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Writing Workshop: "The Help" Extras | Lady Myers' Wordsmithing

Writing Workshop: “The Help” Extras

You can read about the basis for this series here.

A few extra thoughts

“I always thought insanity would be a dark, bitter feeling, but it is drenching and delicious if you really roll around in it.” Ch. 27, Skeeter

I adore this sentence, both for it’s phrasing and use of language and for it’s description of a complex state. I find the descent into insanity passes through the bitter dark of depression to the delicious freedom of surrender. It is a loss of attachment to people and outcomes. It is a loss of inhibitions, of trying to conform. It is choosing who you are and what feels right, no matter what people may think of you.

This kind of insanity is different than the certifiable mental illness that constitutes a break with reality. This kind of insanity is a break through to reality, the reality of being completely honest with yourself and others. For Skeeter, this means wearing a too-short skirt, publishing a controversial book, letting go of the “right” friendships to forge “forbidden” ones. It all comes with danger, which is perhaps the insane part, but for people like Skeeter the true danger would be in not risking everything for authenticity.

The peace that comes with this kind of insanity feels more expansive and thus a bit wild and scary; I hope that for Skeeter it is exactly what she’ll need as she builds a writing career in New York City.


As someone trained in acting, subtext has always been fascinating for me. It is where all the nuance comes from, the conflict, the stakes that make a play worth watching (or a book worth reading). It is not what a character says and does but how and why they act that is important. The over-arching objective of “The Help” is to get the book written and published, but why each character supports that objective is very different.

Larry’s Four Subtexts

Part One: As the setup unfolds, the subtext is “this is just how things are.  And it sucks.”

Part Two: The setup continues. The subtext is found in each character’s thoughts about the possibility of the book and their roles in it.

Part Three: The book is happening, and potential consequences fully emerge. The subtext centers on each character’s “why,” on what makes the risk worth taking.

Part Four: The Second Plot POint reveals the secret Minny has about Miss Hilly, and Miss Hilly’s reaction to that. Larry doesn’t spell out the subtext, but I think it’s about power. Miss Hilly is desperate to hold onto power and Minny manages to find her own. The shift towards equality starts to look possible.

In the book, we see the subtext as we rotate between the main characters’ narration. We get to be in their heads and see their point of view. As an actor, I know much can be communicated through facial expression and physical action, as well as vocal tone. I look forward to seeing how the movie works with subtext, as there will only be one narrator. I hope to have a review for you next week.

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What’s one (or more) of your favorite quotes from the book?

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1 Comment

  1. I could easily see you playing Skeeter! Aunt Ruth saw it and liked it a lot.


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