Writers I work with occasionally forget about dialogue entirely, summarizing the action in a stilted “told to” style, while others write quote after quote, in a voice that sounds all the same, often coincidentally like the author’s own.
I have a few tips for all such folks:
- Read out loud and listen carefully. Could you tell when one person was talking, then another? This is crucial for differentiating your characters.
- Listen to people around you to gather up and utilize the many unique accents and habits of speech we hear every day.
- Punctuate the dialogue with action. “He stood up painfully while she poured the tea without spilling a drop…There was an explosion just outside the window, shattering glass across the room…”
- Punctuate the dialogue with visual description. “She could just make out the blur of eucalyptus trees through the windshield as the car sped past…Six identical houses formed a barrier of hideous green between us…”
- Read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, or The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, or anything else by these two authors. They knew how to write great dialogue.