Writing a story without dialogue

It's all about imagination at this point.
It’s all about imagination at this point.

Now that I am a few chapters into this first draft of Casebook 10, I’ve discovered something interesting: Portia can’t hear or speak… so I have no dialogue to write. If you’ve never written scene after scene that are just descriptions with no actual speaking, then you should try it once. It’s not easy to keep up interest without it, and the page looks like a block of text.

I’m going to find some new tricks to keep the text flowing and vital – any ideas friends?

Author: Angela Misri

Novelist, Digital Strategist & Journalist http://angelamisri.com

8 thoughts on “Writing a story without dialogue”

  1. Okay, so she’s deafened by an explosion, right? The land mine you talked about earlier? It’s a new situation for her–she didn’t grow up as a deaf mute. She’s going to be really thrown off balance by being deaf (possibly literally–does she have any inner ear damage?). She’s going to keep looking around, because she can’t hear what’s going on around her. Breaking up the description by having her change where she is looking can help break up the text, and also give a nervous feel to the flow of the narrative, to reflect her anxiety.

    Also, she can still read and write, can’t she? Interacting with people by means of notes can work much like dialog, just substitute “wrote” for “said”.

    1. I’m going with the concussion from the blast causing the hearing loss (I nearly wrote ‘ear loss’ there, but this is not a George Weasley homage after all!) and the medication she is prescribed afterwards causing her speech issues. I like the idea of inserting a nervous-ness into the writing, thank you, she would be understandably anxious from this circumstance. She is carrying around a notebook to use to communicate with people yes. Thanks for the suggestion Misha!

  2. When characters are cut off from the outside world and forced into themselves, they sometimes explore their own psyches through long passages examining their motivations and by looking at past incidents, or by having imaginary conversations with friends, family, historic personages, and others. You could try that.

  3. Hmmm . . . when tales are told as opposed to written, they seldom include dialogue. That happen to be my preferred way to write stories . . . “telling” the action, what people did, and not necessarily including dialogue.

    I suppose the approach would be to insure what is being written is interesting on its own. Truthfully, I mostly use that approach on short stories . . . I suppose I should try it for longer pieces to see if it “works”.

    Not to promote my own stuff, but if you want to see an example: http://disperser.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/flash-fiction-no-2-tales-of-the-wanderers-the-follower/

    I don’t know that it works for all readers, and since I don’t get much feedback on what I write, it’s possible it’s not “working” at all, and everyone hates it. However, if it does “work”, there is no special trick to it that I know. The only suggestion I might make is to avoid the minutia, and concentrate mostly on a broader view . . . then again, as I said, maybe my stuff sucks, in which case this advice is worth exactly as much as I charged for it.

  4. I appreciate the suggestion, and it doesn’t suck, so stop writing that! I think going broad is a very good idea, and I think I naturally write that way (I have to actually stop and tell myself to go in deep with details every once in a while). Thanks!

    1. Mur says we’re allowed to suck . . . but ok, maybe some of my stuff does not suck, but it’s at least not popular. I can see the read numbers on my writing, and they’re dismal compared to my photos.

      As for details, I’ll add the odd thing here and there, but I’m both an impatient writer and reader. I want to get to the interesting stuff, and often breeze through descriptions (clothes, furniture, ambiance, hair, weapons . . . no, weapons I read).

      Anyway, thanks right back at you, and good luck whichever way you go.

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