Dialogue is one of my favorite parts of writing, and I wrote a lot of it today. The best way to get good at writing dialogue is to listen, really listen, to the people you meet every day. Listen to people who are just walking by, too. You'll hear the way people really talk, and sometimes you'll hear things that all but stop you in your tracks.
My wife and I were walking in the park near our house one evening, just enjoying the mild air and each other's company. Darkness wasn't far away and the park was mostly empty. Coming our way, though, were two middle-aged, nicely dressed women, and just as my wife and I passed them by one of the women made an extraordinary statement without any regard to our presence.
She said to her companion, "Did I tell you George hired someone to kill me?"
Well, you have now, I thought. I wanted to turn around and follow her to get the details. But that would have been rude. And if George's hitman was lurking nearby he might not want to leave any witnesses.
You rarely get to overhear something that dramatic, but you do learn people's vocal cadences, you pick up on accents, you learn there's a general ignorance of how verbs are conjugated, you tune in on verbal tics, you know. All of these things are useful to novelists, playwrights and screenwriters.
Dialogue, like exposition, must advance the story, but compared to exposition, it is a light lift. Today, I covered the same number of pages I've been doing the past four days, but I needed only 1,700 words to do it.
Day 5 of writing my new novel is done.