In real life, people talk about the weather, what they had for supper or what they’re going to do for the weekend. They might ramble on and on and on, or not say much at all. However, in fiction, dialogue must be written better than real life conversations. If only one of the characters is doing all the talking, it might be too one-sided. If a character is rambling, the reader might get bored. Instead, dialogue needs to multitask. It should:
-increase the story’s pace
-deliver information like backstory in more of a showing vs. telling way
-create a sense of immediacy and reality so the reader feels she’s almost hearing the characters speak
-increase the conflict, reveal a secret, tell a lie—move the story forward, complicating the plot
-add tension or humor to the scene
-reveal who the character is because we see how she treats others and the language she uses
-showcase the character’s unique voice
Basically, if your dialogue doesn’t do at least one of the above mentioned jobs, it should be fired. If the dialogue accomplishes two of these goals, that’s fine, but why not do more with it? Try to push the limits and see how many “jobs” the dialogue can do.
Have you read dry dialogue before? Have you skimmed sections of dialogue because it was too wordy or boring? How do you know when dialogue is working? How do you know when it’s not?