A New Life in Seattle

A New Life in Seattle
August, 2018

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Dreadful Clash of Symbols

So, there you are, blissfully ensconced in the new thriller you're reading. And suddenly you feel...creeped out. Yes, yes, there it is again! Once again the author has gone out of his or her way to beat you on your noggin with The Escalator. This is the seventh time in the novel that the action has come to a screeching dead stop to describe The Escalator: its history, its manufacture, the number of trips up and down every day, the ever-escalating rise of the hero's daily trips...And, worse, on the book's very cover is a graphic picture of--you bet, The Escalator, Though it has nothing to do with the action--the reason you're reading, to start with--and is never explained...still, The Escalator is established as a symbol and it gains in stature with every new appearance.

Now, this is a very old business with writers trying to gain extra mileage from tales that are usually thin. The monolith in 2001? What the hell was that about? Ask and you'll be answered by a scribe with a pipe in his mouth: It is what it is...Your private truth is in your mind...Etc., etc., etc.

To which I respond: Balderdash. And I propose a simple rule: If anything smacks of a Symbol, it should be bounced from the story. Why? Because it's attempting to carry more weight than it can actually handle. No borrowed strength should be allowed: The Escalator must also work as an escalator. The symbols that work and do not creep us out are those we perceive on our own. Fools can beat us till we're blue with Escalators and Monoliths and Whatevers. But nothing can compare with the reading magic we feel when we perceive a connection barely even hinted at.

Sayyy...Suddenly I'm thinking of that escalator scene back in the first chapter...or the monolith I briefly saw...and I'm seeing a new layer here...I don't want my noggin pounded with a silver hammer. I want to discover, as if on my own, new meanings to the story.

When in doubt, be subtle and let the readers have their joys.

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