At times in conversations, there are pauses for various reasons; in videos, the contexts of these pauses are clear because of the characters facial expression. But while writing, at first you can use filler description to annotate these pauses, but if you are writing about a character who does this a lot, then the description starts to fall apart, and the problem escalates if further in the story you have to write about them again. Since you have used every trick in the bag while you were writing about the character, the chances of reputation increases and soon the description seems cliches.

These long pauses arrive during:

  1. When people say something unexpected, and the other character does not know what to say.
  2. When the character gets an answer (in the heat of an argument) and he does not know what to say.
  3. Staring deep into the eyes scene.
  4. When the character gets smacked in an argument.

These are a few examples at the top of my head, but I am sure there are more (if you know any, feel free to add). In general, what should a writer do about these situations?

I have read these answers:

This one was helpful, but not what I am looking for.

This one didn't have a proper answer.

This was a nice question, but it talked more about emphasis rather than the scene and surrounding.

2 Answers 2


If You can't Puzzle them with Pauses, Stun them with Scenery:

In the cases where there is an awkward gap in a conversation, you need something to fill in the gap. There is never NOTHING going on. So talk about what IS going on. In an awkward silence, the emptiness is filled by the wind that can now be heard blowing through the trees. Or perhaps a mob of children run between the speakers at a convenient moment, giving the MC a chance to gather their thoughts. Or you can simply tell the reader what the MC is thinking as he/she digests the information they just learned or pauses until the other person finally responds.

Here are a few examples:

Darkon scowled. "You see, Ted, I came here because we are half brothers."

Ted was shocked. He desperately tried to think of anything his father might have said to reveal that Dad had an entire second family. His stomach twisted at the idea that his arch-nemesis might be his brother.

Finally, the words came to Ted. "I don't know if you are or aren't my brother, but no one who has done the things you have will ever be called my kin."


Ted screamed, "Why won't you just die?"

The snows blew up, separating the combatants. When it cleared, both Ted and Darkon stood breathing hard, the gusts of wind whistling in the trees overhead. They stared at each other through the blizzard.

Darkon broke the silence. "You die first."


These are your options.

  1. Use ellipsis to indicate a pause

  2. Explicitly describe the act of pausing.

  3. Fill the gap with a digression about what else is happening at the time, or the surroundings, or the characters' thoughts etc.

  4. Omit the pause.

I adopt option 4) by default, varying from that only where it is essential to do so.

A dialogue in real life might be full of pauses, for all the reasons you mention and more. However, a dialogue full of pauses is likely to be considered by at least some readers as dull, no matter how you fill the gaps.

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