That’s a great question, Michelle!
Here are two strategies to increase the authenticity of your dialogue:
- Make it imperfect. In real life, people hem and haw, we repeat ourselves, we stutter, we use the wrong word, we grunt, we repeat ourselves. Authentic dialogue will incorporate some of those imperfections. This is also a great way to make each character’s speech feel unique–what imperfections does that character frequently use?
- Don’t be too direct. Hokey dialogue often feels like a canned question and answer session. In real life, we rarely say what we really feel or directly answer questions. In real life, we tend to talk around subjects, rather than approaching them head-on. If someone asks “Do you like your new job?” practically no one would respond either “Yes” or “No,” and then provide a succinct explanation for their response. Instead we might grunt, make a joke, say something like “I can’t complain”, talk about our new manager, or redirect the question. Don’t worry if you’re not getting the exact information on the page! Your reader is very good at reading between the lines in dialogue, because we do it in real life every single day! 🙂
I hope that helps!