Five tips to create believable dialogue in books and screenplays
Dialogue is a key element in making a story engaging and believable. It allows readers to connect with the characters and understand their motivations, and it can even help set a scene (a cockney accent or southern drawl will immediately tell you where a character is from). So here are five tips on how to create believable dialogue.
1. Make sure the dialogue sounds natural
It should not be stiff or stilted, but should flow in a way that sounds natural and realistic. It should not match your writer prose.
Try reading it aloud to see how it flows off your tongue. If the character has a particular accent, maybe find a friend with a matching accent to read the lines.
2. Avoid using clichés
Unless you're writing an 80s action movie, that is!
Otherwise, if your dialogue sounds like something out of a movie or TV show, it's going to stand out to your read, but not in a good way.
3. Have the characters speak in their own unique voices
Each character should have a distinct way of speaking that reflects their personality and background. Did they go to graduate school or work in the coal mines from age 14? Do they follow sports or are they film buffs? What are the cultural touchstones this person (and their subculture/peers) have? What movies do they quote from? Do they openly swear or say things like, "It hurts like the dickens!"?
Use these ideas to build up the way each character speaks. The best measure of success is when the reader knows who's speaking without needing an attribution tag (e.g., said Greggory).
4. Use body language and facial expressions to convey meaning
Dialogue is more than what's spoken; much of it is non-verbal, even in written prose. Body language and facial expressions can convey a lot of information about a character's state of mind and intentions, they same as if they shout or whisper.
5. Be aware of the purpose of the dialogue
Dialogue should further the plot or develop the characters in some way. It should not be used just for the sake of having characters talk.
You can fill it with subtext so that a normal-sounding conversation between characters will actually be filled with meaning.
By following these tips, you can create believable dialogue that will help to make your story more believable and enjoyable for readers.