The Quiet Zone

Shhh. Quiet. Hush.

Silence is a part of life. We are confronted by it on a daily basis, some people more than others. It is woven through the fabric of our existence.

What is silence, though? Is there a written context in which it can be seen, touched, or heard? Hmm. Let’s think about this.

1. Silence is a pretty color.

Well, to those who have noisy children, loud neighbors, or inner-city noise, silence is like a precious metal. It is a rare stillness in some lives.

I live in a small town. The loudest noise I hear is the occasional young man trying to impress the neighborhood with his choice of music or the garbage truck making a ruckus twice a week.

Here’s a written example:

After the police officers left, the golden sound of silence descended and Mary sat back with a sigh.

2. Silence is hard of hearing.

An unnatural quiet in awkward situations can make everyone uncomfortable.

In some realities, silence really is deafening. In my case, silence is louder than noise because of tinnitus. In the absence of background noise, a gazillion crickets chirp constantly in my head.

Another written example:

When her late husband’s mistress walked into the funeral home, the silence was deafening.

3. Baby silence is gonna pop.

The expectant pause is that slight break in conversation when you don’t really know what to say and need a few seconds to recoup. It’s the equivalent to the Twix need-a-moment commercials.

He didn’t know what to say and after a pregnant pause, he mumbled a reciprocal and insincere “I love you, too.”


Since written silence cannot be seen or heard, writers have to identify it some other way. But, this brings up an interesting point: can you hear silence? I believe you can, just like you can see air move or at least the result of air moving. What, however, is the result of silence?

Visual and audio silences are easy to recognize. All of us remember the heavy lack of sound from a parent when we were younger and in a lot of trouble. It was like a wet wool blanket smothering us with the absence of a parental unit’s voice.

The written silence, however, has to be prepped. Descriptive terms have to be used and we have to go beyond “everyone stopped talking.” On television, this awkward silence can be seen. In a book, however, if a reader comes across a blank section, paragraph, or even page of silence, they might assume it was a printing error.

I’m always looking for ways to express the absence of sound in written form. Sometimes a description of the quiet void needs more than the usual clichés. Sometimes, silence sounds louder than a rock concert. Depending on your written point of view, translating that moment of stillness can be a challenge.

She finished typing the article. A fog of silence rolled through the room. Her hand was poised over the send button, but she shivered as the empty quiet pressed heavily against her. The hush of a thousand voiceless echoes enveloped her. She was trapped in a cage of auditory absence. She opened her mouth to scream, but the sound was lost in the silent vacuum.

Eh, it’s a start.

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch


Filed under life, writing

2 responses to “The Quiet Zone

  1. Is there really such a thing as silence? It seems that silence is the sort of void that noise rushes in to fill. The silence of the countryside is filled with chirps and twitters of insects, and that sort of silence can seem deafening to a city person used to traffic noises. If there is silence in a house, you can hear the refrigerator chugging, or the walls creaking, or the small noises you make as one shifts in your chair. And then, of course, there is the sound of blood rushing in your ears in the absence of other sounds.

    I like “hush of a thousand voiceless echoes.” Now that’s silence!

  2. “In a book, however, if a reader comes across a blank section, paragraph, or even page of silence, they might assume it was a printing error.” That reminds me of when you get documents and there will be a page that reads, “This page was intentionally left blank,” and I wonder why include it? Maybe it is to give you pause, to let your mind calm after reading pages filled with complex, perhaps legal or medical terms and descriptions.

    I think some people think they are experiencing silence when they are expecting words or other sounds that aren’t there. At times, I love and crave the kind of silence when I am alone, where no one is talking, or making other sounds. There may be the hum of the computer, or the faint noises of the refrigerator running, or the furnace kicking on, but those are in the background and my mind doesn’t always register them.

    Perhaps that’s what silence is to me–a mindset, a place where I don’t hear ordinary sounds. But to write about that, to describe that, is a challenge!

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