21 July 2012, Development - Rules of Writing, Cultural 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.
I've been writing as though cultural and historical symbols can be separated. They really can't be. History and culture are innerwoven tightly and can't be easily separated. It is good for our study here to imagine otherwise because history and culture, although tied together, are the same concepts viewed from a different angle. For example, I wrote about how the history of the bathroom directly affects the novel, Aksinya. The history is the facilities, their use and introduction in time. The culture is how the society viewed and used them. The viewed and used significantly overlaps facilities, use, and introduction, but there is a slight difference. Even though a facility ( a bathroom or water closet) exists, there is no guarantee a person in the society will use that facility. History drives the existence of a capability. Culture drives the use of a capability.
For bathrooms and water closets, I didn't play the cultural angle the way I could have in Aksinya. I made the assumption that bathrooms were common in the strata of the culture and understood and used. This isn't true about science, religion, and sorcery.
Aksinya assumes sorcery exists--it does not assume society (or culture) accepts it as true. Within the sphere that is the novel, Aksinya, the characters act and react in a world that is historically and culturally accurate for the times. The people believe in science, religion, and sorcery. This is not to say that everyone believes in these things, but rather that they are culturally, socially, and class dependent. The modern world isn't so different. The point is that in Aksinya the protagonist must contend with varying degrees of misunderstanding, knowledge, and belief throughout. For example, although Aksinya is being tried for sorcery, it is evident that the prosecutor and the church don't really believe in the sorcery she is being prosecuted for. Likewise, the civil government doesn't believe in sorcery at all, but in every case, they must contend at some degree or level with the evidence of sorcery and Aksinya's strange actions. Most people of the time think she is insane--yet the reader knows she is not insane. There is more to culture and symbols.
There is much more to writing without confusing your readers. I'll write about that tomorrow. The following is a question asked by one of my readers. I'm going to address this over time: Please elaborate on scene, theme, plot, character development in a new novel creation....ie, the framework, the development, order if operation, the level of detail, guidelines, rule of thumb, tricks, traps and techniques. To what extent do you outline the historic context, culture, mannerism, speech, dress and thought process of the main characters, in a historic novel...in order to maintain integrity, and gradually (help) reveal attributes of a character in the story, or otherwise clarify the plot, scene, transition, tension or resolution?
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/.