We’ve talked about some important ingredients for your children’s story. Today we’re going to discuss dialogue and how important it is to your successful story.
First, it’s important to remember that you don’t want to write lots of chatter that doesn’t advance the story. It needs to have a purpose that advances your story plot. Why does this matter? Well, for one thing, many young readers check out the dialogue before they choose to purchase the book. They want to know if it looks interesting and entertaining. They want to check if the subject matter would engage them. You’ll need to place your dialogue so that it supports the action you’re planning for your book.
Next, you need to keep some general rules in mind for your narratives. For example, every time you change speakers, you’ll need to start a new paragraph. You need to frame the statement itself with quotation marks and add a comma, question mark, or period at the end of the sentence.
Here are some examples from Charlene the Star and Hattie’s Heroes:
“Here’s Hattie, speeding down the aisle, holding her bonnet,” said Charlene.
“Good morning, Charlene,” said Hattie, taking a bow. I do love to wear hats!”
You’ll notice that the quotes are only around what is actually speech.
If someone laughs, or runs, it’s part of the action narrative, but not part of speech, so you wouldn’t enclose it in quotes. For example,
Mary laughed. “What a dumb joke you told, Bob.” The quotes only enclose what Mary actually said.
What other hints can we remember to help you write the perfect dialogue? Something that will really help is to spend time with children. Pay close attention to how they talk. They tend to use short sentences. Generally, they don’t offer a lot of sage advice themselves, but they could think about those things, so you can set their thoughts apart by using italics. Here’s another example of that from Charlene the Star and Hattie’s Heroes:
Charlene thought, Hattie’s going to lose her favorite bonnet if she doesn’t slow down. That would ruin her whole day. “Hattie slow down. You’re racing down the aisle. You don’t want your favorite bonnet to fly right off your head.”
In summary, here are some things to keep in mind when you’re writing your next children’s story:
1. Be sure your dialogue advances the story. Don’t write useless chatter that has no purpose.
2. Only use quotes around what is actually said.
3. Use italics when writing a character’s thoughts, to set them apart from actual dialogue. That way, your readers will know exactly what’s happening.
4. Spend time around children so you know how they talk and what’s important to them. Remember to make your characters realistic so they don’t offer advice that’s too mature for them.
Now you have another piece to the puzzle of creating the best children’s story ever.