How to Make it Natural
I know a lot of people struggle with creating realistic dialogue and I think there I can be a great help. I love dialogue. I love writing it and I love reading it. I think it’s a great way of getting information across and showing rather than telling. As well as a necessary tool, it can also be an extremely useful one.
Colloquial language is essential for most dialogue. We don’t speak correctly. We don’t always speak perfect grammar. We’re lazy in our speech. Make use of this in your writing. Think about the way that we speak. We don’t usually say the phrase “going to” for instance. We say “gonna”. So when you write your dialogue, write “gonna” instead. The same goes for “wanna”. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid of the red wavy line telling you it’s spelt wrong.
Reading dialogue aloud will also help you determine whether or not it’s realistic. Does it sound too posh for real life? We don’t use big fancy words in our speech. We may know them and write them but we don’t often say them. Does it sound like something you or anyone you know would say? For example, when’s the last time you heard anyone say the words “I am” instead of “I’m”. Does it sound like a conversation you would have? People squirm away from awkward conversations and stop listening to boring ones. Does it flow like a normal conversation? Our conversations are generally back and forth. If your dialogue doesn’t seem to link between the characters it probably isn’t realistic.
Also, if you’ve noticed, we don’t tend to speak in long complex sentences. Dialogue tends to contain your shortest sentences. But it tends to also contain the most questions and exclamations. People tend to ask questions, it’s in our nature. But more than that, sometimes we like to ask so many questions in a row that we know we’re not going to get every answer.
If it’s obvious who is speaking from what they say, take out any “he said/she said” even if you’ve changed it to “he asked” or something. If it’s obvious who is speaking, you don’t need to point it out. We don’t want to be told “he said” every time someone speaks, it can become very repetitive. As there are only so many ways of saying “he said”, try and use them sparingly so that we see as few “he laughed”, “he sighed” and “he asked” as possible. I’m a believer that we don’t need to be told how someone says it, it should be obvious in the words and the context surrounding it.
In short: use colloquial language, read it aloud and compare to real life, and take out any unnecessary "he said"s.
Give it a go! Try writing a paragraph of speech in the comments below. Maybe your character is really annoyed at something and at long last they're letting others know? Or maybe they're finally revealing a big secret? It's your choice, as long as it's dialogue.