Today I spent a part of the day keeping clarity with the exposition in mind. The importance of clarity really slapped me across the face today while editing. I do like it when the beginning of the story gives a good punch, but audiences get sour about the punch if they don’t have enough information as to why they were hit so hard (by the way, I don’t know why I’m using violence as a metaphor…maybe I just like it when stories make me feel something).
It reminds me of a time I tried to show a friend of mine an anime series that I thought was cool and she couldn’t get into it even with all of its action and mysterious characters because she said there was no one to care about. I was bitter at first thinking she just couldn’t keep track, but after discussing with it further, her points were based around the pacing of the first episode. Granted, with anime it’s a little different (we otaku have the rule of at least giving a show 2-3 episodes before you completely drop it), but if the pilot of a weekly anime series is airing, the writers and producers should be considerate of what will catch their audiences and keep them itching for more. That’s an important attribute of the exposition; there should be a character, an event, or some detail that makes you wonder about the bigger picture and persuade you to stay for the whole story.
I was almost 5 minutes late to work today because I kept reading and rereading varied posts on Tumblr about diversity in our entertainment. I read these kinds of articles on other sites as well since it’s become a huge and, unfortunately, controversial topic thanks to all the Disney remakes. Almost every discussion regarding ethnic diversity in entertainment is argumentative and full of aggravation. There’s a heat behind many people expressing their hatred for racism, misrepresentation, and the like in their arguments, hoping to demonize and ridicule their opposers who may be implying their tolerance for racism in entertainment in the slightest. You’d think I caught this from the arguments as they are, but actually, it was the subtext and the subtext revealed much more than I just described.
Identifying subtext is reading between the lines, basically. We find subtext in tone and diction more than anything. In fiction, it’s most apparent in dialogue or first-person narration. In non-fiction, it’s most apparent in works that are more emotional and argumentative than works that rely heavily on logic and information. The more subtext is identified, the more transparent a written piece becomes. Let’s start with fiction.
Subtext in Fiction
I’m bringing back the wonderful Tim Hickson, aka Hello Future Me on YouTube, who is just spectacular and someone I think every writer should subscribe to. This is one of his most recent videos where he discusses how pacing works in a variety of genres and how you can figure out what style of pacing works best for your story. He brings up many wonderful points, but my favorite ones were his points on subtext. As I stated before, subtext brings transparency. In fiction that transparency is applied to the characters and the setting revealing what’s going on in internal and external realities. Tim points out that the audience is always “investigating the text for extra meaning”. Why? Because that’s the audience’s way of deciding whether or not a character or event is worth caring about. Our readers care about our story when there’s a good hook in the inciting incident leading to the big climax. The subtext needs to orbit those two plot elements to keep the readers engaged.
So fiction writers must understand that subtext isn’t just what keeps our audience turning the pages, but also shows how considerate the author is of their audience. All of us writers want our audience to care about our story so we do what we can to show we kept them in mind. That’s also why subtext has such great influence over pacing; depending on the elements of the plot, the genre, and the subtext, the flow of the story will evolve for the sake of the audience. With that being said, subtext is important in non-fiction too as it truly reveals how much the author cares about their audience.
Subtext in Non-Fiction
I’m not going to share the Tumblr post I was engaged in, but let me tell you what all of us Tumblr users see in the subtext probably 99.999999% of the arguments on that site: frustration and competitiveness. When you write anything that is argumentative, academic or otherwise, the way you come off to your audience should always be top priority because those are the people you’re trying to persuade. A solid argument will often follow these steps:
Main Argument and Evidence
Opposing Arguments and Evidence
Writer’s Personal Stance
When frustration and competitiveness is interwoven in this general guideline for an argument, the author immediately loses credibility. It’s not because of the passion and fire in the writing (since pathos or “emotional content” is often expected) , but it’s because of the lack of consideration for the audience. Tumblr and other internet writers love to lead their argument with an insult or belittlement to the opposing party. Imagine starting one of your essays for an English professor with “All right, you pretentious twat, you better f**king pay attention and don’t you dare assume there’s gonna be anything “wiki” ahead because I’m a goddamn scholar.” This doesn’t translate into “I know what I’m talking about,”; it’s more like “This is what I think of you and I’ve decided due to previous interactions with you, I dislike you and don’t really care about your perspective; my writing is next to divine so why do you think you matter?” You may think I’m over-exaggerating, but I’ve lost count of how many “I’m studying [insert academic field here], so I know what I’m talking about.” There’s nothing wrong with addressing your experience, but the subtext is what alerts your audience to lose interest in your work. Transparency and personality are apparent in subtext and it make or break your writing.
The writer of a memoir, a travel essay, a stream of consciousness piece, and even an academic journal article have to be conscious of their subtext; otherwise, they could sabotage their chances of ever being heard. What is the memoir of a manipulative liar? What is the travel essay of someone who just went across the street? What is a stream of consciousness piece of someone who refuses to open up? What is an academic journal article by scholars who introduce themselves as the best of the best and didn’t need a peer review? What is an argument laced with insults? Not worth reading. Not worth taking seriously. A joke. Why? Because if the subtext is stating “I’ll never be considerate of your opinion,” your audience will reflect by neglecting your work. That’s why I’m sad to say that I was almost late to work just to realize that some people who present arguments about ethnic diversity in entertainment have a tendency to shift their argumentative stance from being advocates of diversity to being advocates for their insecurities. They come off as writers, academics, debaters, and analysts who don’t want change; they want to win and feel better about themselves.
This is important to point out because winning an argument or persuading your audience isn’t supposed to be like a boxing match where you beat your opposers to the ground and for the hell of it you pull out a knife and slash them to pieces just to make it crystal clear that you’re the superior fighter. Argumentative writing is an opportunity to be objective, considerate, transparent, and ultimately, heard. Our arguments may never be 100% foolproof and no amount of insults will make it that way, which is why we must remain objective and consider opposing views before we become vulnerable and express our genuine stance on the topic. We try to present our best. Insults and belittling at its finest really means this in subtext: “I’m afraid of being vulnerable, so if I tear apart your character before I address it, I hope to appear as better than you without being vulnerable at all.” It’s Bullying 101. Even if you despise your opposer, you can address them and your disagreements with them without stooping to their level.
If there is no openness and objectivity to your writing, rarely will your audience be open and objective enough to give it a chance. Subtext will call you out, dude.
And let me address this loud and clear: I am not supporting any kind of kindness or tolerance towards racist parties who disapprove of ethnic diversity in entertainment and otherwise. I stand for dignity and enlightenment over ignorance. Don’t let them pull you down to their level. Ever.
The Subtext in This Blog Post
Because why not?
The discussions about diversity in entertainment are obscure to me
I don’t think people know how to properly argue or present their point, but wish they did because there are great minds out there
I don’t approve of degradation of others or the self
I don’t approve of unfairness or inconsideration
Life is full of unfairness and inconsideration and it bothers me
I can’t stop or control the injustice in the world, but think I can do my part with expressive blog posts
My stance in this post has elements of subjectivity even though I promote objectivity
I believe learning from your opposition has more value than completely disregarding them (because I’m a trickster-loving pagan lol)
All the traveling we did yesterday exhausted me, but I was able to write a chapter summary by hand. Writing summaries help so much. It helps trigger my imagination to see the details more clearly and type them down. Love it.
Additionally, I absolutely LOVE IT when you listen to a song and it reminds you of certain characters. I am definitely going to make playlists for them on Spotify.
Making good writing progress today though. I’ll update on word count soon. 🙂 I finally broke 100k 😁
Here’s my novel summary that I’m probably going to have on my book cover soon.
Initiation – The Spirit Strings Series Genre: Dark Science Fantasy
Magic is regulated under a strict, theocratic movement with global rule on the planet Terrana. The Terrans, paralleling humans in appearance, were created to observe Earth and learn from human civilization to fulfill a 3000-year-old prophecy that will restore Earth from its dystopian, magic-deprived state. Most Terrans are obedient to their theistic government, but Violet LaCroix has arcane power refusing to be oppressed. She’s hidden her multifaceted magic since she was a child. The day she decides to let her power flow changes her life completely, starting with a criminal charge for performing necromancy. To save herself from merciless persecution from the government’s elite organization that hunts disobedient mages, she’s forced to join a resourceful cult that promises her refuge in exchange for her joining their coup de t’at. Violet goes from model graduating student ready for college to joining a cult of rogue mages eager to liberate Terrana from magical oppression and hoping she’ll bring the power needed to end a war between mages, deities, and unknown forces lasting for millennia.
Words Written (yesterday): about 1000-1300? I lost track while traveling… Current Word Total: about 98500 words.
British, Scottish, and Irish accents
Better development of LGBT+ relationships
Cool names for islands
I have about six chapters left in my story, plus an epilogue and a prologue. It’s quite the challenge and I’m excited to take it on. I’m hoping that even though I’m traveling a lot I’ll be able to complete this. The pressure of a deadline is actually helping me more than crippling me. I’m thinking more critically about plot. I’m reaching the climax/transformative revelation of my protagonist, but there’s still so much rising action that’s needed. I’m trying to weigh what is and isn’t necessary. It’s easier said than done. When you’re trying to build up suspense, you don’t want to lose momentum unless slowing down the momentum makes it agonizing in a satisfying kind of way, like, as Donna Tartt wonderfully put it, people having a casual conversation somewhere and there’s a bomb under the table they’re sitting at. When’s it going to go off? You’ll have to wait. Although I do like that style, the suspenseful elements in my novel are fueled by momentum. There’s always something going on in with the protagonist in the span of a week because of one choice she made. I want the stress to be focused on her and how she’ll be able to sustain everything going around her. We’ll see how it goes.
Also, I ended up writing two LGBT relationships that are so…complicated?! Ugh! I’m kind of upset with myself for doing that. It’s just not fair representation. I need to display simplistic and successful LGBT relationships. I was thinking way too hard about them. Gonna fix that.
Lastly, accents. I gave one of my characters a type of accent that’s a mix of Brit, Scot, and Irish. It’s VERY fun to write his dialogue.
Words Written: 1057 words Current Word Total: 96,202 words
Underground caverns and geysers
Writing Space battles in scifi (with a little Star Trek on the side)
To be honest, the Star Trek research didn’t answer the questions I had, but it’s fine. The battle that I wrote today didn’t take place in space anyway. So, no worries. I’m not ripping off Star Trek. That’s a huge geek no-no. The part of the scene I wrote today showed some great character development for a side character and I’m proud of them. You did good, kid.
My writing time was cut a bit short because there’s some packing to do. I’ll be in touch. 🙂
My writing music for the day (which I may have already shared this channel, but whatever)
Words Written Today: 2726 words Total Word Count: 95,059 words
No research. Just writing today.
Research I probably should do:
How to make a language for your fantasy world
Additional Work: More plot organization, cause we’re wrapping this first one up pretty soon. ❤
I am definitely rethinking the ending for this first novel. In my notebooks, I had an ending that’s a bit too obscure. Like I said in my previous post when I was critiquing the Game of Thrones show, endings are hard, but the last thing you want to do is make it look like you’re saying “Sorry guys, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing! Lol bye!”. You also don’t want to do the opposite. You don’t want the ending to be so ambiguous that your audience is not only dissatisfied, but also not even wondering, let alone caring, about the story’s next installment. I want my ending to punch my readers in the gut and I want them to ask me to punch them again.
So, I’ll be thinking with punches in mind.
Here’s some of the music I listened to while writing today.
Today was a fabulous research day! Today’s research topics helped me flesh out the history of two characters who, for lack of a better term, gave me major feels while writing them. Now that I’ve worked through their lives a bit more, I can continue writing their about their pain 🙂