Layering Conversations

I’ve got a question. I know, I know, another one, you say! I promise I will post on something more interesting next time.

I read something on Seekerville today and wondered what in the world it meant. The post was about the RWA conference, which was very interesting, but I had a question about something novelist Brenda Novak suggested.

Layer conversations with subtext to add richness.

Okay, so what does that mean? What does that look like? Anybody know? Can anyone give me examples?

17 responses to “Layering Conversations”

  1. That hurts my brain. Writing is complicated enough! I've found when I focus too much on all of this advice we have thrown at us constantly, I end up with major writer's block.


  2. go to katie's blog brain throw up and search for “subtexting.” she did a post about it recently that was really good…based on brandilyn collins book Getting Into Character. she even had a little exercise in her comment section where she challenged authors to write, “how are you doing today?” and make it “rich with subtext.” check it out. šŸ™‚


  3. Hi Sherrinda! It makes me so happy to see people asking questions — for a long time, I just moved past without stopping to think, and I regret it.

    This is a fabulous question. As a general note, seeing that Jeannie directed you to a good source, adding subtext means making the conversation about one thing while it is, in fact, about another.

    For an example, check out a snippet of my WiP that I posted a few days ago — I think it does the job fairly well (though definitely not perfectly). It's the first draft:

    Good luck! šŸ™‚


  4. A great visual of subtexting is the arch rival gossips who meet and do the 'air kiss-kiss–sooooo glad to meet you, darling, it's been ages' dance when you know they absolutely loathe each other and can't wait for the other to leave so they can talk about them. Imagine what's going on in their heads while they play nice for the audience.


  5. Sherrinda,

    I see that Jessica hasn't stopped by yet, but she has a great way of explaining subtext, one I remembered seeing on her blog. I searched and found the link to her informative post on that very subject, complete with examples, and here 'tis:


  6. LOL Here I was going to say that I don't think I get subtexting very well because someone just recommended that I try it, and then I read Keli's comment. šŸ™‚
    Thank you Keli!
    I don't know if my post will be helpful, but think of subtexting as the stuff that isn't said, but you know someone means. šŸ™‚ I would recommend googling it. You'll find all sorts of great articles.


  7. One way of subtexting is to have the characters say something that really means something else, or is double sworded sort of speak. Internal thoughts can help reveal this.

    Also having your character delve for information through dialogue in a crafty way would be another form of subtexting. The best example I read of this was a guy wanting to ask a girl to the prom. Instead of him asking her outright, he pretended to play a game of turret cards with the cards telling that he was seen taking a beauty, obviously described just like her, on his arm. Of course this is done all through dialogue with the girl smirking and helping him along.

    Using subtext really livens a scene and reveals characterization so well without telling. It's usually a lot wordy than straight talk, but so worth it if you pick the right places to use it.


  8. Me too, Stephanie! I get to nervous about the rules and all that I've learned, I tend to freeze up!

    Jeannie, thanks Jeannie! That was a great post! Perfect!

    Weronika, I ALWAYS have questions…just not many answers! And your excerpt said it well, btw! I don't think I have ANY subtexting in my WIP…at least not intentional!lol

    Okay, Erica, that was a great example for me! I totally understand that! Thanks!

    Keli!! Thank you! You are the second person to refer me to Jessica! And you are right…she explained it GREAT! šŸ™‚

    Hey Jessica…the subtext expert! šŸ™‚ Loved your post on subtexting and since I had seen that movie, it made it totally visual for me. Great example!


  9. I enjoyed reading everyone's comments today about subtexting. I don't think I've intentionally set out to do it, but sometimes when our characters are being especially sarcastic or in tense moments, it happens.


  10. To me subtexting means that there are layers to your characters – that your reader knows them well enough to know that they mean more than what they're saying. Most dialogue should be subtexted in my opinion. I aim for it in my books, and it adds a lot of richness I couldn't get otherwise. Sorry if that doesn't help much. I could do a whole post on this. šŸ˜€


  11. Hey girl…Brandilyn Collins is the queen on explaining subtexting. šŸ™‚ Glad my post was helpful. šŸ™‚


  12. Hi Sherrinda –

    I have Brandilynn's book, but haven't gotten to the part about subtexting. Great comments, everyone. šŸ™‚



  13. Jody, I'm sure you probably have the subtexting down instinctively! šŸ™‚

    Lady Glam, you SHOULD do a post about it! I be you would have alot to offer on the subject!

    Katie, your post was EXCELLENT! I am putting Brandilyn Collin's book on my list of “must have's”!

    Susan, you should post about what you learn from the book. From what I hear, it is a great book to learn about it!


  14. So, when a customer that is a “high maintenance” person comes into my store and I say, “Oh hi, Deepergoo1” like i am really happy to see them, I'm subtexting?


  15. Looks like you've got the just of it. I didn't know what it was until a couple months ago myself. And didn't know I used it until I started writing and I decided… yeah, I do.

    One like from my hero's POV says…

    No. “Sure.”

    Very simple subtext:-)


  16. Hi Sherrinda, sorry no advice on the subtexting thingo. I did however nominate you for a blog award. Swig past my blog to pick it up if you like šŸ™‚


  17. LOL, yes Jeanette, that is definitely subtexting! šŸ™‚ You crack me up!

    Krista! Don't you love it when you learn something new and realize you alread do it instinctively???? The best feeling in the world!

    Tabitha! Thank you so much for the blog award! I am honored and now will have something to blog about tomorrow!!!!


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