22 July 2012, Development - Rules of Writing, Descriptive 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 written about the study necessary to develop an historical character, and I've written about the understanding of culture that is necessary to develop an historical character. The culture and history drive many of the details--these include both the descriptive physical pieces and the unspoken, but shown parts that reveal the character.
One of the first points is how do you dress your character? Without a knowledge of the fashions of the time, you can clothe them. In Sister of Light, a novel on contract with my publisher, the main character buys a dress from the fashion district in Paris and the protagonist's mother speaks of Coco's shop and fashions. The characters dress in the clothing of the times and that clothing is necessary to fully understanding the times. When the characters take off their clothes, I describe the necessary items. This kind of detail requires extensive study.
In my novel, Hestia, the ancient Greek clothing worn for the times is the peplos and the himation. We would call them togas, but they are not togas and the ancient Greeks would be upset if someone couldn't tell the difference between a peplos and a chiton (both are very similar). An AmerEnglish person might think it humorous that an ancient Greek would be so concerned about the type of tunic that is worn, yet the same AmerEnglish person might be concerned that an ancient Greek couldn't tell the difference between a double breasted and a single breasted suit or between a a tux and a tux and tails. If you are AmerEnglish and you don't know the difference, you really don't know your own culture well enough to write about anyone else's.
Description is involved with history and culture--I'll go into more detail tomorrow.
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/.