It's strange fact of my life that, since I spend a lot of time with film majors, I'm involved in more than a few conversations about writing, script or novel. A while ago, my brother, who got involved in a friend's project, was discussing dialogue with me. According to him, his friend had a very interesting manner of speaking not common to most people. And, according to him, it showed in the script.
My brother told me that scripts should never sound the way people actually talk, because that's going to change. Instead, they should sound the way people wished they talked, because that wasn't going to change any time soon. The dialogue shouldn't mimic real life's; it should be better than it.
Now, I cannot believe I'm actually going to say this -- and if I thought there was even the vaguest chance he might read this post, I would never say it -- but I think my brother actually have gotten that one right.
To save myself the pain of having to concur with my brother, I will chose instead to quote Nathan Bradsford: "Don't write what real life sounds like; write better than real life."
If you're sitting there thinking, 'Wait, isn't that basically what her brother said?', yes, that is basically what he said. However, I'm willing to skip over that fact in my head. What can I say, that's how I roll.
Anyway, I must say, I believe that quote is quite true.
I know that the way I speak bears very little resemblance to the way a lot of people speak. I like the words 'quite' and 'rather.' I also try to avoid using the word 'like' out of the context of 'Oh, I like this cake very much. It is very delicious.' (When I was younger, my father used to charge me a quarter every time I messed that one up. He pulled that stunt on my friends as well. Believe me, you shape up fast when you cannot get a paragraph out without interruptions on a grammatical front.) I also tend to sarcasm and sentences that thrive on commas.
I also know that the way people speak isn't always the wittiest, funniest, or prettiest manner of speaking. I know I clean it up when I'm writing the dialogue for my stories. Gut feeling tells me dialogue writers for films must clean that up as well, though I don't know as much about that as I should.
This is, indeed, another concern for me, as I'm writing in first person. My narrator writes the way people talk, which isn't always the best thing. I don't just want her to sound like a real person. I want her to sound better than a real person.
How do you feel about realism in dialogue? How about in narration?