Monday, October 6, 2008

Symbols in Writing

In a painting, a photograph or a movie, the dominant colors determine how the viewer will perceive the image. Blues, for example, tend to make the image seem cold. Yellow make the image much warmer. In writing, there are symbols that do what colors do for images.

Snoopy always began his novels with, “It was a dark and stormy night…” The darkness of night, mixed with a storm gives us a sense of foreboding. Something bad is sure to happen. We may stumble upon a dead body, or the house may fall down. Maybe we will find a ghostly figure at our door.

Contrast the dark and stormy night with the sunny beach. Nothing bad ever happens at a beach unless it is raining or it is nighttime. Bodies do wash upon the beach during the daytime, but only because someone killed it the night before.

Dead is a very important symbol in writing. Dead has finality to it, so it tells us that things can never get better. If the husband walks out of the house and the dog dies on the same day, that tells us that the husband will never return home. The woman will never be happy again. That makes it so much better when the husband does return at the end of the book, but if the dog hadn’t died we might not have been surprised that he would come back.

The images of springtime bring with it images of life and new birth. Singing birds and blooming flowers give us a feeling that whatever bad thing has happened it can be made right.