Monday, July 30, 2007

Symbolism, Anyone?

Erica Orloff has had a great conversation on her blog yesterday about symbolism, and today about symbolism and the collective unconscious.

Well worth a look-see!

The extent of my conscious crafting of symbolism in my own work has been the passing thought, "Oh, well ... that’s become a bit of a symbol now, hasn’t it?"

Other than that, I avoid it. I don’t know why. I’m a little afraid of making it forced or pretentious.

But am I leaving out a tool that should be in my toolbox? Would it make my stories stronger? While I do enjoy ’seeing’ the symbolism in other author’s works, I will admit that I don’t particularly pay attention to it. I don’t go searching for symbols. If I see them, I think, "Cool."

Does it enrich the story for me?

I don’t know. Maybe it does, in a subconscious, under-the-surface way. Above the surface, it only gets a "cool." It’s always fascinating to dissect and deconstruct a story, but the fact is, I don’t know that I’m writing anything that’s particularly prone to such study.

But even if they don’t deconstruct it, even if they don’t notice it, would symbolism enrich the story for my readers? What do you think? Should I be thinking more of symbolism? Do you?

6 bonus scribbles:

Liz Wolfe 7/30/2007 01:51:00 PM  

I try not to think when I write. OK, that's a bit extreme, but I really don't think of themes or symbolism. Like you, I enjoy 'seeing' it in books. I'm going to hop over and read what Erica has to say about it.

Bernita 7/31/2007 08:07:00 AM  

King made a comment about noticing symbols after draft and enhancing them in revision.

Erica Orloff 7/31/2007 09:48:00 AM  

Hey Spy:
Thanks for the shout-out. I know there is a fine line between pretension and symbolism that works. :-) At one point, in my new wip, I kept emphasizing how hellish one area was--how dry, and parched, and so on. Until one of my critique partners said, "Enough . . . we know it's hell." LOL!

But I do think they enrich a book, add another texture to it.

Edie 7/31/2007 12:37:00 PM  

I like symbolism, but I try not to consciously place it in my first draft (although some gets in on its own, lol). If I do that, I tend to start beating the reader on the head with it, lol. It's better for me (not everyone) if it comes naturally.

I'm going to read Erica's blog now. :)

spyscribbler 8/02/2007 09:28:00 AM  

Liz, I know exactly what you mean!

Bernita, his book is one of the best writing books I've ever read.

Erica, I'm definitely going to be thinking about it more, that's for sure! I do have a short story (used to be a beginning) that has some symbolism. I didn't mean it to, but it's so cliche and done-before, LOL.

Edie, Erica's blog is not to be missed. You'd love her blog everyday!

OpenChannel 8/04/2007 01:26:00 AM  

Bernita - I like what King says, too, and I agree with SS that King's is one of the best books on writing.

I'm with not "trying" too hard. I think it's better to err on the side of less symbolism than forced symbolism.

I think we naturally work symbols in without realizing it. At least I've found that in my own work. I'll have to go read Erica's article now, sounds intriguing.