Saturday, November 1, 2008

Symbolism? Me?

Dara blogged about whether modern literature is too shallow. I think you get what you give, but that's not my obsession right now.

In the usual pinball effect of my brain, I bounced from thought to related thought until I landed in the glorious multi-ball slot. I started dwelling on the symbolism in my own books. Right now I'm working on the third book in the Arden FD series. Yeah, Arden, my nod to Shakespeare.

Dan is a paramedic and a suddenly reforming playboy. He met Rebecca because she ducked into the station to get out of a downpour. That rainstorm changes Dan. Rain is a nice symbol for new beginnings. Rebecca is an illustrator and watercolorist who has been making fine art because it pays better, but she hates doing it. Her major piece is called "Broken Home" (it's a smashed dinner plate cemented to a board.) Now, about halfway through the story, she is cutting mats and the blade slips, slicing open the inside of her wrist. Not deep enough to do real damage, but a dead ringer for a serious suicide attempt. The art is killing her.

When I chose to have the characters meet because of a rainstorm it was because I got caught in a rainstorm one night while walking home and chose not to duck into the local station. The symbolism dawned on me about a month ago when I dusted it off to finish it. When I thought up Rebecca's major work, I figured it was funny and realistic. I only realized it was symbolic of her relationship with her parents and her fear of giving her heart to anyone yesterday. The cut was something someone I knew in college did. It was a plot device to get Rebecca into the fire station so Dan could work on her just like the rain was a plot device to get her in there in the first place. Now the snow globe she's about to make, that's totally on purpose, but I want Dan to decode it.

If you write, do you intentionally put in symbolism or do you see it later? Or do you never see it?

When you read, do you assume the author created the symbols on purpose or that they were happy accidents?

And if you're interested in the conversation about modern lit being shallow, head over to Amused Authors


Dara England said...

This is a good question, Charlotte. I once heard someone express the belief that books are written to persuade readers over to the author's point of view. I certainly disagree with that. If its true, I can't imagine what my books would persuade people of. That there is an invisable well of magic in the world? That people can travel across time? That there are shape shifters among us? :D

Looking at it from a less literal direction though, I think people's values can certainly be expressed across their work. For example, I assume nobody who writes Inspirational fiction is atheistic, just like I assume someone who writes erotica probably isn't a pastor at their local congregation. But how much of our beliefs really come across in our work? I mean, I've made my characters do things I find morally faulty (kill people!).

In all, I'd say we can't usually be sure of what an author means for us to find in their writing. Often, we find whatever meaning we're looking for. I think that's how I prefer it.


Charlotte McClain said...

Ah, Anias Nin. "We see the world not for what it is, but for what we are."