If you’ve ever tried to use symbolism in your writing, you may agree with me when I say that doing it well is harder than expected. I’ll be honest and say that the first time I tried to use it on purpose, I failed completely, and no one got the meaning I hid in there. That’s when I found out that symbolism is like Professor Trelawney’s Divination class – finding all kinds of symbolism in something that’s already written is amazingly easy (whether the symbolism was intended or not). Writing it into something is harder.

One of the best ways to use symbolism is to help build mood and theme. The symbolism adds to the details to enrich the world, characters, and atmosphere that are being built in the story. The story could be told without it, but it would not have as much depth and flavor.

A very good example of this is actually a film: The 6th Sense. In this movie, M. Night Shyamalan deliberately made sure that the color red was used somewhere in the picture whenever death was involved in the scene. This adds to the eerie mood and gives the viewer a visual association with the supernatural. The vibrant reds lend a sense of danger, especially in contrast to the otherwise muted colors of the film. At the same time, if the audience didn’t notice the color symbolism, they can still understand and enjoy the movie.

This type of symbolism can be added to an existing plot or even a finished book. It does, however, require paying meticulous attention to when the symbolism is used. Whatever symbolism you choose (a color, an animal, a sound, etc), you must be careful that it only occurs around the mood or character that you want it associated with. For Shyamalan’s symbolism to work, red not only had to appear in every scene with something supernatural, but it also could not appear in any scene without the supernatural. Additionally, colors similar to red would have to follow the same rules to make the symbolism clearer.

If it’s your first time writing with symbolism, you may want to choose a symbol that isn’t something you usually write about – that way, you won’t have to watch as closely to make sure you don’t use it somewhere you shouldn’t.

Warning: Sometimes writers are tempted to make the symbolism a vital part of the plot. The danger with this is that if the reader does not get the symbolism, he or she will not get the story. That makes this technique much more difficult, and it is almost always used with a very famous symbolic meaning (like something biblical). The only exceptions are works that are meant to be more abstract like poetry and novels intended for literary circles.


The Delicate Art of Book Promotion

Here’s an excellent peek into the life of an author. Whether you’re planning on self-publication, blogging, or going through a publisher, self-promotion is part of making it work. If the books are as well-written as the article, then, they’re definitely worth a glance, too.


Happy Independence Day!

In honor of Independence Day, here is a poem from twytte, my writing experiment blog. May all of you have a fun, safe holiday!



Write Wrong

Finding articles about the “right way to write” is remarkably easy. I think of those as diet adds – “The secret to a flat belly!” OMG! This. This is the secret. Doing this will solve all of my problems.

Sorry. It’s not that simple.

The right way to write changes based on what you want to do and why. Are you writing to be rich and famous? As a career? To fulfill some inner need? All those reasons may require different approaches. If you’re trying to be rich and famous, good luck. Maybe, you’re good at analyzing current trends and successful books so that you can duplicate their success. I can’t. Imitate a writing style? Sure. Figure out what people are going to like next? Not so much.

What if you decide to write to get published, and the article is “The Secret to Getting Published”? Ok, great. They can tell you the format and the ins and outs of the process, but even that depends on variables. Are you writing for kids or adults? Getting a children’s book published is different from publishing your memoir or a science fiction novel for adults. If you’re not interested in a specific genre or style, are you going to write in it anyway if they tell you that that’s the easiest way to get published?

The best advice I can give to any aspiring writer is to try. Try writing in different genres. Try writing in different forms (poetry, scripts, short stories, articles, etc). Try writing different moods. Try writing with different tones. Try writing from different points of view.

All you might waste is a little time, energy, and paper (or computer memory). But that wasted time can be far more valuable than the writings that come out of it. It’s practice. It’s honing your writing skills. It’s learning what kinds of writing are right for you. Even if you decide to write what you think will sell, you’ll write it better for the experience.