For Writers: Subtext. Part 2

I’m sure there are better examples of subtext out of there, but to bring it close to home I’ve included a narrative selection from my book that was really dry until I used subtext to heighten the tension. I know, it could still use more work… but well, it can always use more work.
To review, subtext is the hidden undercurrents in a scene.
For me, subtext happens in the details.  

Aria slid her hand into Tavin’s, and led him into the darkness
beyond the doorway. Once they left the cell, the roots wound shut
behind them, encasing them in a small damp room of earth and tree
bark. Eerie green light seeped from the roots and lit the space around
them. If there’d been a window or a torch, Tavin would have never
noticed the light, but in the near darkness, it was just enough to trace
the outlines of Aria’s pale round face.
With a hand lovingly trailing across Mya’s roots, Aria walked
forward, bringing Tavin with her. The room reformed as they
moved, opening the path before them and closing after they passed.
The packed earth beneath their feet remained thoughtfully smooth
and level.
They travelled in silence. The dim light and warmth of the
chamber never changed, and it lulled Tavin into a dreamlike state.
It was hard to guess the passage of time. When Aria finally stopped
walking, she had to call Tavin’s name several times to get his attention.
Mya parted her roots at eyelevel to form a narrow peephole
into the world beyond. Tavin’s nose twitched as the scent of cool
air and damp grass flowed into the chamber, accompanied by gray
moonlight. Aria pressed her cheek to the peephole. It seemed like an
eternity had passed before she drew back.
Here is the subtext I attempted to write into the narrative you just read: 
Mya is a magical tree that has strong “mothering” aspects. To echo this thought, I built the room that my characters pass through to resemble a womb.

Mya is also overbearing. I hope you felt, as Tavin did, rather stifled.

Aria, on the other hand, finds Mya a comforting and familiar presence.

Tavin is in love with Aria.

I hope that makes sense.



About cjgosling

I paint, I sing, I walk in the rain. I'm clumsy and I love the smell of campfire. My head is full of imaginary things and the only thing I ever really want to do in life is write. My first book "Shadowlands: The Guardian" was released in Feb. 2011. The sequel is coming in 2012! View all posts by cjgosling

One response to “For Writers: Subtext. Part 2

  • Rusty B.

    Quite subtle. When you tell me the subtext, I see that it is there but before you tell me I don't. The reason is that I have a different set of experiences than you when I enter reading the excerpt. So I reach different conclusions. For example, I doubt most guys, especially young ones would be thinking of the womb analogy. More likely, the thinking would run along the lines of "are the roots a threat?" and more focused on the being trapped/suffocated theme. The breath of fresh air really points me down the suffocation pathway. To me, what it needs is a tell: a single word or perhaps two that point my interpretation down the correct path rather than letting me chose the path based on my own experience. Of course, this just may be my lack of subtlety getting in the way. I tend to beat the readers over the head with the subtext explicitly. If you look over at my blog at the experiential posting, you'll see what it looks like coming from the opposite end of the spectrum.

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