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Subtext in Fiction Writing

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Michael Hampton

on 8 March 2013

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Transcript of Subtext in Fiction Writing

everything that matters, and is unseen Subtext in Fiction Writing What is sub-text What to do when crafting subtext Wrong turns in subtext In short, subtext (ideas or constructs beneath the text) in the underlying, and often unspoken, narrative thread which colors both characters in a story and the story itself.

Subtext adds richness to a work, provides an understandable context and motivation for the storyline, and prevents the story from remaining solely a telling of surface events such as what was said or done. Revising for subtext If you do realize a story is flat and one-directional (i.e. only the story of something being done), it can be wise to revise for subtext.

When doing this go back to the start and imagine your characters lives outside the story in detail. Then go back to the story and see what elements of those other wants and fears would impact them in the moment. In doing this, make sure that the instances you share are organic to the characters and world, and compliment/impact the main storyline

A Hint and an undercurrent What subtext does 1. Know your characters (their pasts, their desires, their world views, etc.). Without knowing your characters beyond the present moment it is easy for them to become simply cut-outs with desires.
2. Know the world of your story. This includes the unique qualities of the location, and the context in terms of history, politics, and societal views.
3. Consider what else is going on in the lives of your characters beyond their present wants. What other obstacles do they face that are unaddressed? When crafting subtext there are some things to avoid:

First, subtext might be hinted at, but must never step fully formed into the light.

Secondly, subtext most often will come before a completed drafts when you are forming the story in your mind, making decisions, and letting the characters walk in the world. You have to be careful when adding it to a finished work. 1. Allows readers to understand the context of the story and the characters' motivation in what they do and say.
2. Creates a world in which the actions in the present are seen as the result of, or are influenced by, events unseen either in the past or present.
3. Rewards the readers' inferences, and creates a world worth investigation and interpretation. Subtext is what you, as the author knows, but what the reader is only left to imagine. In most cases the narrative will reveal glimpses of the subtext, but without expressly stating it. Think of subtext as an outboard motor. The reader can see the boat move, the wake and the engine, but the mechanism which propels it through the water never breaks the surface.
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