I have started a story of my life in the first person. Do I have to have dialogue? Or would it be very boring without it?

  • 2
    Do you ever speak to another person in your life story? Commented May 16, 2018 at 11:19
  • You might want to add the memoir tag to this question.
    – user
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 11:23
  • Hi Leigh, welcome to Writing.SE. You need to define "dialogue." Do you mean back and forth speech with more than one person at a time? Do you mean words in quotes? (vs the narrator just paraphrasing) Do you mean any speech (or other expressed language) of any sort? Do you mean that the narrator never encounters another human being? How are you imagining it to work logistically if there is no dialogue? If you describe that, then we can answer your question. Right now you have one answer saying "yes" and one saying "no" and they're both right, because they rely on different definitions.
    – Cyn
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 16:32

2 Answers 2


Of course you must have dialogue! All of life is about the exchange of information. You are creating a dialogue (between you and the reader) just by writing the story of your life.

Dialogue does not just have to be between two people in your life, it can also include inner dialogue where you are talking to yourself in your own mind. I imagine that you will have a lot of this in your story - everyone gives themselves a bit of a talking to every now and again.

Also, because this is your story, don't imagine that you have to present dialogue in the same, formulaic way that publishers will push you towards (although it may be easier to read) - you can experiment with different approaches such as putting a dash at the beginning of a line to denote speech, or putting the words of someone speaking in italics.

At the end of the ends, give yourself the freedom to be yourself - just make it interesting along the way.

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    Welcome to SE Writing, Robert, you seem like a great guy to have around!
    – GGx
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 12:52
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    Good to meet you too. Thanks for your comment on my question, really helpful. This stack has a much more relaxed atmosphere than a lot of the other stacks. Everyone is super friendly and helpful. I answered a question on the unix stack a while ago (used to be a computer engineer) and the experience was very different! Decided to come back to the "nut shop where it's fun" and haven't gone back there since! Great to have you here.
    – GGx
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 13:13
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    Yes, the poor OP on the unix stack had the same problem, voted to close by 3 users without a single comment as to why. And there was nothing wrong with his question at all. Here, if we vote to close, we give good reason and even help to reword questions to avoid a close. The posters here helped me rework my entire epilogue and my agents loved it. It's such a helpful place. Problem is, I find myself procrastinating on here!! :)
    – GGx
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 14:23
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    Yes, and I should get on with rewriting chapter 2! I procrastinate so much more when faced with a difficult task! Good luck with your writing.
    – GGx
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 14:27
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    Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – GGx
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 15:03

Lots of novels don’t have dialogue, epistolary novels, stream of consciousness, etc.

The problem is that you are opening yourself up to the danger of ‘telling’ your story rather than ‘showing’ it through scenes with action and dialogue. It gives a sense of hearing a story told instead of feeling and experiencing it or being part of it.

The other danger of telling the reader what happened is you’re expecting them to take your side and your word on all the events, rather than allowing them to see for themselves and draw their own conclusions. Readers like to figure things out rather than be told what to think.

Dialogue is a powerful tool for conveying nuances of character and creating conflict between characters. People don’t always tell the truth or say what they really mean and it’s exciting for a reader to try and decipher meaning from dialogue.

For me, personally, I feel there’s a sense of laziness in not creating scenes that show. It’s so much easier to just tell your story in page after page of narrative exposition. Stories come alive in the reader’s mind when they’re beautifully balanced with action, dialogue and exposition. But it’s not easy.

It can be done. There are no rules that say a novel must have dialogue. But you are making work for yourself in that you will have to avoid pitfalls inherent in stories that only tell and you may end up with no emotional connection from your reader.

There’s a similar question here, too, which may help:

Is dialogue in a novel necessary, or just padding?

  • @Leigh No problem. Welcome to the stack, it's a great site. Good luck with your story.
    – GGx
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 13:43

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