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children's dialogue : Tips and Advice • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

children's dialogue

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TwoStepCharlie
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children's dialogue

Postby TwoStepCharlie » Wed Oct 12, 2016 11:45 am

Something trickier-than-usual has come up in one of my current projects. I consider myself very competent at many kinds of dialogue but I have--on my hands right now-- a bunch of scenes to write which feature no adults at all. Just two American suburban children, a boy and a girl, each around 11 yrs old. I'm not too proud to ask for advice in this awkward task. Has anyone got any insight? I'm not often around kids and so I find it slightly cumbersome to 'go backward' to the very simplistic language they tend to use.

These are my observations so far.

~halting, tentative little speech fragments,
~no compound sentences
~much hemming-and-hawing and uncertainty.
~they speak slowly with many pauses and silences inbetween.
~they repeat themselves often
~they use simple words and phrases, limited vocabulary, and
~they make very 'obvious' remarks that adults usually skip over.
~they talk about 'what they see in front of them'
~sense of past or future is very compressed (that happened 'yesterday' or 'we're going there tomorrow')
~they chatter about food and drink and candy and ice cream a lot

Any other characteristics you can name?

Thanks in advance!
Last edited by TwoStepCharlie on Thu Oct 13, 2016 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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shadowwalker
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Re: children's dialogue

Postby shadowwalker » Wed Oct 12, 2016 12:12 pm

Child characters, like adults, act individually. Hesitant speech often comes from a strained relationship with adults, or simply because the child is shy. Other kids speak as clearly and as articulately as the average adult. Some will have a relatively large vocabulary, others not so much. Don't fall into the trap of stereotypes simply because the characters are a different age. They're your characters; you decide their speech patterns.
"It seems rather like wanting to be ... a writer, rather than wanting to write. It should be a by-product, not a thing in itself. Otherwise, it's just an ego trip." - Roger Zelazny

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Alice Jennings
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Re: children's dialogue

Postby Alice Jennings » Thu Nov 03, 2016 11:33 am


max2011
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Re: children's dialogue

Postby max2011 » Mon Nov 14, 2016 8:51 pm

From my experience as a teacher: speech also depends on their upbringing. I knew a little boy who spoke in complete sentences for everything, and another boy who was only six years old and had a high vocabulary because the parents spoke to him a certain way. Of course, there are those children who hardly speak and their sentences are incomplete. Whatever you decide, observe children speak at a park or library, then be consistent with what you write. good luck!

nonfictionwriter
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Re: children's dialogue

Postby nonfictionwriter » Mon Nov 14, 2016 11:26 pm

twostepcharlie: I think you are slightly underestimating 11 year old. what you wrote in your opening post is more typical of 7 year olds. kids are more and more sophisticated these days. If you look at cartoons these days, they have complicated dialogue and plot lines. I think that you are on the right tract, but the differences between kids and adults are often more subtle. I think that children around age 11 are very emotional, sensitive to criticism, and interested in social standing. They often have an internal clash between obedience and disobedience.


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