Today I spotted another review for Vlad the Inhaler and was pleased to note, although written by a parent, the review writer had included a line I found more important than her praise: it received the thumbs up from my own children, prompting my son to ask if there was a second book in the pipeline. This tells me I pitched the dialogue just right for the age group and type of story – which brings me on nicely to today’s tip.
Tip Three – Listen to the Lingo
The way your characters interact through dialogue can make or break the story. If the words used don’t sound convincing to young ears, the entire book can fail to convince. So, how do you make sure the dialogue is believable? The answer is to listen to how children speak to each other.
Suggestions to Look, Listen and Learn:
- Write a section of dialogue for children to read and ask them to tell you which words don’t sound right
- Listen to children when they argue
- Watch television series that feature children in the right age group, particularly those set in schools
- Ask all the children you know to tell you a joke – that will give you a good idea of the level of vocabulary they use
- Ask the neighbourhood children to write down their favourite words and their meanings
- Try some dialogue writing exercises. Give a character a definite personality through their dialogue, then ask several children to tell you what type of person they think is speaking
Employing dialogue that your readers hear in their everyday lives makes it easier for them to identify with the characters in your book.
The bad guys in your story should speak in ways that identify them as bullies, using aggressive terms and sounding threatening.
The heroes and heroines should sound as normal as possible, using everyday expressions and slang where appropriate, but they mustn’t sound too goody-goody or your readers will not empathise with them.
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