Screenwriting : Today's Wish and Creative Tip by Laurie Ashbourne

Laurie Ashbourne

Today's Wish and Creative Tip

Subtext. Subtext is not just witty dialogue – it is representative of the way humans communicate. While part of subtext is up to the actor’s delivery of tone, body language and innuendo, if a writer sets the stage properly subtext becomes evident in the words spoken. One way is to set scenes of contrasting imagery: a beautiful wedding with the groom sweating or looking at his watch – or the bridesmaid. The more we get to know the characters the more we can read between the lines. Does your character in denial change the subject or walk away when they don’t want to confront the truth? Staging and what details of the room, characters notice (clocks, pictures, an open window) or making eye contact with people in the room, also lend to their true feelings or the meaning behind the words they choose. Think of the game children play where they cross fingers behind their back when speaking something other than the truth – every time little Billy does this when Mom asks if he washed his hands or did his chores, he tells her one thing when the truth is another – he does this so much that he becomes quite adept at reading her face to know how much he can get away with. Subtext is lying… Sometimes the lies and little and white sometimes massive… Putting on the happy mask when you’d rather chew glass than be in the company of the person you’re smiling at. Swallowing that meal because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Telling someone it’s not you, it’s me. Subtext is politics, charm and showmanship. Subtext is depression or addiction which your characters are in denial about. Suppressed feelings strain conversation but sooner or later they must come to a head. Revealing the truth to the characters, or making them face it – isn’t supposed to be comfortable, but it is rarely something that the audience isn’t already aware of, feed your audience these clues. Subtext is being a lemming until you get to the edge of the cliff and face the fact that you need to think for yourself. Subtext is also hearing what you want to hear rather than facing what is actually being said. May all of your conversations today be true and meaningful.

Laurie Ashbourne

There's nothing quite like Sorkin dialogue. It's like being with caffeinated 10 year old for hours at a time.

Dan MaxXx

Laurie is the best! I would buy her book or webinar :)

Joe Palumbo

Great post, Laurie. Below is a outline for using subtext from Hal Croasmun.... Hope you all find it useful in your writing..... Skill Mastery Sheet SUBTEXT SECRETS By Hal Croasmun THE PURPOSE OF SUBTEXT There are two main purposes of subtext: A. To have the audience take an internal journey with the movie. To have the audience internalize the experience of the characters. B. To deliver deeper levels of meaning for dialogue, actions, character, scene, and plot. ----------------------------------- BASIC STRUCTURE Our basic structure for subtext is: A) Surface action/text B) with underlying meaning, C) and a point where the subtext is revealed. ----------------------------------- FIVE BASIC SUBTEXT-ORIENTED PLOTS 1. Scheme and Investigation 2. Superior Position 3. Layering 4. Someone hides who they are 5. The fish out of water. ----------------------------------- CREATING CHARACTERS WITH SUBTEXT Subtext Happens When a Character Is: - Hiding something - Afraid to say - Lying - Luring/seducing - Being polite - Plotting Give Them Covert Character Traits Have one or more character traits that naturally cause subtext. - Vengeful - Deceitful - Victim - Manipulative - Secretive - etc. Give Them a Covert Identity You also could give them an identity that the person adopts for some reason, either work related or for fun or to cope with an internal or external issue. Some identities that could generate subtext: - The spy - The victim (withholding, covertly getting revenge) - The criminal - The con - The seducer - The suspicious - The competitor - The lawyer/advocate - The manipulator - The alcoholic/drug user Create a "Character Subtext Logline" Once you've gone through the three steps above, it is easy to create a character subtext logline. Simply fill in these blanks: Name is a subtext identity who subtext activity. ------------------------------ MORE SUBTEXT CHARACTER TRAITS 1. Hiding Something - Concealing - Secretive - Clandestine - Invisible - Covering up - In denial - Conspiring - Undercover - Disguising - Covert - Scheming - Devious - Evasive - Cloaking - Obscure 2. Afraid To Say - Shy - Scared - Intimidated - Withholding - Secretive - Concealing - Evasive - Nervous - Panicked - Paranoid 3. Lying - Deceitful - Secretive - Tricky - Weaselly - Suspicious - In denial - Devious - Concealing - Sneaky - Undercover - Scheming - Slippery - Crafty - Treacherous - Evasive - Immoral - Conniving - Unethical - Underhanded 4. Luring/Seducing - Manipulative - Secretive - Sensual - Seductive - Conspiring - Crafty - Concealing - Sly - Sneaky - Scheming - Devious - Immoral - Conniving - Unethical - Slippery - Shifty - Deceitful 5. Being Polite - Nice exterior - Political - Withholding - Diplomatic - Refined - Tactful - Discreet - Smooth - Politically correct - Self-Censoring - Modest 6. Plotting - Manipulative - Secretive - Underhanded - Tricky - Conspiring - Weaselly - Immoral - Sly - Sneaky - Undercover - Scheming - Devious - Concealing - Crafty - Treacherous - Deceitful - Conniving - Unethical - Underhanded - Evasive - Corrupt - Shady - Slippery - Shifty 7. UNAWARE .....Misinterprets.......Mislead............Innocent..............Ignorant .....Naive.................Optimist............Refuses to accept truth ----------------------------------- DESIGNING SCENES FOR SUBTEXT The Basic Questions Of Subtext 1. What is the meaning of the subtext? 2. What is the cover-up? 3. When will the meaning be revealed? Before, during, or after? 4. How will the meaning be revealed? Six Scene Designs For Subtext A. Misinterpretation B. Dramatic Irony C. Something is off D. No one wants to tell the person E. A plot against another person F. Competitive agendas

Laurie Ashbourne

Hal could use a little streamlining in his approach.

Rayna W.

This is great!

Jeff Lyons

Great post Laurie :)

Michael Hager

Hal is rather enthusiastic, I love how his two hour calls go on for 3 and a half... Thanks Laurie!

Laurie Ashbourne

I think that's part of his sales schtick, Michael. Hi Jeff!! (and Michael and all...)

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