Writing the Light Symbolic

Writers are often excited about their use of symbols. I once attended a workshop on symbols in writing and was mildly disappointed when the meat of it was about the more obvious ones: water, white and black colors, houses. These symbols speak naturally to most of us–in fact the common dream interpretations (water as agent of change, a house as the self) of these symbols translate to stories as well.
Writing Tip for Today:
When considering the symbols in your work, keep these things in mind:

  • Don’t think about them while you write. Like subtext, symbols are likely to emerge after you’ve drafted your work, not as you write. These “deeper meanings” need to come from the deeper self (also known as “Muse,” unconscious, creative seat). Trying to force symbols into your writing will probably sound forced.
  • Do dream work. If you can’t afford a therapist, myriad books on dream interpretation are out there. In writing, we want to appeal to the collective mind so that a connection forms between writer and reader. Find out what different symbols tend to mean. Keep a dream journal.
  • Be subtle. A symbol is only as good as its discovery. If the writer shoves symbolic meaning down a reader’s throat there is no discovery except the sudden urge to stop reading.
  • Be Creative. Realize there is nothing new under the sun, but try to be as creative as you can. Same old ways to convey symbols will bore the reader. Be fresh.
  • Don’t mix too many symbols. Like metaphors, symbols are best kept clean and simple.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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