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We are writing a short story based on the antagonist in our novel, a sort of extended back story if you will. We are now three chapers in and still have not found the need to introduce any dialogue. This is not to say that we wont, but so far the storyline is progressing beautifully without any. Is this commonplace in the world of short stories or do we need to rewrite?

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If you wrote a story just about an animal (and didn't anthropormorphize it), dialog would be impossible. That wouldn't affect the quality of the story at all. –  Joe Feb 26 at 20:01

8 Answers 8

up vote 8 down vote accepted

You absolutely can write a story with no dialogue. You also can write a story using only dialogue. You can and may do anything you wish in a work of fiction. That's what fiction is about. You have free rein. It is your story. And, importantly, it is a work of art. Would anyone have told Leonardo that he couldn't give the Mona Lisa that mysterious smile? Would anyone have told Picasso that he couldn't put both eyes on the same side of a person's head?

Many, many, many stories have been written without dialogue. Many great ones have done so very effectively. It is a stylistic choice. Whether you use dialogue or not depends on only one thing: Will it accomplish the effect you want?

Something that is becoming increasingly evident to me the more I read the questions posted here is that the number one absolutely most important learning tool for new writers is being shockingly ignored. And what, you may ask, is this astoundingly marvelous device that can so miraculously help new writers learn to write?

It is this: Other stories.

I can see now that so many new writers have read little or no published fiction. This is shocking to me. By far, the vast majority of writers, most especially the good ones, even more especially the great ones, would never have been successful if they had not devoured the world of fiction, and most of it, in fact, before ever picking up a pencil (to use an outdated metaphor). Most of them would never even have tried to write if they hadn't read tons of literature. If one has read a wealth of great stories, one can see the limitless possibilities inherent in fiction; in other words, you would already know that there is no reason you can't write essentially anything you can dream up. That is what fiction is about.

And if somehow you haven't read most of the greatest stories ever published in English, I am sad for you, because not only are you missing some of the greatest pleasures to be had on this planet, but you are also missing the best possible instruction you could ever receive in how to write. So go read. And read. And read. And read some more. And then write.

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Furthermore, if you write a story with nothing but dialogue, you could always sell it on as a script. –  SnookerFan Oct 3 '13 at 14:14

I have written a flash fiction without any dialogue, so I don't see why it couldn't be possible in a short story. It could be more difficult, because dialogue permit to explain some things quickly and in a easy way, but introduce a dialog only for this is often worse than trying to not use it. If you don't need a dialogue, don't write it.

However, I can't really tell if it's commonplace or not, but I don't think you need to rewrite. Even if a short story without dialogue is rare, it's always interesting to see something unusual.

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Thank you for your answer, it is exactly what I wanted to hear. As you can see im new to this so don't currently have the rep to vote up. Thanks also for the edit. I too tried to add this tag but couldn't due to current restrictions. –  KD Novels Sep 12 '13 at 20:22
    
Absolutely not common, but possible. Ursula K. LeGuin's much-anthologized "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" has essentially no dialogue. –  Dale Emery Sep 12 '13 at 22:08
    
@KDNovels You're welcome. –  Shkeil Sep 13 '13 at 6:47

Is it permissible to write ...

Well, what do you think will happen? Is there a state law against it? Will you have to pay a fee if you do it? Be imprisoned? Get shot?

Do you think the readers, publishers, agents will put you on a black list and never ever read a line written by you? How many lists have you made in the past, where you put the authors whose stories you disliked?

You make a beginner's mistake. You think there are rules and when you break them someone punish you somehow. And to avoid that you panic and think "I have to rewrite!".

I do not want to know how many good stories have been sacrificed on the altar of rewriting. I tell you a little secret: If you can't write (which I do not want to claim), then no amount of rewriting will rescue you. Because rewriting is a skill of its own. If you cannot handle the skill "writing", it's unlikely you've mastered the skill "rewriting".

To sum up my little rant: Write! Face your demons and publish. Do not get paralyzed by the fear on inexistent rules. It's your story. If you think it does not need a dialogue, it does not need a dialogue.

By the way, if you want to thank us, link to our site.

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Although your sentiment and conclusion are laudable, it is a bit ranty and confrontational--I wouldn't be happy to get this answer, regardless of how correct it is. I'm sure you can convey the idea that "rules" of fiction are guidelines to be followed or not as needed without being confrontational about it. –  BESW Sep 13 '13 at 0:22
    
Oh, I could @BESW, but it won't stick without a little bit of confrontation. I trust that people can think for themselves and figure that out alone. Otherwise I can't help them anyway. –  John Smithers Sep 13 '13 at 11:12
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Rest assured no offence was taken, I appreciate any feedback no matter how confrontational. –  KD Novels Sep 13 '13 at 15:12
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We regret to inform you that Mr Smithers will no longer be contributing to this site, as he was arrested yesterday for ending a sentence with a preposition. Trial will be held in Third District Grammar Court. –  Jay Sep 24 '13 at 15:40
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@Jay - I read that, just this morning, the case was thrown out on a technicality. Apparently the grammar police failed to read Mr. Smithers his rights. –  Neil Fein Sep 25 '13 at 15:02

Of course!

Look at the movie "Up" which has an entire love story without a single word being spoken. Someone wrote that.

There are no real rules to writing. Writing is about transferring your thoughts from your mind into the mind of another. If you accomplish that, then you're a writer. If your thoughts require no dialog, then so be it.

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Several posters here have said "there are no rules to writing" or similar statements. That's an overstatement. There certainly are rules to writing, from "pronouns should agree in number and gender with their antecedents" to "in academic papers, give proper credit to your sources" to "omit unnecessary words".

But the valid point is: The rules exist to facilitate communication, not to hinder it. There are lots of rules about writing that you will hear that might be useful as guidelines or interesting ideas, but should not be taken too seriously. And for almost every rule, if your writing is more clear or more effective if you ignore the rule, then ignore the rule.

Caveat: If the rule is well-established and very commonly followed, then I'd say you should generally have a good reason to ignore the rule. Many writers think they are being innovative and edgy by ignoring basic rules just for the sake of ignoring them. You should rarely ignore a rule just as a gimmick.

In this case, while it is common to have dialog in a story, there is no rule that you must. If the story works better without dialog, there's no reason to cram dialog into it just to conform to some idea of what "most stories" look like. Most paragraphs include at least one comma, but if I wrote a paragraph in what seemed like the most clear and direct way and it didn't happen to include any commas, I wouldn't go back and reword it to include a comma just so it "looked more like most paragraphs".

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The short answer: "Yes".

The (slightly) long answer: Yes, it is perfectly possible to write a story with absolutely no dialogue. I have written over 20 such stories that do not have any dialogues in them, so I am sure anyone can. There is no rule as such about inclusion of dialogues and not. Depends on what you are writing and the writing style adapted. If you feel that the content is flowing beautifully without any trouble, go ahead and forget about the dialogues. AS you mention that it is going to be a novel, as and when the need arises, use them.

Certain writers/readers prefer dialogue based writing because for them (based on the feedback that I have received and my interactions) it conveys a little more action, but at the end of the day it is all about how you think you can put your content in a better way. If you feel dialogues are not necessary, skip them.

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I don't particularly think you need dialogue in a story to make it good. Writing is an art, and the author is the artist. You don't try and take away a brush from a painter and force them to paint what you think they should. In the same way nobody can force you to write what you don't want to write. I have read many good stories with little or no dialogue to them. So, yes I think it is permissible to write a story with little or no dialogue.

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I write short stories lately, to keep preoccupied in between novel writing, and try my hand at different strokes. I never liked books with dialogue "this" person and "that" person. An artist word smith using narrative of characters, interjecting internalized thoughts, and that's the best way to involve the readers point of view IN MY OPINION. Thought rolling along, the now, the before and later doesn't have to include quotes to be achieved. Enough with interpersonal conversation, people can visualize without it. Description isn't all telling a story, but rather personality of character, what their thinking is the revealing acts of their plans. Thank you, 'Be immune to rumor' Jimmy Nuzz

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