Writing Tip of the Week: Writing Realistic Dialogue

One question that I seem to get a lot from fans of my work or writers just beginning to start out is: How do I make my dialogue sound realistic? Let’s face it. There are books that you’ve read where the dialogue just doesn’t sound right. I’m not talking about books from older days where it was realistic to speak much differently than we do today, but modern books where the dialogue is too fancy or formal for everyday characters.

I have been guilty of this. My dialogue used to be (and can still be) on the formal side. My characters just weren’t speaking like your everyday person does. Since most of my characters tend to be teenagers, it’s especially important to ensure that they are speaking naturally. Which of the below sounds more natural compared to teenagers you know?

Hello, how are you today?

Hey, how are you?

If you said the first one, you must know some very polite or formal teenagers. Most teenagers would use the second phrase. I can say this with confidence because I watch shows for teenagers, interact with teenagers online, read a lot of Young Adult books, have a teenage sister and sometimes interact with her peers.

So the question is, how do you make your dialogue sound more realistic? One of the most successful ways I’ve found is to read your dialogue out loud. Pretend you are in a play and these are your parts. Think about how the dialogue sounds and whether or not it fits your characters and their ages. If something sounds funny, it probably needs to be changed.

I would also suggest having someone read your unedited work. A trusted friend or family member (so long as you can find a family member who can give you honesty). Often all it takes is another pair of eyes for someone to point out that your dialogue needs some tweaking.

If you do not have anyone you trust your writing with, you may have to find an online writer’s group. You don’t have to submit everything you’ve written, especially if you are afraid of someone stealing your story. Just a part of it will do, perhaps a section you feel really needs some feedback.

When you’re not writing, another good tip is to pay close attention to the world around you. I know how it can be for us writers–we live in our own dream world and often tune out other people. But we need to try and be more aware of how people act around us. Observe how they speak. Observe how they dress, act, and move. If you don’t get out much, get out more. If you are unable to get out more, observe how people act on television (keep in mind that they may be unrealistic at times).

Keep how people act and speak and dress in mind when you write. Try to pay particular attention to people similar to your own characters. If you are writing for adults, then spending all of your time observing children isn’t going to really help you. Observe their parents instead.

I hope that this tip will help you while you are writing dialogue. It can be a very easy or a very hard thing to write. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate in leaving me a comment. I will be happy to answer any questions. And please keep in mind that these suggestions are things that I have found to help not only myself in writing, but others as well. I am no expert. Something different may work better for you.


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