51

I work with teenagers (language classes). 'Banana' is a terribly unfortunate word that will kickstart a flurry of giggling and joking. Woe befall the poor soul who says they like bananas! Hopefully, readers will be easier to deal with. In your particular case, you can use the symbolism to your advantage. If there are moments when the chosen fruit is ...


18

The reference in Pratchett's books (it appears in more than one of his Discworld Witches books) is to the common rhymes regarding Magpies, which are related to crows. There are several versions of this rhyme, each part of England traditionally had its own. The references in the Discworld books play upon these differences which will be recognised by all ...


16

Write what you want to write: Accept what people want to read into it This is a balancing act, but ultimately we're in La mort de l'auteur territory here. Ultimately, readers are going to... read... things into what you have written. Some are going to read "overly" literally and miss your figurative intent. Others are going to reach for innuendo in ...


15

I'm wondering why you want to ensure that readers don't interpret. Readers, and especially fans, love to discuss fan theories and interpretations. The discussion of fan theories about Game of Thrones on YouTube probably fills ten times the running length of the show. People want this, and no matter how much you try to, they will find something. I share Cyns ...


13

There's not much you can do about it other than controlling the tone of your scenes and making sure your characterization is stronger than your fruit. If your reader is prone to connecting bananas to genitalia, that's what they bring to your book. You can't deprogram them.


13

I have to disagree with Mark's thesis that modern writers shouldn't waste their time trying to use symbols and develop their own. I think you can, and that it is worthwhile. What is a symbol? Defining our target A symbol is an associative representation, often of an abstract concept with a more tangible or concrete idea. Symbols generally have metaphors ...


12

how can one ensure, when writing a psychological horror, that any supernatural/paranormal or just very unlikely element is not taken face-value? Keep it ambiguous Roald Dahl used to say that “The best ghost stories don’t have ghosts in them.” That means it's often better to preserve the ambiguity, than to allow the story to declare that something is ...


9

The reason your 4th grade poems didn't have any depth is you weren't putting any in there. As you said, they were just fun bits of doggerel that rhymed. If you want deeper poetry, choose a deeper topic: Heartbreak, spirituality, acceptance, isolation, depression, love, hope, beauty, nostalgia, friendship, and so forth. In my experience, you'll typically ...


9

There is a character-building strategy that uses Theory of Mind where an important character is described only through the perception of another less-important character. It forces you to imagine someone through the eyes of another, limited by the secondary character's vocabulary and experience. Symbolism is one way to pass clues to the reader past the less-...


8

Depends on cultures too - red also means prosperity. If you wish to use somewhat obtuse symbols, use them. Do not then say to the reader ‘I know you will never get the allusion on page 142 so I will explain it to you”. Some symbols add dimensions of meaning that subtly influence and improve the whole - like using bacon fat to sear the meat in a stew - adds ...


8

I see two parts to your question: signaling that 18 is significant, and signaling why it is significant. Assuming that you'll have Jewish readers too, don't skimp on the first part -- you want to give them something to notice and figure out, too. Another answer addresses ways to show why 18 is significant. To show that 18 is significant, have it show up ...


7

There are no rules. Many people read and enjoy stories without looking for or considering allegories. Heck, the Wizard of Oz is supposed to be an allegory for the politics of the 1890's, who watching it or reading it today would catch on to that? Nobody, but the story continues to be told. Your story has to stand on its own without any allegory. It has to ...


7

You can use factorization. Some task takes 6 groups of 3, say making camp. Another takes 3 groups of six, say one group of six stands watch while the other two sleep. At some point, they divide into 2 groups of 9; maybe 9 males and 9 females, and in another 9 pairs of two. You can find ways to emphasize the 18 by the ways in which you can factor 18, and ...


6

There are probably many reasons, but I feel that this is the big one: With each additional symbol, their individual importance lessens. If everything is based around a single symbol, then it makes the stakes much higher when everything is revolving around it. Even if, as you say in your example of LOTR, all of the items were together, possibilities of ...


6

Sometimes authors write in ways to drive future literary critics crazy. Then they laugh. Because everything is potentially a symbol. If you've ever taken a lit-crit class, it's quite an experience. It's not that I can't see symbolism or that I don't want to, it's just that everyone sees something different. Some symbols are dead obvious and others are ...


6

How difficult/dangerous is their quest? You can have the 18 travelers manage to escape from dangerous situations unhurt time and time again, and generally keep having miraculously good luck. Similarly, if there's a situation where the 18 aren't all together (suppose a couple of them wander off sightseeing), that's when their good luck should fail - and only ...


5

You must take responsibility for the fact that everything that occurs in your writing occurs because YOU placed it there, either consciously or subconsciously. Even if you are chronicling incidents from real life, you are doing so as filtered through your own experience and viewpoint. If nothing else, what you remember and what you forget are indicative of ...


5

One way to do it subtly might be to show the character's reactions to the symbols. For example: John was about to enter the room when he noticed the tulip painted to the side of the door. He hesitated. Not that he was superstitious, rationally he certainly knew that this was just the image of a nice flower. But that couldn't convince his emotions. After ...


4

The more symbols you have, the more your story becomes an allegory --a conceptual or abstract argument conveyed through metaphor and narrative --and the less it functions in its own right as a piece of fiction. Having one or two symbols in an otherwise realistic story can add psychological depth and resonance, but more than that and you run the risk of ...


4

This is a perfectly reasonable way to name your character and introduce the name with a little backstory. Some people will call it cheesy. Some people will say that it lacks originality. But all stories are always just retellings of what someone else previously wrote. Your goal should be to give it a personal spin by using your own words and your own style....


4

Yes, this is possible. It's called deeply nested fiction (and happens to be a particular interest of mine!). Many of the great classic works of world literature, such as the Arabian Nights, use this pattern. It's likewise common in modern metafiction. In general, in my experience, the more deeply you nest your fiction, the simpler, the less realist, the ...


4

You may be interested in experimental literature -- not everyone is into writing for the sake of Standard Storytelling. I adore 4th-wall breaking theater, such as "Six Characters in Search of an Author." I love meta. Behind-the-scenes tours at Disney are amazing -- you see not the story of the ride, but the decisions made, and perhaps what they're ...


4

TLDR: For a timeless classic, every bit of minutia matters. For everything else, don't worry about it. If you are attempting to write an award-winning story that will be studied by students for generations to come, then every minute detail you specify will indeed be rich with subtext and symbolism. Were that not so for any particular detail, you would ...


4

Can a banana ever be just a banana? Yes. I mention food in my writing, but not symbolically. In fact I almost never use any symbolism in my writing, at least not consciously. [Must I always be aware of the cultural implications of certain foods?] Not always, and as other answers point out, you probably cannot know every implication. Some reader may ...


4

Can you completely replace the meaning in the reader's mind? Probably not - it's pretty similar to trying to change the definition of a word. What might be easier is the change the symbol's meaning for your PoV characters. Try showing the change from their perspectives. Add some event that makes the question their initial beliefs, and eventually discard ...


4

I can see why it feels hard. Almost all these symbolism tropes refer to a specific existing symbolism, rather than ways to create something new. So what are your options? Apples have other symbolic meanings if you look to the right traditions, and if you know what you're doing you can create something new. One of my stories is called Golden Apples , even ...


3

In my own very brief experimentation with poetry, I always found it helpful to start with the image, the symbolism, as it were. So I wouldn't be "giving my poem more symbolism" - I'd start with the picture in my mind, and write the poem around that. In that fashion, I could replace words with synonyms, shift words around, scrape everything and start from ...


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