frustrating months of searching, I decided to move to Boston. I thought this city would provide me with all of the wonderful opportunities I had been unable to find in Providence. When it didn’t, I settled and took a job as a waitress at a small Italian restaurant along the Freedom Trail near the Old North Church to make ends meet. It wasn’t a bad job; the tips were good, and the owners were wonderful. In fact, they became quasi-parents to me when I didn’t know anyone else in Boston, but I wasn’t satisfied. This job wasn’t what I had spent four grueling years studying for.

After work each evening, I went home to my one- bedroom apartment on Sewall Avenue, counted my tips, and then spent many hours searching online for different career opportunities that might be available to someone with my credentials. Unfortunately, I had already looked into most of them and during an economic crisis, good jobs can be hard to attain. I started saving religiously and continued the search for my dream job.

After I saved up a decent amount of money and recruited the reluctant help of my parents, I decided to go into business for myself. What career did I decide on? What job could possibly stimulate me intellectually and help me provide for myself in a manner that I could finally be on my own, both physically and fiscally? Private investigation. Yes, I decided to set up shop as a P.I. Now, one might wonder, what could have possibly led me to believe that I could make it as a P.I.? Another valid question is: why did I want to become one in the first place? The answer to both questions can be summed up in one word: Magnum. I grew up watching re-runs of the classic 1980’s show and was enthralled by both his career and his lifestyle. It was exciting and thrilling. He lived in Hawaii, drove a Ferrari that he didn’t own, and lived on an expansive oceanfront estate free of charge. Who wouldn’t want a life like that? With the black belt in Tae Kwon Do that I had earned in college, I felt more than prepared to take on a potentially dangerous job. However, even with my black belt and my education, my choice of career received less than enthusiastic responses.

“No one is going to hire a woman to investigate anything,” my father stated when I called him with the news.

“Oh, that is such a dangerous job. You could be killed! What’s wrong with the restaurant? In fact, what’s wrong with moving back home?” my mother inquired. I must admit I shuddered at the thought.

“A private eye? Good luck with that one,” scoffed my older sister, Alicia, the pediatric neurosurgeon. She had graduated from an in-state university and set up her practice within thirty miles of my parents’ residence. She was always the good one.

Despite the negative feedback, I decided to forge my new life in the home of our country’s forefathers, where liberty was conceived and it was decided that freedom was considered worth dying for. Unfortunately, the cost of living had gone up substantially since Paul Revere had galloped into history with his famous midnight ride. Finding a reasonable apartment in an area that didn’t have the police on speed dial was difficult. Finding an office that didn’t put my unborn children into debt would be a miracle.

I learned, however, that perseverance pays off. My landlord owned an office building near Fenway Park with a tiny, unrentable office. It was smaller than all of the other offices in the building and, therefore, considered undesirable. I investigated this situation and found out that my landlord had been unable to rent it for over a year and a half. This was the perfect opportunity for me to put that minor in communications to work. Although it took nearly a month, I was able to logically convince Mr. Chambers that if he were to rent the office to me at five-eighths the normal price for six months, it would be beneficial to us both. Eventually, he saw it my way. He says it was actually because I nearly drove him to jump into the Charles River because of my incessant nagging. I like to believe it was due to my keen negotiating skills.

So, on November 3, nearly a year and a half after graduating, I unlocked the door to my office, turned on the light, and smiled at the black letters freshly inked to the opaque glass in my door—Jordan James, P.I. Now all that I needed were clients. As fate would have it, someone was looking for a P.I., someone whose case would affect not only my career but my very existence.

Available Now on Amazon!

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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in Reflections


The Toughest Job

Jobs are a part of life. They are a requirement for survival. A necessary evil, so to speak. As such, very few people are offered thanks for doing a good job. And, while there are some careers, like teaching, where a person can visibly reap the benefits of a job well done, jobs are, for the most part, thankless in nature. Out of every job imaginable, there is one, however, that can be the most grueling, the toughest, the most thankless of them all.


This is a job where a person is always on call and by always, I mean ALWAYS – twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year. This is a job where there are no sick days offered, no vacation time to build up. It’s a job that is ongoing, never-ending, and most certainly, not “at will.” This is a job that takes everything and seemingly offers little in return.

This is the job of a mother.

If you were to speak to a financial advisor, he would most certainly tell you that there is little fiscal benefit to becoming a mother. In fact, the job actually costs a person – time, money, energy. If you were to look at motherhood like that, there would be no reason for anyone to take it on. Thankfully, motherhood is not measured in terms of dollars and cents. Motherhood is measured in terms of love.


Think back to your own mother. All those nights when you were sick, who stayed up with you? Every time you thought the world would end because of a bad break up, who reminded you tomorrow was a new day? Every time you scraped your knee, who kissed the pain away? Motherhood is not a job in the traditional sense. It is, instead, a vocation, and a difficult one at that. Yet, of all the jobs imaginable, there are none as rewarding as this.

To all the mothers out there, both the rookies and “seasoned veterans,” I would like to wish you a very happy mother’s day.

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Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Reflections


Problem or Inconvenience?

When I was younger, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a local high school production of Robert Fulghum’s classic, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” In it are some of the most simple yet profound insights into humanity and, if you haven’t had the opportunity to read it, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy.


One such segment is called “Problem or Inconvenience?” The story begins with Fulghum as a young man, unloading his outrage at what he considers poor working conditions on a coworker late one evening. His coworker is an older man named Sigmund Wollman, a German Jew and survivor of Auschwitz. After listening to the younger man rant for the better part of half an hour, Sigmund offers up this insight:

“Fulghum, you think you know everything, but you don’t know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire – then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. Learn to separate the inconveniences from the real problems. You will live longer. And will not annoy people like me so much. Good night.”

These words resonate with me when the power goes out, when my internet is slow, when I’m trying to come up with the next chapter of my latest novel, and even when I am sitting with my accountant preparing my tax returns. Sigmund’s words are ones that I find worth remembering – life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy.

Despite this, life is a blessing and an amazing journey to behold. When those difficult times arise, and they always will, it’s important to take a moment to determine if what you are facing is a problem or an inconvenience. If you do, you may live longer. If you do, you may realize what a good life it is.


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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Reflections


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