20 July 2012, Development - Rules of Writing, Historical 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.
Yesterday, I wrote about the details of historical writing. I didn't mention levels and symbols, but I should before we move on to the details of culture. I wrote that bathrooms and other household facilities were a focus of the history in my novel, Aksinya. Of course, bathrooms and household facilities was not the only focus of the history in the writing. I used primary historical sources and information for all the history in the novel and followed my own recommendations for study and writing, but bathrooms and household facilities were a large difference between the historical world in the time of Aksinya and today.
The bathroom and other household details became the baseline for levels in the writing and for the contrast of today's culture and Aksinya's culture. How, you might ask? If you go back a look at Aksinya, one of the key scenes is when she needs to go to the bathroom, which is outside. She decided not to use the chamber pot because there would be no one to empty it (her family and all the servants were murdered by the Bolsheviks), and she didn't want to have the demon empty her chamber pot--that was too embarrassing a thought for a person from that age. She has to go to the outhouse for her family's mansion. If that doesn't show a huge cultural and historical difference, I don't know what does. Aksinya has an accident (outhouse type) while going to the outhouse building--an accident that the demon becomes directly involved in. The demon has to take her to the "bathroom" attached to her room and prepare a bath for her. He has to take care of her soiled clothing etc. Like her own sexuality, this incident reveals a pattern of actions by the demon that embarrass then help Aksinya. These actions become part of the process of tempting her.
Additionally, the outhouse, bathroom, and the bath provide symbols that relate directly to Aksinya's issues and the demon's infiltration into her life. In the bath provided by the demon, Aksinya sees her reflection in the mirror and recognises the loss of her hair (given as a surety to the demon). She sees her own ugliness (she thinks she is ugly). The bath becomes a symbol for her inferiority and insecurity. There is a bath scene with Natalya and there we see Natalya hiding the evidence of her abuse. The bath itself becomes a symbol throughout the novel for secrets and the hidden issues of Aksinya, Natalya, and the demon. It is no accident that Aksinya and Natalya reveal their inmost thoughts in the bedroom and in a bed rather than in the bathroom. In the bathroom is solitude of sorts and privacy, in the bedroom there is revelation and honesty. Which we discover later is the unseen turning point of the novel--the bedroom secret tryst between Ernst and Natalya that drives Aksinya over the edge. The power of symbols that drive levels of storyline, plot, and theme in a historical novel should be the historical points. Tomorrow, culture.
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/.