For Writers: Subtext

So rather than blabbering to myself all the time, I thought I would blog a bit about some of the mechanics of writing… or at least my take on it. By all means! Please feel free to comment and enrich this blog!

I’d like to start with subtext, mainly because it is the one thing that made my manuscript come alive. Subtext refers to the currents of emotion that swirl just under the surface of a section of writing. The characters in the scene are generally unaware of it and it’s a marvellous way of adding tension – especially when there’s nothing really exciting actually happening. I love using subtext in dialogue. It really makes characters come alive! I read somewhere that the less you have going on in a scene, the more subtext you need.

The most obvious example of subtext is sexual tension.
Others might be: ambition, repulsion, attraction, secrets, frailty, manipulation, misjudgement… the list is as long as the range of human emotion I suppose.

When I outline a scene I make a list of my character’s (often competing) emotions and desires. Once that’s done, the tension ratchets up and the scene sort of writes itself.

So. How do you express subtext in your writing? (Or what would you do if you were me and you wanted to write 4000 words today?) 🙂


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

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