Dialogue is (to point out the obvious) vital to a novel; it displays the voices of your characters and helps the reader get to know and care about the characters, understand their motives, their interrelationships, and distinguish each character’s point of view. If you don’t get the dialogue right, you rip the reader out of the story, or worse – make them put down your novel and add your name to “never again” lists! So, here are a few pointers and tips to keep in mind as you develop your characters and put words into their mouths:
1) Develop your characters well enough to make their voice distinct; do they have catch-phrases, or local dialects that influence their vocabulary? Do they tend toward long or short sentences, or are they from a past time and place that had a different way of speaking? Educate yourself if necessary in various modes of speech .
2) Dialogue is an illusion of conversation; but it’s also about what is not said. Non-verbal actions reveal:
a) How a character says something
b) What a character chooses not to say, but inadvertantly reveals through actions.
c) Why the character says what they do.
Do they have particular actions when they are upset or aggitated that communicate their moods to the reader? Do they bounce their knees when excited? Does their body language confirm or contradict their verbal message?
3) Fictional dialogue needs to cut to the chase; if there’s no point to the text (revealing motivation, character or plot point), then chop it!
4) Avoid the trap of using dialogue as exposition (the proverbial villain’s monologue as he prepares to destroy the hero), but rather reveal essential information through action, or narration.
Explore your characters and develop their voices, and above all – keep writing!