Via Daily Prompt Silence
What do you do when your character is a person of action and not words, the kind that prefers looking cool while brooding in silence, and gives sullen stares rather than trading witty comebacks with their antagonist. My first suggestion, write them in a puppy, see if it cheers them up. My second, make the best use of that over the course of the story, but make sure you know when to use it, and when it steps over that line into lazy writing. Below are a few of my tips to make the most of their silence while writing.
Tip 1: Now, you have this character, who among other problems is cursed with cool and doesn’t speak very often. My first suggestion would be to make them a person of action instead of words. The idiom is that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I reckon that an action is worth at least a hundred. Let’s say this character has a secret soft side, instead of having this come out in conversation (and ruin their aura of toughness), have them leap across the street risking life and limb to save a puppy who’s walked out into the street. Toughness preserved, soft-side hinted at in a subtle manner requiring dialogue. This is an extreme example but others can be that maybe your hard as nails PI takes off his hat when inside, or in the presence of a lady, as a sign that he is polite. Or perhaps your supernatural badass is naturally distrustful and scowls down at an offered drink before swigging from her hip flask. Physical cues like these can show what’s going on behind your characters silence just as effectively as dialogue if done correctly.
Tip 2: I mentioned it briefly in the last tip, but facial expressions and body language are going to play a huge part in how your character communicates. Now, from the start I warn you, this does not mean you can tell your readers that this character looks cross. We’re already avoiding dialogue to a degree, which some might see as lazy if you tell your readers how your character looks instead of showing them then they will lose interest and feel you haven’t put enough effort into your craft. If your character is cross (weak word, my fault), or better yet, furious, let is show in the rigidity of his shoulders as he restrains an urge to punch someone, or in the grinding of gritted teeth, and maybe even in the deep creases of his brow. I am guilty of this myself from time to time, but although the second method is more effort it communicates just as effectively as dialogue if used correctly, and your readers will appreciate it.
Tip 3: My final tip for today would be to remember that although your character doesn’t talk much, this doesn’t stop him thinking. Letting your readers hear what’s going on in his head while others are talking, especially easy if you’re writing from a first-person perspective, will make your silent character come to life on the page. This is very much like dialogue, although make sure it’s clear that these thoughts are non-verbalised, with your character giving his opinion on the events unfolding in front of them. It is simple, and like spoken dialogue in many ways, but helps preserve the silent aura you’ve been developing with this character. A fun technique to combine with this is a character who says one thing in dialogue but something completely different in their head. We all have moments like that in life (especially when we’re talking to employers or difficult customers) and it adds some humour, not to mention depth, to a silent character.
Those are my tips for today guys, I hope they were a combination of useful, informative and oftentimes humorous. If they were none of those things then tune back in tomorrow for the next prompt and hopefully I will have done a better job.
Until then, remember to brood