Friday, May 6, 2011

Writing Subtext

What Lies Beneath
By Dr. Linda Seger

Book Review
By Ann Baldwin

Dr. Linda Seger is a pioneer in her field, one of Hollywood’s top script consultants, and highly respected internationally for her expertise in script analysis. She’s written twelve books, nine on screenwriting. She has given seminars around the world and to many companies and professional organizations including ABC, CBS, NBC, Disney, Writers Guild of America, Directors Guild of America, American Film Institute, Sundance Institute and the Motion Picture and Television Academies. She’s been the recipient of numerous awards and her client list is long and very distinguished from Ray Bradbury to TriStar Pictures including many Academy and Emmy Award winners. In her newest book, Writing Subtext What Lies Beneath (Michael Wiese Productions June 2011), she takes you on an exploration into the mysterious world of subtext, unmasks this ever so elusive entity, and teaches you how and where to detect, observe, and create your own subtext within a script.

Subtext in a story is the most challenging concept to grasp and explain; yet, it’s a key element in every great script and writing subtext is a necessary skill for all screenwriters. It’s about learning to not only read between the lines, but write between the lines as well. Linda states “In great drama, there are the words themselves and the truth beneath the words”; just like the real world, where people don’t always say what they mean. Linda shows you all the areas to find the hidden subtext like dialog, gestures, action, images, metaphor, and genre. Her examples include over 150 films from the 1930’s to 2010, while incorporating every genre from horror to comedy to last year’s sci-fi Oscar winner, Avatar. She includes simple exercises and questions for discussion at the end of each chapter to help you explore on your own.

Subtext within a story is like the ingredients in a layered, birthday cake; on the outside of the cake, it’s decorated with frosting and the words “Happy Birthday” written on top and on the inside, you have secret ingredients mixed with care to create the perfect recipe. Writing Subtext is highly recommended for all writers who want to write with sophistication and nuance.

Writing subtext into your script is like playing a game of charades; once you learn how, you’re able to easily convey your message to your audience and with more creativity.

To learn more about Dr. Linda Seger you can visit her website at and purchase a copy of Writing Subtext at Michael Wiese Productions, Amazon, The Writers Store, or Barnes & Noble.

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