Which is most important in writing dialogue from memory: accuracy, succinctness, or liveliness? According to Wikipedia, “A dialogue is a written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people, and a literary and theatrical form that depicts such an exchange.” So basically, a dialogue is when two or more people are talking to each other in a book. I really enjoy reading books with dialogues in them. It helps me understand the book better and it also helps me stay on track with the book. There are three ways that you can use dialogue in a story. There is accuracy, succinctness, and liveliness. Here are what each of those terms mean. Accuracy is “the quality or state of being correct or precise.” Succinctness is “characterized by clear, precise expression in few words; concise and terse: a succinct reply; a succinct style.” Liveliness is “an atmosphere of excitement and activity.” All of these definitions came straight from the dictionary. So what do these dialogue styles have to do with books and why does it matter? Let’s dig a little deeper!
Let’s first look at accuracy. In a fictional story, accuracy is not always essential to the story because the author can make it up off the top of his or her head. It does not even always have to make sense. For example, in “The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells, he used a lot of inaccurate information. Martians would never actually exist and bring war to the Earth. He was, however, very accurate about how it would happen, if it were to ever happen. In biographies or autobiographies accuracy is crucial to the telling of the story of one’s life. You do not want to fake details about someone’s life, even if it is just by accident. Dialogue in a conversation in an autobiography would be difficult to get one hundred percent correct. It is not likely that the author remembers every single word in every single conversation in his or her entire life. This does not mean that the book is not accurate or valid. It is simply not vital to the telling of the story.
Let’s look next at the dialogue term ‘succinctness’. This is a word I had never heard of before. It simply means that something is brief and clearly expressed. I think it is very good to be brief and clear in a book. Sometimes books have too many details and they can get boring really fast. G.A. Henty books have a lot of details. The details are good because you can easily picture in your mind what is taking place in the historical story, but other times he adds in so many useless details that the story can become boring. It is easy to stop paying attention which means you will likely lose what is going on the story. On the flip side, if a book is too brief or too easily expressed it will be boring and not exciting. I enjoy reading stories where the dialogue is clear and not confusing, but I do not like when the dialogue is brief. I like reading long conversations, it keeps me involved in the story and I like getting to know the characters.
Liveliness is the final dialogue term. Liveliness is extremely important to a good story! Liveliness conveys action and it keeps the story moving forward to the climax. A book with a lively dialogue is also fun to read. In a fictional book the best dialogue is filled with liveliness. However, in a biography or autobiography accurate dialogue is the most important.