The Difficulty of Dialogue

My whole life, I’ve been a great eavesdropper! George V. Higgins

I do love to eavesdrop. It’s inspirational, not only for subject matter but for actual dialogue, the way people talk. Lynda Barry

I struggle with writing natural sounding dialogue for my characters. I’ve been told to listen, listen, listen to:

  • What kids say and how they say it.
  • How children speak to parents, grandparents and teachers, as opposed to how they chat with each other.
  • How girls gossip and gab. How boys brag among themselves. Is it different from how they speak to the opposite sex?

As writers, we must pay attention to the vocabulary and cadence of the old and young, but especially to conversations among children in the age group we’re writing for. It’s helpful to study the dialogue in best-selling kids’ books and to notice:

  • How short or long the characters’ responses are. Are they varied in length?
  • How long most of the conversations are.
  • How much or how little slang is used. We need to make dialogue sound fresh and current. Still, it’s wise to avoid trendy words that won’t stay in use. They can make dialogue sound dated in a few years.
  • Whether you can tell who’s talking by the vocabulary or style of speech. If so, try to figure out how the author achieved that. The speech of characters should reveal or spring from their environment, intentions or goals, and their fears.

We have more info on writing dialogue in our workbook, Write a Marketable Children’s 
Book in 7 Weeks. But the best help for all of us is to listen, listen, listen and write, write, write.






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