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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Development - Symbolism Question #4

29 September 2012, Development - Symbolism Question #4

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

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.
Today's Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website and select "production schedule," you will be sent to

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.

I'm going to answer the following reader questions in the next few days. These questions have to do with symbols. I've listed the entire question set in blue, and I'll answer in black.

1. Is symbolism primarily (vs only) intended to enhance theme?

Answered 26 September

2. Is symbolism more (or less) effective than allusion?

Answered 27 September

3. Do you have more detailed guidelines for it's employment and effectiveness?

Answered 28 September.

4. Is symbolism considered a "text-linking" literary device, or not?

"Text-linking" means that one text turns on the context of an entirely different text.  In this regard, allusion is a "text-linking" device.  When an author makes an allusion, the allusion automatically conjures the entire context of the alluded text.  This makes the current text and the alluded text within a similar context.  Note that this is only applicable to literary texts.  An allusion to a painting would not be "text-linked."   I do not necessarily like the term "text-linked" because an allusion and other potential "text-linked" literary devices are not limited to text.  I would prefer the term "context-linked."  This would include art, architecture, places, symbols, etc. within the idea of a "text-linked" literary device. 

So, in the purest sense symbolism could be "text-linked" if the symbol is literary.  For example, a Vampire is a literary symbol (they don't exist in real life and although they do have folklore antecedents, Bram Stoker defined the literary idea of a vampire).  This symbol could be "text-linked."  A cross is both a literary and a physical symbol.  An author must be careful to delineate which and what symbol she is writing about. 

Symbols are always "context-linked" literary devices, they are not necessarily "text-linked" literary devices.

Let's go into "context-linking" a little.  All authors should realize this--in fact all readers should realize this.  Allow me to use a very important concept called Rabbinic Context.  All the Old Testament, Apocryphal, Talmudic, and the New Testament documents are considered to be written under the idea of Rabbinic Context.  This means that when you read a reference to a statement in one document, the context is the entirety of the context of the statement.  Therefore, when you read a quote from a Psalm in the NT, the context is the entire Psalm and not just the singular verse (verses, chapters, punctuation, word separation, etc. were all added to the Hebrew and Greek much later anyway).  This is called Rabbinic Context.  This is also something that many readers of the mentioned documents miss.

Symbols in literature are all context linked.  This means that when you read about a symbol (allusion for example), the entire context of the symbol (allusion) is intended (or should be intended) by the author.  For example, if I write an allusion (symbol) to Oliver Twist, I am using the entire context of the novel.  I can also specify a specific point or aspect of Oliver Twist--Bill Sikes for example and bring into light an entirely different context.

This is the caution as well as the point of symbols.  They can clarify or they can create intentional ambiguity.  An author must realize exactly the context of the symbol and how it will and can be perceived in his writing.  

I'll continue to answer the following questions tomorrow.

To elaborate: Readers vary greatly in their recognition of symbolism, allusion, etc.. So the success of using symbolism as a literary device, like an allusion, depends largely on the audience "getting" it. The more obscure, the less they will be understood. With that in mind, do you carefully consider your audience vs yourself, or somewhere in between. .If the former, do you predominately use basic (higher level) symbols, over and over to reinforce the theme, or use a family of related symbols, each w/ finer granularity, or a bit more nuanced than earlier symbols? If the latter, I fear, it will become a private (symbolic) language of the writer and a very few, buried in the story, not enhancing the theme much. Any feedback appreciated!

I'll move on to basic writing exercises and creativity in the near future.

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, the framework, the development, order if operation, the level of detail, guidelines, rule of thumb, tricks, traps and techniques.

I'll repeat my published novel websites so you can see more examples:, and the individual novel websites:,,,, http://www.thefoxshonor

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