Communication is integral to a normal day-to-day life. We literally have to communicate in hundreds of ways every single day. Humans are extremely good at this form of socialization.
So, if we’re so good at communicating, why is it so hard to write good dialogue? Good dialogue isn’t that tricky.
First of all, just try to make it sound realistic.
You’re constantly communicating throughout your daily life. With your significant other, peers, online, and via all sorts of other avenues. You are saturated with various types of communication, dialects, and languages.
It’s easy to write good dialogue if you pay attention.
Make it realistic.
Don’t make the conversations relate information that’s plainly obvious already. Each bit of writing must make an impact and redundancy will kill the reader’s immersion in your story.
Don’t dump backstory into your dialogue.
It slows down the story, it’s a mark of an amateur, and it’s just not convincing. If you want to include a bit of backstory in dialogue, then make it sparing and impactful to the story itself. Decide what is important to the reader right then and cut anything else.
Also remember that when people speak, they don’t always say what they mean or what they’re thinking. Sometimes, it’s better to not put words in the mouth of your character. It can be more telling.
Read your dialogue out loud.
Does it sound stilted and unnatural? Then you need to work on it a bit. Go to the mall or somewhere that’s full of people you can eavesdrop on without looking suspicious. Listen to how they talk.
Don’t forget to throw some action in there.
Action beats can really make your writing pop. One way to determine what beat you should use is to act it out. Are you grimacing? Are you gesturing wildly? Are you rolling your eyes? These are all things people do that will make your dialogue relatable and immersive.
Be careful not to overuse this technique. Keep in mind the type of conversation your characters are having. If they’re angry, they will likely get angrier as the conversation continues. You would expect that more action would happen as a result.
Dialogue tags should be kept simple.
Yes, I know they exclaimed or shouted or moaned. However, all I need to understand is the word “said.” You will occasionally also use “asked.” These are the only two dialogue tags you need. Period.
These tips should get you started on writing some snappy dialogue.
These are, of course, not the end-all and be-all of tips for writing dialogue. It’s a good start, though, and you will get better with it the more you practice.