Skip to content

Easy Changes to Spice Up Dialogue that You Can’t Teach Elementary Students

Elementary teacher

After retiring from over twenty years in education, I discovered that I’ve been writing dialogue incorrectly. Not only have I been writing it wrong, I taught it wrong. In my defense, I would not WANT elementary students to know some of these secrets.

Woman and two young children outdoors holding volleyball and smi

  1. To write great dialogue EVERYBODY fights – Yikes! As a teacher, I mediated fights all day. I hate fighting, but as an author, if characters don’t fight or at least disagree, it’s hard to tell them apart. Intensity can vary from teasing to screaming.  I tried it.

no pictures

Tani enjoys arts and crafts, home decorating, and shopping. Vanessa suffers from depression over losing  her home to a fire, and starting over again.

“You need pictures.” Tani declared.

“I had pictures.”

They’re gone, Ness. Your place has no personality. Let’s go shopping.”

This wasn’t a huge fight, but it helped to set the scene, and made it a little more interesting than just saying.  Vanessa had no pictures on her wall, and needed to go shopping.

Hazel

From The Fault in our Stars by John Green, sixteen year old Green Hazel has terminal cancer, and her mother is trying to help her through depression.

“I refuse to attend Support Group.

“One of the symptoms of depression is disinterest in activities.”

“Please just let me watch America’s Next Top Model. It’s an activity.”

“Television is a passivity.”

“Ugh, Mom, please.”

“Hazel, you’re a teenager. You’re not a little kid anymore. You need to make friends, get out of the house, and live your life.”

“If you want me to be a teenager, don’t send me to Support Group. Buy me a fake ID so I can go to clubs, drink vodka, and take pot.

“You don’t take pot, for starters… You’re going to Support Group.”

“UGGGGGGGGGG.”

elementary writing

  1. Cut out words especially off the beginning of dialogue. Teachers have to pull words out of elementary students to get efforts like. “I have a cat. My cat is gray.” We struggle to teach them to add adjectives, adverbs and connecting words to make their writing more interesting. Then teacher becomes a writer, and the word on the street is, “Less is more.” I tried this with my character, Sarah, who is always in a hurry. Even Vanessa improved with a few cuts to her tendency to wordiness.

So, I thought it was just a gimmick at first,” she had told Sarah during their daily phone call the next day.

Well, did you even check up on their credentials?” Vanessa had visualized Sarah with one hand on her hip and her eyes rolling.

Of course, I looked them up online. I think they’re legitimate.” Vanessa played Spider Sol while they talked.

“Never mind, don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it tomorrow. I’ve got a call. I’ll talk to you later.”

According to James Scott Bell, shorter sentences speeds up action.  What do you think?

fire

“The fire is raging out of control,” shouted 4’s chief. “Don’t go in there.”  (DUH!)

  1. Use dialogue to reveal the unknown not the known.  Dialogue is not an excuse to be redundant. Eliminate repetitive information. On the other hand, elementary teachers spend all day diverting disaster by repeating known information. I changed from teaching fourth to first grade. I was not ready for all the repetition I needed in my dialogue.

giving directions

“Put your pencils at the top of your paper so I will know when you’re done.” Without this reminder, pencils might work as a drumstick, baton, or a sword.

“Put your pencils, down.” You think they learned it the first time, but looking around, you see papers with extra drawings, drawings on someone else’s paper, and in worst cases, drawings on the desk.

This is not the case for authors. They must not show something that either the readers or the characters already know.  I crossed out “duh” words in my next attempt at dialogue.

Fred, four years Trixie’s junior, could move quickly when necessary, but not fast enough to avoid eight ounces of water that sprayed him from the waist down, when Trixie got mad during her birthday party.

The party’s chatter died suddenly to see how Fred would handle his soaking trousers. He stood up and undid his belt and unbuttoned his top button.

“Trixie, you got Fred’s pants all wet,” Fred’s girlfriend Edith said.

“Guess I’d better take these wet pants off!”

The crowd gasped in unison.

?????????????????????????????????????????

These seem like minor adjustments, but as I read over my manuscript, I found almost every conversation sounded better when I followed these spicy tips: provoke characters into fighting, cut their words short, and don’t use dialogue to repeat information everyone already knows.

Thank you Google for all these pictures.

If you liked these tips, you’ll love the book by James Scott Bell, How to Write Dazzling Dialogue:  The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript.

Dazzling Dialogue

Thanks to my new friends, Catherine and Irene who “liked” me on TC History Gal Productions.  Hope others will join me as well even though there are no prizes that I know of besides getting better acquainted.  🙂

7 replies »

    • Hmmm I’ll think about that one for a bit. I think the idea is to delete words, but sometimes I delete too many, and hubby doesn’t understand what I’m trying to say. There is a fine balance. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Translate

Marsha

Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

Personal Links

Verified Services

View Full Profile →

#StoryChat

Writer’s Quote Wednesday Writing Challenge

Where to Find Quotes

Where to find quotes

How to Link to a Challenge

8 Benefits of Photo Challenges

8 benefits of Challenges

For the Love of Challenges

Teacher Resources

Click to Get Early Childhood Teaching Resources

Becky B’s Squares April – Bright

Cee’s Black & White Challenge

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge

Featured Blogger Award

2020 Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest

Free Download

Use Canva to Create Social Media

Download Today – Free

Write a Top Review

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 16,422 other followers

Categories

Blogs I Follow

Archives

Blog Stats

  • 134,927 hits
Hugh's Views & News  

WordPress & Blogging tips, flash fiction, photography and lots more!

LightWriteLife

I love light, I love to write, I love life - I create my words and images to capture the light in my life.

Unique Times

Where I share my jewels of wisdom of life

Philosophy Through Photography

"A photograph shouldn't be just a picture,it should be a philosophy" Amitkalantri.

WordsVisual

Mostly photographs with some words by this arty scientist...

One Million Photographs

Follow along with me as I travel the world on a quest to publish one million photos

justbluedutch

Be it always Less, So It can be More.

David M's PhotoBlog

Sometimes It's Just About The Light

The Hermit Poet's Ramblings

Poetry BLOG By Edge of Humanity Magazine

My Camera & I

This blog is my creative outlet where I can share my photos, my travels, my random thoughts and a bit of myself.

Second Wind Leisure Perspectives

Fun, Fitness & Photography

Appeltjie

potpouri van stories, foto's, gedagtes, goue vroue

Cats and Trails and Garden Tales

Musings on cats, travel, gardens and life

A Writer's Deli

Millennial Blogger from India | Blog interviews | Dog lover | Poet

Out of My Write Mind

The blog of Sandy J. White

photographias

photography and life

Journeys with Johnbo

Reflections on places traveled and photos taken.

Fake Flamenco

Connecting the Americas, Bridging Cultures Supergringa in Spain: A Travel Memoir

The life of B

Mainly through the lens of a Nikon

bushboys world

Photos of my world and other stuff I hope you will enjoy too. Photos taken with Canon PowershotSX70HS Photos can be purchased.

Tales Before Bedtime

Life and love in words and books by Shelley Fallows

Travel with me

Travel snapshots from Toonsarah

Deb's World

A blog about midlife, travel, adventure - and all things in between

Natalie the Explorer

Taking steps to live a healthy and enriched life

Shayan's Sphere

A Teen's Definition of Life

bend branches

Nature, history, & culture in Bend & beyond

This, that and the other thing

Looking at life through photography and words

%d bloggers like this: