Chat With Me: Hearing Voices? Week 2

Different Strokes: Dialogue

This is week two of my Blog Chat, “Different Strokes.” It highlights how differently writers work through issues, which techniques work for them and which ones don’t, as well as how they hone their craft. Each month will have one topic and four guest bloggers (one per week).

I’m happy to introduce my next guest blogger, Gina Klein. She is a monthly contributor to KC Parent magazine. Gina is an author of children’s fiction, young adult fiction, and adult nonfiction.

What type of fiction do you write?
I write both children’s picture books and chapter books, and I also have a young-adult novel in the works.
How do you stay true to each character’s voice?
I get to know my characters from the start. I envision a person I know or have met in my life that has traits similar to my character, and I build on that.
Give an example of a technique you’ve used to distinguish characters in dialogue.
To distinguish my characters in dialogue, I might have one character with a tic that shows up when he/she speaks (i.e. a nod of the head, a twitch of an eye, etc.); or I might have one of the characters speak with an accent or drawl of some sort. Since I write for children, I find it easy to distinguish one character from another because of their little tics and their word choices.
What do you do when characters stop talking?
When they’re not off doing something after a conversation, I like to make my characters thinking about something. I enjoy showing what goes on in their little minds. 🙂
What things do you try to avoid in writing dialogue?
I really try to avoid the he said/she said thing. I like to find a variety of ways to show who’s talking (as mentioned above) rather than having to say who said what after each dialogue sentence. I know it’s something you have to do, but I like trying to avoid too many of the he said/she said endings. So, instead of saying:
“I want some bread, Mama,” Allison said.
“In just a moment,” Mama said.
     I might write it like this:
Allison held her grumbling stomach and frowned. “I want some bread, Mama.”
Mama smiled and reached inside the hot oven for the fresh cinnamon bread. “In just a moment, dear.”
Do you have a favorite quote about writing dialogue?
“Characters take on life sometimes by luck, but I suspect it is when you can write more entirely out of yourself, inside the skin, heart, mind, and soul of a person who is not yourself, that a character becomes in his own right another human being on the page.”  — Eudora Welty
Is there a particular author(s) whose character dialogue you admire?
One that stands out to me at the moment (and is not a children’s author) is the author of Girls in Trucks … Katie Crouch. I got hooked reading that book because of her great dialogue and characterization. It really brought me into the minds of the characters and the story. 
How can people learn more about you and your writing?
If you’d like to learn more about me, you may visit my web site: On my site, you’ll also find a link to my blog! Hope to see you there!

Do you pull characteristics from people you know to build characters? Do your characters have tics? Do you give your characters discussion topics outside of the context of the story?

8 comments on “Chat With Me: Hearing Voices? Week 2

  1. Thanks for your interesting posts on dialog, Natasha. Did you check out my post on literary dialect? You might find it interesting.

    We should “talk” since we’re both discussing somewhat the same things. 🙂

    • I read your “Job Opening” post and thought it was a hoot. How acurate! Your “NCTE and Me” post is full of great information with perfect examples to demonstrate the techniques you describe.

      We should definitely talk. 🙂

  2. lbdiamond says:

    Great post! Love the tips–and the quote–awsome! 😀

    • It is a great quote. I love it when I ‘m reading a book and enter that suspension of disbelief where I question whether the novel is based on a true story. But since I read mostly paranormal, chance of that happening a slim. 🙂

  3. I like the example Gina gave of how to vary dialog. Using action tags instead of said tags is a good tool. In a situation where there are only two people talking you can leave off some of the tags completely to pick up the pace.

  4. I’ve never tried to engage my characters in dialogue outside the story context, but I like the idea. I might have to give it a try.

  5. dawnall says:

    I love to make characters from a hodge podge of people I have met. It’s a lot of fun to build characters this way. It makes for originality.

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