7 July 2012, Development - Rules of Writing, Character Symbols
Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with http://www.pilotlion.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-novel-part-3-girl-and-demon.html.
I'm using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I'll keep you informed along the way.
Here are my rules of writing:
1. Don't confuse your readers.
2. Entertain your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don't show (or tell) everything.
All language is symbols. Therefore it shouldn't surprise you that your writing should include higher level symbols. What are higher level symbols? I mentioned before the cross as a symbol. The cross is a higher level symbol--a symbol that doesn't depend on language. Symbols can be ready made or author made symbols. Some symbols are a mix.
Language is symbols, therefore great authors are also great manipulators of symbols. Symbol manipulation is the work of a writer. When you develop characters, you are developing a type of symbol. The symbol you are developing is a human being formulated by words. The power of that character is enveloped by the power of the symbols and words that create her or him.
If I write about a character wearing a clerical tab and collar, I already have begun to use symbols to develop that character. If I write that the character speaks with an Oxford accent and wears a smoking jacket, the symbols continue to stack up one after the other. If I write that he takes a long pull on a cheap cigarette and pours an impoverished dram of inexpensive whiskey, you know even more. Each of these descriptions are themselves symbols. I haven't given any of them a modified or their own meaning. They have their own meaning that requires no other explanation.
The clerical collar and tab tells you the man is a priest of some liturgical Christian order--your main choices are Lutheran, Catholic, or Anglican. When I write that he speaks with an Oxford accent and wears a smoking jacket, you know he is likely Anglican and British and that he attended or is attending Oxford. The cheap cigarette and whiskey indicate some degree of poverty or cheapness. The long pull shows addiction and points to potentially other bad habits. I haven't begun to do anything other than provide some very simple descriptions and already the character is beginning to form in your mind's eye. What happens when we modify these symbols?
There is much more to writing without confusing your readers. I'll write about that tomorrow.
I'll repeat my published novel websites so you can see more examples: http://www.ldalford.com/, and the individual novel websites: http://www.aegyptnovel.com/, http://www.centurionnovel.com/, http://www.thesecondmission.com/, http://www.theendofhonor.com/, http://www.thefoxshonor.com/, and http://www.aseasonofhonor.com/.