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The subtext iceberg

Those of you who have heard me speak or read my previous books will know I really like subtext. There are others who have written in depth about it, most recently a great blog from Industrial Scrips that I think you should staple to your forehead, metaphorically of course:


This makes it almost pointless me blogging about subtext but I would like to suggest that if writers think about icebergs, and a superficial script tells a story with 1/8th above the waterline, then think about the 7/8ths below the waterline.


If you can find ways of taking your readers (of the script) and audiences watching the film or TV drama deeper than 1/8th, you are in fact giving them much more information. And more information means a more profound experience.


Superficiality is the enemy of good writing: the first thing on the tip of your tongue is usually a cliche. Someone once said ‘Surprise me with the believable’. So don’t write what is obvious, but make sure that it is believable.


Subtext can also be imparted in dialogue, in many ways, for example: can you change the dialogue below by changing the intonation (another form of imbuing subtext, though this time it is the actor who does it): “I was wrong; you were right; I should apologise?”


It could be meant literally. It could also be spoken to mean “I was right and you were wrong and I should not apologise, you should.”


Subtext. Embrace it and your writing will improve.

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