Over twenty years as a high-school English teacher, I have read many great books and learned the art of crafting them. It has also given me a rare opportunity that many writers find inspiring: I get to see daily which literary texts have an impact on my audience. This audience is really one of the most difficult audiences to reach: teens.
Writing is all about the moment. I experienced it in one of my classes’s studies of Fyodor Didstoyevsky’s classic novel Crime and Punishment. Honors World Literature Class student said to my, “I cannot wait to read. “I’ve looked forward to this all the day,” she said to me. I honestly thought she was responding in the kind of sarcasm that teachers teach adolescents every day. She wasn’t making it in class, and she had spoken to me numerous times about her distaste of reading. I asked if she was being sarcastic. I asked her to clarify and she said “No. This book is my favourite.”
You’ve heard educators talk about “teacher moment”?
Now imagine that someone is saying that about your creation.
My 22-years of study of great literature have been a huge help to me as a teacher and writer. It allows me to craft stories rich in meaning that add depth to the characters and plots that I create. My knowledge is a source of inspiration for my students. It reveals the layers of glue used by writers to hold a story together.
Fiction is more that a story. Like an artist using the elements of size, shape and shadow to create a picture, a writer also uses a variety techniques to make a meaningful whole. An excellent writer knows that creating a work of excellence does not happen by chance. Although an inspiration may strike suddenly, the process takes months to years of effort and careful attention.
In order to create masterful fiction, symbolism must be included. Since the beginning of history, symbols have been embedded in literature, culture, society, and environment. This symbology can be used by great writers to enhance the depth and substance of their characters and themes.
Ginny Wiehardt won the award for poetry and fiction writing. This indirect approach allows an artist to add nuance or complexity.
How can symbolism help improve the quality and style of your writing?
- It creates curiosity in the reader’s perceptions of and judgments.
- It gives characters and topics a sense of universality. This makes it more likely that the text will get a lot of attention and be well-received.
- It makes it more likely that readers will grasp the important themes and ideas that the author has put forward.
- It provides valuable clues that assist in strong characterization.
- It is used to improve the overall mood and tone that the author tries create.
- It improves the reader’s ability to picture emotions and conflicts through a piece literature.
Symbology is a broad subject, but I’ll show you some strategies to maximize its benefits for your own literary creations.
The Symbolic Value of Names
Many notable writers have used characters’ names as symbolic representations of their personalities and personal conflicts. Raskolnikov, Dostoevsky’s classic Crime and Punishment is a great example of this. The story is about a man that is torn apart because of his premeditated act to murder. Russian words for “raskol”, such as schism or division, refer to the warring ideologies in the life of the character.
This technique can help writers foreshadow, cement and highlight the character’s main conflicts. The idea for this article was born out of a writing workshop where a novelist was trying to find the right name for a mean, untalkative character. One of the group members suggested that the writer research symbolism and names. So I did my research to see what I could discover. German is silent or quiet. Dutch is cruel. So what about Liesel Wreed, a character?
As I guide you through many ways to add depth in your writing with the element symbolism, my fictional character will help you to see how layers symbolism can enhance the central themes and ideas that you want to emphasize.
I will illustrate this character because she has been affected by traumas from her childhood that have left her stuck, unable move forward and unable make positive life changes. Let’s now see how we can make name symbolism work here.
Spanish has the feminine child “nina”, while Welsh has the word “cadwyn”. Perhaps Nina Cadwyn would be appropriate to portray a girl chained to the past.
Strategies to include name symbolism
- In the text you are writing, note the character traits and struggles of your protagonist. Next, look for names that demonstrate these traits.
- Browse the books of baby names with their meanings. For example, I wanted to see my son be a fighter and someone who never gives up. To give Ethan his new name, I used one these books. Hebrew means “strong, firm”, and the name comes from Hebrew.
- Google can also be used for finding the connections you need. You can search different languages for example to find the meaning of a term. Google translate would make me nervous. Many times words don’t translate properly because they don’t consider linguistic features like part or speech. IDL or Indifferent Languages is one possible site. This site may also be useful as a point of inspiration. Keep in mind that you do not have to use the exact word for word translation–remember, “raskol” was only a piece of the name “Raskolnikov.” Rather, use the translation as a point of origin, and play with word forms and variations to come up with something you like.