This is part two to Monday’s post on writing subtext. On Monday, we talked about how power and power imbalances affect subtext. Today, I’m over at Jami Gold’s blog talking about how relationships affect subtext.
Here’s a sneak peak at that post (or just click over there now):
Subtext is the silent conversation that happens while another topic is being discussed. Subtext can use euphemisms and other diversionary tactics to have a private or intimate conversation in public–when we need this to mean that. Take the example below of a mother speaking with her teenage son the morning after he’s missed his curfew:
Mom: Came in pretty late last night.
Mom: You promised it wouldn’t happen again.
Son: I know.
Without internal dialogue and some beats, we don’t really know what the subtext of this conversation is. Did the son miss curfew because he pulled an all-nighter at the library studying, and mom is really just concerned for his health? Is the son frequently abusive and this conversation is more of a power struggle — a what are you gonna do about it conversation? Either way, adding layers of meaning for readers behind the dialogue adds some rich texture, conflict, authenticity, and understanding to the story.
What about the two criminals who have a conversation about a topic that’s mutually understood?
Bad Guy #1: You do it?
Bad Guy #2: Yeah.
Bad Guy #1: Any problems?
Bad Guy #2: Nothin’ I couldn’t handle.
Did they just kill someone or take out the trash? Without the subtext, or an understanding of their shared knowledge, there’s no way for an outsider to interpret what they’re really talking about (the outsider in this case could be the cleaning lady, or the law enforcement listening through a wire tap).
Visit Jami’s blog and check out that post. Leave a comment – I’ll be hanging out there for a few days.
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