Dialogue is something I struggled with a lot when I first started writing. It can still be challenging, but I’ve found a few tips that help me. For the purpose of this post, I’ll use example of a pirate and a king.
1. Know the characters and their history.
This includes education level, personal relationships, where they grew up, major events in their life, hobbies, occupation, etc.
On the surface stereo types show a pirate and a king will speak differently. The Pirate is full of “Arg mateys” hardly language a King would use. But what if the Pirate grew up with the same tutors that the King had? And the King was overthrown by an invading army. Did the voices you hear for these characters change?
This brings me to my second and third tips.
Where the characters are. The event(wedding, feast, war, etc.), the location(prison, palace, bar, etc.).
The properly educated pirate will use different words with his crew compared to business men.
3. Who they speak to.
I’m going into more detail here as to how I see this. Are they speaking to an enemy? A romantic interest? Their mother? Who they speak to will effect the word choice a character uses. I speak differently when talking with my best friend vs. my boss.
The King will speak a certain way in the court of a foreign leader. But when forced to hide from his enemies on a pirate ship he’ll need to use different vocabulary to blend in.
How emotional are they? By this I mean are they able to control themselves. In the heat of the moment, people will say say what they feel.
5. People watch.
This last tip probably sounds strange. In order to better understand how different types of people really talk, and not the cliche “Arg mateys”, listen to real people speak. Go to the food court at the mall.