1. Laura Mae.
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    Laura Mae. Member

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    My character doesn't talk...

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Laura Mae., Jun 14, 2011.

    My main character is a man named James. He suffers from depression. He doesn't talk for the first three chapters of the book, because he has no one to talk to, and is detached from his emotions. You could say he 'exists' but does not 'live'. Do you think this is weird, having a character that doesn't talk, and when he does, talks very little?

    I'm writing in third limited, so you get an insight into what he's thinking, but no real dialogue for the first three chapters until he meets my other main character, a young woman. This isn't so much of a question as it is a request for other people's thoughts - I'm just wondering what other people think about this, thanks. :)
     
  2. wallomrslug
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    wallomrslug Member

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    I don't see why this can't work so long as there is some decent prose to hook the reader in that critical early stage of the book.
    If done correctly, you could create a great sense of intrigue about the character. The idea certainly wouldn't put me off reading it.
     
  3. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    The only way I think it would be strange is if you have him randomly talking to houseplants, doors, tv's, cats, dogs, etc. unless he's crazy. If he's not crazy, doing this drives ME crazy. A depressed man's thoughts are fine, to me.
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    It's fine if he doesn't talk, just don't include any dialogue. But make sure you're not conveying his thoughts and actions through huge infodumps (but this applies all the time, even when there is dialogue.)
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think it's an interesting idea. I'm assuming, since it's limited, that there is no description of his condition but that you are giving the reader clues through his thoughts. I think the lack of dialogue is a good way to get the reader to sense his isolation.
     
  6. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    Even if a character does not talk, he or she can still be a compelling character. I see how you could do this with third person limited, I'd say go for it.
     
  7. Laura Mae.
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    Laura Mae. Member

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    No he's not talking to houseplants lol. He's not crazy, just suffering from depression (for various reasons - not going to go into it) which has made him clam up.

    I'm not going to directly describe his condition, I've tried to show the world through his eyes when describing things, to show his sense of despair and loneliness. I'm also not going to say why he's depressed, I'll let it come naturally or when he decides he wants to open up (doubt it though)

    Thanks anyway everyone, I feel a lot more secure now writing in this way, I was just worried it would sound dull :)
     
  8. Declan
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    Declan Senior Member

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    If you're going to do this, then make sure that you do it well. Leaving characters on their own can stiffle the narrative's ability to be interesting- however, in your case I think it's an interesting idea to do it to show the character's isolation.

    This will be the main thing you will have to look out for: infodumps. Do not write with "James felt like this", and "James felt like that, whilst doing this".
    What you will be aiming to do is SHOW, rather than TELL, how James is feeling, which will mean less adjectives, next to no adverbs and mostly verbs.
    If I were writing it, I would fill the narrative with sections like: "James watered the plant and watched the television talk show about family breakdowns. He stared for a while. He looked at the faces in the audience, everyone unified by a collective disgust, and he wanted to be in that audience".
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds really great. Good luck with it.
     
  10. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ever read a book called Dragonlance: Chaos War Series: Tears of the night sky? Long title, I know. But to make it short, it's a fantasy story where a woman and her friend sets off deep into enemy territory to find... uh, something. Forgot what, but it's not important. The important part is a) her friend transformed into a tiger and can't talk, and b) the woman is blind. Even so (or because of it) it's one of the best books I've ever read. Not bad, huh. ;)
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There are quite a few books with either an isolated protagonist (no one to talk to at all), or with protagonists who don't speak the same language.

    Start with any book with the lone survivor of a shipwreck.
     
  12. James Babb
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    James Babb New Member

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    It's not uncommon. As a matter of fact, I'm working on a novel about a young boy who has an accident that leaves him unable to speak or see for at least two chapters.
    It's a hard write, but if you make the character's actions the main focus, then you can keep the story moving along.
    Good luck
     
  13. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    This has been done before, so there's no need to worry about what we think. Laconic characters aren't brain dead, so I imagine that he'll have quite a bit of thinking to do to make up for the lack of dialogue. Just make sure to hook the audience some other way.
     
  14. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    I don't think it's weird. In the book 'Speak', the girl rarely, if ever, speaks.
     
  15. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    I agree, Speak was a great book and the character rarely said anything. But she was doing interesting things. She was thrown into situations. Interacting with her environment in some way. Had interesting observations.

    Is it weird? Yes. Weird characters can certainly be good characters. You don't need to avoid weird. You need to avoid boring. If your character is ruminating, thinking of how sad he is while nothing is happening, it won't be engaging. If your character is out at the store and he runs into an old friend who asks him how the business is going and he stares at him like a zombie and then picks at his nails, that's more engaging. It all depends on how it is written.
     
  16. lost123
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    lost123 Senior Member

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    I think it is okay
     
  17. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    Couldn't have said it better myself! :) She was doing interesting things, and the commentary in her head served better than speech. It doesn't matter if the character doesn't speak as long as they're interesting.
     

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