29 July 2012, Development - Rules of Writing, Themes and 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. Entertain your readers.
2. Don't confuse 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.
With the power of symbols, we are back to the concept of levels in writing. I also slipped in the idea of understanding and beauty. I'm sure we could engage in many discussions on this topic. In my view, art must add to beauty. If it doesn't, it can't entertain. My definition of beauty in art is very broad. I can accept some measure greater than the common understanding of beauty, but certainly, art can't repel--if so, it can't be art. To define something a human shuns because of ugliness, vulgarity, or cultural unacceptability as art is silly. I gave an example of cultural unacceptability a couple of days ago.
Back to symbols and levels. The two basic levels in art and writing are theme and plot. Storylines are also there--the form the plot. Each storyline has the potential to provide a level in the writing and the theme and plot obviously provide a level in the writing. Symbols additionally can provide levels within storyline, plot, and theme. Warning: it is technically possible to build a cohesive secondary theme or subtheme through symbols, but don't dilute or confuse the theme of your novel. I wish everyone had this problem. Most writers seem oblivious to their themes--the idea of subthemes or secondary themes are even more foreign to them. The important point is that you shouldn't use symbols in a way that they confuse the main theme. Subthemes or secondary themes based on the same symbols are aokay. An example of a subtheme is love in marriage. I've written about this before. Although not a theme in my novels, I have often written love in marriage as a subtheme. Most novels handle love as a major theme, and they are usually, guy gets the girl or girl gets the guy. In classical literature, it is commonly couple meets, couple falls in love, couple faces hardship for love, couple weds (or some variant). Love in marriage is a pretty unused theme or subtheme in most AmerEnglish literature--so I like to use it. You can probably think of other themes that could make good subthemes. Make sure all your symbols point toward the proper theme, level, or plot (storyline).
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/.