Since a lot of what they say is by definition irrelevant to the plot should I just skim over it? I'm worried this might make their manner unclear to the reader and I don't want their impression of this character to rely solely on the opinions of the narrator. I feel like including longer sections of their dialogue might work for a short story but would get annoying quite quickly in a novel.

For context my POV character is comparatively quiet and private but humors this character because they're working together, they eventually become friends.

  • Related, not quite a duplicate: writers.stackexchange.com/questions/5457/… Feb 27, 2015 at 12:16
  • I've seen a few movies that has a character impression like the one you mentioned above..
    – Harish S
    Feb 27, 2015 at 13:30
  • 3
    Why don't you just frame the introduction to the character? "He never managed to say anything interesting. I tried to escape but he backed me into a corner and trapped me one of the dullest conversations I've ever had. It went like this..." From then on anything boring he says will be funny to the reader. Feb 27, 2015 at 15:48

3 Answers 3


First, show the character - the introduction should present them in detail, following the inevitably boring blather.

Once the reader knows the character and their vice, you can start skimming, letting the narrator replace the actual blather ("after ten minutes of introduction and catching up on recent gossip..."). Keep reminding the reader, exposing them to bits of the small talk now and then, but just not enough to bore them.

And then, whenever it matters, return to the actual blather - where it won't be boring. Say, we're in an urgent situation and the annoying person just can't get to the point. Or we have a moment of downtime right when the sky is in the process of falling, the character fills the silence with blather, and another character just snaps at the incessant babbling. Or contrary, an antagonist is trying to squeeze information from the team, and the 'talker' just drives them crazy by talking everything except of what matters. Or a disaster happens because an important information just got lost in the sea of trivialities.

Don't make a character who uses a lot of smalltalk without reason. It's an annoying trope and stories are better off without it unless it can serve a valid purpose. Maybe the character is secretly an introvert with a dark secret, shielding themselves with a habit they know to be annoying and repulsive, to drive others away. Maybe the character will fall entirely silent at that one crucial moment, creating a deep, ominous impression that it is now. Maybe they are really clever and can use their blather to manipulate others; the apparently annoying vice being in fact a powerful weapon. Or maybe they keep talking to silence the inner demons, not to let out things that really bother them.

Anyway, it's tricky and difficult to strike balance between showing the character and keeping it interesting. If you don't have a really good reason, just don't do it. But such a character does have a lot of potential, and a proper build-up - even if annoying and boring - can be immensely rewarding, and if you really let that character shine in the end, all the sins of boredom committed earlier will be forgiven.


Remember the law of conservation of detail: When a detail isn't important, don't waste time describing it.

When literal speech does not contain any information which is relevant for the plot, get rid of it. You can instead describe the conversation in an abstract summary to convey that the conversation did happen, but the content wasn't relevant. Switch back to literal speech when the conversation turns to something plot-important:

While waiting in the lobby Bob and Alice killed time by chatting about the weather. Then Bob tried to start a discussion about recent sports events, but Alice didn't seem to be interested. After about half an hour of idle smalltalk, Bob finally got the courage to ask the question he wanted to ask for weeks:

"Alice, would you like to go out with me?"


Adding to the answers already given:

1) If your POV allows it, you can add humor or pathos (or both) by continually interrupting the blathering with the main character's thoughts. Those thoughts can be internal commentary on the inane blather, or juxtaposed seriousness.

2) When people rudely interrupt the blatherer it can be quite humorous. Think Archie Bunker.

3) The blathering itself can be quite funny, especially if it keeps veering further and further off-track. (Think Edith Bunker, and lots of Shakespeare clowns.)

4) Giving only snatches of the (continual) blathering can be very effective. This would work best with 1st-person POV (where of course the 1st person is NOT the blatherer).

Just don't overdo it. You have to keep interrupting the blathering with something. Nobody wants to read 3 paragraphs of non-stop blathering. In movies/TV, one can have that, because other stuff is going on simultaneously. The blathering then turns into background noise, either because visual events have captured your main attention or because the volume is reduced below "foreground dialogue". In a novel, you must use other techniques to turn the blathering into background noise (which occasionally intrudes into the foreground).

Literary examples that come to mind: The pushy lady in "The Catbird Seat" by James Thurber; Mr. MacCawber in "David Copperfield"; Mr. Collins in "Pride and Prejudice".

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