August 12, 2012

Themes & Symbolism: ROW80 Update

Shakespeare. He has proved* to be my nemesis on more than one occasion. I respect his works, even enjoy them. Then I got that one professor who considered himself the utmost authority on all things Shakespeare, and I have not read Shakespeare since.

Why? The professor picked out so many absurd, over-reaching varied themes and symbolism, I started to wonder. If Shakespeare was alive today, would he be sitting in the back of a college lecture laughing his butt** off? Did he really intend to put so many elements into his writing?

Or did he write a darn** good story and luck into some academic success?

I am not challenging Shakespeare's brilliance or writing talent, just how much forethought he had on people dissecting his work for generations to come.

But I digress...

As a writer, how much should we pour over adding themes and symbolism to our work?

I'll be honest, I write my story. After it's done, I will see some recurring themes and symbolism. I might even beef them up. Sure, I start with some themes... family issues, teenage insecurity, relationship difficulties, self-discovery... but I end up with more in the natural writing process than by some synthetic manipulation intended to make the reader think I'm talented.

* Just to share my OGD (Obsessive Grammar Disorder), I was torn on using has proved or has proven yet. I looked it up and according to modern usage, proven is only an adjective (such as a proven theory) and proved is the verb.

** Butt and darn were used as a public service announcement to my children who challenge me daily to not use bad words.


My A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) Update

It's slow going. Quite frankly, it will be until August 27th when my kids go back to school. I only have two weeks left with them. And I'll be honest... if they even sense my muse is considering gracing me with her presence, they set up a barricade of chaos to chase her away.

That being said, I have given a lot of thought to theme in my currrent WIP. Mom and I are doing a theme-based reading with Marty Silverthorne, a wonderful poet and my cousin. We are showing the same themes can be in prose and poems and reading snippets of our work. It's been an enlightening process, especially since Mom and I are again reading from our current novel.

I have two new editing jobs starting August 27 and a list of writing goals a mile long. I'm looking forward to that, but I will miss the time I've shared with my girls this summer. My family is such an important part of who I am as a writer. I think I've only really understood that lately.

One accomplishment I was quite proud of this past week. I blogged five days straight on Mom in Love with Fiction, including three book reviews. First time ever.

Hope all my ROW80 participants are rocking this round. Wishing you many words!


Jeff Clough said...

My approach to theme and symbolism is pretty similar to yours. I just write, focused on the story. After the first draft, then I'll see if there's a theme or symbolism I can play with and polish.
Good luck with late August and beyond!

Tia Bach said...

Glad I'm not the only one, Jeff. Thanks for stopping by and for the well wishes!

Jo Michaels said...

My books are all based around a theme. I'm not sure you can really write without one. There's something every author has to say or a story they have to tell and every tale we spin has a beginning, a middle, and an end. That's a theme in and of itself, no?

Symbolism is a different monster altogether. I find symbolism pops up of its own accord as I write. When it happens, I let it. But, I do recognize and nurture the words to make it less obvious :)


Juliana Haygert said...

I write the first draft without thinking about theme and symbolism. I'll go through the manuscript and look for it after it's all written.
But I confess I still struggle with theme, to find my own theme.

Julie Glover said...

I absolutely agree with you, Tia. I had a few English teachers I would argue with over this kind of stuff. (Wasn't I a fun student?) There would be some teacher who said something like, "The yellow hat in Curious George is a metaphor for the deep longing for courage and a clearer identity in the man without a name." Yeah, right. As Freud famous said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

I write with a theme and story in mind, beef up some symbols in edits, and don't sweat the rest. It was weird when someone who read my mystery novel noted something symbolic which I had never intended. I bet that happens to writers all the time.

And I have mixed feelings about school starting on the 27th too. Will miss my kids, but will get a lot more done! Best wishes.

Ainsley Shay said...

I agree with you. I don't think any of the respected authors from "back in the day" thought about those kinds of things. We - like we do everything - keep making things more complicated. And, I'm pretty sure we've almost perfected the process of dissecting anything and everything. It would be nice to just write without feeling like we're going to be analyzed at the end.

And like you, school for my kids starts soon too (next week) and getting back into the groove will be a little tricky. But, we always seem to manage.

Tia Bach said...

Jo, I always have a central theme, but some pop up through my writing process. I agree, you can't write without one.

Juliana, I struggle with it, too. I don't want to be heavy-handed with anything.

Julie, I need to get more done and get back to a schedule, but I'm going to miss my kiddos!

Ainsley, You said it, we definitely over-complicate things the more "developed" we get. Kinda sad, really. We've lost some of the natural flow.

KM Huber said...

I think it's just about writing the story and as you say, themes and symbolism come out of a complete telling of a story. As for Shakespeare, my favorite story is from a favorite professor. After the first few weeks of class, an older student came up to him and said, "I don't know why everyone thinks Shakespeare is so great. All he did was write clich├ęs." For all I know that may be an urban legend but it has always brought a smile.

Best of luck to you in the rest of this round.


Tia Bach said...

Karen, You made my day with that quote. Too funny. :-) Thanks for stopping by!