Dialogue is a funny thing. It can work for you, or against you.
Dialogue is all about the character. Simply put, rarely would you have a low educated character talk with perfect grammar or an English butler talk in slang. Few people speak grammatically correct, so it is important to have your dialogue not be perfect so to speak.
"I cannot come over to dine with you this evening because my mother has installed a new restriction on my social activities."
Okay, obviously that is a little extreme LOL, but that's the point. A teenager would not speak in such a refined manor, but rather in contractions, slang, and inflection.
"I can't come over for supper 'cause my mom grounded me, again."
Being natural is important. Which brings up another good point, you want to be careful of stereotypical dialogue—TOO much character ie: Cowboys that are darlin’ every girl in the story, or a mob guy asking, “You lookin’ at me? You lookin’ at me?” of everyone who may pass him on the sidewalk.
The best way to research dialogue and natural flow is to observe. Take an afternoon to sit in a coffee shop, open a book (so you don’t look stalkerish LOL) and just listen. Listen to inflection, contractions, tones, emotions (excitement and/or anger). If you are writing a Young Adult, go where the teens are. If you have doctor and nurse characters maybe try the lobby or cafeteria of a hospital—listen, observe and assimilate.
And remember, not all conversations are all talk--body movements play an important role, because if you have a page with a lot of dialogue but no actions dotted in here and there to show HOW the characters are speaking, showing HOW the characters are acting/reacting to the conversation, then the scene can become stilted and be pictured by the reader as simply two people standing face to face, arms at their side, and speaking monotone. He said this. She said that. Bland. Using the addition of action sentences instead of constantly repeating "said" will go far in avoiding a monotonous read as well.
Instead of: "I don't want to go with you," she said.
Try: She took a step back. "I don't want to go with you."
Which one of the above paints more of a picture in your mind?
On your observances, I’m sure you’ll find someone raising their hands in frustration or whipping around when offended in order to defend themselves. A subtle smile when they are being coy or tight fists around a coffee cup when they are trying to control their anger. All these observances are part of a conversation—part of the dialogue. Part of the character. And that is what you want to do with your writing...paint a picture for the reader so they visualize your character and scene in living color.
As always where writing is concerned, most important is choosing your words (or rather their words) carefully and placing the action drop-ins in the most dynamic area for the scene, because the last thing you want to do is overwrite a conversation with too many descriptions. Balance here is the key.
Simply put, when writing dialogue, you want to...Observe. Natural. Balance.
LOL, now isn’t that saying it all.
Punctuation with dialogue is another issue altogether, and I will be doing a post down the line to help with this as well, so stay tuned, subscribe, and/or sign up for email notifications for upcoming posts.😉.