I am mulling the idea of writing a novel in which the only dialogue is internal. Has anyone yet published such a novel?

I define "dialogue" here as any kind of speech addressed by a fictional person to a fictional person. This includes monologue insofar as a person who speaks to themselves, either out loud or internally, is still speaking to a person even if they are not addressing somebody else. In the sense that writing is a form of "speech", an epistolary novel comprising a collection of personal letters also contains dialogue. Excluded from the definition are first-person narrative when the addressee is the reader, because the reader is not fictional; and most stream of consciousness writing, unless it is sufficiently formally similar to literal speech to be considered "addressed".

On this definition, I am not aware of any novels that are completely free of dialogue. But are there some in which the only dialogue is internal? I would like to know so that I can study the authors' techniques and use them, perhaps adapted, in my own writing.

(The first and last sentences above were added following advice received by @Cloudchaser.)

  • @Cloudchaser. I have followed your advice and edited the question accordingly. If it is still off-topic, I will delete it. Regarding your second point, I make my definition of dialogue clear. There is little point in having a semantic discussion, and your definition has at least as much merit as mine. But note that "internal dialogue" is a much used term. – user18358 Apr 19 '18 at 14:43
  • Thank you for the clarification, ruffle. I have retracted my close vote. – user29032 Apr 19 '18 at 14:47
  • Pincher Martin, perhaps, or The Martian? I haven't read the latter and don't remember the first well enough, but basically any novel with a protagonist alone somewhere (think of the movie Cast Away). Also, there is a German autobiography written by an autist (who, in real life didn't speak, so probably there was not dialogue in his autobiography, either). Maybe there is something like this in English, too. – user29032 Apr 19 '18 at 14:52
  • I guess you're still receiving close votes because you don't really seem to be having a writing problem. I mean, you haven't tried writing your novel and found that something did not work. You just want a reading list. Maybe a better place to ask for this is reddit.com/r/booksuggestions or reddit.com/r/suggestmeabook – user29032 Apr 19 '18 at 14:55
  • 1
    And we are not "management". This is a community, and any member can vote to close or reopen a question. Those that have voted to close did so because in their opinion your question did not meet the site rules, which you can learn about if you take the tour or look at the help center. Getting questions closed has happened to everyone on this site, myself included, and while it is irritating, it shows your maturity if you respect the rules that this community has given itself. – user29032 Apr 21 '18 at 15:40

"The Old Man and the Sea" comes to mind as a novel where I don't recall any dialogue. Santiago talks to himself, talks to his hand, talks to the fish, etc., but that isn't really dialogue. Or, of you wish, it's internal dialogue.

How does it work? You've got one character, against the elements. Nobody to talk to, so all dialogue is internal.

While "The Old Man and the Sea" has layers of underlying meaning. I recall some short stories by Jack London about a man's struggle with the elements, which were more about the physical struggle for survival. There too, if the MC is alone, all dialogue would be internal.

So, if the MC is alone all through the novel, and all conflict is not with other people, but with nature, all "dialogue" would by necessity be internal. There might be other ways to achieve the goal you seek, but I can't think of any right now.

  • Many thanks for this, and I've upvoted. I'll have a look at The Old Man and the Sea. In its first fifth it contains a lot of dialogue between the old man and the boy, but I'll study how Hemingway handles the bulk of the text where the MC is alone as you say. – user18358 Apr 19 '18 at 16:11
  • I'm wondering how to do this when the elements are social rather than physical. Not sure whether anyone's done that before. – user18358 Apr 19 '18 at 16:12