I love writing dialogue because it keeps me in the character's head. For dialogue to sound real, I have to know my character well enough to speak as she/he would speak...using words and syntax that fits the character's background. And I do read my dialogue out loud after I've written it, but not right away. I usually wait a day or so and take a fresh look at it.
Through dialogue, writers can give the reader some sense of the characters' emotions and their attitudes toward each other (anger, sarcasm, humor) without "telling." Here's a brief example using an action clue: "'You're wrong,' he said with a sneer." The action/nonverbal clue, "sneered," helps the reader interpret the emotion and attitude of the character. (By the way, "'You're wrong,' he sneered" is incorrect because "sneered" isn't a verbal tag.)
A quick exchange of dialogue (no dumping backstory) is a great tool for pacing. It breaks up grey blocks of narrative and keeps the reader moving through the story. I personally tend to use shorter exchanges between characters because I happen to love Robert B. Parker's style. The words, the length of the sentences, the punctuation are all excellent tools to intensify danger or sexual tension.
I also like that because dialogue is written in the present tense, it's an active experience that draws the reader into the scene and into the plot—which is exactly where you want the reader to be.
That's all for now. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I'll try to do the same.
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PPS: The bird photo by Jeff Johnston is a Yellowhammer flicker, the Alabama State Bird.
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