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.