I checked out the book How to Grow a Novel by Sol Stein from the library a week or so ago. As I flipped through it, I came across the chapter on dialogue. He says some things that opened (reopened?) my eyes, as well as some things that made me laugh.
Dialogue has to make us interested, curious, tense, or laugh. At its best, it has a liveliness that makes the words seem to jump from the page straight into our bloodstream, like adrenaline. Readers enjoy dialogue. I’ve never heard anyone say that they enjoyed a transcript of recorded speech. If you wander around a crowded mall these days, much of what you might overhear is idiot talk. People won’t buy a novel to hear idiot talk. They get that free from relatives, friends, and strangers.
He goes on to explain better how to make dialogue better, and not sound like idiot talk.
One of the things he stresses most is how is should virtually always express conflict, whether open or veiled.
Anyway, its given me a lot to think about in my writing, and one more thing to work on.