I wrote murder mysteries for theatre companies for many years. I came up with a plot and characters and the actors would improvise the dialogue. Good fun for all, and I got paid. Nice! Then I was commissioned to write a mystery play and panic struck. I would have to write the dialogue! I made my way through it and now, four years later, I find writing dialogue for my characters the least of my problems. Along the way I have learned a few things to keep in mind:
- Vocabulary. Every character has his/her own way of speaking. A university professor will express a thought very differently than a teenager. A forensic investigator's vocabulary will be peppered with medical terms that an amateur detective would never use.
- Colloquialisms. Know your location to give your dialogue the ring of authenticity. But beware; too many colloquialisms will alienate readers from other parts of the world.
- Rhythm. Every character has their own rhythm of speaking. Some are staccato, some are sustained notes, some use long pauses for emphasis. Find each character's rhythm. It's there if you listen.
- Humor. Never underestimate the power of humor. Characters who are capable of making a small joke or a clever pun are more multi-dimensional.
Have fun discovering your characters' voices. If you listen, they will come!