Bad dialogue is hard on the eyes and even harder on the ears. It’s as painful to read as it would be spoken aloud, and it doesn’t make anyone happy. There are so many problems with bad dialogue—it can be stilted, stuffy, formal, verbose, jarring, and even offensive. If you want to keep your characters from sounding fake, consider these tips.
- Read a lot. To write good dialogue, you need to read good dialogue. The most memorable characters are memorable in part because they’re so realistic. Good dialogue helps flesh out otherwise boring or one-dimensional characters, so chances are, the more you read books with interesting characters, the better your own dialogue skills will become.
- Eavesdrop. Go out in public. Sit on a park bench or in a coffee shop and listen to the conversations all around you. And really listen to people when they talk to you, instead of only hearing them speaking. If you want to take it a step further, record the conversations with a tape recorder or a notebook. That way, you can play it back or read it later when you’re looking for inspiration.
- Read dialogue aloud. More often than not, most dialogue issues can be discovered just through speaking aloud what you’ve put down on the page. If you feel strange reading your own work, try typing the words into a text-to-speech generator, or convince your friends to join you. Make it a game by assigning parts as though you’re rehearsing a play.
As you can see, writing good dialogue boils down to listening to the way that people actually sound when they talk to each other. Once you’ve got the gist of everyday speech, then the rest should be a piece of cake.
What do you think? What problems do you experience with dialogue?