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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Development - Symbolism Question #5

30 September 2012, Development - Symbolism Question #5

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?

Answered 29 September.

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!

This is a wonderful question because it goes directly back to the concept of levels.  In the most basic sense, the primary levels of a children's book are plot and theme.  You can write a book at this level, but it really won't be very satisfying or literary.  The plot must always be obvious.  The theme must always be discernible.  Everything else is gravy.  So get this point very clearly--as long as your readers can understand the plot and discern the theme, all the other levels are freebies. 

Shakespeare is filled with level on level on level.  The plot is obvious and the theme is discernible--all the multifarious levels are there to delight the reader (observer) and thwart the student.  No one complains about the deep and multiple levels in Shakespeare's writing (except students of literature who are supposed to tease them out).  Everyone (other than the students) just enjoy the many levels and the depth of the writing. 

The question wondered if the symbols could become a "private symbolic language."  This is impossible if the writer is using classical cultural symbols and allusions.  For example, if an author used popular fiction (as opposed to classical fiction) and commercials for her allusions, she would write something that might appeal to a few people for a couple of years, but that would be meaningless as literature.

To create, use, and modify symbols, an author must choose symbols (allusions) that are classically cultural and well understood to the classically educated.  It doesn't matter if 90 percent of the readers don't get an allusion to Shakespeare or Milton--the educated reader will get it and the allusion itself makes it timeless.

So remember this: plot must be obvious and theme must be discernible.  Everything else is gravy.

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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