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Old 01-24-2014, 08:18 PM   #1
slightcrazed
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Thoughts on a story that lacks dialog

First off, I will admit to being a bit new to lit. That being said I am not new to writing; I've been doing it off and on for twenty some-odd years, at times more seriously than others. However, I've never tried to write a story that was totally devoid of dialog - but I'm thinking of trying that and I'm curious if anyone has ever written something like this and if they found it difficult or had any suggestions.

The story idea is this:

Two complete strangers sit next to each other in a movie theater and, over the course of the next few hours, go from a simple accidental brush of hands to intimately touching rubbing their new unknown friend. The thing is, in playing the situation out in my head, I think any attempt at talk during the build up would ruin the 'feel' of the story, and so I'm stuck (by choice) with no dialog.

I've done long stretches with no dialog before, but as a READER I tend to skim descriptive sections and key on dialog, so I'm really worried that, without a few double-quotes sprinkled around, the reader will not 'get' the story for what it is meant to be.

Any thoughts?
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Old 01-24-2014, 08:28 PM   #2
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It might work in a voyeur-type way.

As I thought about it, the issue I had was that erotica is intimate, and if you are always "telling" the reader what is going on, then you run the risk of an extra degree of remove and a loss of intimacy.

But on the whole, I don't see why it couldn't work. There are many ways to tell a story.
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Old 01-24-2014, 08:32 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PennLady View Post
if you are always "telling" the reader what is going on, then you run the risk of an extra degree of remove and a loss of intimacy.
That is a good way of summing up my fear. I think I'll have to go for a 1st person perspective, and have actually toyed with the idea of 'switching' between the two people in order to make it more intimate. I really don't want it to read as a "He does this, she does that" sort of story. Can inner dialog (from a first person perspective) replace the part that bi-directional dialog typically plays?
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Old 01-24-2014, 08:34 PM   #4
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Hi welcome to the forum.

It could certainly work, but my thought would be to keep it fairly short.

I don't think you could pull this off for more than a lit page without having a problem, but I can see it being done. You would have to keep the narrative pretty interesting and "speak" through one person's thoughts (first person could take the place of speech to the reader)
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Old 01-24-2014, 08:37 PM   #5
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If I were to try this scenario, I'd go for a first person account. By colouring the narrator's tale with his particular personality, you could easily tell the whole story without a single word spoken and still keep it lively.

A third-person version could, as PennLady mentioned, end up too remote, even with internal monologue.

I'd say try it, see what happens. I'm curious either way :-)
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Old 01-24-2014, 08:40 PM   #6
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You could make that the point... A strange night with a woman who never spoke, so the male never felt the need. Or vice versa.

Its an idea I've been playing around with for years
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Old 01-24-2014, 08:42 PM   #7
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Would switching between 'him' and 'her' be a hindrance? The more I think about it the more I like the idea of 'a bit from his head', 'a bit from her head' and back and forth - gives the ability to revisit a move or an action from both perspectives.

How ever it ends up, I think I'm going to have fun trying to make it work.
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Old 01-24-2014, 08:53 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slightcrazed View Post
Would switching between 'him' and 'her' be a hindrance? The more I think about it the more I like the idea of 'a bit from his head', 'a bit from her head' and back and forth - gives the ability to revisit a move or an action from both perspectives.

How ever it ends up, I think I'm going to have fun trying to make it work.
In my opinion the head hopping with no dialogue might be a bit much.

You could try third person

"Allison risked a quick glance and saw him immediately turn his head."

But that might be even more work and their would be no feel to it.
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Old 01-24-2014, 08:54 PM   #9
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Personally, I like to read dialogue. That having been said, taking a different approach to storytelling is an interesting challenge. If the worst thing that happens is low scores and WTF comments, it's worth a shot. I say go for it. Post a link, and I'll read it.
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Old 01-24-2014, 08:59 PM   #10
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Someone already did it and the book was filmed. I cant recall the title or the author but the book was a success maybe 20 years ago. I didn't care for the book.
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Old 01-24-2014, 09:05 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slightcrazed View Post
Would switching between 'him' and 'her' be a hindrance? The more I think about it the more I like the idea of 'a bit from his head', 'a bit from her head' and back and forth - gives the ability to revisit a move or an action from both perspectives.

How ever it ends up, I think I'm going to have fun trying to make it work.
I have read a number of stories that have multiple first-person POVs, so that might help. As someone mentioned, you'd be getting a sort of dialogue with each character since they are "talking" to the reader. It might make it both more dynamic and more intimate.

As patientlee said, though, why not? What have you got to lose by trying?
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Old 01-24-2014, 09:23 PM   #12
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I did this using the technique of telling what my characters said without actually quoting it. Was a lot of fun. I did cheat once in a while, but no one seems to have noticed it.
http://stellaomega.com/the-baronesss-boy/ (BDSM story)
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Old 01-24-2014, 09:47 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slightcrazed View Post
Can inner dialog (from a first person perspective) replace the part that bi-directional dialog typically plays?
Yes, internal dialogue can replace external dialogue -- but then you wouldn't have "a story without dialogue."

I don't think you really need dialogue of any type for the story you propose. You just need to remember the old adage, "actions speak louder than words."
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Old 01-24-2014, 09:57 PM   #14
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I would be really interested to read a story like that, and I agree with the above users who said that internal dialogue could easily replace the back and forth nature of a conversation between two people, as it would give you a window into the mind of one character, at least. I personally think it would be interesting to hear the woman's internal dialogue, what is she thinking, and feeling? Is she surprised by the impulsiveness of the act? What spurred her to push the envelope? Things like that, I suppose. As for whether it's in first or third person, it depends on your writing style. You could include both character's internal dialogue using third person, or focus in on one character with first person for a colorful narration that would feel more personal.


Anyways, just my thoughts! I'd love to read this if you write it!
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Old 01-24-2014, 11:04 PM   #15
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I'm not just gonna say go for it. I think it will work.

Stories with good dialogue are great. And I am a huge fan of realistic convincing dialogue. I love characters that speak in ways that convey the story without description.

But a story without dialogue isn't a bad thing. If it's written the right way, and written well, characters don't have to say anything at all. Emotions can be conveyed by action or thought, and can be powerful. I mean when you see another person that isn't just "attractive" but absolutely rocks your world and haunts your thoughts for days (might be love at first sight not first word?) nothing needs to be said. Or spoken at least.

Dialogue is great, but you don't need it to tell a great sensual story. I personally would be interested in reading a story about an attraction so potent and so deep that the people don't even have to say anything. The slightest touch , the suggestive look, the very shiver that hits one's soul when they smile at you or give you THAT look.

If you've ever looked at someone that was so beautiful to you that it hurt, then you know the feeling. I think there are a lot of expectations when it comes to what a story should be. I dunno I can just see this story working. The senses taking over and the characters not having to say a word. That, to me, would be a great read if it was written the right way. I don't think no dialogue means telling and not showing. You can show plenty without the characters saying anything.

For me, I think it can be done. So much can be conveyed and implied without spoken words. So I say write it, the way you intended. If you're good enough with word and emotion, you may achieve something sensual and awesome.

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Old 01-25-2014, 12:21 AM   #16
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Any technique can be made to work--and it can be fun to experiment with them.
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Old 01-25-2014, 12:48 AM   #17
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As a rule, I make a point of never shouting on the interweb. But every rule is there to be broken. So here goes: THERE ARE NO RULES WHEN IT COMES TO WRITING A STORY. What works is what works. Or, more accurately, what works is what works for you.

In their day, Canterbury Tales, Don Quixote, The Tale of a Tub, Ulysses (the James Joyce version), To the Lighthouse, Pale Fire, et al, were all successful departures from the norm. If you think it might work, try it. If it doesn’t work, you will have learned something useful.

Good luck.
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Old 01-25-2014, 12:57 AM   #18
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Quote:
I've done long stretches with no dialog before, but as a READER I tend to skim descriptive sections and key on dialog, so I'm really worried that, without a few double-quotes sprinkled around, the reader will not 'get' the story for what it is meant to be.
Generally speaking, I'm usually the same way.

My perspective changed the moment I read a great story with very very very little dialogue. Frankly, the story didn't even need dialogue. What made it work was that the two characters had sex before. She was under his spell. So it was about an average woman's depraved needs.

If I could offer advice, it would be to write it in sort of an essay format. Meaning, let every paragraph be its own topic. Let the sentences flow from one to the next so that they're connected. And don't write in giant block paragraphs. That'll make it more easier and appealing to read without the dialogue.
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Old 01-25-2014, 01:10 AM   #19
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I'll throw in a twist to make the reader have to pay attention without dialogue.

My two characters would be deaf people out on a date and the first fumblings of touching turn more intimate and curious, sitting in the back row.

It could be done in first(M/F) or third person perspective, giving you as many choices possible of playing it out without a word of dialogue. and concentrate on looks and touches instead. Intimacy is more than words.
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Old 01-25-2014, 02:43 AM   #20
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Go for it, post a link when it's done, I'll read it.

What I write now has no dialogue and I hope it still works, although I'm sure it could be better. I wrote a story (under my old account) about a guy sneaking in through his girlfriend's bedroom window while her parents slept in the next room, the sparse dialogue for everything but the last couple of paragraphs was an essential part of the plot and I think it added to the rising tension. Looking back over it now the occasional lines of dialogue that I did include would've been better left out.

Actually my favourite scenes I've written have had little or no dialogue. I like my characters to have a level of deniability, which is impossible as soon as they're talking to each other. Having filthy dialogue fly back and forth is great and definitely helps brings things to a head, but characters who shut the fuck up affect me much more.
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Old 01-25-2014, 02:57 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slightcrazed View Post
Two complete strangers sit next to each other in a movie theater and, over the course of the next few hours, go from a simple accidental brush of hands to intimately touching rubbing their new unknown friend. The thing is, in playing the situation out in my head, I think any attempt at talk during the build up would ruin the 'feel' of the story, and so I'm stuck (by choice) with no dialog.

I've done long stretches with no dialog before, but as a READER I tend to skim descriptive sections and key on dialog, so I'm really worried that, without a few double-quotes sprinkled around, the reader will not 'get' the story for what it is meant to be.

Any thoughts?
I remember reading an Italo Calvino short story with a similar theme ("The Adventure of a Soldier"), set on a train. I don't think that had dialogue, or if it did it was very minimal. Certainly room for another take on that idea.
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Old 01-25-2014, 03:13 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slightcrazed View Post
First off, I will admit to being a bit new to lit. That being said I am not new to writing; I've been doing it off and on for twenty some-odd years, at times more seriously than others. However, I've never tried to write a story that was totally devoid of dialog - but I'm thinking of trying that and I'm curious if anyone has ever written something like this and if they found it difficult or had any suggestions.

The story idea is this:

Two complete strangers sit next to each other in a movie theater and, over the course of the next few hours, go from a simple accidental brush of hands to intimately touching rubbing their new unknown friend. The thing is, in playing the situation out in my head, I think any attempt at talk during the build up would ruin the 'feel' of the story, and so I'm stuck (by choice) with no dialog.

I've done long stretches with no dialog before, but as a READER I tend to skim descriptive sections and key on dialog, so I'm really worried that, without a few double-quotes sprinkled around, the reader will not 'get' the story for what it is meant to be.

Any thoughts?
i've my 2 stories posted on Lit ... & the stories dont have any dialogs ...
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Old 01-25-2014, 12:45 PM   #23
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Just wanted to give a thank you to all for the opinions/advice.

I've decided to begin with an attempt at doing this in the first person, and plan to switch between the characters as I go. It's what (initially) makes the most sense in my head, but first person can be a bit.... limited....so we'll see how it goes. If I can't properly set the 'mood' through first person then I'll switch it up.

Really hoping that once I get started this becomes one of those stories that just 'writes itself', but we'll see.
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Old 01-26-2014, 01:59 PM   #24
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Good luck with it. I've read some fantastic stories that pass without a single word between the characters. It lends them a very hushed, intense mood. Hopefully that's something that will come through for you as you write!
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Old 03-13-2014, 09:27 AM   #25
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it's done...

For anyone who might have posted or read this thread back when I started, story is done. And I'm actually pretty happy with it. Though... it wasn't truly devoid of all dialog, but the majority of the scene is dialog free.

If anyone wants an advanced copy, shoot me a PM. Probably going to submit it in a couple days after a final edit. Would love some editing help if anyone is interested.
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