One of the things I find the most distracting in a book is when dialogue is stilted. Many authors feel they have to follow the rules of not repeating a word in a sentence, or no contractions. They decide their characters must speak as if they are lecturing students rather than talking with friends. The characters then come across as flat, unable to communicate.
Natural dialogue is perhaps one of the hardest things to achieve, especially in books for teens. How is the best way to make your dialogue more natural?
First, don’t attempt to give the reader information not necessary to the current situation through the dialogue. Learn how people actually talk. There are ways to do this and it won’t require you spending much more money than you’re already committed to spending.
Do you commute to your day job on public transportation? Listen to what people are saying around you. Don’t be obvious about it, but pay attention to their speech patterns.
Spend some time at the local mall or in any type of store. Again, don’t just aim for where you have to go and block out those around you. Listen to conversations. Be engaged when someone says hi to you. Think about how each person is speaking in relation to the situation they’re in.
Even our day job can provide you background for dialogue. How about the office gossip? Have you truly listened to what they’re saying? Imagine that instead of being annoyed how this individual is breaking up your work day to pass on the latest scandal, you’re concentrating on their tone of voice, they words they use, how they impart the story. Perfect for a similar type in your book.
Our every day situations will give us the much needed background to create natural dialogue. This will allow your reader to hear the story unfolding in their head rather than thinking that it’s a bit boring or pretentious.
Listen and learn is the best rule of thumb that you can use as you continue your trek to making your book the best it can be.