1. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Analyzing your stories?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by spklvr, Apr 18, 2012.

    Today in lit class, as we went through the symbolism in some post-modernistic short story, something hit me. Does anyone think about stuff like this when writing a story? Just for fun, I took two of my more analyzable and “deep” short stories and analyzed them objectively as I would have done with a story in lit class. I noticed in one story that I used the color green a lot. Why did I do that? I knew personally it was because of the algae in the MC’s pond, a pond he was obsessed with. Then what did the algae represent? I had never thought about it. I couldn’t even answer it. The only symbolism I had actually thought about was when he believes one character is bleeding (green blood) from his hands, like stigmata.

    Do you think about symbolism and themes and what roles your characters play in the story (like foil)? I don’t even think about who the protagonists and antagonists are a lot of the time. I don’t like putting my characters in boxes like that. Is analyzing a good or a bad idea I wonder...?
     
  2. AMJ
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    AMJ Member

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    I find with my own work that if I try and conciously insert some symbolism, it invariably sounds clumsy when I read it back. Like you, the symbols just reveal themselves organically as part of the creative process.

    But I'd be interested in hearing the thoughts of others on here!
     
  3. names
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    names Member

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    That is a good idea, if you tend to use an idea more than casually in a story you could always make it into a symbol I figure.
     
  4. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    I find myself over analyzing my own right all of the time. I never intentionally put in symbols (unless they add a real value - foreshadowing etc.), but after I write something I often find myself reflecting on it. This is primarily because I have a master's in english lit and I start looking at my writing from a feminist perspective. Is my MC a strong female lead? What does it mean that her parents were killed? It actually becomes a bit of a nuisance and a hindrance. You end up slightly schizophrenic.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I wrote four long chapters of my novel before I realized that my MC's crutch was his symbol, and that my hunter-boy's knife was his symbol. But when I realized that, I suddenly understood my characters better. I didn't deliberately put symbols into the story, but they were THERE, and when I understood them, I grokked my characters.

    The symbols emerged from what I was writing. I didn't try to put them there, and I hate the idea of ramming symbols down a reader's throat. But you, as a writer, can learn from symbols as much as your readers can, if not more. Your imagination may cast up things you don't really understand at the time, but when you review your work, you might see what your brain was trying to tell you.
     
  6. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    To be perfectly honest, I don't. If the writings become successful I am sure there'll be plenty of other people who'll enlighten me about it :D I do have a general idea about needing to be clever about not being too self-indulgent in my writing, so I try to look for first associations which snuck into my story. When I find it, I zap it, unless it really suits the plot.
     
  7. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    When readers point out symbolism in my story I am more often than not surprised because I never think about symbolism when I am writing, but I do use the settings and surroundings a lot to set the tone and mood of the story. Sometimes some of them become symbolic! :)

    As for the theme, it slowly emerges as I complete my first draft. I try to understand the theme completely before I redraft just to make sure that the theme doesn't overshadow the story itself.
     
  8. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    I do that all the time, and it gets in the way a lot. Because I'm Miss Politically Correct when I'm writing and sometimes I imply some very nasty things that I certainly did not want to imply. On the bright side, reading my stories trying to find hidden meanings is interesting because that's the way I come up with ideas or cure writer's block.
     
  9. Just Jon
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    Just Jon Member

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    I was thinking about my project just recently and noticed a general life/death theme running through it. It was quite shocking because I really had no intention of doing it. I agree that trying to put a theme into it would make it awkward. Themes like this probably just spring naturally from the idea as a whole because of the mindset that gave you the inspiration in the first place. Where the life/death thing came from, I have no idea.
     
  10. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    Symbolism does enhance the story. I believe you shouldn't really strain yourself over creating them. For example, you've definitely stumbled upon one with the algae on the pond. To me algae acts like cloak, hiding what's beneath. Is there something your MC is hiding? Or often colors can be symbols. Algae is green and can be symbol for jealousy. Is your MC envious of someone?

    In one of my stories the MC is obsessed with books and finding new authors. It is a simple use of symbolism to imply she's knowledgeable.
     
  11. Floatbox
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    I think about the essential weave of aesthetic, character, structure, symbolism, theme and significance. While it fuels my inspiration, I must forget it in order to write. To consciously intend meaningful symbolism in my work is to work with heavy hands; it is best to let my subconscious - that is, my procedural memory - guide my hands in the subtleties of dance. I cannot tell a story by focusing on exactly evoking the hands. I tell the story with a focus on an eye contact with the reader. I let go to passion and so I find my hands animated in surprising and appropriate ways. It is a trust with myself. And to elaborate, it is a trust in the material and in the reader, without any present concern over the result of the interaction. Like in charming the opposite sex, it all goes smoothly with a perceived charm in yourself, and with not too much expended thought on how much she could hate you and mock you later to all of her attractive friends. And also during conversation, don't you dare think of the red romance ahead or you won't say anything worth remembering. Or if it is worth remembering, it is how creepy and revealing everything is which is exactly the opposite effect, isn't it? Result-oriented process is ineffective process.

    So, writing. It's very much like talking to people. It does help to contemplate and analyze and think outside of the conversation, so that conclusions, observations, and insight may hone your perspective, your world view, your subconscious understanding. So conscious analysis is necessary and desirable in that way.

    (The value of your writing) = (value of your perspective) + (value of your process.)

    Of course, the whole thing is more complex than that, slightly different, and highly customizable. So do what you will with all this.
    (As if you wouldn't.)
     
  12. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    The only point to my stories is a good enjoyable tall tale but I'm sure if someone stands on their head at the right angle they can see some deep meaning in it all. All things are in the eye, and ego, of the beholder.
     
  13. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I rarely try and put a deeper meaning into my stories. Theres very little social commentary or symbolic anything in my writing. Sometimes I do but mostly I just want to tell a good story that will entertain someone. If they find some deeper meaning out of my stories more power to them.
     
  14. Floatbox
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    Floatbox Member

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    I suppose the allusion would be that a concern with meaning, the pursuit of some 'raison d'etre' other than humble entertainment, stems from an inflated ego? Instead, I think the artist's pursuit is born of a kind of spirituality.
     
  15. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    Absolutely. The egotist would pass off shallow drivel and call it a story.
     
  16. marcuslam
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    marcuslam Senior Member

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    I certainly think about symbolism when planning my works. However, instead of preaching people with my themes, I merely aim to explore. I just feel I'm in no position to be teaching readers anything.
     
  17. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think I use much symbolism, but one thing I've noticed about three of my stories is that the mc's fathers are dead or absent, and I grew up with just my mom, since my parents separated when I was 6 years old. In one the mc is even going abroad to look for him and that has a central role in the story. That wasn't anything conscious but maybe our past or upbringing affects what we write about more than we realize.
     
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  18. Cristian
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    Cristian Member

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    I don't bother indulging in such cumbersome activities, mostly because I don't really have time to, and let's be honest here; most readers don't thoroughly analyze anything, let alone a story.
     
  19. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    Your theory is thin and insubstantial. I have the utmost faith in readers.
     
  20. Cristian
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    Cristian Member

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    Your trust is blind and inadequate, really. You have to see it in a reader's POV. :)
     
  21. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    You bet, in fact, I depend on it.

    For example, my lead graduates from an academy with a reverend who has an unknown agenda. They wear the same vestments, but tangle later on. It's my take on organized religion. Everybody claims they 'grauate,' everyone thinks the other person's diploma is wanting and invalid.

    You have to draw the reader in, and making correlations he finds in his own personal life is a legitmate way to accomplish this.
     
  22. Jenny Masters
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    Jenny Masters Member

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    You're making a huge mistake not analyzing stories or valuing analysis.

    It'll make you a better writer.
     
  23. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's certainly a standard thing to do on creative writing courses, but after the event, and I often wonder when I analyse other people's work how much of what I find they deliberately put there, how much they subconsciously put there and how much is my doing. At the moment I'm reading P D James' Original Sin, and quite early on I've noticed quite a lot of apparently incidental snake motifs, such as a draught excluder in the shape of a snake. I'm sure that's not coincidence. I suspect that she put the imagery (or at least most of it) in when she was editing, but I can't be sure. It's certainly the sort of thing I look for when editing -- I wouldn't want to be diverted by it when getting a first draft down.
     
  24. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    How could I not see it, I am a reader. Be careful, you may be mistaken as an elitist.
     
  25. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Whether it's an intentional move, a happy surprise or a subtext born(e) of a Freudian slip, the fact is that the author felt compelled to write about a particular story or event. In other words, there was some element of the tale that motivates him/her because of a strong feeling.

    I hate frauds, lairs and shamans. I even hate those characteristics in my past. I've seen people hurt, lives disrupted and the wages of the sin. I view myself as a good friend and a bad enemy, and in editing my own work I find I have to tone down the guard dog element of my psyche. But it's there.

    For example, your lead might have a physical altercation with a minor character to advance the plot, showing an inside to the decisions he makes as a lead. For the sake of argument, suppose my supporting character is a liar and his actions made life difficult for another character. In life, a strong lead might just grab the idiot by the lapels and issue a vague threat.

    So several months after I write my first draft I have to delete or modify a scene beginning with, "As the righteous lead pulls the liar's head out of the shattered plaster and drywall..."

    If I don't I do two things. One, I might not be conveying the right emotion for the scene, or moving the plot out of the direction of the original arc.

    However, I also tip my hand about my personal motives. In reality it might be self-loathing for the life I led as a younger man, anger-management problems, or just sleep deprivation. In any guise, it doesn't belong in the story--that is, unless I am writing a scene depicting a flaw in the lead.

    If you're afraid of spiders, you might subconsciously describe your lead's fear of driving because on and off ramps snarl into "spidery legs." You think you're being creative when in truth the image just makes you cringe.
     

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