When I was in college I was challenged to do something I’d been taught all my life not to — eavesdrop. Okay, technically I wasn’t told to do that, but that’s what it all boils down to. My classmates and I were instructed to find 3 distinct voices out in the world. It could be anything. A professor giving a lecture, someone yelling from a street corner, a phone conversation, etc. I chose to observe 3 conversations in 3 different places. I copied them down word-for-word as I listened. For your reading pleasure:
Hey…hey Kev. Kev! Hey Kev! I drawed you a piture. You’na see? It’s out in the van. It’sa you playin’ basketball. You’re dribblin’!
Talk, talk, talk — that always how it goes. Well, I not interested. That it. That all you get. You know what I mean? That like how it is with all of them. All the same. You know?
Niiice. That’s my genius. You know that sort of thing would turn off most guys, but no, that’s how you get yours.
It was a strange, fun thing to do. Looking back at what I wrote down I can remember each situation. The people involved, the body language. It’s really funny the things you can manage to get by with when you’re sitting in a corner, appearing to mind your own business with a pen and a notebook.
So, I challenge you to go out and do some legal eavesdropping this week. For research purposes Listen to how people talk. The letters they drop, their cadence of speech, the pauses, the lack of punctuation. Write it down. See how it helps you with dialogue.