How to make dialogue sound realistic

Since dialogue in fiction is contrived, a challenge facing authors is to find ways to make it sound realistic. Try these techniques:
• Pay attention to speech rhythms – Read the dialogue out loud to see if it sounds natural. If it sounds like you’ve written a homework assignment or like the characters are too dumb to say more than a couple of words at a time, then it probably needs to be revised.
• Create generational tags – Each new generation creates its own slang that separates it from those who came before. Your characters, whether living in the 16th or the 26th century, will do the same.
• Devise local tags/slang – In science fiction, colonists on other worlds will have specialized slang that arise out of their new surroundings; just think of Australians. Mark Bowman in his short story “The Drop” uses such future slang words as “spliced “touching down” and “cropping the juice” and aphorisms such as “Time is energy” in light of their technology that allows space travel.
• Develop economic class tags – People of the future, if there are economic classes, will have ways of identifying themselves as different from one another, merely based on their lifestyles. Perhaps the wealthy will be able to travel between planets while the less fortunate are “grounded” to never leaving their world.
• Build a lexicon of shop talk – In-group jargon of specialized professions will be used with even greater frequency that today as we become more dependent on technology. Warp drive engineers must use some jargon and have some inside jokes down in the engine room.
• Minimize mannerisms – Stutters and spelling words to match the pronunciation of dialects only forces the reader to pay attention to individual words rather than the story. Save mannerisms for special occasions.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.