Episode 5: Dialogue with McKendree Long

Here are the show notes from our fifth episode which was pre-recorded and aired on August  11, 2018 at 9 a.m. EDT on MakeThePointRadio.com and 100.7 The Point FM local to Columbia, S.C. 

Dr. Kasie Whitener, Clemson Road Creative, fiction writer

McKendree Long, retired soldier and investment banker and author of four novels

Theme for the day



  • Who we are and why we’re here
  • Get to know McKendree Long — brief bio, published work, and current projects
  • The topic for the week: Dialogue
  • Book discussion — currently reading and its analysis through the lens of the topic
  • Craft book discussion — The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories
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Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Segment 1:

McKendree Long, author of Brodie and three other Western novels, former military man, Vietnam veteran, and investment banker; husband to Mary, father, and grandfather; lives here on the Upper East Side but is often found on Seabrook Island. Member of the South Carolina Writers Association’s Columbia II Chapter.

Have you always been a storyteller? What got you started?

How did storytelling work in your professional life?

What is the single best habit you have as a novelist?

What’s the worst habit you have?

What kind of books do you like to read? Any recommendations for our listeners?

Mike’s website http://mckendreelong.com

Books available there and at events, gun shows mostly, where Mike exhibits.

Segment 2:

Dialogue as plot device. Mike, you write beautiful dialogue, it’s what makes your Westerns so enjoyable and it’s usually the primary element in the story. Let’s talk about dialogue.

Why do you rely so much on your characters telling the story?

How do you think that changes the authenticity of the work? Or does it?

Our SCWA chapter friend and Appalachian Fiction writer Sharon May gave us

Dialogue Says it All

In which she entreats us to know our characters well enough to know what they’d say.

Appalachia has its own dialect, like the American West. Let’s talk about dialect and accents and how you use them in Brodie to convey place and time.

Another SCWA Columbia II Chapter member and friend, Bonnie Stanard is a historical fiction author and she blogged about dialogue saying, “dialogue is a device whereby we advance the plot, elevate tension, or reveal motive.” She also says dialect can indicate social status.

How have you used it to differentiate between social status in Brodie?

We know writers love Rules and Bloggers love Lists, so this article is the perfect mix of the two:

9 Rules for Writing Dialogue

“Writing dialogue isn’t about replicating a real-life conversation. It’s about giving an impression of it. And, yes, improving on it.”

  1.     Dialogue must be in conflict.
  2.     Dialogue must have a purpose: either drive the story forward or characterize the speaker.
  3.     Dialogue should Flow.
  4.     Dialogue should be concise.

Twelve Tips for Writing Dialogue in Fiction

  1.     Listen to how people talk
  2.     Don’t be 100% realistic
  3.     Don’t give too much information at once
  4.     Break up the dialogue with action
  5.     Don’t overdo dialogue tags
  6.     Use sparingly slang, profanity, and jargon

Segment 3:

What we’re reading now

Kasie — Tiger Rag by Nicholas Christoper; a novel about the Jazz age and an undiscovered recording of a jazz legend, also a mother-daughter reconnecting and trying to repair the damage to their relationship after divorce and the death of the grandmother who had been estranged. Not a lot of dialogue in this book and what dialogue there is varies from the current-story chapters of Ruby and Devon and the undiscovered past sections of 1906 New Orleans.

Mike — re-reading Lonesome Dove

Craft Book Discussion:

The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories

We’re in August now, so while last month we worked through Stephen King’s On Writing, this month we’re taking on The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker.

This is a great examination of the seven basic plots and he makes a good argument that all novels can find themselves in one of these. So here they are and each week we’ll talk about one or two in depth:

  1. Overcoming the monster
    1. The monster and the thrilling escape from death
  2. Rags to riches
  3. The Quest
    1. The voyage and return
  4. Comedy — characters donning disguises and swapping identities, cross-dressing, secret assignations where the “wrong person” shows up, the unrelenting father, general chaos and misunderstanding persist
    1. Comedy II: the plot disguised — War and Peace as an example of the typical shenanigans of a comedy being employed in a serious or dramatic rendering
  5. Tragedy: the five stages — two possible endings only – a pair of lovers united, or someone dead.
    1. Tragedy II: the divided self — life transforms in some way so that the end does not resemble the beginning; we’re not convinced the character should move forward, follow the lead, or make the choices he or she makes
    2. Tragedy III: the hero as monster — ambition, treachery, fear and suspicion and an inevitable tragic end for the hero even as much as we want to root for him. Imagine David and Goliath from Goliath’s point of view.
  6. Rebirth — a hero or heroine falls under a state which traps them in incontinuity with the rest of the world (think Sleeping Beauty); a miraculous act of redemption occurs, the person is liberated and must adjust



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