Revision and Subtext in Writing

Story LogicIn my writing class, we have finished studying Wired for Story. We have gone on to Catherine Brady’s Story Logic and the Craft of Fiction. Revision is always a topic in class and as I read Brady’s Chapter 4, p.68, I appreciated her statement:

“Revision is not engine repair; it’s not possible to lift out the carburetor, repair it, and simply return it in order to make the whole engine run properly. A work of fiction functions more like an ecosystem, in which the interaction between living organisms means that the effects of a small specific change might be amplified throughout the whole network.”

She ends that chapter on p. 69 with: “in the kinesthetic play of ordering and reordering events and scenes and sentences, the trick lies in keeping a loose hold on intention while staying alert for any opportunities that arise. By lucky accident and persistence, playfulness can arrive at the right arrangement to make silence speak.”

Brady’s reference to making silence speak is about several points one of which is subtext, a topic I’ve used in my handouts for the class these last couple months. Subtext has been called the underlying story or the untold story or knowledge gaps. A story with subtext has two stories, the literal and the figurative. It’s the figurative story the reader senses from the gaps, the silence. Brady says on p. 23, that “The real story…has never happened on the page, and yet the structure of the story enables the writer to articulate what is never directly stated.”

Brady quotes Hemingway on p. 52: “If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”

Story Logic and the Craft of Fiction by Catherine Brady has important information for writers on every page, in every sentence. Catherine Brady


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5 responses to “Revision and Subtext in Writing

  1. ladywinfred

    Another valuable lesson — thanks, Teach!


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