>The Art of Subtext by Charles Baxter

>The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot
Charles Baxter
Graywolf, 2007

If you’re a writer, you’ll find this book useful. Even if you’ve read other essays by Charles Baxter on craft, where you may have seen similar discussions, you’ll appreciate having all of this thinking about subtext in one place. By subtext, Baxter seems to mean the conveying to a reader of information that is below the surface–not directly relevant to the plot–but that nonetheless deepens the reader’s understanding. Methods include staging (power relationships, especially, can be conveyed by how the characters are placed on the “stage,” but also other aspects of interaction will be shown by how the characters move vis a vis one another); desire (what the characters want and how they’re affected by getting it or not getting it); silence/not listening (what isn’t said is often as meaningful as what is); inflection (how something is said is as important as what’s said); making a scene (letting characters do what we ourselves are too inhibited to do); and reading the face (not ignoring facial expressions).

As I’m about to begin the “final” draft of my novel, these are tips I’ll be keeping in mind.

This book is part of Graywolf’s The Art Of Series — there are several other titles I’d like to see.

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