Welcome to my little scratch of virtual land. Here you'll find essays about the writing craft; writing exercises, tips, games, and lessons; word-nerd humor; and other writer-oriented content. For a weekly newsletter and a boat-load of freebies, join the Creative Writing Collective by jotting your email in the box below.

Jamaal May: Full Interview

This page contains a full transcript of my interview with Jamaal May. We did the interview over instant messaging, so what you’re seeing is 99% exact on what was said. (The exceptions are minor typo corrections and a couple places where I re-grouped comments for the sake of clarity.)

If you don’t have time to read the full interview right now, I encourage you to check out my interview highlights.

If you don’t already know who Jamaal May is, check out my spotlight page on him. If you do already know him, be sure you subscribe to Jamaal’s YouTube page, sign up for his mailing list, browse his website, and buy his books.

Now, on to the main event!

Interview with Jamaal May

Rob D Young

Rob D Young: This is Rob D Young doing a chat interview today with award-winning (and truly bad-ass) performance poet Jamaal May. Let’s start with some of your basic FAQs.

First of all, I’d love your “summed up” version of yourself. Care to give an introduction?

Jamaal May (academic)Jamaal May: That’s kind of thing is always tricky since the overall goal of the art I make is to resist summary. The easier something is to summarize, the more limited it feels. So maybe that’s a way to sum me up: I try to move towards expansiveness. But I suppose my answer is supposed to be something less existential and along the lines of I’m a poet and performer and educator and editor from Detroit who dabbles in graphic design, music, and now photography and film.

Read more.

9 Tricks to Make Your Dialogue More Organic

When I was in second grade, my teacher told my parents, “I don’t know what to do about Rob. He talks like an adult. The other children don’t understand him.” In an attempt to remedy that issue, I paid attention to the way everyone else spoke, struggling to gain a sense of how “normal people” talked.

As a result, when I turned to the keyboard, my dialogue was imbued with this same sense of organic speech. Today, I consider dialogue my greatest strength. (If you’re skeptical of my self-proclaimed talents, read this piece and decide for yourself.)

To the point: Here are some of the observations I’ve made over the years about “natural dialogue.” By implementing these nine human quirks when writing dialogue, you can give your dialogue a wonderfully organic feel.

9 Tricks for More Organic Dialogue

Read more.

11 Tips on Naming Your Characters

If you came here because you’re struggling with naming your characters, you’re not alone! Many writers struggle with finding the “right names.” I say “right” because, while there’s no such thing as a perfect name, a name is part of what shapes your character’s identity.

The importance of names in shaping characters shouldn’t come as a surprise. We’ve found that people are drawn to the sound of their own name to the point that it can sometimes influence their career (the famous “Dennis/Dentist” study tells us more). External perceptions (including those of your readers) are influenced by a person’s name in direct ways; numerous studies have found that some names are perceived as more attractive and powerful, while others are associated with less positive characteristics.

This article explores the importance of names and provides 11 tips on picking the right one.

Read more.