Dialogue can be a tricky one. It needs to sound natural, read like speech but it can’t sound exactly like how your friends, or you, talk. What’s the balance? How could you improve your dialogue?
Real speech vs. written speech
You could compare a book and real life dialogue and let me tell you, they sound different. One reason is because in writing, we want to get our point across so it is written in more clarity whereas in the real world, people make more mistakes or they may get things in the wrong order. This is done so that it is a lot more easier to read.
“What was that for?” He wheezed.
This is easier to read because we know the person is a boy who asked a question. We can also see he is in some sort of pain because he coughed so we imply that someone hurt him and this is his response.
In real speech:
“Wh-at wa-a-a-as th-th-that fffforr?”
This is hard to read but it can be used sparingly if you really wanted to although try not to use this type of speech pattern because it could be jarring to the reader (and it kind of reminds me of some badly-written fanfiction).
Too much information
There may be some people who tell everything and anything all at once but sometimes this is not such a good idea. In a book, people may be uninterested in the character blurting out words which were forced into their mouths. It could also mean missing an opportunity to feed information slowly to the reader for some big tension.
Information can be shown in other ways than dialogue. These could take form in a note, description (highlighting important factors), a small event which happened in a scene, anything. Dialogue should be there to show how characters interact (and among other uses) with a sprinkling of information.
Reading good books will help improve your dialogue as it will open new horizons and style choices. Furthermore, a good idea is to read books which have a similar genre, style, or audience to your own as this will help you pick up on similar concepts and phrases you could use.
The best way I improved my own dialogue is to listen to other people speaking. You don’ need to directly listen to their conversations, but you notice their speech patterns, the way they change the subject etc.. The brilliant thing is that, as long as there are people around, this can be done anywhere you want!
Watch your dialogue tags
Dialogue tags help to decipher who is speaking, how they are speaking, or what they are doing. First of all, “said” isn’t as bad a word you think it is. If it is used after every piece of dialogue then there is a problem. I recommend you should mix it up with a few verbs and very few adverbs.
Sometimes you may not need a dialogue tag if it is clear who is speaking throughout the exchange of words. However, I would recommend limiting this to two people as more than that could mean the red flag of confusion.
There is only so much I can write because these are only the basics. Here are some links to a few more tips on writing dialogue:
10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Dialogue
An Editor’s Six Tips for Better Dialogue
My Dialogue Sucks: Tips for Improving Dialogue In Your Novel
If your Dialogue fails, so will your story
(PDF file) Writing Really Good Dialogue
How to Write Good Dialogue: Ten Tips
10 Tips for Writing Impactful Dialogue
3 Keys to Writing Good Dialogue
Writing Dialogue that Works
9 Tricks to Make Your Dialogue More Organic
How to Punctuate Character Thoughts
How to Write Strong Dialogue In Children’s Books
Top 10 Tips to Write Engaging Story Dialogue