It is all in the symbols - adding symbols to your novel. Part of the 'In a nutshell' series.
I have studied quite a bit in my time from a degree to a masters to a professional qualification… but when I started writing I didn’t want to study about anything. I wanted to just get on with it. The end result was Goa Traffic. I didn’t think about adding any symbols or the likes but subconsciously I must have known about the importance of using symbols in a novel because when I look back now I see that Goa Traffic has quite a few important symbols within the novel.
Now, when I talk about symbols I am not talking about sci-fi sort of symbols like crop circles and the likes. I am talking about Lisa’s black ballet pumps in Goa Traffic which represent her ‘safe’ character. I am talking about the ‘bittersweet vine’ as in plant that is said to represent truth in my second novel, The Bittersweet Vine. Maria’s hair styles and as they change through the novel are also a symbol to show her changing personality.
And when I talk about symbols I am even talking about the weather. Before I had even contemplated writing as a hobby/wannabe career and I was in school studying Jane Eyre I remember writing ‘WRA’ in the annotation column. WRA stood for 'weather reflects atmosphere' and I can tell you that every writer uses the symbolism of weather to reflect emotions and atmosphere. The use of weather is a great way to add that extra dimension to your ms.
Once you are aware of symbolism and how it can draw the reader further into your story you will want to add some subtle symbols to your novel. Start simply - A cloudy day perhaps when your protagonist is unsure of a decision to be made. Rain can represent tears. But don’t over-do the weather either. I noticed this on editing The Bittersweet Vine - every five minutes it was raining or thundery. There was way too much WRA and it was over-kill. I needed to get rid of some of it and I did. But that is what editing is for.
It is also an idea to think about the symbols in your own life when you are writing. That silver ring you always wear – why? – because your best friend gave it you you moments before she took her own life… In my new book, Poison in the Water, yet to have its first edit. The humble bumble bee makes an appearance and is a strong symbol in the novel. The bumble bee represents a hard worker and loyalty but it also has a sting in its tail if it is pushed too far.
Also after reading a book on colour therapy I find that emphasising colours in your novel can provide a meaning on a subconscious level. In Poison in the Water fuchsia is used quite a bit in contrast the gold bee which is the ‘Cross’ branding (Cross is a high end boutique store which the protagonist works for). I have never liked Magenta. I don’t think the colour suits me. But recently I have been drawn to the colour. It was one of the reasons why I started looking into colour therapy. I found it odd that given my whole life of wearing blacks and blues and any other dark colours that I was suddenly craving colour. Yes that is all I can describe it as – I was having a colour craving. At university (I did a degree in business) I did a module in semiotics and it was fascinating to learn how colours in adverts make consumers more likely to go out and buy something. There is a whole world of subliminal messages out there! Use them!
I found out that magenta is the colour of harmony. The colour that allows you to create your own path and increases your chances of living your dream. It also allows you to let go of emotional patterns that prevent development and it is uplifting. Now I don’t even mention all this in Poison in the water. I don’t want to bore the reader to tears. But it is interesting to know. And I think colours have those subliminal messages even though we are not aware of it. Use colours like symbols in your novels.
Anyway that is enough for me. if you are still not convinced think of the book you are reading now, it will have some symbolism in it. Think about what this is as you read and see how it makes an impression on you – subconsciously. When fine tuning your novel I think it is important to add symbolism to you novel. For sure you will already have some of it in there – without even thinking to add it, but if you are aware of its importance you can refine it so that it creates a powerful impression on your reader and in doing so it will create a book your readers will not forget!
On that note happy writing and editing!