Writing Dialogue

Today for Writing Wednesday at the library, we’re talking about dialogue.  This can be tricky to write sometimes.  How much is too much?  How much is too little.  I tend to rely more on dialogue, because I’m not as strong with setting.  One of the first things I recommend to people is to think about writing a play or a script.  In a play, there’s no exposition, no narrative voice or tone.  It’s what the characters say that move the story forward.  So how does that work?

Dialogue reveals something about the story or the situation.

As with everything in writing, dialogue should move the story forward.  What a character says or doesn’t say reveals something.  If a vampire comes on scene and your main character says, “Oh, not again,” that tells you that she’s faced vampires before and, in fact, thinks they have become a little tiresome.  But if your character starts stammering or maybe says, “OK, take out the plastic teeth,” that tells you something else.

Dialogue should add tension.

While it’s important to have realistic dialogue, there’s a difference between ordinary dialogue and interesting dialogue.  In real life, we have to work through social pleasantries before we get to the meat of conversation.  But in fiction you can spice things up.  Would you rather read about two people making small talk?  Or perhaps one person is confronting the other?

It doesn’t have to be straight forward.

While dialogue should reveal, it doesn’t just have to be backstory.  In real life, people make snide comments, and that tells us about your characters, too.  Interruptions, commentary, and exclamations all add to interesting dialogue.  Everyone has their own agenda, so even if your character is looking for answers, other characters might be trying to get in her way.

There should be beats between dialogue.

Essentially, what makes characters are reactions.  And sometimes your character might react by not saying anything at all.  You also want to give your characters beats to react internally.  Just like in real life, your characters may be saying one things and thinking another.  This is one way to add tension.  It also helps to slow down the scene.

Said is silent.

The best way to tag dialogue is with the word said.  Tags are really only there to tell us who is speaking, and said is generally invisible to the reader.  Use too much of sighed, exclaimed, grunted, groaned, and more, and you will draw your reader away from the action of the scene. That said, sometimes “he groaned” is the perfect word choice.  Just use it sparingly.  This advice goes for adjectives after said as well.  I love adjectives possibly a little more than the next person, but used too much and they become tiresome.

EXERCISE: Try writing a scene in only dialogue.  This means you won’t be touching your character’s internal reactions so much, but it’s just an exercise.  For the beats between dialogue, write them in like you would in a play [beat].


Sensory Snow Slime

This past weekend, our library participated in the Dowagiac Ice Festival with a sensory craft in the library.  Downtown businesses invited the people of Dowagiac to make crafts, get food and drinks, and more.  We invited families to make Snow Slime with us.  I originally got this idea from Sarah at Frugal Fun for Boys.

The kids had fun with this projects because it was messy, but little did they know that they were engaging in a sensory activity!  According to PBS, “Spending time stimulating their senses helps children develop cognitively, linguistically, socially and emotionally, physically and creatively.”  There’s something about the mixture of glue and fake snow that just feels weird and a lot of kids had great reactions.  Parents talked to their kids about how it felt and why.  Some of the younger ones didn’t like getting messy, but participating in this projects encouraged them to reach outside of their comfort zone.

This is also a little bit like process-based art.  There’s no exact science to this project.  You just kind of have to figure out how much liquid starch to add, how long to mix, and how to adjust your method if your slime is too stringy or if it’s sticking to much with your hands.  It takes a while to get it to form, and you have to try a lot of different things.  So kids are learning how to sit at a project for a while and sustain focus, but they are also using problem solving skills.

To do this project all you need is 1 bottle of glue, a cup of fake snow (that you can get at a craft store or on Amazon), and 1/2 cup liquid starch.  Mix the glue and snow, then slowly at little bits of liquid starch.  You have to mix the glue, then shape it, knead it, and fold it until you get it to be the consistency you want.

Wiggle Your Parts at Storytime


STORYTIME FOR: Dowagiac District Library

Hello/Goodbye Song

We Say Hello/Goodbye Like This (with ukulele)
(Tune: The Farmer in the Dell)
D                                                          A7
We wave hello like this… with our friends in storytime, we wave hello like this.
D                                                         A7
We clap hello like this…with our friends in storytime, we clap hello like this.
D                                                           A7
We stomp hello like this… with our friends in storytime, we stomp hello like this.

Wiggle by Doreen Cronin.  A dog wiggles all the parts of his body, outside and inside.

Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas.  The main character, a ladybug, asks its readers to imagine what they would do if a bug was on their face, in their clothes, etc–until a giant frog shows up!

Where is Your Nose?  by Rookie Toddler.  This books asks kids to point to and move their body parts.


Hokey Pokey
You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out,
You put your right foot in, and you shake it all about.
You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around,
That’s what it’s all about!
Repeat: left arm, right leg, left leg, head

If You’re Happy and You Know It
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands…
If you’re happy and you know,
and you really want to show it,
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.
Repeat: stomp feet, touch toes, say hooray.

Bean Bag Boogie
Play the bean bag boogie song by Greg & Steve.  The song has the kids put their bean bags on different parts of their body.  This is a great way to learn body parts and get moving as well!

How It Went

Both kids and parents really enjoyed this one.  Wiggle is a great book to start with because it get kids warmed up and moving their body parts, and they loved the silliness of Can You Make a Scary Face?  In addition to getting moving, the kids learned about the different parts of their bodies.  I have to admit that by the end of the second book I was exhausted!  I meant to end with “If You’re Happy and You Know It” on my ukulele, but I went for something more soothing–“The More We Get Together.”  Overall this was very successful.  Everyone had a great time!

Teens VERSUS Book Club

This month for book club, our teens and tween read stories about one group in conflict with another group.  This was inspired by one of our tweens, who wanted to share The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.  Once we started coming up with ideas, we realized this is a great theme because it works for almost any genre.  The list below are some of the books that the teens and tween read, and some additional ones that they suggested.

The Darkest Minds.  Alexandria Bracken.

Children Vs. Adults

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds, #1)

Inuyasha.  Rumiko Takahashi

Demons Vs. Humans


The Kiss of Deception.  Mary Pearson.

Kingdom Vs. Kingdom

The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles, #1)

Maximum Ride.  James Patterson.

Genetically mutated kids Vs. Scientists

The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride, #1)

The Outsiders.  S.E. Hinton.

Greasers Vs. Socs

The Outsiders

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.   Seth Graham-Smith, Jane Austen.

Humans Vs. Zombies.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, #1)

Romeo and Juliet.  William Shakespeare.

Capulet Vs Montague

Romeo and Juliet

Skeleton Creek.  Patrick Carman.

Kids Vs. The Town

Skeleton Creek (Skeleton Creek, #1)

Throne of Glass.  Sarah J. Maas

Assassins Vs. Assassins

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)




Take the Summer Challenge

We’ve got some great ways for kids (and teens!) to engage with the library this summer in Dowagiac.  Kids (and teens!) can fill out our bingo sheets to earn pins, attend programs all summer long, or just come in and experience our makerspace.  We’ve added one more fun activity to the list: the summer challenge.

The summer challenge gives kids (and teens!) a way to earn points toward a free book through a series of challenges related to our summer reading theme: On Your Mark, Get Set… Read!



Messy Time: Seed Bombs


Library: Dowagiac District Library
Program: Messy Time

At Messy Time this week, we made seed bombs.  It was super easy.  Basically, the idea behind seed bombs are that they are balls of clay, dirt, and seed.  You can throw them anywhere and they will grow.  One of the kids who participated said, “This is definitely going to get messy.”


Here’s what you need:

  • Paper plate
  • A tub of clay from Crayola
  • A paper cup  filled with top soil
  • Wildflower seeds

Here’s what you do:

  • Take a paper plate and press the clay all over the surface like you’re making a pizza.


  • Pour on top soil, like you might pour meat on a taco or tortilla.  There should be more clay than dirt.
  • Then sprinkle  on wildflower seeds.


  • Fold the clay and then knead the mixture like you might knead dough.
  • Once the mixture is kneaded, press into a ball.
  • Roll the ball into a long tube.  It helps to roll slowly.  If the mixture breaks up, just squeeze back together and continue rolling.


  • Break off pieces and roll into smaller balls.

Take home and throw in your yard!


Little Artist Storytime


STORYTIME FOR: Berwyn Public Library (Outreach)

Hello/Goodbye Song

We Say Hello/Goodbye Like This (with ukulele)
(Tune: The Farmer in the Dell)
D                                                          A7
We wave hello like this… with our friends in storytime, we wave hello like this.
D                                                         A7
We clap hello like this…with our friends in storytime, we clap hello like this.
D                                                           A7
We stomp hello like this… with our friends in storytime, we stomp hello like this.

Why These Books?

Lily Brown’s Paintings by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis.  A young girl named Lily Brown loves the world she lives in and loves to paint her world.  As she paints, her renderings come alive like a dream.  This is a sweet book that stimulates the imagination.  Kids love to point out details on the page, and reading this is a great opportunity to talk about self-expression.

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall.  The crayon in this story is supposed to be red, but he keeps drawing blue!  And now matter what anyone does to try to help him, all that he draws is blue.  Then one day, a purple crayon asks him to draw a blue ocean…and suddenly the “red” crayon has found his purpose.  This goes over well with kids because they love to correct me…”He’s not red, he’s blue!” and also love the message that you just need to find your true self to make your mark.

Jeremy Draws and Monster by Peter McCarty.  Isolated in his room, Jeremy draws himself a monster, but things don’t go according to plan.  Jeremy’s monster starts making all kinds of demands–without saying thank you–and Jeremy has to draw him a ticket out of town.  This is a silly book that delights the kids.  They love being able to say, “He’s not very nice,” which makes this a great opportunity to talk about manners.  There’s a hidden theme in here that some classes catch onto.  After dealing with the monster, Jeremy decides that it’s okay to go outside and play with the other kids.  I also include this book because I get to point out another way to be an artist, by drawing.

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont.  A boy’s mom puts his paints away, but then he secretly gets his paints back out and starts to paint all over his body.  He choruses, “I ain’t gonna paint no more, no more, I ain’t gonna paint no more,” yet goes on painting.  Here’s an opportunity to practice prediction skills.  What will he paint next?  Some kids even catch onto the rhyme scheme.  I like to get the kids to say the chorus with me, too.


This is the Way We Paint (action  song)
This is the way we stir the paint, stir the paint, stir the paint
This is the way we stir the paint so early in the morning
(dip our brush, paint the paper, blow it dry, frame the picture)
*credit: Storytime Katie

Big Green Monster (flannel puppet)

biggreenmonsterBig green monster has big scary green face,
Two big yellow eyes,
A long bluish-greenish nose,
Two little squiggly ears,
Scraggly purple hair,
And a big red mouth with sharp white teeth…But…
You’re just a puppet!  You don’t scare me!  So…
Go away, scraggly purple hair,
Go away, two little squiggly ears,
Go away, big yellow eyes,
Go away big red mouth with sharp white teeth,
Go away big green scary face,

The More We Get Together (w/ American Sign Language)
The more we get together, together, together,
The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.
Because your friends are my friends
And my friends are you friends.
The more we get together, the happier we’ll be!

A Fun Magic Coloring Book
Activity with A Fun Magic Coloring Book that stimulates the imagination.

How It Went

The two big hits were I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More and A Fun Magic Coloring Book, though most of the other books and extensions also worked really well.  There’s just something about the combination of rhyme and silliness in I Ain’s Gonna Paint No More that makes it PERFECT for this age.  I had a lot of kids saying they wanted to check it out.  I ended up switching Red: A Crayon’s Story with Lily Brown’s Paintings for groups that were more restless, if I could tell right away.  I love Lily Brown, but it’s a much quieter and sweeter book, so the silliness of Red worked better for some groups.

Do you have little artist stories you love to read in storytime?  Let me know in the comments!