By: Jami Gold
I’ve written many times about how much I love subtext, the stuff that happens between the lines. We often hear that subtext is what’s not said, but that can imply that subtext is limited to dialogue.
In fact, subtext lurks in many aspects of our stories. The messages readers get from our writing aren’t always explicitly stated—in dialogue or otherwise.
We can find implied messages in different story elements, such as:
- Genre: Unspoken promises tell readers what they’ll find inside.
- Theme: Sets up subconscious expectations in readers.
- Plot, actions, and characters: Create subtle impressions in readers.
Each of those elements can “say” something—with implied promises, expectations, or impressions—without coming out and stating the idea directly for readers.
The Benefits of Subtext
When readers put story pieces together in their minds to create a fuller understanding, they immerse themselves deeper into the story. If a story is too “on the nose” or is spoon-fed to us, it can feel insulting, like the author assumed we couldn’t figure it out on our own.
Subtext can also make our characters feel more realistic. As September C.Fawkes says in her fantastic post on subtext:
“Whether or not we want to admit it, whether or not we are even conscious of it, we all have things we don’t want others to know about us. All of our characters do too. Using subtext makes our characters and story feel more well-rounded and realistic.”
According to September, subtext also can add tension in our story:
“When we communicate our feelings directly, we lose tension. It’s what’s not being said that creates tension. It creates anticipation and apprehension, keeps us interested because of what’s boiling under the surface.”
But another benefit to using subtext is that it helps us build layered characters. Let’s take a closer look…
Layers and Subtext: The Key Idea
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If you missed my latest writing and marketing tweets, here they are again:
- Dear Abby: How do targeting and bids work? | Pinterest for Business http://ow.ly/4n3RoK
- Subtext: Creating Layered Characters | Jami Gold, Paranormal Author http://ow.ly/4n3Rt5
- How to Save Money and Do Online Book Publicity Yourself | Jane Friedman http://ow.ly/4n3RSk
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- What Amazon and Libraries Have in Store for 2016 - BookWorks http://ow.ly/4n4iZj
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- Handling The Pressure Of Being An Indie Author – Holly Evans http://ow.ly/4n4j84
- Write because you love writing::Ian Martyn http://ow.ly/4n4jeV
- Stories & Thoughts (Should you read self-published books?) http://ow.ly/4n4jiE
- To Swear Or Not To Swear - That Is The Fecking Question | Robin Storey http://ow.ly/4n4jo3
- Open eBooks for Children: Future Opportunity for Indie Authors - BookWorks http://ow.ly/4n4jsj
- Awesome Indies founder Tahlia Newland on challenges and opportunities for indie authors | Sandra Hutchison http://ow.ly/4n4jBD
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