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Author Topic: _The Art of Subtext_
extrinsic
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First installment of a writers and poets' "Art of . . . " series published by Graywolf Press, Charles Baxter, The Art of Subtext, 2007, is next on my must-read wish list. Introduction and TOC sampled online, that one of fifteen or so of the series intrigues me, and one by Maud Casey of "It's a Wooden Leg First" essay infamy about Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People," The Art of Mystery.

An essay from The Writer's Chronicle, May/Summer 2018, titled "On Bad Behavior," Amber Caron, cites and references the subtext text and sent moi on the prospect. Caron deftly infers the several threads through which subtext informs and portrays inferable narrative unity and dramatic movement undercurrents and what topic or subject a narrative is actually, truly about from declared-skewed, implied, and intimated content, expression mannerism, and personal-social reader relevance.

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walexander
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I'm tempted to read Baxter's on Kindle, I like having hard copies but I'm not sure. Amazon will give me three for 26.00; subtext, time, and description. I could use thrift books, I have a backlog of 5.00 certificates if I spend over 15.00. So if they have them I could prob. get as many as they have out. But I think I will just start with Baxter's to see if they are worth it.

I like subtext. I have a few tricks I was going to list here but decided I will wait for a later post.

I'm currently reading, On Writing Horror. There's a great suggestion in the book to sit down and type out your favorite scenes to follow the paths the author took in their construction/imagination during the creation process. The advice says it's one thing to read the scene, it's another to walk in its footsteps of creation and live in the writer's mind during it.

It's been enlightening. Not as in to copy another writer's style, but to understand the structure of suspense.

W.

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extrinsic
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The Caron essay examines Rebecca Evanhoe's short-short story "Snake," Harper's Magazine, November 2011, in the contexts of subtext and personal shame -- a two page story, about five hundred words, first person, Evanhoe's usual grammatical person. Probably could be labeled flash fiction, though, to me, too refined for flash's true written-in-a-flash nature.

Caron notes that bad behavior is a cover-up response for shame and how people can be their own worst self-guardians for it. "Snake" portrays an agonist ashamed of the self's status, acts unpredictably and irresponsibly, therefore, and ends on the true and full shame of the agonist self-realized. Powerful and complete dramatic movement flows through three threads: the overt action, the covert subtext, and a third space substance that reconciles the congruent opposites of the other two threads -- satire.

Looking at Amazon for two or three from "The Art of" series myself. Sampled the series through Amazon's "Look Inside" feature. At fifteen plus installments, some of the series leans toward dilution and several comprise topics that lay outside my current interests.

The On Writing Horror and suspense arts exercise is a time-honored tradition from ancient ages furthered as the progymnasmata's Imitation exercise. Either imitate the "voice" or the subject of a fable, re-imagine the other, and recast indirect discourse narrator mode to direct discourse scene mode.

Also, L. Rust Hills, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular shows how segment sequences carry suspense forward, his: preparation, suspension, and resolution, in small and large dramatic units. Mine: setup, delay, and satisfaction, partial then complete.

"Snake" doesn't fit Hills' description, no resolution outcome, though fits the labels I substituted, especially satisfaction through realization of the self's true nature, as inconvenient a truth as it is. Exquisite.

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walexander
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There was another fascinating piece in, On writing horror, which talked about the lengthening and shortening of sentences to control the reader's breathing during certain types of scenes. How to rocket the reading pace or make them hold their breath. It was worth the read, easily transferable to any genre.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Having published a newsletter for science fiction and fantasy writers for many years, and having had to type what they submitted for publication (this started before you could email your submissions), I learned very quickly that retyping something someone has written gives you a very clear understanding of their technique, their style, their word choices, and all kinds of other aspects of writing.

I agree with On Writing Horror, that if you really want to see what a writer is doing in a story or scene, type it out.

And then, if you like, you can print it out and make notes all over the typescript.

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extrinsic
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John Gardner, The Art of Fiction, also discusses sentence length, and other diction and syntax mechanics, and reader impact, plus, prose rhythm and meter aesthetics, and why and how rhyme can alienate prose readers.

Having retyped copious amounts of print submissions for publication, and proofread and copyedited numerous texts, and optical-character-recognition digitized print texts, I've noted the peculiar and intense influences and observations slowed reading fosters.

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