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I dig jazz and single-malt scotch.  I write plays; I direct them too. I love STAR WARS more than is healthy. I walk my dogs every day, unless it's raining or terribly cold.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

SUBTEXT and BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE - 2 Books on writing


I am in the midst of reading two really great books on writing, both by Charles Baxter.

The Art of SUBTEXT is a great fast read on the subject of what is understood when not said, how to identify it, and how to employ it in your writing. I have been reading a lot of new plays for a theater recently, and I have to say that most of the ones that end up in the rejection pile are there because of too much on-the-nose theme pointing and exposition. The unsaid and unstated are much stronger than the obvious or explained. This book develops an understanding and a vocabulary to observe subtext.

From the introduction of SUBTEXT:
In fiction, the half-visible and the unspoken -- all those subtextual matters -- are evoked when the action and the dialogue of the scene angle downward, when by their multiplicity they imply as as they show. A slippery surface causes you to skid into the subtext.  To take the reader into that critical twilight zone, that landscape haunted by the unseen, I have sought to illustrate the way the subtext -- the unspoken soul-matter -- is evoked in a story [...]

The second book is Burning Down the House - a collection of essays primarily from the 1980's, with a newer edition that contains a new preface by the author and two additional essays.  Chapters include Dysfunctional Narratives, or "Mistakes Were Made", On Defamiliarization, Against Epiphanies,Talking Forks: Fiction and the Inner Life of Objects, Maps and Legends of Hell: Notes on Melodrama, plus others.

From the chapter On Defamiliarization:
The assumption that some writers work from, that any valuable truth may essentially be dramatic, is clearly and unhappily mistaken. What I would argue is that the truth that writers are after may be dramatic only if it has been forgotten first: if the story, in other words, pulls something contradictory and concealed out of is hiding place.

This book came to my attention thru a blog that had been circulating on Facebook that references some of the observations on these essays --  Burning Down A House by Polly Carl


I thought I would share this info here. Check out the blog by Polly Carl, and perhaps you will be as intrigued as I was to find out more.

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