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Great Stories have depth and evoke emotion in the reader. One way of adding depth and emotional connection is by creating setting and subtext in your writing. Mary Buckham, on Writers Digest, has a brilliant article on how to achieve this.
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Creating Setting and Subtext in Your Fiction
The following is a guest post by Writer’s Digest author Mary Buckham, author of A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting: How to Enhance Your Fiction with More Descriptive, Dynamic Settings. She is also the author of the USA Today bestselling Invisible Recruits series, which has been touted for its unique voice, high action, and rich emotion. Mary lives in Washington State with her husband and, when not crafting a new novel of her own, she travels the country researching settings and teaching other writers.
Subtext is not what we say in our story but how we say it. It’s the secondary messages we give our readers. The ones we want them to understand without telling them directly. Subtext adds depth and complexity. It builds an experience that remains in the readers’ awareness.
Subtext is the underlying message. Dialogue or action may tell you that all appears to be fine, but the reader understands from previous events that the subtext is saying something else. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger says, “I’ll be back,” indicating he’ll be returning; the subtext: it’s a threat.
As readers, we most often see subtext used in dialogue, when a character says one thing but their body language or internal dialogue is giving a different message. This adds conflict and increases tension on the page, raises questions, and compels the reader to keep turning pages.
Many writers don’t realize the power of subtext in setting. It’s an underutilized tool that can add enormously to the reader’s experience of a story.
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