Friday, July 5, 2019

Writing Tips for Kids 11 - Write Great Dialogue

by Susan Stephenson,

Last year I began a series of Writing Tips for Kids. This is the eleventh in the series. Over coming weeks you’ll see more short articles, each of them addressing young writers and dealing with a topic helpful to them. I’ve created a new List for these articles and will add to it over time. The List is embedded below.

How to Write Great Dialogue

In real life, people have conversations. Listen to your family chatting and you might hear:

"Hi Mum."
"Hello Jack. How was school?"
"Okay I guess."
"Did you hand in your homework."

It might be realistic, but it's not interesting to a reader, and it doesn't tell us much about the people talking.

Writers use dialogue. It needs to sound realistic, but it isn't a real conversation like the one above. Dialogue does something in your story. Maybe it reveals something about a character. Maybe it gives some information we need to understand the story. It should also move the story along.

Here's another snippet of dialogue, this time from a story. Notice how we always start a new paragraph when someone new or different speaks.

"Hi Mrs Mangle," said Jack, sliding toward his room fast.

"Stop right there, young man." Mrs Mangle narrowed her eyes. "What's that behind your back?"

Jack tried to swallow the lump in his throat. Was there anything he could say to convince his foster mother to let him keep his new pet? "Huh? Oh, you mean this?" He brought his trembling hands to the front. "Isn't it great? It's a white mouse. Tam gave it to me and he says I can keep it."

“Oh, he did, did he?” She stared at the mouse and licked her dry lips.

What did you learn? What do you think MIGHT be going on?

If you want to write great dialogue, try these ideas:

* Pay attention to dialogue between the characters in your favourite books.

* Many adult writers nowadays use "said" in dialogue, rather than always trying for more interesting words like "chortled" or "exclaimed". It helps a reader’s eyes race down the page.

* It can still get boring if what each character says has a speech tag, like "she said". Take a look:

“The robots are coming,” he said.

“Oh no,” she said.

“Yes, and their crazed leader has sparks shooting from his eyes!” he said.
“We’d better leave now,” she said.

“I agree,” he said.

* Try action tags for variety. Here's an example of an action tag. We know Joe said it because what he said is followed immediately by what he did.

"You mean there's an elephant on the roof?" Joe flinched and stared at the ceiling. "Should we call the fire brigade?"

* Sometimes you don't need any tag because it's obvious who's speaking. But be careful to use a character’s name if you need to. Ask others to read your story and point out if they get confused.

* Remember that sometimes, having a character not speak will make a scene more dramatic and tell us a lot about what's going on between characters. Here's an example:

Mrs Mangle glared at Jack, and her nostrils flared.

"Please let me keep him. I want to call him Mickey. Please, please, please," he pleaded.

Mrs Mangle picked up the carving knife. Without a word, she whacked it down hard on the cutting board, and two potato halves flew up and plopped onto the floor.

Write more dialogue the way you want the story to go. Don’t forget to use your writing skills!

You might also like to read Writing Tips for Kids - How to Start, Writing Tips for Kids 2 - Write What You Know, Writing Tips for Kids 3 - Developing Characters, Writing Tips for Kids 4 - Writing Funny Stories, Writing Tips for Kids 5 - Start with a Hook, Writing Tips for Kids 6 - Remove Repetitions, Writing Tips for Kids 7 - Use Strong Verbs and Writing Tips for Kids 8  - Use Specific Nouns., Writing Tips for Kids 9 - Remove Fluff Words and Writing Tips for Kids 10 - Use Your Senses.

Clipart Credit: Phillip Martin

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