Think about the friends you find most interesting and why. Maybe it's the way they tell stories at dinner parties, or how they express themselves over email, or even how they craft their comments on other people's Facebook status updates. Chances are the people you enjoy being around the most tend to use colorful, descriptive language that makes you laugh, cry, think, or all of the above.
I highly doubt they use many clichés.
Clichés are boring, and using clichés makes for boring dialogue. When your characters interact with each other, their conversations should jump off the page and pull the reader right in. You want your readers to become fully engaged and excited to be a part of your characters' world, if only temporarily.
Look at the difference in the following sentences, which essentially convey the same information:
A) "He put his arms around me, and as I became lost in his eyes, my heart skipped a beat."
B) "He put his arms around me, and when I finally managed to look up at him, I think I momentarily forget my own name."
Or these two:
A) "You shouldn't have counted your chickens before they hatched," he said with a smirk.
B) He looked at me and laughed. "Now you're left with a bunch of dead chickens in a shell, my friend. Good luck with that."
Which of the above characters would you like to hear more from?
If your characters come across as cardboard, your readers are going to lose interest in them. Well-written dialogue sounds like real people, and unless they're really good looking, boring people don't get invited to hang out very often.
Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life, and Honey on Your Mind. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2012 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.