When it comes to writing good dialog, I'm of a mind that some writers are just born with a gift for hearing and writing realistic conversations. If you're one of those people, good for you! Believable dialog is a powerful storytelling tool. Nothing moves a story along like people talking. But if you're struggling with stilted dialog, listen up. The tips I'm about to share will have you conversing in no time.
Do Some Creative Eavesdropping
The next time you're in a mall, restaurant, or any other public area--eavesdrop. Listen in on some conversations. Listen to how real people talk, and what they talk about. This doesn't mean you're going to translate conversations you overhear into your writing word for word. For one, that could earn you a libel suit, but mostly, writing conversations EXACTLY as they sound would bore the socks off your readers. We fill our conversations with a lot of nonsensical verbal flotsam--all those ers and ums and ya knows.
So, if our conversations are generally dull, why listen to them? Because at some point you'll start rewriting them. Once you've been eavesdropping for a while, you'll develop a talent for rewriting conversations in your head to make them more vibrant and interesting. That's a valuable skill! You'll also become more aware of the ways real people talk. We don't always speak in complete sentences, for instance, and not all of us use flawless grammar.
Make A Movie
Who doesn't remember some famous lines from movies? We all have our favorites. Sure, action-driven movies have their place, but the ones we remember usually involve a lot of stirring dialog between characters. And even action movies have memorable dialog. Who doesn't remember Arnold Schwarzenegger droning, "I'll be back?"
When I write, I envision a movie. As the reel plays in my head and the characters interact, I write down what they're saying. When you start playing stenographer to the characters in your head--hungrily jotting down their words--you'll stop forcing them to talk and start listening.