I'm currently working for a children's comic company.
My scripts are acceptable, but my boss has been telling me that I need help writing children's dialogue.
Any tips on how I might be able to write believable dialogue for children ages 9-11?
October 22nd, 2003, 05:15 AM
Talk to some nine year olds? Study Bart Simpson.
What country is your comic set in?
Post some dialogue and let us see what's going on.
October 22nd, 2003, 07:15 PM
Pepper your boss with questions about exactly what he feels is problematic about your dialogue. Try to get specific examples. Find out if he feels your dialogue runs too old or just doesn't have enough kid-like phrases and slang in it.
Take a look at comics written for the age group and kids lit written for the age group. Show your dialogue to kids in the age group (carefully, as you don't want to send anyone running for the cops,) and get their feedback. Enlist the help of an elementary school teacher and get his or her feedback. All you need is some models and some practice. :)
October 23rd, 2003, 06:28 AM
Thank you for the tips...they are much appreciated and I will seriously consider and think about what is written here.
I'm writing for a company based in California.
I'm always around kids, but I suppose the biggest problem for me is that this is an English comics and all the kids around here speak German.
I suppose the reason why I don't ask my boss TOO many questions is because I don't want to sound as if I'm not good enough for the job.:D But I might have the wrong attitude.
As it is hard to figure out exactly where my dialogue may sound too adult-like, it's difficult to post just any part of the dialogue. But I found some anyway. Looking at it again, I can see where I might dumb down the language a bit. But how much can I dumb THIS down?? :
Teacher: Here's your test Sarah. Are you ok? You're shaking.
Sarah: I'm just...I'm just a little cold right now!
Teacher: Cold? It's a very warm spring day! Are you feeling sick?
Sarah: No, I feel good!
Teacher: I hope you don't feel nervous about this test today.
Sarah: Hey, I studied hard for this test!
Sarah: See? It's all over, no problem.
Edward: But you looked funny while you were taking the test. Haha!
Sarah: What do you mean I looked funny!
Edward:You were shaking and your teeth were like this, and your eyes were all big.
Sarah: Stop making things up!
Edward: I'm not! I really think you were nervous!
Sarah: I wasn't nervous.
Edward: Well, we're going to get our grades tomorrow.
October 23rd, 2003, 11:13 AM
Thinking "dumb down" is wrong. Hopefully you just made a poor choice of words and that is not your attitude to writing for kids.
Think add kid flavour, kid attitude, bit of uncertainty. Learn some slang make it colourful.
I can't speak Californian. But I've gone and straylyanized a few things to show you what I mean:
I'm just...I'm just a little cold right now!/I'm er... cold, yeah, I'm cold, that's all.
No, I feel good!/I'm OK. No worries/I'm sweet/not a prob.
But you looked funny while you were taking the test. Haha!/But you looked like a freak/goofy/unco/like a jerk/like a numb numb during the test.
I'm not! I really think you were nervous!/I'm not. Admit it, you were peeing your pants/filling ya daks/shitting/packing yourself!
Kids don't bother being "just a little" anything. They don't think in terms of what they "feel" unles they are sad. They don't use words like "funny" unless they are praising someone. And why use the word "nervous" when you can accuse someone of being a wimp? Way more fun.
Think kid and good luck.
October 23rd, 2003, 12:39 PM
*sound of twopence hitting the deck*
The feeling I got from your first lines with the teacher was that the kid had an 'older attitude' for lack of a better phrase. She was speaking to the teacher like an equal. More likely she would say something like 'I dunno' or just simply agree with whatever the authority figure is leading the conversation to.
Kids also have an annoying habit of not answering the question posed to them. That presents problems for a writer because everyone will think you don't know how to plot your way out of a wet paper bag. Writing children characters in a natural way is extremely difficult.
October 24th, 2003, 04:20 AM
Great feedback...huge help. That's just what I needed. I'll be taking these comments here very seriously.
When I wrote "dumb-down", I certainly didn't mean to imply that kids are dumb. I just meant that I need to find a way to make the same ideas that we have sound simpler in kid language.
October 24th, 2003, 11:15 PM
I know what you mean. Most writers think writing for kids is going to be simple but finding out what style/mood/voice is going to strike a chord with kids is not simple at all.
Using simple words is not going to hold a kid's attention if they are boring ones. It's like if I took half the tools away from a carpenter and then told him to build me a great looking table. Kids still demand a great looking table.
The easiest way to write kids for kids is to create an inner kid to do the work for you. He tells the story in kidspeak right from the word go. Then you won't have to simplify adult ideas and rewrite.