Dialogue can make or break a story. Nothing is worse than reading a passage where two characters have a stilted conversation with one another. Learn to listen to the way people talk, and see how they tell you about themselves in the way they talk.
Having said that, written dialogue is different from real-life conversation.
Imagine two people talking together:
Mary: John, hi!
John: Oh my, Mary. Great to see you again.
Mary: Yeah. It’s been a long time.
John: Yes–ages. Umm . . . Since last Christmas I think.
Mary: Umm . . . no, that party in January.
John: Oh right. I forgot about that. Yes, we saw you then.
Mary: Uh-huh. You left early, I think.
John: I did? You sure? D’you remember why?
Mary: Uh-uh. No matter. So, anyway, how have you been?
John: Oh, I’m great. Never been better. Had some flu a few weeks back but I’m fine again. And you?
Mary: Umm . . . Yes we’re fine. Also some wobbles now and then, but what d’you expect? We’re getting older.
John: Right. Aren’t we all?
Mary: So . . . how’s your family?
John: Ahhh . . . they’re okay. Sort of. We’ve had our moments too. Yours?
Mary: They’re well. Billy had his tonsils out last month, but otherwise they’re okay.
John: So what’s been happening in your life?
Mary: Umm . . .
Boring! Boring! Boring! Yet that’s how we talk. Our conversation is full of idle chatter, incomplete sentences and umms and errs.
When we write dialogue we need to
* catch the attention of our readers, and then hold it.
* cut the chatter.
* use the spoken words to move the story forward.
* use simple words that your characters would use and understand.