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Writing Children’s Picture Books: Enrich Your Story With Dialogue (part 6)

By Yvonne Blackwood ~

Your Johnnie Rabbit story is progressing nicely, and you are loving his every move. Then half way into the tale you realize that the story cannot be all narration. There must be interaction between Johnnie Rabbit and other animals—family members, friends, even enemies. The missing link is dialogue. Your anthropomorphic rabbit, behaving like a human being, must speak to someone in order to make some scenes come alive.

Dialogue 

Written dialogue is very different from real dialogue.  It is important that you develop a good ear for people’s conversation and translate what you overhear into written dialogue that is smarter and funnier—dialogue that makes your character unique. You may recall in part 2 of these articles, “You Don’t Know Everything,” I suggested that you watch cartoons. The reason for this is not only to see what the trends are, but to help you grasp current speech patterns. By incorporating trendy speech patterns into your story the characters will seem more engaging and children (your readers) who watch the cartoons will relate easily to the dialogue.

In the character bible you built for Johnnie and the secondary character (part 5) you listed certain attributes that help to make them stand out. Dialogue is another way to develop your characters. So when should you use dialogue? Unfortunately, there are no specific rules about when to use it, however, if you find that you are writing long descriptions and endless narrative, infuse some dialogue and see if it makes the story better. For example, in Nosey Charlie Goes To Court, there is a scene when Charlie finally returns home after disappearing all afternoon and causing his aunt, uncle and cousin a great deal of worry. Charlie wiped tears from his puffy eyes and blew his nose. He could barely speak, but he managed to say, “Mama. . .Papa. . . Pete, I’m very sorry. I shouldn’t have left the park. Please forgive me.” Instead of employing dialogue, I could have narrated the information this way:  Charlie told Mama, Papa, and Pete that he was sorry. He acknowledged that he should not have left the park. He asked the three of them to forgive him. Which version is more engaging and appealing to a child reading the story? You be the judge. In addition, dialogue can be used to provide information and to move the plot forward. Dialogue is a significant tool in literature; do not hesitate to use it.

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