Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Whoa, Subtext!

So, the Dear Husband and I were watching Disney's "Tarzan" last night - I admit it, I'm a Disney junkie and watch my favorites every so often even though I am (ahem) an adult. While the movie takes rather a large departure from the original book, I still find it a good story in itself.

Well, it got to the scene where Tarzan and Jane meet, and he does that whole bit where he takes her glove off and puts his palm against hers. I found myself pointing out to the DH, "You know, for a Disney cartoon, this is probably the steamiest scene they've ever done!" DH, of course, had no idea what I was talking about.

What I am referring to is subtext - the things your characters don't say or do. Subtext can pack a bigger wallop than your actual dialogue or action, if you do it right. Disney, in recent years, has become something of a master at it, which is the reason people of very disparate ages can watch the same film and still enjoy it. A five-year-old may not catch what happened in that glove scene (and your hubby might not, either), but boy, a grown woman does. Watch that scene again, and pay attention to body language - the most important tool in a writer's subtext arsenal. You'll see what I mean.

It isn't so much what a character says or does, but how that's the key to adding layers to your work. Those are the books that end up on a reader's keeper shelf - the ones that you can read, and read again, and find a new layer every time. Pay attention to your characters' body language, especially if you are writing a romance, and your scene features the hero and heroine. It's important, too, when your H/H are facing the villain. Subtext conveys reams of information about how your characters react to one another, particularly in times of crisis. So go on - layer in that subtext and shoot for the keeper shelf.

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