The Crimson Five series

Dialogue: Did the Right Person Say It?

Dreaming is good. Doing is better. If you want to reach your dream of getting your book published, then it’s time to get back to work on your manuscript. Last week I talked about characters—making your reader care about them by making them relatable, and making their goals crystal clear with high stakes. But those are just a few things your can do to strengthen your manuscript. Another is checking your dialogue—especially when you have many characters who show up scene after scene.

When dealing with multiple characters, it’s easy to assign dialogue to the wrong one. Each person needs to be involved in the conversation in some way and that way can be spoken or with a gesture. During the drafting stage, you just want to get the conversation on the page. Mare says this. Jax replies that. Ander looks at Mare, but says nothing. But once you’re in the revision stage it’s important to be sure the right dialogue is assigned to your characters. You may wonder why it even matters. Just getting the point across is enough, right? Well, no.

In Spin the Golden Light Bulb, the story revolves around a team of five kids. When they all speak in the same scene, it can be tricky to get the point across and make it sound natural. But it’s even harder than that because there are certain things that Jax would never say. Other things that Mare would definitely say. And Ander, well, Ander is Ander. He would never just look away without saying anything. How do I know? Because I know my characters like they are my own kids. Ander loves to be a part of the conversation. It would be very unlikely that he would be tongue-tied!

One of the adorable illustrations by Gabrielle Esposito in
Spin the Golden Light Bulb!

During revisions, I did a separate read through for each of my five main characters. I also did a sixth read through for the secondary characters. During each one, I would highlight their dialogue only and ask myself, “Would Mare say that? Is that the best response she could give? Does her response shed a light on who she is? Does what she’s saying move the conversation forward? Does it sound like something a real person would say? But most of all, I’m deciding if Mare is the person who should say that line, rather than maybe Kia or Jillian.

The process may sound tedious, and it is. But it’s so important especially with multiple characters in a conversation. You want your reader to get to know each one and this will help it to happen. You want your reader to be able to tell who is speaking, just by the sentence that’s spoken. Ander calls Kia by a nickname. Always. So when a sentence contains the nickname, it’s easy to know he’s speaking. The other kids never call her that. So when I’m revising I make sure that’s what he refers to her as. Ander loves to be the center of attention. He makes bold statements. Jillian is dramatic. Very. Mare is blunt. Dry. Kia is intense. She’s a worrier. Jax is quiet. Introverted. These descriptions don’t sum up all the reader knows about the five kids, but they are examples. And these types of things help me decide who would say what, when they’re interacting.

So that’s my best tip for dialogue. Make sure the right person is saying each line. Your story (and characters) will make more sense that way. I hope this helps as your revise your own manuscript. It’s definitely helped me!

On an author-life note, I’ve been paired up with a lovely teacher and class of fourth graders from Ohio for the Kids Need Mentors Program run by Kristin Crouch, Kristen Picone, and Jerrott Lerner. I’m so excited to work with them this year! I had an amazing experience last year with a class of fifth graders. It’ll be fun to see what comes of this new auther/ educator collaboration! I’ve also hit the 5,000 word mark on my new middle grade WIP. Not bad for just a few weeks. Hopefully I’ll get a few thousand more words in this week and get to a point where it feels more like a story and not just a premise. Wish me luck!

I hope you’re making progress on your writing projects too. Keep at it. Don’t give up. Even a few words a day makes a big difference. I’ll be in my corner of the internet cheering for you…as I pour another cup of very creamy coffee and get back to work myself!

Thanks for checking in today. I’ll see you again next week!

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