We are tempted to write dialogue exactly as it would be spoken. This is especially true when writing a character who would have an accent or speak a dialect. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. Instead of sounding realistic, it tends to sound overdone or mocking.
Whether you are writing a regional character or not, you have to learn to write dialogue that sounds real but isn’t written the way we speak. For one thing, dialogue is streamlined. Take out the ums and uhs and false starts. Readers get bored when characters ramble or take two or three tries to get started telling their story.
How do you tell if you’ve got it right? One of the best tests for dialogue, or any writing, it to read it out loud and see how it sounds. This gives you the opportunity to adjust anything that sounds awkward or stiff. Listen for vocabulary your character would never use as well as word choices that seem too educated or mature or simply outlandish.
That said, there is a time and place for everything. When you are writing nonfiction, dialogue must be written exactly the way it was spoken. To find out more about how to write dialogue in nonfiction, check out today’s blog post at the Muffin.