More Layers to This Cake, Part III ~ Adding Subtext

by Ane Mulligan @AneMulligan

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.

Subtext or undertone is any content of a creative work that isn’t announced explicitly by the characters or the author, but becomes something understood by the reader as the story unfolds. 

Well, what do you know. I did that in Chapel Springs Revival. Claire is a fairly new Christian. I don’t say that directly but her knowledge and understanding show it. They’re in the subtext, shown through action instead of dialogue.

Any unspoken thoughts, motives, and emotions of characters—what they really think and believe—can play out in action or reaction to something and be subtext.

Subtext can also be used to imply controversial subjects without alienating the reader, often through use of metaphor or humor.

Subtext serves to add complexity to 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.

In historical novels, authors often use social customs, details, and/or dialogue as subtext to impart information about the period and culture.

So there you have it. A quick definition of subtext, in which I don’t think I used any. Now that you know the definition, have you used subtext in your work? Purposely or by accident? I know any I used was there because I like to show instead of tell. But if you had me sit down to an exercise of writing subtext, I’d sit there scratching my head. For me, it’s only when I’m deep into my story world those things seem to happen. Go figure.

So share with me examples of subtext you’ve either used or read. And if it’s used, did you discover it later or purposely insert it? I need to learn this stuff.


More Layers to This Cake, Part III ~ Adding Subtext by Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

The filling between the layers.~ Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

Something understood by the reader as the story unfolds.~ Ane Mulligan (Click to Tweet)

Ane Mulligan
writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She’s a novelist,
a humor columnist, and playwright. She believes
chocolate and coffee are two of the four major food groups and resides in Sugar
Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a dog of Biblical proportion. You can
find Ane at or her Amazon author page.

Critiques or Consequences, Part II ~ When Is a Novel Like a Layer Cake?

by +AneMulligan @AneMulligan

When you add layers, of course!

To draw your readers into your story, you want to create an experience for
them. But that experience is filtered through your POV character. You know that
already? Good.

But are you layering the senses into your fiction so the reader hears, sees,
smells, tastes, and feels it? It’s actually a matter of “showing vs.
telling” gone wild.

If you’re telling them what the character is experiencing, it’s like this:

I can say: “Joan heard a siren in the distance.”

Showing them is like this: A siren wailed in the distance.

Then you take it one step more: A silence wailed in the distance. Joan glanced
in her rearview mirror. The blue flashing lights of an emergency vehicle drew
closer. Her heartbeat accelerated as slowed her car and pulled over.

In the second one, you experience it with her. We’ve all heard a siren. I don’t
know about you, but the first thing I do is check my rearview mirror. I don’t
want to get in their way.

So avoid the word “heard” which immediately makes it telling. The
same with “saw”. I could have said: Joan glanced in her rearview
morrow and saw a flashing blue light.

But by showing you what she saw through her eyes makes for a better read. And
readers can relate to it better than saying she saw.

Another one that is often forgotten is the sense of smell. I love to
incorporate that one into my writing. If your character is taking a walk
through the woods, you want your reader to smell the pines. If it’s after a
rain shower, the forest floor is damp and the scent of leaf mold rises as the
character walks the path.

When Claire enters Dee’s ‘n’ Doughs in any of my Chapel Springs series books,
you join her as the aroma of vanilla, yeast, and sugar waft around her. From
Chapel Springs Revival, the introduction to the bakery went like this:

Claire paused on the threshold for a moment, closed her eyes, and let the
heavenly aroma of yeast, vanilla and almonds entice her. That indulgence alone
would probably add another inch to her waistline.

Most everyone has stepped inside a bakery and smelled what I just described.
Aromas trigger memories and that makes your fiction relatable.


Critique or Consequences, part 2~When is a layer
cake like novel #writing? (Click to tweet)

Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea.
She’s a novelist, a humor columnist, and playwright. She believes chocolate and
coffee are two of the four major food groups and resides in Sugar Hill, GA,
with her artist husband and a dog of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane at or her 

Amazon author page.

Before You Write. . . You Must Choose a Lens

by Cynthia L Simmons

Before you began to write, you must choose which point of view, POV, you will use. That seems like an easy decision yet it’s crucial to the outcome of your work. Point of view tells who speaks to the reader, who is holding the camera. Each perspective has its strengths and weaknesses.
First person uses the pronouns ‘I, me, mine’ for singular and ‘we, us’ for plural. If you want your audience to connect emotionally, this is your best option. Joshua employed this POV when he wrote, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Remember in order to use this POV, you’ll share only what you know rather than the thoughts of others.
The pronoun employed in second person is ‘you’, which is both singular and plural. This POV doesn’t work well for story telling because it tends to have an authoritarian tone. Think about the Ten Commandments: “You shall not murder”.  Recipes use this POV because the author tells what to do: mix the eggs and butter well. You’ll also see it in letters, greeting cards, and poetry and song lyrics: “You are my sunshine…”
Third person uses the pronouns ‘he, she, it, they, we, and us’.  This POV offers many possibilities, but let’s start with omniscient. The narrator in Omniscient POV knows the thoughts and actions of everyone in the room. This POV has drawbacks. First, your audience doesn’t connect to the emotions as quickly. Second, readers can be confused as the narrator jumps in and out of character’s inner thoughts. Writers like Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers used omniscient POV. Here’s an excerpt from The Body in the Library by Christie. “In her sleep, Mrs. Bantry frowned. Something disturbing was penetrating through the dream state.” If one is sleeping, they aren’t conscious of their own thoughts, so the narrator reveals information Mrs. Bantry wouldn’t be aware of until later.
Another form of third person is limited POV, and many authors prefer this one. The POV character can only reveal what he sees and knows. Think about the story of Moses. He found an Egyptian beating a fellow Israelite. After looking around to make sure no one saw him, he killed the Egyptian and hid the body. Later, however, when he stopped two Israelites from fighting, they knew both knew about the Egyptian. Moses had limited knowledge. He thought no one saw, but he was wrong.
Deep POV is another type of third person, and many Christian writers put this POV into action for their novels. This POV can be tricky. The author must sink into the POV character revealing thoughts and emotions. Readers tend to enjoy this POV because they feel dropped into the story even sensing emotions the POV character experiences. To utilize this POV, apply third person pronouns while writing as if you are in first person. Avoid words like ‘saw’ and ‘felt’ so you can describe gut reactions. DiAnn Mills wrote deep POV in this sample from her novel, Breach of Trust: “Paige’s pulse raced into high gear as her foot pressed the accelerator. If the guy thought he’d succeed in making her nervous, he’d better think again. She changed lanes again while watching him in the mirror.” Notice Paige assumed what her pursuer intended, but she didn’t know. You see her heart beat faster in response to what she believed.
In summary, authors have several POVs to choose from. Those who want to write novels can choose first person, third person omniscient, limited, or deep POV. For instructional material, letters or poetry, authors will get the best results from second person. Perfecting your POV polishes your work and makes your readers want more.


Before You Write. . . You Must Choose a Lens by Cynthia L. Simmons (Click to Tweet)

Cynthia L Simmons and her husband, Ray, have five children and reside in Atlanta. She has taught for over thirty years as a homeschool mother and Bible teacher. She’s a columnist for Leading Hearts Magazine and she directs Atlanta Christian Writing Conference. Cyndi has a heart for encouraging women in today’s crazy, upside-down world. She loves history and peppers her speaking and teaching with fascinating vignettes from the past. Her first book, Struggles and Triumphs, was nominated for 2008 Georgia Author of the Year. She co-founded Homeschool Answers and hosts Heart of the Matter Radio. Visit her at
Book Blurb:
With his father dead and his business partner incapacitated, Peter Chandler inherits the leadership of a bank in economic crisis. With only a newly minted college degree and little experience, Peter joins his partner’s daughter, Mary Beth Roper, in a struggle to keep C&R Bank afloat while the Civil War rages around Chattanooga. Political pressure for unsecured loans of gold to the government stirs up trouble as tempers and prices rise. Their problems multiply when Mary Beth discovers counterfeit money with Peter’s forged signature. Can they find the forger before the bank fails? The two friends must pursue gold on behalf of their business, as they learn to pursue their heavenly Father to find hope and peace.

Critiques or Consequences

by Ane Mulligan

+AneMulligan  @AneMulligan

I just taught a class at the ACFW conference called Critiques or Consequences. Yes, I borrowed from an old TV show, but I think it’s worth looking at, because if
we don’t receive critiques, our work may suffer the consequences.

I was a founding member of
a crit group called Penwrights. We were a dozen unpublished and un-agented writers. We all worked hard
and got published. Some have become bestsellers. Gina Holmes posted a photo on Facebook of our early days. It was at an ACFW conference where a few of our Penwrights received awards in the Genesis contest.

One common misconception
about critique groups is they strip away your individual style and voice. That can be circumvented, if you know how. We were all fairly new writers when we started out as critique partners. First of all, most of us didn’t even have a voice … yet. Or if we did, we didn’t know it. 
We built trust in one another because we were all serious about getting published. And we all felt we owed God our best, not leftovers. We applied what we learned in writing craft books, went to conferences and took the workshops, and took online classes. We studied under people like Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck of My Book Therapy, taking advantage of their knowledge and mentoring.
Soon … okay, not that first year but within a couple of years, we were winning awards and contracts. Some of us, me in particular, took longer. We have to factor God’s timing into our writing journey. 
Our large group of Penwrights grew to about 20 members. We began to form small critique groups within our larger one. So, how can YOU become a great critique partner?
  • Be honest. 
  • Critique the work, not the author.
  • Give kudos where due, so they know what they’re doing right.
  • Tell your CP what needs changing, but don’t change it for them. 
  • Offer examples if your CP is struggling with a concept like showing vs telling.
I’ll post some more on this in the future and write a bit on the basics for you newer writers. Leave a comment on what area you struggle with and I’ll be sure to address it.

Ane Mulligan
writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She’s a novelist, a humor columnist, and playwright. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a
dog of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane at her website, Amazon Author page, Novel Rocket, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+.