Subtext is more than just a layer. It’s more like the filling between the layers. And it’s not the easiest of concepts to understand. By definition, it’s an underlying and often distinct theme in a piece of writing. It can be woven throughout the story, or the theme can merely decorate the work.
I’d rather have it woven through, but how the heck do you do that without beating the reader over the head?
I searched some more, because, frankly, I didn’t know. Here’s what I’ve found.
explicitly by the characters or the author, but becomes something understood by
the reader as the story unfolds.
say that directly but her knowledge and understanding show it. They’re in the
subtext, shown through action instead of dialogue.
and emotions of characters—what they really
think and believe—can play out in action or reaction to something and be subtext.
controversial subjects without alienating the reader, often through use of metaphor or humor.
a premise that on the surface may appeal to younger viewers, but also attract
older fans, as is often the case with cartoons, science fiction and fantasy. It
can serve to aid in suspension of disbelief.
use social customs, details, and/or dialogue as subtext to impart information
about the period and culture.