Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Incorporating symbolism

"There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. All the symbolism that people say is shit. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know." --Ernest Hemingway (Of The Old Man and the Sea)
I'm querying a novel that contains tons of symbolism. Does your work contain symbolism? Do you know that a work will contain symbolism from the outset? Is it something you incorporate as you go? Do you go back and add the symbolism when you're done? Or do you even think of this as you're writing? And, lastly, what do you think of Hemingway's quote?


  1. For me, the best symbolism is the stuff that comes organically from the theme, and that usually comes out of nowhere. The metasymbolism, if you want to call it that. But then there are the small bits that help me decide what a character is noticing to help define what she is feeling or give structure to a scene. Sometimes those are organic, but sometimes those come in rewrite or the layering drafts. (Angela Ackerman over at the Bookshelf Muse has a great symbolism dictionary for those.)

    Great topic, Buffy!


  2. I don't intend on creating symbolism, but I'm sure there are parts it's there. Great post!

  3. What a great post. My symbolism is always woven into my stories, subconsciously.

    I tried to sign up for e-mail updates to your blog but it wouldn't let me. I'll be back to try again.

    Another blogger told me about your site here and I'm glad she did.

    Thank you for your insight.

  4. Jenny: Thanks so much for joining.

    Martina, Candyland and Jenny: I agree with you that symbolism just sort of happens. It bubbles up without us giving it much thought. And then, we might go back to add something here or something there to solidify that which organically occurred. I always tell my reporters/writers that writing is like making a beautiful dress. We piece it together, make sure it fits, and then we go back and add a pearl here, a sequin there. Perhaps some lace. When we're done, we hope to have a dress that will dazzle everyone. Christian symbolism seems to pop up naturally in my writing. It’s not something I set out to do. It just happens. But it happens because that's my world, my life experience and beliefs coming through. That doesn't mean that you won't enjoy my work if you aren't a Christian, but if you are, you might see things that a non-Christian wouldn't. Not sure if I'm making any sense. I'm always fascinated by the symbolism found in books that the author might or might not have intended. And I love when there is symbolism because it provides texture and enriches my reading experience. Anyway…