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Monday, February 27, 2017

TO SPEAK OR NOT TO SPEAK @Linda Swift @Rebecca J Vickery

That is the question. Sometimes words are superfluous; a smile or frown may say it all.  As Martin Fraquher Tupper said, "Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech." Yet in most instances words are necessary to convey our thoughts.  An example of this is Winner Take All, my speculative fiction story which has only one character. There is dialogue provided by flashbacks in Billy Ray's mind and sometimes he talks to himself so he could not be defined as a true non-speaking character. However, he set the stage for what was to come in future stories I would write.

A few years later, I wrote a play which was made into a film and produced on my town's TV station, an affiliate of NBC. I Gave My Love a Baby  (named for the Riddle Song ballad) had a young hired girl who played a dulcimer and sang but never spoke. Jessamine bewitched William and the elderly farmer left his wife Dorcas of many years and married her when she became pregnant. She died in child birth, and in a few weeks William grieved himself to death. Dorcas took the baby boy to rear as her own son, comforting her heart's sorrow since her own two sons were killed in World War II. This story was inspired by and based upon a true story told to me by the secretary in an East Tennessee school where I worked as a guidance counselor. The "baby" was a female student there.  I have been asked why my character Jessamine never spoke except to sing her ballads. I didn't consciously make her mute but the story had an ethereal  atmosphere--the young girl singing and playing and bewitching the old man. If she had spoken, her language would have presented a more realistic  character, accenting her lack of education and poor grammar. 


Several years passed as I wrote books whose characters spoke as they are supposed to do. But when I wrote This Time Forever, another non-speaking character emerged. Again, I didn't consciously plan  for Ruane never to speak. She was a mulatto slave girl  who was the mistress of  Clarissa's husband Malcolm and she played a very important role in the book.  This quote by Euripides in The Phoenician Women, describes her position well. "This is slavery, not to speak one's thought." When the book was adapted into a film, titled Clarissa's War (DVD available soon at Amazon) a perfect character was found to play Ruane. This actor read a synopsis of the film, and recognized the opportunity it presented . When reminded that this was not a speaking role, then asked if she wanted the part, she replied "Not only yes, but h--- yes." She played the role well and speaking would have weakened the impact of her relationship with her master.

I won't purposely create a non-speaking character in a story since I'm not a plotter. But in my character-driven stories, another strong-willed male or female may choose to remain silent and who am I to argue with that since I agree that  "Sometimes not speaking says more than all the words in the world."  (Colleen Hoover, Ugly LOVE) 

Winner Take All  ebook is available at Amazon for 99cents and Audible Audio Edition for $3.95. It can also be found in Take Five, a collection of five speculative fiction stories available at the link below in ebook and print.

Take Five
by Linda Swift 
Link: http://a.co/bmUfcMT




Thank you for visiting today. I invite you to leave a comment if you wish. Please come back again soon.  Linda Swift


  1. I don't believe characters need to speak in order to get their point across. In fact, I once read an Irish story called "Earthly Magic" by Barbara Samuel in which the hero, a bard, could not speak because he had been cursed by a fairy (not a good one.) He was in love with a woman for whom the fairy king had fallen in love. The bard had to find ways to warn her that the fairy king was coming for her and to protect her by using whatever he could like certain herbs. He also found ways to comfort her from despair that I found so touching because he had no voice, only facial expressions and gestures to convey his emotions.
    It takes a great deal of talent to convey silent communication on the pages of a book.
    I wish you great success with TAKE FIVE, Linda. This was a very interesting blog and excellent question to present.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Sarah, and for sharing this very touching story with us. I always look forward to your thoughtful responses to my posts. And I am grateful for your support each month. The 28th seems to roll around faster every month!

  2. I think of Johnny Belinda which one an Academy Award for Jane Wyman as a character who doesn't speak. A very powerful film. Dialogue is important but interior monologue works well in novels and short fiction as well. Descriptive and action can be used just as effectively.

    1. Thank you for visiting today and for your astute thoughts on this question. And I hadn't thought of Johnny Belinda in ages but I loved that film. Jane Wyman was a great actress in my opinion. I often wish for the "golden oldies" in film when emotions were the feature of most instead of action and sound effects.
      Ah, for the good ole days.

  3. Hi, Linda. I believe you are one of the most versatile writers I know. And to create characters who don't speak..for whatever reason..is not easy. Also, your book called A Potpourri of Poetry is proof of your magic. I ordered the print for that..the big version...and still read certain poems in there. They are marked with paper clips.
    So, from speculative fiction such as those stories in Take Five, to your all around crowning glory--This Time Forever--we're taken from one side of the spectrum to the other. Well done!

    1. Celia, your comments have left me almost without words, and as you well know this doesn't happen often! I do so treasure your appreciation of my book of poetry. Writing poetry puts the writer "out there" with no plot to cover their deepest emotions. As for versatility, it is my greatest career weakness, as hopping from genre to genre doesn't allow one to build a reader base as readers like to know what to expect from a writer when they follow them. But I thank you for your praise and love you dearly as my cyber-sister.

  4. Characters can speak through actions. No need to use their voice to make a point. :) Enjoyed your post as usual, Linda. :)

  5. Thank you, Karen. I appreciate that you took time from your very busy schedule to stop by and read my post. And thank you for all that you do for me and all our PbRJV authors. Your talent and ability to do so many diverse activities amaze me.


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