Monday, April 22, 2013

A to Z: S is for Symbolism + Game of Thrones Recap


Welcome to the A to Z Challenge! This is my first year participating. Basically, we post every day except Sunday, which in April means we'll finish on the 30th. We blog about something each day which starts with the corresponding letter of the alphabet. So, day 1=A, day 2=B, etc. Visit the A to Z blog for more details.

My theme is writing and related bookish things. A pretty vague theme, I'll admit, but as this is a writing/bookish blog, I thought I'd clarify. 

Today's letter: S
P is for Symbolism.

Symbolism is, in my humble opinion, a somewhat lost art in novel-writing. Well, maybe that's unfair, but I just don't see it much in current novels. Of course we use darkness and sinister descriptions for our villain, while our heroes/heroines tend to radiate light, but if you read literature of by-gone eras, there is always a plethora of symbolism, both blatant and subtle. Granted, I don't think we could get away with blatant symbolism these days. It's always considered cliche, and while I mourn the fact that it's not done anymore, I don't necessarily disagree either. 

Example: in the 1953 film, Ben Hur, our hero, played by the untouchable Charlton Heston, compete in a chariot race and his horses are the whitest white, while his arch-nemesis (the villain of the film) races behind black horses. See what I mean? Blatantly obvious symbolism, but would be considered a bit too obvious today. Though I think it's sad that we can't do this anymore because there's a simplistic beauty that's often missing from today's story-telling ventures.

Furthermore, books today are often more concerned with humor, character, and action than with symbolism. Don't get me wrong; these are things any author worth their salt should be concerned about. But I would challenge all writers to look at your WIP and consider how you might incorporate some subtle symbolism.

If you're going to have a big reveal where someone is evil that the reader doesn't (or shouldn't) suspect, through some symbol of their evil into the background. (This is arguably a form of foreshadowing as well, but that doesn't mean it's any less symbolic.) Another thing you can do is to throw in a symbol to represent a universal theme, but the real challenge is to keep from explaining it within the story. Try to trust that your audience will see what you want them to see. Trust yourself as a writer that you've brought across what you've meant to. If you can pull this off (and I don't pretend it's an easy thing to do) your story will hold an almost undefinable psychological power over your audience. Well-done symbolism can even evoke an emotional reaction that the readers themselves can't explain. But they definitely will remember it.

Where do you see symbolism in today's books? How do you show symbolism in your writing?

Game of Thrones Recap

Whaw-hoo! Episode 4 was excellent and I'm SOOO excited for episode 5 next week. (Why must there be seven days between episodes? Why?)

So we see more of Brienne and Jaime, helpless in the hands of mean North men who, now that Jaime is pretty much defenseless, feel the need to kick the crap out of him at the slightest provocation. Not that he doesn't deserve it after all the twisted things he's done, but you can't help but feel a little sorry for the guy. Of course Brienne gives him a swift kick in the (emotional) butt by telling him to stop feeling sorry for himself and, you know, welcome to the real world. Go Brienne!

I admit I didn't totally understand the whole Tyrion-and-Varys-opening-the-coffin-that-had-a-gross-looking-dude-in-it scene. I don't remember it from the book and was a little confused, though I'm sure I'll get an explanation as the season rolls along.

Varys is also busy conspiring with the Dowager Lady of High Garden (who still has the sharpest tongue in the west) to keep Sansa out of Littlefinger's clutches. (From the very start Baelish felt like a pedophile to me. Just sayin'.) It seems they're dispensing with the crippled son--I think his name was Willam or Willis or something--and just proposing Sansa marry Loras. She, of course, is happy about that, as she's been crushing on his near-feminine beauty since the tourney in season 1, but I don't think she realizes he bats for the other team.

Meanwhile, Bran has a deeply disturbing dream which includes his mother, and we're already starting to see how threatened Cercei is by Margary and the other Tyrells. She goes to her father with her concerns and is burned. Bad. (As in, "Oh snap!") While Tywin is horrible and I wouldn't wish him as a parent on anyone, I didn't necessarily disagree with what he said. Cersei isn't half as smart as she thinks she is and she has allowed Joffery to run rampant and unchecked.

I still don't really see the point of showing Theon's story line, here. Why did the random dude rescue Theon just to bring him back? Hopefully we get a better explanation eventually. Sucks to be him, though.

At Craster's keep, nothing short of civil war breaks out between the men of the Night's Watch, leaving both Craster and Commander Mormont dead. This is a break from the book. Mormont's death was much different there, but you can see they're consolidating story lines and trying to keep on top of things. For me, the method of his demise is minor. The fact that he's gone is a set-up for Jon Snow's (who was forgotten about entirely in this episode) future.

Finally, I didn't think we'd see Arya at all in this episode, but was pleasantly surprised to get a few minutes of her. I was a bit aggravated that they started the Hound vs. Dondarion scene, but didn't finish it. But, ces la vie! (That's one of the reasons I can't wait for next episode. This is one of my favorite scenes from book 3!)

And across the Narrow Sea, Dany is busy making war, freeing slaves, and roasting chauvinistic slavers alive.

Good times.

All in all, a great episode. Counting down the days (seven of them! SEVEN!) until next episode.

What did everyone else think of episode 4?

Don't forget to sign up for the Mermaid Literature Summer Reading Challenge! It starts May 15!


  1. I have to admit that I'm not good at symbolism. My CP is awesome at it.

    I'll skip the recap since I'm behind you in watching the Game of Thrones episodes. Not much time these days to watch TV.

  2. I'm not good at it either, so it's not present in my books.

  3. Symbolism, when done well, is so cool. I think that today it's more of an afterthought, if it's remembered at all. (And I can only read the top half of your post. It'll be a while before I get to watch season three.)