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Monday, March 12, 2007

Dialogue—subtexting

Sometimes called “off the nose” dialogue, subtexting is a character saying what he wants to say without actually saying it.

It’s when characters talk about one thing, but they’re really talking about something beneath the surface—sometimes fencing with their words, or avoiding the subject while yet hitting it dead on.

One of the most recent and more memorable instances of subtexting was a scene from near the end of the movie Serenity. (Don’t worry, I’ll try not to spoil anything, but if you haven’t seen Firefly and Serenity, go rent it now! Great instances of characterization and innovative dialogue.)

Mal is talking to his first mate Zoe, and the actual dialogue is discussing the ship and how she’s taken a few knocks, but she’ll run true. In actuality, they’re discussing the hard knocks the crew has gone through in the movie, but that they’ll still fly true.

Subtexting adds depth to your dialogue. Is there a scene where the characters are just explaining things to each other? Or maybe just a long passage of exposition?

Why not transform it into subtexting? Be creative! Be clever! Make your reader think a little!

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