1. JetBlackGT
    Offline

    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    465
    Likes Received:
    158
    Location:
    Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

    Silence in writing.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by JetBlackGT, May 7, 2014.

    I have noticed how important a moment of silence is, on the radio. NPR uses it frequently, in storytelling.

    I try to use it to build tension between chapters or after a particularly tense revelation.

    "William and Rob returned from the goose hunt and as he shucked off his boots, William casually mentioned something that would change our lives forever..."

    End of Chapter 20.

    I also read a book, long ago that occasionally used a few periods, in quotations, to indicate a character staring at another character.

    "What are you doing?" Ann asked.

    "I was thinking..." Jed said.

    "With what?" Ann replied, with a smirk.

    "..." Jed said.

    I see it as Jed squinting at Ann. :)
     
  2. TDFuhringer
    Offline

    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    589
    Likes Received:
    262
    Location:
    Somewhere South of Midnight
    I agree with this, but on a broader scale. I was literally just thinking about this.

    There's a scene that an editor might call unnecessary in my current book. It acts as a beat of "silence" between an emotion climax, which is immediately followed by an action climax, which, without the beat of silence, would be followed immediately by a betrayal.

    The scene does nothing to move the story forward. It's a small intimate breakfast between the major characters just before hell breaks loose. But without that beat of silence, The "music" doesn't work because there's no time to build tension or anticipation.

    I realize this isn't exactly the same thing as what you mean @JetBlackGT but I think it needs to be said. Not every sentence has to move the story forward. Not every line of dialogue has to be on the nose.

    And sometimes, moments where nothing is happening and nothing is being said are the most important moments of all.
     
    JetBlackGT likes this.
  3. Nightstar99
    Offline

    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2013
    Messages:
    259
    Likes Received:
    136
    Parentheses are ok if you're playing Final Fantasy 7 but I would avoid them if you are writing actual fiction.

    I cannot think of any published book where I have seen them used. Personally I even disliked them in FF7. It seems like a lazy way of communicating not much and just makes me think of three dots.
     
    TDFuhringer likes this.
  4. Caeben
    Offline

    Caeben Member

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2012
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    7
    @Nightstar99: are you talking about ellipsis? If so, you should read some of David Foster Wallace. He uses them of all time, often to great affect IMO, but I can see why some (maybe most people?) would be turned off by them.
     
  5. Carthonn
    Offline

    Carthonn Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2008
    Messages:
    407
    Likes Received:
    32
    You need to describe the silence. Just like with an awkward silence, if the silence is worth mentioning you should be able to describe it better than placing some lazy "..." filler.
     
    GingerCoffee and TDFuhringer like this.
  6. Nightstar99
    Offline

    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2013
    Messages:
    259
    Likes Received:
    136
    Ah ellipses! That's right. I will check out Foster Wallace as I haven't seen them used in fiction yet.
     
  7. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    @TDFuhringer an editor who tells you something like that should edit himself out of the editing process :)

    I used to overuse ellipses - overusing anything is bad, of course - and nowadays I take time to hunt them down and tone them down (or expand on them). In many cases I've noticed how a simple full-stop is
    effective enough. In others: a simple description ("He didn't answer", "Everything was quiet", etc) Yet in many cases narrative beat can benefit from an unfinished syntax or thought or an ommited structural element ("She spoke...", "He waited...", etc) giving a hint about an unseen element, or something the reader is encouraged to fill-in on his own.
     
    TDFuhringer likes this.
  8. Renee J
    Offline

    Renee J Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2013
    Messages:
    463
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    Reston, VA
    When I see,"...", I picture the character being confused or having a stroke.
     
    JetBlackGT likes this.
  9. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Ellipses in dialogue usually signal one of three things:

    1) A pause or hesitation -
    "There's this girl...she's going to have a baby...of whom I am the father."

    2) Trailing off, unable to finish (which really needs a piece of narrative to convey the passage of time) -
    "If only I could tell you..."
    The silence was broken only by the ticking of the Victorian clock on the mantel and the clip-clop of a passing horse wagon out on the cobblestone street.

    3) Interruption -
    "Would you like to go with me to the..."
    "Yes!"
    "...dance?"

    In my second attempt at a novel, I have a scene in which a young priest is having lunch at a plush steak house with his father. They have been estranged for many years, in no small part due to the son's decision to enter the priesthood. I wanted to present the conversation as halting and uncomfortable for both of them, and I used narrative comments about the progress of the meal, the actions of the waiter, and even minor occurrences elsewhere in the restaurant to convey that. Much better than "He sat back", "He paused", "He hesitated" and other similar comments.
     
    sunsplash, Burlbird and TDFuhringer like this.
  10. TDFuhringer
    Offline

    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    589
    Likes Received:
    262
    Location:
    Somewhere South of Midnight
    There needs to be a LOVE button for things like this @EdFromNY :D
     
    EdFromNY likes this.
  11. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    How'ya doin' TD?

    It's funny how these things work, sometimes. Maybe it's because I'm now in edit mode on my current project, but this thread got me thinking about that scene, and about that work in general, and I suddenly realized what the fatal flaw was. I may very well go back to it when I finish my WIP.
     
    TDFuhringer likes this.
  12. TDFuhringer
    Offline

    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    589
    Likes Received:
    262
    Location:
    Somewhere South of Midnight
    @EdFromNY I'm doing ok, thanks. Unfortunately my writing isn't. I'm at that horrible point where my work is almost "good enough" but only a few sentences on each page are totally satisfying and it's driving me up the wall. Progress is very slow. Grr. Arg. I find myself rewriting the same lines dozens of times over and over till I give up.
     
  13. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Times like that, I back off a bit and read more, usually something very different from what I'm writing. Then, when I come back to my writing, I usually find it's better than I had thought. It's very easy to slip into hypercritical mode, and then you end up changing for the sake of change.

    Hang in there.
     
    TDFuhringer likes this.
  14. TDFuhringer
    Offline

    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    589
    Likes Received:
    262
    Location:
    Somewhere South of Midnight
    Wise words. Thanks @EdFromNY :)
     
    EdFromNY likes this.
  15. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    I find the "and it will change their lives forever..." rather pretentious, personally. You can just hear a little kid over-excited with his own story putting on some exaggerated voice going "foreveeeer..." in an attempt to sound ominous. For me it's bad writing, and it's amusing in a bad way. Amateurish.

    As for '"..." Jed said' - I've only ever seen that in a VERY old Chinese RPG. It's certainly effective in games. In good prose, I think not so much. I mean, if Jed was silent, then he said nothing, so how can the ellipses be followed by "Jed said"? It just makes me frown and think it's another failed attempt by a novice to be original.

    But in dialogue boxes, graphic novels, computer games, I think "..." is perfectly legitimate. Just not prose.

    @EdFromNY - for some reason I've never thought to use minor occurrences around the characters to simulate awkwardness. What a great idea!! Will totally be using this tip, cheers! :D
     
    GingerCoffee and TDFuhringer like this.
  16. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    @Mckk - all I ask is 5%. :agreed:
     
    Mckk and TDFuhringer like this.
  17. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    :wtf:

    ".........."

    :p
     
  18. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    I take it that's a "no"? :(
     
    Mckk likes this.
  19. JetBlackGT
    Offline

    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    465
    Likes Received:
    158
    Location:
    Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
    The only book I have seen this in was a kind of "Burn Notice" story. The characters were great and the story line interesting. I wonder what it was...
     
  20. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    @JetBlackGT
    The problem is, Jed actually mumbles a mute or incomprehensable sound in this example. It's not silence if you use an explicit dialogue tag. "Jed said" means, well, that he does utter something, be it a prolonged schwa or a hum or whatever. But it's not silence (as in: absence of audible expression).

    Solution 1: drop the tag.
    In a dialogue between Ann and Jed, readers will quickly decipher whos ellipsis this is

    Solution 2: drop the ellipsis, modify the tag into an expression.
    Solution 3: be creative.
    :)
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2014
    Simpson17866 likes this.

Share This Page