Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue

A fine combination of this and an astonishing lack of Show, Don't Tell.

Rival's Pidgeotto: I can blow you all off this bridge with one wing tied behind my back.
Jasmine: Wait, since when were we on a bridge?
— Azza's Nuzlocke Run, Nuzlocke Fan Comics

Conversations don't take place in a vacuum. Other things don't stop happening just because characters are talking. Many beginning writers forget this, writing long chunks of dialogue without any narration or dialogue tags to break it up, and in the process, the reader becomes lost in the Featureless Plane Of Disembodied Dialogue.

Like an unintentional version of the White Void Room, the reader is given no reminders of the setting in which the dialogue actually occurs: For all they know, the scene could be completely bare and blank, with nothing to look at, no other characters and absolutely nothing occurring whatsoever aside from the dialogue in question. In the very worst cases, the writer may fail to even set the scene in the first place, giving the reader absolutely nothing at all to visualise what's happening. Another problem is that it's easy to lose track of who's saying what, especially if there are more than two characters involved in the conversation.

Sometimes an author may do this on purpose, for example to keep The Omniscient Council of Vagueness appropriately vague. Other than that though, the Featureless Plane Of Disembodied Dialogue is uncommon in published literature, because professional editors tend to frown on it quite heavily. It's very common in live theatre, however, since it's easier to strip the stage bare of scenery than it is to transform from one set to another.

Compare Script Fic; indeed, many examples of this trope are script fics clumsily converted into prose to get around Fanfiction Dot Net's ban of the format. See also Talking Is a Free Action, Wall of Text, Inaction Sequence and Speech-Centric Work. When the dialogue itself is being used as a substitute for describing the scene, see Show, Don't Tell and Expospeak.


Fan Fic
  • Dark Secrets: A review of this fic was the Trope Namer.
  • Hogwarts Exposed: Used throughout, but taken Up to Eleven by the fourth chapter of Too Exposed which is a Script Fic in all but name.
  • Mais Ramblings: Every entry is completely encased in quotation marks. Some fans have speculated that Mai is telling it all to a psychiatrist in his office.
  • Prince Of Darkness No More: Particularly bad towards the end of the first part, where it's lampshaded in the author's notes.
  • In Hermione's Talent, it's not only the Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue but the Featureless Plain of Disembodied Singing as well.
  • The Fans inhabit one of these in With Strings Attached most of the time, though hints as to their setting come out in the dialogue, and the different Fans are delineated with different quote-substitutes (i.e., Jeft's dialogue ~is surrounded by tildes~). Word of God has it that she took the technique from Piers Anthony's Cluster series. Note that whenever the Fans interact with the four there's physical description, since they're meeting in a mental space (albeit one that's usually a big white blank anyway, though all the characters are visible).

  • Jane Austen, to a surprising degree. She may tell you what house a conversation is happening in, and maybe the room, but she spends very little time describing the surroundings. Somewhat justified in that most of the action actually is in what is being said, implied, and not said.
  • John Green uses this in certain scenes of An Abundance of Katherines, when Colin and Lindsey talk in a pitch-black cave.
  • In True Grit, Charles Portis does this for one scene. However the scene takes place in a courtroom where no one is doing anything other than sitting and talking.
  • In Lost in a Good Book, Thursday and Harris pull this off deliberately, with a long stream of conversation with no indication of who said each line, to trap another character who may not be real (and who turns out to have escaped from his own book).
  • Vox is a transcript of a phone conversation over a chat line. The trope is even somewhat lampshaded in the book.
  • Steven Brust occasionally likes to narrate a scene strictly through the dialogue. In To Reign in Hell for example, dialogue between two characters in a fight scene indicates all of their actions.
  • Enders Game deliberately does this with the conversations between Graff and Anderson, and the conversations between Graff and Carlotta. The comic book adaptation depicts these conversations as a page with nothing but script written on it.
  • This happens from time to time in S (by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst) because Jen and Eric's dialogue is entirely carried out through marginal notes in a book. There's very little physical description because the form doesn't really allow for it; we don't get to hear much about the characters' appearance or what their college or town looks like. It's surprisingly unimportant. By contrast the novel they're commenting on has plenty of description.
  • Strongly advised against in How NOT to Write a Novel.



Web Comics
  • Sonichu, as shown in the page image, combines the Wall of Text with very limited backgrounds to this effect.

Web Original
  • Cirno And Purple Steve: Justified in chapter 11 because it actually takes place in a featureless plane.
  • Project Banzai uses this deliberately when anything is happening in Heaven.
  • SCP Foundation uses this in a lot of its interviews, adding to the chilling effect most of them get. Granted, the reason why they're featureless is they're written as actual interview transcripts instead of any sort of narrative.