Subtext help!



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  • Subtext help!

    I'm just really stuck with a scene in my script where I am trying to entwine subtext and clever dialougue of intimidation. Basically, one guy is delivering some money to another but it's late. I'm really trying to create tension and intimidation but I'm having troubles.

    Any tips/techniques?

    Thanks heaps.
    All my life I've had one dream; to achieve my many goals.

  • #2
    Re: Subtext help!

    This is rather cliched and obvious, but you might consider variations --

    The intimidator picks up a photo of a child. "Pretty. She's yours?"

    Depending on the mood and the scene, that might be all it takes. Or it might need the more heavy-handed touch like, "So many dangers out there for little girls." With a malicious smile.
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    • #3
      Re: Subtext help!

      get to know your characters? how would they speak if they were real people?

      But subtext works like metaphor. First it has to function in isolation- the dialogue must make sense if we were to see the scene out of context. Then it has to work in context- what we know about past events that shapes our understanding of current scenes. The threatening subtext comes from what we know about the story.

      A good example that just jumped into my head is from Lethal Weapon 2. The first scene in the office. the floor is covered in plastic. The villian gives a minor chew out to an underling. Then he's shot in the head. Later on, same set up with the Right Hand man. We know it's dangerous, because it's the same set up.

      The scene works in isolation and it works in context of previous scenes.

      try that and see how it goes for you.


      • #4
        Re: Subtext help!

        To elaborate a little further on what Whistlelock said, make sure you set up what the audience needs to understand about the situation before the scene you are worried about takes place.

        If the audience already knows why it wasn't really your hero's fault that the money is late, and they feel for him and really hope it's going to work, but they're worried because they already know what the villain is capable of, then your work is mostly done. With the audience already grasping the situation and its emotional implications when they come into the scene, you can say what you need to say in subtle subtext because you know the audience already understands enough that they will get it.


        • #5
          Re: Subtext help!

          Hummm. My most favorite thing. Subtext is the deeper meaning. Life under the surface. Thoughts and feelings both known and unknown.

          LETHAL WEAPON (another example) Riggs, (Mel Gibson) tells the bad guy "Oh yea, I'm scared. Real fu**king scared." And we know he really means he's going to kill the bad guy. It's obvious. But it also allows us to be part of the movie. He said "I'm scared" and we thought "death threat."

          He said, we thought.


          • #6
            Re: Subtext help!

            I also like to think about "flipping it" in these cases. Instead of him threatening the hero for the late delivery, let the bad guy be overjoyed just to see him and have the money in hand.
            "This is insane, he has space dimentia" - a line from Armageddon


            • #7
              Re: Subtext help!

              I like that too. Or even a scene with misinterpretation? Where the guy thinks he's paying the bad guy, and it's actually an innocent mistaken person doing something normal? Then they have the double meaning exchange in conversation? And later you can weave it back to the real bad guy-- or maybe the plot actually goes in another direction from this... and that's where I always get lost. (wink)


              • #8
                Re: Subtext help!

                EXT. STEEL DOOR

                opens to JOE, with a pink jacket on, a long ponytail and a bigfat smile.

                JOE: pink... it's only been a day.

                MARTY: it has. one to many.

                A man steps behind Joe. joe walks forward into --

                THE ROOM

                filled with heads of animals, idian statues, and priceless vases.

                JOE: double the vig if i can stay clean.

                MARTY: debbie came bye --

                Marty picks a cowboy hat off the desk and fits it on his head.

                JOE: She's just crazy -- talks alot.

                MARTY: my eyes are everywhere - and my ears open

                he picks up a cane, walks over to Joe and stares him down.

                MARTY: It's never easy doing a friend. but necessary.

                JOE: below the knee.

                MARTY: Right or left.

                JOE: left.

                Marty wheels the cane and smashes him in the knee. joe crumples. the thug drags him out, the massive steel door shuts.

                WAITING ROOM

                the thug drags Joe out like a sack of potatoes past JERRY, who gulps as he strides to --

                STEEL DOOR

                It opens to Marty, in a blue jacket, and a big smile.

                MARTY: Blue is a better look on me don't you think?

                The man smiles handing him a thicket of bills.

                JERRY: blue's good.



                • #9
                  Re: Subtext help for vig!

                  Where's the subtext? Come to think of it, I've never seen it in any of your sample pages either. Maybe there's a book you can read, or something.

                  Derek's Web Page - stories, screenplays, novels, insanity.


                  • #10
                    Re: Innocent mistake

                    There was a scene where Detective Monk is late with the ransome money, and he rushes up to the roof of a building and throws the bag of money to a guy standing on the roof in front of him. The guy looks at all the money and his eyes go wide. He takes the money and runs. Meanwhile, the guy standing on the roof BEHIND Monk is watching incredulously with binoculars. "What the F... did he just do???"


                    • #11
                      Re: Subtext help!

                      you can not lead a mule to water. there is subtext galore in my example, and you not seeing it might be a sympton dp, i'm just saying.... and my pages are littered with subtext, from page one. why don't you go over to that other board and read a perfect 15 pages and send me a saw buck or two so i can forgive you.



                      • #12
                        Re: Subtext help!

                        A couple having breakfast. Husband asks wife if she wants him to fix her anything. "no! I'm still mad at you after that big fight we had last night!"

                        A couple having breakfast. Husband asks wife if she wants him to fix her anything. "I'm not hungry."

                        It's all about what ISN'T said. Meaning derived through context, not content.


                        • #13
                          Re: Subtext help!

                          A couple having breakfast. Husband asks wife if she wants him to fix her anything. "no! I'm still mad at you after that big fight we had last night!"

                          A couple having breakfast. Husband asks wife if she wants him to fix her anything. "I'm not hungry."

                          A couple having breakfast. Husband asks wife if she wants him to fix her anything. She lights his newspaper on fire and walks out of the room.

                          Sometimes subtext can be in action and setting of a scene. Maybe your guy is cutting up a side of beef when he gets his money. Or at the race track. Or in his garden... mix it up...


                          • #14
                            Re: Subtext help!

                            Hmmm... I guess you have to read between the lines.


                            • #15
                              Re: Subtext help!

                              Two people sit at dinner. One eyes the other seductively. One twirls
                              spaghetti with their tongue. The other asks: Do you like spaghetti?

                              You know what the other is getting at without saying. Subtext is what's not
                              spoken but implied.

                              A girl hooks up with a baseball player after a game. So he asks,
                              "Did you like the game today?" She of course will reply while looking straight at him, "I like baseball."

                              You know she hates it. But you as the audience, the reader, knows she likes

                              We all have implied things without saying what we really feel. Your character
                              should do the same.