Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Symbolically speaking

Scissor Spiders (from confiscated scissors) by Christopher Locke
I doubt I'm the only writer who avoids including symbols in her writing for fear they'll read heavy handed.

The first trick is to include them as a natural part of the character's actions, just as you might mention a morning cup of coffee. The second trick is to look beyond the obvious purpose of the object to the symbolic functions they can perform. AND to look beyond the obvious action of the character to an overarching pattern of behavior. A break up with a boyfriend may be cutting someone from her life, but where might she also be cutting things from her life?

Look around your room and pick 5 of your own objects. Then pick 5 from the list here. For each, write down actions, emotions, motivations, personalities the objects could represent.

For example: Scissors: cut unwanted things away, cut wanted things out, sever ties, destroy, create, sculpt. They can also stab.

Ceiling fan
Cell phone charms
Pass card
Ticket
Cast iron skillet
Silver spoon
Child's wooden block
Foreign coin
Composition notebook
Crossword puzzle

and no list of symbolic objects is complete without:

Water
Fire
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