Writing Subtext: What Lies Beneath – A Book Review

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a few of my favorite writing books. Since then, I’ve read another – Writing Subtext: What Lies Beneath, by Dr. Linda Seger. I’m pulling together a list of my favorite books for screenwriting, but this one fits in both the writing and screenwriting categories, so I’ll deal with it separately. Thanks to this book I now know what it is I enjoy so much in Mel Brooks’ films like Blazing Saddles and the James Bond films, it’s the subtext. In other words, saying one thing and meaning another. But Writing Subtext goes beyond just the words, but discusses sounds, like the tolling of a bell and gestures, body language, and creating metaphors. The best part about this book is that the author uses examples from popular films to exemplify her points.

This is a great read for writers, screenwriters and actors. As I read it, I found myself thinking, “Oh yeah, I know that,” but I’d never implemented the use of subtext and now I will. A lot of writing books tell you exactly how something should be written, Dr. Seger shows how it’s done and then encourages writers to try it – kind of like a mother bird showing the babies how to fly and then gently nudging them out of the nest. This baby bird isn’t soaring yet, but it’s just a matter of practice. If you’re looking to bring your work up a notch, this is an excellent source.

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