A Muse Bouche Review: November 2021

Sharp Tongues and Zinging Come-Backs

Welcome to our November issue!

We’re writing about witty dialogue. What makes something funny, how can you write a line that hits the reader square on the jaw, and how can you make a reader burst out laughing on a city bus. Read on to find out how.

We’d also love to hear from you. Tell us how we can improve our content and style. Any topic/theme suggestions? Let us know. You can DM us on Twitter at @MuseReview.

Warmest regards,
The A Muse Bouche Review Team

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Feature: Timing is Everything (A.P. Miller)  Essay
Hot Tip for Powerful Dialogue (Aedyn Brooks)   Fiction
Witty Dialogue (Renée Gendron) Fiction
The Talking in Your Toolbox (Melissa Yuan-Innes) Fiction
November Team Showcase

Timing is Everythin

by A.P. Miller (@Millerverse)

“For me, this [his show ending] is all about timing. My life is all about timing. As a comedian, my sense of timing is everything.” -Jerry Seinfeld.

I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on witty banter & dialogue — Lord knows I’ve gotten detention in high school enough for it. For me, discovering what will garner a chuckle or not comes down to a few simple principles:

  1. Picking your shots
  2. Reading the room for the mood, and
  3. Timing.https://twitter.com/Millerverse

I want you to open your mind’s eye for a minute and visualize. I want you to picture that one person you know who is oblivious to the fact they aren’t funny. For me, I pictured that one person who tells everyone how zany they are (and it was painful to use the word “zany,”) because no one is going around telling their friends how funny they actually are, and often laughs at their own jokes. If you’ve pictured someone like I have, I have good news: I know why this person is such an egregious irritation to your funny bone. It’s because their timing sucks. They either hit the punch line too early, or too late, and their awareness of the mood of the room is completely off-kilter.

My amalgamation of comedic-tormentors is the kind of guy who cracks a joke at a funeral like “I heard he’s being buried in Millerverse Cemetery …people are just dying to get in there,” or at a hospital they’ll grab the IV bag and say “Look! It’s roast beef flavored!” Hardy-har-har — get bent, Donny.

What continually perplexes me about these perpetual brain-sores is how they haven’t been taken out back and shot yet. Surely, I’m not the only one who feels like hearing Donny speak is like having the eardrums caressed with sandpaper, am I? Sure, humor is subjective. Not everyone is going to find the same things funny as I do. But how did Donny’s mom not go back to the delivery nurse and ask her to double check if she didn’t confuse the after-birth with the baby? Maybe I’m projecting.

Let’s go over the Millerian Principles of Witty Dialogue:

Picking your shots – Edgar Allen Poe didn’t write funny stories. If someone were to read the Raven and see a line that was meant to be humorous, they’d get a sour taste in their mouths. If your work isn’t humorous by design, then maybe it will come across as flat. Now, let’s not confuse ourselves either. Using humor to diffuse a tense situation is a good literary technique. Think about the movie Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The entire last act of the film, the protagonists were running from a deadly killing machine. As a segue between one tense scene to another, the T-800 says “I need a vacation.” It was tasteful, well placed, and timed very well. It was also a disarming technique to make the next bout of tension even more impactful. Did anyone go to see Terminator 2: Judgement Day and expect a laugh? No, they went to see guns & explosions — James Cameron just knew enough to identify when he could get a laugh. In the adverse, the TV show Scrubs was a comedy series, built on the foundation of laughter. Comedy considered, some of the most impactful moments were the most serious. Picking your shots when to go for a laugh, and when to jerk a tear or two, can make a huge impact on the dynamic of the scene you are writing.

Reading the room – When you’re eight, or nine, the F-bomb can be hilarious! Does that mean the best time to use it is in front of Grandma at Thanksgiving? Probably not. If you’re writing a scene where the protagonist is telling a deep-seeded personal trauma, is having a side character say something like “Ha! You’re adopted!” going to fly? No, it’s going to sink like a stone. Now, if your side character were to say something like “Wow, I bet Thanksgiving sucked,” that would be more in line because it wasn’t completely devoid of empathy — it was a little bit of humor relief, but it didn’t distract from the emotionally powerful moment you were trying to craft. A scene where the protagonist has sacrificed himself for the greater good may not have a place for laughter at all.


Timing – all of the examples I’ve made so far are strongly related to timing. Picking your shots means timing the precise moment when a laugh will land the hardest. Reading the room means knowing exactly when a laugh is appropriate or not. Timing can be everything from knowing just how long to wait before throwing a zinger, or knowing when to not throw one at all. Timing can make, or break, anything. If you choose to take a job before you’re ready, if you decide to buy a house, or decide to move to another city, all can lead to your grand plans falling apart. Timing, when trying to get a chuckle, or add levity to your work, can make or break the piece you are writing.

My advice — if it’s worth taking — is to not be like Donny. A joke that is slick, and well timed, can have a much greater effect than one that is concussively driven into the dialogue. Timing, my friends, is everything.

Hot Tip for Powerful Dialogue

by Aedyn Brooks (@AedynBrooks)

When I get engrossed in great dialogue between characters it’s what’s not said that’s every bit as important as what’s said. It’s gathering information that the reader needs to know, but not necessarily a main character.

In my debut novel Dead Reckoning, the heroine, Joni Smith, has an agent watchdog from a government agency that has locked her up in the past. She’s terrified he’s going to lock up again after digging up some bones and being arrested by the local sheriff. Her goal is to play her current sticky predicament against the watchdog. But that’s not what she finds out…

Dead Reckoning, Grave Intentions, Book 1
End of Chapter 2 (truncated excerpt)

Joni reached for her hotel key from the hidden pouch in her boot.
Traipsing around the West Virginia back country on a cold November morning wasn’t her idea of a good time. She’d done what the pesky ghost asked her to do—she dug up her bones and found the locket. Rest in peace, Elsabeth.

Joni needed a hot shower and much needed sleep.

She cracked open the hotel door. Good, the salt she’d laid at the threshold hadn’t been disturbed, though she could have sworn she’d left a light on. She flipped the switch as she shut and locked the door.

Christian Bain, her government watchdog, sat at the small round table, one ankle resting on a leg. His usual grim expression was etched across his face. If he wasn’t such an irritant, she might think him a bit handsome. He was tall, blond, and blue-eyed all-American, with boy-next-door kind of looks. He always wore a black suit and tie, with a white shirt. His clothes never seemed to wrinkle, either. He was a paper doll, stiff and emotionless.

“Well, well, if it isn’t Bain-in-my-ass.” The last thing she wanted to do today was be processed into a military facility with bright white lights, a straitjacket, and padded walls. At least not until she’d washed and slept. “Listen, I’m exhausted.”

“You need to pack your things and leave town.” Was that a tinge of anger?

She gloated, sliding into the chair opposite him. “I’ve been told that I can’t leave.”

“I’ve got point on the locals. You can’t stay here.”


“I don’t have to give you a reason.”

He spoke without inflection. Without expression or gestures. Nothing. Just doled out monotone words while leveling those dead blue eyes as if she should quake in her boots and obey without question. Jerk.

“If I leave town, it’ll make things worse for me.” She tilted her head. “Do you know a lawyer? I might need one.”

He closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. “What did you do now?”

“You mean you aren’t here because someone ran a background check on me?”

“I’m here because you checked into a hotel in Gallows Hill.”

Crap. When would she learn to ask questions first before divulging information?

“This isn’t a safe place for you.”

What did he know that she didn’t? What did this little town have to do with her? She’d never been here before. Nope. She wasn’t going anywhere. He’d have to use a crowbar to pry her sorry ass from Gallows Hill. She’d stay around just to piss him off. “Listen, I’m taking a shower, and then getting some sleep.” Joni peered closer. Did he curl his top lip? Not the forever stoic Christian Bain.

“You are so stubborn.” He pointed a finger at the table. “Have I ever led you down the wrong path?”

She burst out laughing. “Like a million times. Not to mention threats.”

“If I have to lock you up to keep you away from them, I will.”

Her pulse thumped. Everything inside her went on high alert but kept her voice nonchalant. “Them who?”

He swallowed, and for a second, fear flashed in his eyes. That was a first. “This isn’t a safe place for you.”

Joni grimaced. “I was accused of grave-robbing.”

He closed his eyes for a long moment. “You didn’t.”

“I did. Kind of.”

Witty Dialogue

by Renée Gendron (@reneegendron)

I’d like to share with you excerpts of witty dialogue from three books. There are many ways to write humour. I like to play around with subtext and quick-fire banter. On the last one, I admit to struggling writing humour in a western historical context. My craft is always in evolution.

When you write humour, you need to have good chemistry between the characters (friends, buddy-cops, romantic partners—the relationship doesn’t matter, but there needs to be chemistry).

You can create chemistry by playing off personality differences, interests, perceptions of the world. Sometimes opposites clash and make humour. Other times, it’s when both characters know a subject matter so well, they can poke fun at it.

Intimacy creates humour. Little inside jokes or you-had-to-be-there jokes deepen characterisation and can add that spark of funny.

The truth is both sad and funny. A poignant remark can both be truthful and happy. Think of two detectives arriving at a crime scene. There’s a pile of bills on the table. One detective says to the other: at least he doesn’t have to balance the cheque book this month.

Play around with dialogue. If dialogue is too head-on/bang-on, it’s unrealistic and removes the chemistry between the characters.

Below are some excerpts from my books. The first two excerpt are from The Game Warden’s Match, Book 1 of The Outdoorsmen Series, now available on Kobo and Amazon. It’s a contemporary mystery romance set in Kingston, Ontario.

#1 from The Game Warden’s Match
Pulse pounding, he lowered himself to the chair. A Government of Canada header poked out from under paperwork. “Are you a government person?”
Cavemen had better openers—I bludgeoned a sabretooth tiger today. Do you want to see its tooth on my necklace?

“I’m a private sector person. You?”

“Government.” He drew another sip of coffee, having long forgotten how to play it cool. “Are you a married person?”

She laughed, a rich, smooth laugh that massaged his soul.

“No.” Her lips twisted at the corners. “Are you?”

The last time he was in this situation, what did he say? Right. Why did the Tyrannosaurus Rex cross the road? “Do you do that often?” he asked. “Leave gift cards for the homeless?”

“Not every time I buy coffee, but often enough.” She ran her thumb over her ballpoint pen.

A tentative pause hung between them. An opening.

“James.” He stopped himself from reaching his hand out by reaching for his coffee.


“Like the airport?”

“That was Mirabel in Montréal. The airport has one e and one l. My name has two l’s and one e. That airport hasn’t been open to passengers for decades.”

“I don’t travel much.” He shrugged. “How about the basics?”


“James Acker. Fifty, widowed, four adult children, cop, three younger brothers, own a dog.”

“I’m so sorry to hear about your wife. How long were you married?”

He sipped his coffee to hide his frown. “Twenty-two years.”

“How did she die?” Her hand rested over her heart, pressing against her lush breast.

“Breast cancer.”

“That’s awful. How long ago?”

“Five years.” He stared out the window onto the half-empty parking lot. A car slowed down to let a group of teenagers roll by on their skateboards. A woman pushed a double-wide baby stroller on the sidewalk. He inclined his head to Mirabelle, then arched his eyebrows in a silent your-turn.

“Direct and to the point? Mirabelle Bissett. Forty-five, divorced once, no children. No pets. One half-brother, one half-sister, both younger. Owner of a translation company.”
The tension in his chest eased at her paralleling his format. He liked her. A lot. “What do you translate?”

“English to French and vice-versa. And I speak Spanish and German. Bissett Translation also handles translation to and from Spanish, German, and Cantonese.” She traced the rim of her teacup with her index finger.

A comfortable pause.

“Can you read?” The words slipped out of his mouth, and he gave his head a shake, but still, his collar choked him. “The last game I had was when I scored the winning goal in my high school hockey championship.”

Her laughter bloomed like a flower opening to the glorious morning sun.

“Do you still play?” she asked.

“I’m not a player.”

Another round of laughter, a rich and heartfelt laugh that reached her eyes.

Masculine energy rose in in him on a swell of testosterone.

#2 From the Game Warden’s Match
“How long have you been divorced?” he asked in a light tone, but his eyes were serious.

“Since the day I married.” She lifted a shoulder in a small shrug. “Ten years.”

“What happened?”

A second stitch popped, and an old hurt oozed. “I’ll tell you, but not yet.”

“I’m not good at this, am I?” He smoothed an eyebrow.

“It’s a good sign.”


“It tells me you don’t spend hours trawling cafés, restaurants, bars, and flower shows to pick up women.”

His eyebrows arched. “Flower shows for pick up spots?”

“You’d be surprised. All that talk about flowering and plucking and hoeing and bone meals can turn some people on. What would you do in case of a zombie apocalypse?”
A masculine laugh escaped his lips, one that took root in a place so deep inside her it was more desolate than Mars. “I’d gather my children, my dog, my brothers, their families, and my parents, and head to the cottage. Make a few supply runs and wait past the worst of it.”

“An armoured redoubt somewhere in the woods?”

“An armoured redoubt?” A sparkle flashed in his eyes the colour of the crystal-clear blue waters of Lake Louise.

Excerpt from my upcoming Seven Points of Contact, Novella 1 of the Heartened by Sports series. Release in January 2022.

Soreness settled in the scar tissue of his heart. “Took a chance marrying my ex. I thought I had won the jackpot when she agreed to date but…she only saw me as her piggy bank. Bled me dry for years.” He slid the business plan towards him. “The Cataraqui Complex is expensive. Crazy expensive.”

“Yeah, that’s business. It’s also high reward. Invest more upfront, and you’ll have higher returns.”

“Trying to sell me mutual funds?”

A smile played on her lips, one brighter than the sun reflecting on an outdoor rink.

A round of groans and boos interrupted his thoughts. The second period had begun with Bruins scoring against the Leafs.

Great. Losing the game on both fronts.

Miranda swatted the air. “They’re not defending the goalie. It’s why they’re down three to one.”

“They’re afraid.”



“Eh?” Miranda caught his eye for a moment before returning her attention to the game. The lights bathed her features in a soft glow, shadowing the contours her face.
He cleared his throat. “Failing. They’re afraid of failing, so they risk everything and nothing at the same time.”

She angled her body to his, her whiskey brown gaze landed met his, and everything went silent. Miranda was the statue of patience with understanding eyes.

Excerpt from Jaded Hearts, a historical western romance. Release in March 2022.

The curve of her cheeks deepened, and she shied away. “We can’t waste the day.”

“Do you have a spot where we should dig first?”

“You don’t have to stay.”

“Didn’t you know there are coyotes in the mountains?”

She eased off the boulder. “Coyotes? They’re no threat.”

The loss of her touch left him cold, lonely, wanting. “There are wolves.”

“They won’t attack.” Pickaxe hoisted on her shoulder, she crossed the small clearing and inspected the ground.

“Hares then. You know how they like to bound. One might hop on your head.” He grabbed the shovel and followed her.

“Hop on my head?” She laughed a soul-warming laugh.

“Yeah, they’ve been known to do that in these parts. They aim for the shoulders.” His fingers trailed up her neck, along the curve of her cheek, following the line of her face until he gave her a little pat on the head. “And jump up to stand on your head.”

To be placed on a pre-order list for Seven Points of Contact or Jaded Hearts, please contact Renée directly.

The Talking in Your Toolbox

by Melissa Yuan-Innes (@dr_sassy)

Go eavesdrop. Maybe not so easy in the time of COVID, but go on, sit somewhere and listen. On a park bench. In a line at the grocery store. Or while waiting for your takeout.
Listen to the words, the spaces between them, the tone, the interruptions for traffic and checking phones.
I’m serious. Go do it. I’ll wait.Now. What did you hear?
Chances are, it was the opposite of witty dialogue. There were lots of ums and ahs and ers. One person was banging on about something while the others were held captive. Maybe it was a cell phone conversation, so all of you were held captive.
Recently, I was waiting in a restaurant (double vaccinated and masked, thank you) and the people next to me were so boring that I frantically searched through my music to find something to drown them out. Actually, I needed to obscure one single braying person.
As a writer, your job is to do the opposite.
Your job is to delight people with conversation. Build a friendship. Stoke or destroy a romance. Drop careful clues in a mystery. Remember. Deny. Argue. Coo. Chant. Sing.
But never bore. Unless it’s a technique. And even then, a difficult one.
Is it hard to do? Depends. It should be a tool in your toolbox. If it’s not your strength, read books and study what they say. Watch movies. Go to plays. I’m taking Tarragon Theatre’s playwriting and dramaturgy course right now, which involves lotsa dialogue. Now that I think of it, the course leader, Brian Quirt, complimented me on my “witty dialogue. It was more like banter.” he said.
I’d forgotten to incorporate another part of the assignment (adding a piece of music). But I got the dialogue down. And in this week’s assignment, I added music. 😉
P.S. If anyone is curious, in the restaurant, I listened to Bebe Rexha and read The Reader, by Traci Chee and successfully blocked out That Guy. Yay!

And … White Lightning, my brand new Prohibition era-inspired thriller book baby, is born on December 1st! Come to the virtual speakeasy to celebrate at 7:30 ET!

Rest your gams with the other cool cats and learn how to mix a Corpse Reviver #2 cocktail with Vancouver artisan distiller Nathalie Gamache.
Preorder here: https://windtreepress.com/portfolio/white-lightning/

Witty dialogue guaranteed.


AMBR Team Showcase: October 2021

White Lightening, Melissa Yi

Dead Reckoning, Grave Intentions, Book 1 by Aedyn Brooks

Ready or Not, Grave Intentions, Book 2 by Aedyn Brooks

Devil’s Due, Grave Intentions, Book 3 by Aedyn Brooks – August 2021

Book 1 of the Outdoorsman Series, by Renée Gendron to be released October 14, 2021

Seven Points of Contact, by Renée Gendron to be released fall/winter 2021-2022

Heads and Tales A supernatural / mythological anthology. Renée Gendron contributed a historical, supernatural, romance. Amazon.

A Law of Constants by A.P. Miller is available on Amazon

Beneath The Twin Suns An Anthology, edited by https://reneegendron.com/james-and-mirabelleRenée Gendron, available now. Find the link to your Amazon here.

Days of the Phoenix by A.P. Miller is available on Amazon

Dead Reckoning: Grave Intentions, Book 1 by Aedyn Brooks is available on Amazon

Duel Visions by Misha Burnett and Louise Sorensen is available on Amazon

Heartened by Crime from Renée Gendron is available now.

In The Red Room : A crime anthology with heart Edited by Renée Gendron is available now.

Judith’s Prophecy, a Supernatural Thriller by D.W. Hitz is available from Evolved Publishing
– Also book 2 and 3 are available + check for it now on audiobook

They Stole the Earth! A Middle Grade Sci-Fi Adventure by D.W. Hitz is available from Fedowar Press
– Now available on audiobook!