People often act pleasant and smile, when talking to another person, but what they are saying is really cutting and hurts the other person. Haven't you seen people feeling sad, yet they are smiling? Subtext can be used with people acting differently from what they're feeling. "Pretend your happy when you're blue," is a line from a song, which illustrates how most of us live.
In fact, this is how your characters should behave in your script. When you write subtext in your screenplay you may either involve both characters who know what's really going on, but neither is being honest. You could say they both are playing a role to avoid being hurt. A good example of this could be when you're writing about a romantic relationship which is about to end. "It isn't you, it's me," is a great line of subtext, when the one who's breaking up tries not to hurt the other.
You also may use subtext involving only just one character, while the other has no idea what's really going on. Let's say a man has just gotten fired from his job. He comes home to his wife and family but doesn't say a word about getting fired. However, he just begins yelling at his kids to put away their toys, Then he starts an argument with his wife about her being a terrible housekeeper. Finally, he kicks the dog.
This is an example of a character acting one way but feeling another. He's taking out his frustration at losing his job on his family and his dog. His wife and his children don't know what's really going on with him. He probably feels ashamed, low self-esteem and fear about how he's going to support his family. But he's the only one who knows the real reason he's behaving in such a mean way. He's the only one involved with the subtext of his actions and words, since nobody else is aware he was fired. Subtext is the undercurrent behind his actions and words. It is the emotional truth he's really feeling underneath his surface, ranging from fear, guilt and insecurity.
Most of us hide who we really are behind our masks, especially when it comes from our need to survive. We learn how to hide our real feelings when we are children. Our feelings go underground and we live in subtext just to get along in school, at home and with friends.
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