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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Development - Symbolism Questions

26 September 2012, Development - Symbolism Questions

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? 

Symbolism is wholly incorporated in all writing.  There are two basic levels in all writing: plot and theme.  Symbolism works on both these levels (but realize, there can be additional levels beyond plot and theme).  Plot and theme are the basic levels of symbolism.  For example, I can write about a character:  The lady was tall and slender.  She stood with half her face enveloped in shadow.  The tattered sleeves of her red dress were visible as she raised her hands slightly--to catch the passerby's attention.  The half of her face that was visible bore the remnants of beauty, but at the edge of the shadows, the lip of a chancre and a scar were visible.  

In this example, there is no indication of theme, but we have extensive symbolism in the description.  From the example, you can guess the lady is slender because she is malnourished.  The red dress could indicate she is a prostitute (no indications of time here).  The tattered sleeves shows she is poor and has likely one dress (this one).  She raises her hands to gain a potential customer's attention.  She is likely older, but that isn't clear--she was once beautiful.  The chancre indicates a venereal disease (likely syphilis) and the scar that she has been infected more than once.  

Here, in this example is enough symbolism to build many levels in the plot without a single touch on a theme.  To set the theme in place, we would need to connect the woman or the symbols cohesively to some overall point.  We have many choices.  We could use as a theme: poverty, squalor, ruined life, prostitution, redemption, degradation, and all.  There are many choices.

I'll continue to answer the following questions tomorrow. 
2. Is symbolism more (or less) effective than allusion?
3. Do you have more detailed guidelines for it's employment & effectiveness?
4. Is symb...
olism considered a "text-linking" literary device, or not?

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 auidence 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. To what extent do you outline the historic context, culture, mannerism, speech, dress and thought process of the main characters, in a historic 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:, and the individual novel websites:,,,, http://www.thefoxshonor

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