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The Playwrights Forum > General > Take the Stage > SUBTEXT and BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE

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SUBTEXT and BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Sun Mar 4th, 2012 09:51 pm
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katoagogo
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Mana: 
I am moving this from the other forum wall where I had originally posted it. I think I put it on a poor board for it's content. To make more interesting for anyone that has already read this post - I have included two quotes from the books mentioned.

______________________________________________

I am in the midst of reading two really great books on writing, both by Charles Baxter.

The Art of SUBTEXT is a great fast read on the subject of what is understood when not said, how to identify it, and how to employ it in your writing. The unsaid and unstated are much stronger than the obvious or explained. This book develops an understanding and a vocabulary to observe subtext.

From the introduction of SUBTEXT:

" In fiction, the half-visible and the unspoken -- all those subtextual matters -- are evoked when the action and the dialogue of he scene angle downward, when by their multiplicity they imply as as they show. A slippery surface causes you to skid into the subtext. To take the reader into that critical twilight zone, that landscape haunted by the unseen, I have sought to illustrate the way the subtext -- the unspoken soul-matter -- is evoked in a story..."

The second book is Burning Down the House - a collection of essays primarily from the 1980's, with a newer edition that contains a new preface by the author and two additional essays. Chapters include Dysfunctional Narratives, or "Mistakes Were Made", On Defamiliarization, Against Epiphanies,Talking Forks: Fiction and the Inner Life of Objects, Maps and Legends of Hell: Notes on Melodrama, plus others.

From On Defamiliarization:

"The assumption that some writers work from, that any valuable truth may essentially be dramatic, is clearly and unhappily mistaken. What I would argue is that the truth that writers are after may be dramatic only if it has been forgotten first: if the story, in other words, pulls something contradictory and concealed out of is hiding place."

This book came to my attention thru a blog that had been circulating on Facebook that references some of the observations on these essays --
Burning Down A House by Polly Carl
http://www.howlround.com/burning-down-a-house-by-polly-carl/

I thought I would share this info here. Check out the blog by Polly Carl, and perhaps you will be as intrigued as I was to find out more.

--kato

Last edited on Sun Mar 4th, 2012 10:07 pm by katoagogo

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 Posted: Sat Mar 2nd, 2013 12:33 am
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katoagogo
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Mana: 
I've been doing a lot of reading for a literary department lately, and about 3 out every 5 playwrights mishandles exposition - as in the characters say exactly what is going on and what they are experiencing.

In other words, there is a serious lack of SUBTEXT. I cannot encourage writers enough to begin an investigation into subtext.

Whether or not you are fan of David Mamet's work - he has this to say about characters talking:

"Characters do not speak to reveal themselves, but rather to conceal themselves."

The little book on SUBTEXT by Charles Baxter will set you back less than $10 - and will make a big difference in your writing. It's worth the investment.

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