by Yvonne Blackwood
Your Ronnie Rabbit story is progressing nicely and you are loving his intricate moves. Then halfway into the tale, it dawns on you that the story cannot be all narration. There must be interactions between Ronnie 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 at sometime in order to make some scenes come alive.
Written dialogue is very different from real dialogue. It is important that you develop a good ear for other people’s conversations and translate what you overhear into written dialogue that is sharper and even funnier—dialogue that make your characters 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 be aware of current speech patterns. By incorporating trendy speech patterns into your story the characters will be more engaging and children (your readers) who watch cartoons will relate easily to the dialogue.
When do you use dialogue?
In the character bible, you built for Ronnie Rabbit and the secondary characters (part 5) you listed certain attributes that help to make them stand out. Dialogue is another way to develop your characters.
The sixty-four-thousand-dollar question is, when should I 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, inject some dialogue and see if it makes the story more engaging.
For example, in Nosey Charlie Goes To Court, there is a scene when Charlie finally returns home after disappearing all afternoon having caused his aunt, uncle, and cousin a great deal of worry. Charlie could barely speak, but after wiping tears from his puffy eyes and blowing his nose, he managed to say, “Mama…Papa. . . Pete, I’m very sorry. I shouldn’t have left the park. Please forgive me.”
Instead of using 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, more visual, 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 employ it.
Guest post contributed by Yvonne Blackwood. Yvonne is an author, award-winning short story writer, columnist, world traveler, and retired banker. Her published children’s books include: Nosey Charlie Comes To Town, Nosey Charlie Goes To Court, and Nosey Charlie Chokes On A Wiener! Adult books include Into Africa A Personal Journey, Will That Be Cash or Cuffs? and Into Africa, the Return.