So, how can you make dialogue real?
To be honest, I listen to those around me. I listen to the conversations and learn how the dialogue needs to be and how it should be delivered. How should a teen talk? I sure don’t know though I have two teens in my house. It has been a few decades since I’ve been there, and everything has changed since then anyway. Even the conversations I hear don’t represent every teen out there. So, I listen at work (Starbucks) and when I’m out shopping. I pay attention to how teens act and talk. Then I try to incorporate that in my writing. To verify, I have a teen read it and let me know how well I did.
Sit at a family function and just listen. Listen to how they all interact and respond to each other. You have your material right there. They are giving you the real conversations to use in your writing.
Sit at a restaurant and watch how people order their food. In your book, don’t just have them order quickly and easily. In all honesty, ordering can be more complicated than that. I work at a Starbucks. When some people order, I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. It is real conversation I can use in my books.
Real conversation is rarely grammatically correct. Seriously, who stops to make sure they use “then” or “than” correct or “affect” or “effect”? I would say less than .0001% even cares when they are talking. That means your conversation doesn’t have to be either as long as it is how the character would have really talked. Now in writing, yes we can and should use “then” and “than” correctly in dialogue unless we want the reader to see how the character messes up those particular words. The dialogue not only has to be real, it has to be consistent and serve a purpose.
If you consistently write where a characters says “oarphan” instead of “orphan”, what are you trying to say? What is the purpose of that dialogue? Why is the character saying it that way? You could be pointing out a region where they come from, a physical speech problem, or their lack of education. If you aren’t trying to tell the reader something with the use of these words, then don’t use them.
When a conversation is real, it is revealing.