What Writers Could Learn from Tribes

My wife and I saw the play, Tribes yesterday. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a dysfunctional family with a deaf son. One of the major themes is the difficulty people have communicating with each other. Another key theme is that people divide themselves and are divided into groups or tribes. So, for example, the deaf community divides into those who sign and those who don’t.

What I found particularly interesting in the play is the way the playwright uses dialog. It’s clear to me that what the characters don’t say is just as important as what they do say. The play reminded me of some of Pinter’s plays in that respect.

I’m in the process of outlining and planning a new novel, and some reviewers of my earlier works pointed out that I spent too much time telling rather than showing. It’s a difficult problem to overcome, but I’m working on it. What struck me is that one of the keys to overcoming this problem is to put more emphasis on the nuances of dialog including body language.

So, my new protagonist has PTSD. Rather than telling the reader this, I’m working on showing symptoms and letting readers draw their own conclusions. We’ll see how that goes.

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