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I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Insecure Writer's Support Group

Posting the first Wednesday of every month, The Insecure Writer's Support Groupis  the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh. YOU can sign up HERE to participate. 

To change things up a bit, every month, we'll announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Let's give our co-hosts  a warm welcome! 
Misha Gericke, LK Hill, Juneta Key, Christy and Joylene Buter!

This month's question is: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

I can remember wondering quite clearly in high school, while reading and writing book reports for the classics we had to read, why it was we had to search for hidden meanings, or for symbolism. Why, I wondered, can't I just read the story and enjoy it without all this digging around for the author's ulterior motive?

Although I still mostly read for enjoyment without looking for the "deeper meaning" I have a much better understanding of how layered writing can be.

In my book, A LIZARD'S TAIL, the naive, self-assured, and vain young hero learns the value of getting help from others and of not being so proud. But learning these lessons costs him something. That's the hidden message. However, it remains a simple adventure story, and can be read that way.

As for THE BOWL AND THE STONE, on one level it's a simple ghost story. But on another it's about deep and abiding friendship, even a friendship that can survive across time. 

Did I intentionally write these stories with those messages in mind? Not at the beginning. They evolved on their own. And, as I saw it evolving, I nurtured it. 

The trick, I've discovered, is not to be blatant. Let the story be told, let the message be like Easter eggs hidden in plain sight but not so plainly that the beautiful colors become a distraction. If you find the eggs, that's wonderful. If you don't, nothing is taken away from the story.

That's what I've learned from being an avid reader.

What about you? Has being a writer changed your experience as a reader, or has reading changed your experience as a writer?

36 comments:

  1. I feel the exact same way! I used to hate being forced to look for symbols and hidden meanings in books but I definitely have a better understanding of it now. And I also don't usually intend to put symbolism in my writing, but it tends to pop up all on its own and then I can work with it as I edit the story.

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    1. It's interesting how symbolism creeps in. I wonder how many writers do it intentionally and how many discover it during the process of writing?

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  2. Yes, I never enjoyed digging through a story for the hidden meaning either.

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    1. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one!

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  3. I love it. I find I connect most with books that have a strong inner theme, aka, the heart of the story. I was actually disappointed in one I recently read because while it had all the necessary elements, in order to bring the theme home, it needed one big tweak at the end, and it didn't go there. *sigh* Hey, here's to picky readers, eh?

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    1. That would be frustrating, Crystal, even for me who generally doesn't look into the "hidden message."

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  4. Knowing how to add those subtle messages and deeper meanings is a real talent, Bish.

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    1. It is, and though I've discovered I do it, I'm not always sure how well I manage.

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  5. Hi Bish - what a great way to express the layers within the books ... I like the way you've expressed these ... I don't like weak endings - they may be tidied up, but not cleverly enough done ... makes me feel I've been cheated. Cheers Hilary

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  6. I agree. I don't like when an author spells out the theme of the story for you. Just let it unfold naturally!

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    1. I agree. Unless it's an obvious allegory or parable (Pilgrims Progress, The Prophet) let it be subtle.

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  7. How lovely that you were able to nurture the themes as your writing progressed. I found that only came in the editing process.

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    1. As I work on stories now, I do have a theme in mind from the very beginning. Not so much in earlier works.

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  8. Good way to put it, Bish. I find that we sometimes write in these subliminal messages without even knowing they're there. It becomes second nature.

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    1. I think so too. They come out of our subconscious, reflecting ourselves back to us.

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  9. I do like to discover deeper meanings in stories. :)

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    1. I do to some extent, but mostly I like to read for reading's sake.

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  11. IF you can't find the inner meaning organically, from reading, it's not there. People might say they've put a 'hidden' meaning in their stories, but if it's too hidden what's the point? It's like saying there's a character arc and no one sees a single change in the character from beginning to end; saying it isn't creating it. Or am I being massively negative and critical? LOL!

    XX

    shahwharton.com

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    1. No, I don't think you're being critical at all. I guess there's a mid-point between being too obvious and obtuse or non-existent when it comes to sub-text/theme.

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  12. I used to hate searching for hidden meanings in writing, but I understand it a lot more now.

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  13. If there are deep meanings in my books, it happened by accident I'm afraid.

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    1. Not every book as an "ulterior motive." Many are fine just as they are, like yours. :)

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  14. I love your Easter Egg analogy. I've not written any of my book with a deeper meaning intended, but all three of them seemed to evolve into their own deeper meaning as the story unfolded. I kind of like how that happens. If I tried to do it, I'm afraid I would fail miserably. Letting it happen is great.

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  15. I'm just the writer. At least most days it feels like that. I always marvel at reviews when the reviewer has seen things I never intend. On one hand i feel smart, on another a little guilty.

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    1. I would be quite flattered if a reader read something more into my story than I intended. It would mean it touched something deep within themselves that the writing reflected back to them.

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  16. I agree with you: you don't need to be concerned about a message in your story. It emerges on its own. I just try to be honest and don't lie in my writing. The first time I noticed the trend in my characters and stories, it surprised me. It seems my writing tells more about me than I realized or wanted to share.

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    1. That our writing tells readers about us is probably more true than we'd care to admit.

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  17. I had the same reaction, Bish. Why do I have to look for all that meaning! Now, I enjoy it, but still not to extreme.

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  18. I find that being a writer has changed my experience as a TV watcher! I am constantly finishing people's sentences for them, especially on sitcoms.

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  19. I just write and let the words guide me. And I just read without getting bogged down with spotting errors. Analysis has its place but not during the creative process. Great post, Bish. I hope all is well.

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  20. What a great lesson, Bish! I remember thinking the same thing back in high school. I thought that some of the things we were looking for may have been intentionally written in by the authors, but some just seemed like we were trying to give meaning to ever little thing. :)

    Thanks for sharing!
    ~Jess

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  21. I read for enjoyment - or research. Either way I'm not ever looking for hidden meanings. I don't mind finding hidden meanings, but wonder at a need to hide them in the first place. As a storyteller I do just that - tell the story. Engaging the reader (as you do) while doing so is as complex a task as the achievement is grand ;-)

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  22. I've read for pleasure for so many years that is my first inclination and not pay attention to the details of the actual mechanics ignoring errors as long as they are many and big. I've had to learn to pay attention, so when I do read for that reason i don't enjoy as much. I do love it when I find a story layered with deeper meaning.

    Happy IWSG Belated Day!
    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

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Your Random Thoughts are most welcome!