Symbolism in literature is the use of symbols to represent ideas, which gives them added significance apart from their literal meanings. This can create depth as well as underlining the broader implications. It also helps the reader to gain an insight into the writer’s imagination.
As I have recently been editing my debut novel “Slur” and have returned to it after many years, I have been surprised by a lot of the content. In some cases I have been pleasantly surprised but in some cases I wasn’t so happy with what I had written and have therefore rewritten some sentences and passages. I’ve also removed a couple of scenes and added a couple of new ones.
Revisiting your work after a few years can definitely help you to put a new perspective on things. I was pleased to find that I had made good use of symbolism in the following passage:
The school environment is in many respects similar to other working environments in that, when a topic becomes the subject of gossip, it is discussed indefatigably for several weeks until people tire of its contents or are unable to embellish the tale further.
However, should a new element of the tale be discovered, it will quickly re-ignite public interest in the story. Such was the case with the Julie Quinley scandal, and this latest revelation spread ferociously through the school with its libellous flames enveloping everyone in their pathway. It was only a matter of a few hours until Clare Quinley became engulfed in their fiery force and had to bear once more the consequences of the scandal to which she had become a central figure.
In the original wording, however, I had used ‘add fuel to the fire’, which I swiftly replaced with ‘re-ignite public interest in the story’ to avoid using such a cliché. By replacing the wording I have still managed to conjure up the image of a rumour spreading ‘like wildfire’ but I have avoided using a cliché whilst doing so.
Here’s another line from “Slur” that makes use of symbolism:
Julie felt as though she was on a factory conveyor belt; being forcefully transported through the various painful stages of her own destruction.
One of the things I love about creative writing is the chance to experiment with the many skills that I have learnt over the years. It’s what makes it fun I think. I always get a really good buzz if I feel that I have written a well-constructed passage. Alternatively, if I’m not particularly happy with something I’ve written, editing gives me the chance to change it and often an idea that eluded me during the first draft will suddenly present itself at the editing stage.
I would love to hear from other writers about what techniques they like to use or what elements of their writing they particularly enjoy.
8 thoughts on “Use of Symbolism in “Slur””
Hi Diane, I love it when the sentences come together well and agree with you on the buzz you get when you know it works. I find when I start going through my ms after getting my first draft done I can quite often be horrified by what I’ve written but occasionally am quite pleased with the flow! I love reworking sections until I’m happier with the results but know I need to work much more on symbolism because it is very effective and I loved your passage above. Looking forward to the book coming out! Georgia
Thanks Georgia. Yes, there were a few horrors lurking. I don’t know about you but I’m sometimes in such a rush to get my thoughts down that I make silly errors. Still, that’s what editing is for, isn’t it? I can’t wait to publish but I’ve got to be patient till after summer as I’ll be going away for three weeks so there’s no point releasing it till I can give it my all with the promotion. 🙂
The conveyor belt image is a really effective one Diane, which readers will no doubt appreciate. Cliches can be pretty annoying in books and I guess we all have to be diligent to avoid them.
Thanks for your feedback Guy, which is much appreciated. Yes, editing is very good for picking up those rogue cliches that always seem to sneak their way in. 🙂
I love the way you avoided using a cliche, by replacing it with an arguably more evocative image.
I’m a sucker for alliteration in my writing, as I’m sure you’ve probably noticed 😉
Thanks for your comment Clare. I love alliteration too, especially with words in sets of three for some strange reason, hence Diane Mannion’s Wonderful World of Writing. 🙂 In fact, I often use alliteration in headings when I write articles for clients as it makes them catchy. 🙂
I love to use symbolism, too, can’t resist it!
Jenny, Thanks for popping over and welcome. Yes, I think symbolism can really help to convey your ideas to the reader, can’t it?