One would think that since we, as a population living in communities, speak almost every single day, often to several different people on various subjects in a multitude of tones and emotions, the easiest thing to sit down and write would be dialogue. One would think this, but then, one would be wrong. I receive a vast number of queries that are winners as far as synopsis or narrative introductions go, but fall devastatingly flat once any of the characters try to speak to one another. Even inner monologues are troublesome.
Why is that? We can write realistically about dragons and wizards and time travel and dangerous situations that none of us have ever or will ever experience, but when it comes to simple conversation, suddenly the words become wooden or entirely unnatural sounding. It takes a certain skill to be able to write dialogue that sounds right—that sounds as if it is something that each particular character would actually say.
Obviously, there have to be some liberties taken, as a novel that recorded absolutely realistic dialogue would get boring very quickly. I’m the first to say that not every conversation I have is riveting or full of interesting and witty phrases (don’t be too shocked), nor are the thoughts that I have constantly worthy of note. A good writer, however, will meld these two necessities together—one, that the characters sound like real people saying real things and two, that the pacing remains in sync with the rest of the narrative—and their book will be better for it.
Bad dialogue, I find, is often cliché-ridden, devoid of any contractions, too expository or explanatory, boring or any combination of these and more. How do you, as active writers avoid falling into these traps? How do you give your dialogue and monologue valuable and characteristic qualities? For my benefit, and for the benefit of readers everywhere, I implore you.