By Jeannette Jones
Dialogue is a powerful device for storytelling. Some of the best dialogue out there moves a story along and develops three-dimensional and complex characters. Don’t underestimate dialogue; it’s so much more than a couple of characters talking to each other.
If you write for young minds, you may be aware that dialogue isn’t always easy to master. It can often be hard to figure out how it’s useful or how to make it sound realistic. Therefore, here are four ways to write stunning dialogue in your children’s books to make your story that much stronger.
Table of Contents
How to Write Dialogue for Your Children’s Books
1. Listen a lot
One of the hardest things about writing children’s dialogue can be trying to make it sound natural. You know what you want your characters to say or think, but often it comes off as awkward or unnatural.
The only way to get a feel for natural dialogue is to listen to how other people (kids included), speak and communicate with each other. For this, it’s perfectly okay to eavesdrop!
If you are not a parent, guardian, teacher, aunt, or uncle, or don’t work with kids in any capacity, go somewhere where you’ll be able to hear an abundance of conversation with children, like a mall, park, or restaurant. Then, pay close attention to speech and how they talk.
No two people speak the same, let alone children. Some speak fast, others slow. Older children, such as middle schoolers and preteens, may have an extensive vocabulary while others, such as kids in primary school, use simpler words. Also, take note of any accents or unique ways people around you talk.
2. Get in the mind of your characters
Just like how no two children are the same, your characters shouldn’t be, either. Hopefully, you’ve given them distinct, unique personalities and mannerisms. These points should definitely transfer into their speech.
There are several things that come with this. Take into account where they’re from. Do they have any accents or slang they like to use? Do they have a favorite word they use frequently?
Maybe they don’t talk much or, depending on their age, they don’t have a large vocabulary.
These are all aspects you should be thinking about that will determine how you write your dialogue effectively.
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3. Learn to write dialogue from others
Obviously, don’t steal dialogue from other works out there, but there’s nothing wrong with gaining inspiration for your own children’s dialogue from other media sources. And hey, consider watching a movie or TV show as “research.” Also, take note of how other writers construct dialogue.
What situations or predicaments have led their characters to say the things that they do?
Who’s speaking and why?
Is there any subtext that is being left unsaid?
What’s stopping them from saying it?
There are masterful storytellers out there that you can learn from to write stunning dialogue for your children’s books. Scope out their works for the best tips on writing dialogue for kids and get an idea of how to do it yourself.
4. Leave out the unimportant stuff
Dialogue is just as important as any other storytelling element. It should always be used to either move your children’s story along or develop your children’s book characters. Everything your characters talk about or say to each other should fulfill a goal or reveal something about the character. In other words, leave out the filler if it doesn’t have a purpose.
Two characters rambling about cakes with no clear reason as to why they’re talking about it is pretty dull. But maybe “Thirteen-year-old-twins Margo and Vivian” are arguing which flavor to ask their parents to get for their upcoming birthday party. A little more intriguing, right?
And what if they aren’t even upset about the cake, but something else, something they’re not saying but only hinting at. What if one of them doesn’t even wish to have the birthday party and is delicately trying to point this out. That’s much more compelling, isn’t it?
Now, we have a story going and dialogue to drive the plot along. Through what’s said (and often, what isn’t) we have a clear direction of where we’re going.
Final Thoughts on Writing Dialogue for Kids
Dialogue is a fascinating story element that adds another layer of intricacy to your story–if you know how to use it effectively.
These four ways to write stunning dialogue for your children’s books should help you craft realistic and purposeful conversations. Conversations that will enhance your children’s story, give insight into the depth of your characters, and leave your readers hungry for more.