Home > Acting and Performance, Advertising and Marketing, Johnstone - Status Transactions, Social Psychology > How to Write Subtext (via The Revolution is Within)

How to Write Subtext (via The Revolution is Within)

Now that I’m finally done with the Cialdini posts, I’m free to do what bloggers are supposed to do: re-blog other people’s stuff. You know, in the hopes that their cool insights will somehow make me cool by association.

I wanted to do a post on the concept of Meta-communication, because it’s a very important concept in interpersonal dynamics and in acting. So, an hour of blog-surfing later, I had to change by strategy because I could not find a single blog author who wrote with passable quality about this topic. And ironically, it’s a communications topic!

Meta-communication is to real life what subtext is to the actor. It’s the real meaning of a communication, when you take into account tone, body language and underlying assumptions.

If someone says to you, “You’re really awesome at that!”, and you only paid attention to the text, you’d be 100% sure you were receiving a compliment. But very rarely in life are text and subtext fully aligned. I’ve seen statistics that suggest that we receive only 7% of meaning from the literal definition of communicated text. The rest of the meaning we get from the meta-communication (subtext).

So if I took the above piece of dialog, and changed the underlying assumptions (called re-framing) so that the person receiving the compliment just got shot down by a girl he was trying to pick up, what does that do to the dialog? What does that do to the status dynamic?

These distinctions mean everything to writers, directors, and especially actors. As I mentioned in my post on the biggest actor-mistake in the universe, 99 out of every hundred actors gives lame on-the-nose readings (subtext and text perfectly match up). Those who understand this concept on a deep level have a huge advantage in the world!

Here’s the best blog entry I could find on subtext. It uses examples from the script for As Good As It Gets to illustrate insightful points.

How to Write Subtext The Mystery of Subtext. by Hal Croasmun For most people, subtext is the most elusive of all the writing skills. You ask a writer about subtext and you’ll get a vague answer that will leave you confused. Why? Because many of the best writers of subtext operate primarily from intuition. So they don’t have a conscious structure they can teach. But there is a structure to subtext and it can be learned. The quality of your dialogue can be dramatically … Read More

via The Revolution is Within

I tried to find posts on meta-communication, but they’re all written by therapists who are overly impressed with their own jargon. If I hear any more about “conflict spirals” or “interactive communication transfers,” my eyes will roll into the back of my head.

For the next few days, try paying conscious attention to meta-communication and subtext. What are commercials really saying? What are members of the opposite sex really telling you? What are certain artists trying to say? What are news media and politicians implying? See if you can “see the Matrix.”

Make any discoveries? Please share them by leaving a comment.

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