Sunday, September 30, 2012

Grad School Update #2: Subtext

As you have no doubt inferred by now, grad school is Kicking. My. Butt. Sorry I've been so absent lately (and am about to disappear again).

So far, I've had one major epiphany. It's about subtext.

One book we've read is Heaven, Texas, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. If you like romance novels and you don't require that they feel believable in the cold light of day (and, frankly, if that's a requirement, you're probably not a romance reader to begin with), I highly recommend it.

The major plot line is about a recently retired NFL quarterback who  falls in love with a homely woman. (No snarking. I TOLD you it was unbelievable.) There's a subplot, though, about the football player's widowed mother, Suzy, and Way Sawyer, the bad boy who attended her high school in Telarosa, Texas years before.

Way is now a successful businessman who just bought the factory that's the last major employer in Telarosa. There's a rumor that Way, who has a grudge against the town, is going to close the factory.

Suzy comes to him to ask that he reconsider. Way, who had a crush on her 30 years earlier, offers to do that if she'll act as his hostess. She somehow interprets that to mean he wants her to become his mistress. And, although he's an attractive man who could clearly get lots of women without coercion, he lets her think that. (Okay, you can snark at those two things if you want to. They're pretty dumb.)

Told you all that to tell you this.

There's a scene where they're about to have sex for the first time and he carries her into the bedroom, "as if she were a virgin going into her bridal bower." (She also pictures him as the devil, so it's not all good.)

I didn't pick up on this the first time I read it, but I did walk away with a clear understanding that they'd eventually fall in love.

As I was combing through the scene for a paper, I saw this phrase and realized it was WHY I knew they'd fall in love. The metaphor created this kind of subliminal message that even though Suzy consciously views the sex as coerced, subconsciously she recognizes that she's being cherished.

And I knew that if I'd written that scene, I would have had her think about Saxon maidens being carried off as a prize of war. And then, later, when I had them fall in love, my readers would have screamed bloody murder, demanding to know how they could wind up together when he raped her.

This may not seem like a big deal, but, as you may have noticed, I tend to be pretty direct in my communication style. Adding the ability to have some subtext in my writing is HUGE.


  1. I totally like your version better... :)

  2. Very intriguing! I don't think I have the subtext ability, but it's something to ponder.

  3. You go girl..carried is also a good word..dragged is not..:)

  4. The subliminal message! So, you're saying a scene with him bashing her over the head and dragging her to a cave would not do the trick?!! :P


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