Dialogue is one of the first things agents and editors look at when they receive a manuscript for consideration. If the dialogue is wooden, stilted, and artificial, most agents will assume that the rest of the writing is amateurish, and the manuscript will be quickly rejected. Here are some concrete ways to make your dialogue more compelling and natural-sounding.
- Read your dialogue out loud. Does it sound natural? Can you cut some words out, or use more common, everyday conversational words, rather than more “correct” words? In conversation, use “bought” rather than “purchased,” “use” rather than “utilize,” “but” instead of “however,” etc.
- Use contractions. Change “I am” to “I’m”, “we will” to “we’ll”, “do not” to “don’t”, “they will” to “they’ll,” etc.
- Break up those long, grammatically correct complete sentences. Nobody talks in complete sentences in informal conversations with friends (or enemies) and family, especially in stressful situations. Frequently, use some short sentence fragments, and one-word answers.
- Don’t have one person go on and on about a subject. Fiction is not the place for a lecture on a topic, or somebody speaking at length about himself. It’s not natural, and your readers aren’t interested in long monologues! Have the other person interrupt to ask a question, give their opinion, seek clarification, change the subject, etc.