Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cora's Picks: Writing Subtext by Linda Seger

Writing Subtext: What Lies
Beneath, by Dr. Linda Seger
Writing Subtext: What Lies Beneath by Dr. Linda Seger is my latest "must read" pick for writers. A little backstory on why I picked up this particular book...I recently attended a workshop by the lovely Jodi Henley, and she made a suggestion that it might benefit me to work on subtext and layering. I thought: ah-ha!

The thing is, I didn't have a clue about subtext and had to look it up. I read a few brief articles that I uncovered in a Google search, then hopped over to Amazon, where I chose between two or three available books on the subject. There aren't very many. I picked up  Dr. Seger's book, because it had a recommendation blurb by Syd Field, whose book Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting is on my keeper shelf.

Writing Subtext is far from light reading. The book is only about 150 pages long, but don't let that fool you.

The chapters are fairly long, and broken into subheadings. However, the way the material is presented, the subheadings kind of run into one another. This makes the book, for its size, seem very meaty, and it's a lot to grasp in such a short page count. So if you prefer an Idiot's Guide or Dummy's Book presentation style, Writing Subtext is more compressed. It may be difficult for some readers to get through this book. When I first picked up Writing Subtext, it was a head dive into a complex subject. I wasn't entirely prepared.

Once I started reading it, I had to go back and reread parts of the book to truly grasp the subject matter. I'm sure I'll have to re-reference this book in the future, so it will be going on my keeper shelf.

As for the actual content of the book, it's worth the price and your time as a writer if you wish to learn to add those little "beneath the surface" nuances to your fiction. Dr. Seger teaches you how to explore and write deeper meaning into your character's dialogue and gestures. There are a lot of very good subtext examples from popular movies scattered throughout the book, also. This makes the books a little easier to digest.

A lot of material is covered in a short span, including subtext in dialogue, metaphors, and subtext for creating a strong visual image. There is also an interesting section that mentions a character's gut feelings and reactions that I think would be a valuable read for any writer, in any genre.

Overall, Writing Subtext is one of those craft books all writers should pick up at some point if for nothing else but to investigate the way they're putting their dialogue together. I will say that this book is what I'd consider to be geared toward an intermediate level writer. Beginners may find this book hard to read and apply. I wouldn't have been ready for this book six years ago. Nevertheless, the book is exactly what it presents itself to be - a thorough examination of writing subtext.

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