The Art of Getting Out of the Way   5 comments

What do you want readers to take away from your work when they read it?

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I don’t specifically write message-driven books. Mostly, I want readers to feel like they’ve stood in the shoes of my characters and experienced their world. If that happens, I’ve done my job as an author.

That said, I have opinions and preferences just like everyone else and I have this great forum for sharing what I believe about the world, faith and life in general. While I don’t set out to write a message, there are a few things I hope readers gather from my writing.

Image result for image of symbolism in writing

I believe in God and I don’t really care if you object to my faith, but I’m okay with you being wrong. I don’t think you’re an evil person for missing the whole point of existence. I do hope you will one day see that God is the ultimate reality, Savior and Lord of the world. I don’t believe I’m perfect, but I do think God saved me for a better life than the one He called me out of. That belief and hope comes out in a couple of ways in my writing. I don’t write Christian books, but I am a writer who is a Christian. I write non-Christian characters who are people with worth and intelligence, who sometimes save the day. I write Christian characters who are imperfect and sometimes drop the ball. I try to present Christian faith in an honest fashion that is respectful of Biblical teachings, but I’m not really trying to witness for my faith through my books. I just find agenda-driven literature to be boring reads, so I try to avoid it, but if my faith speaks as an incidental part of the story, I don’t delete it either because I think sometimes God speaks when people are ready to listen.

I deeply mistrust government and think that life solutions are best found through the voluntary efforts of individuals freely working in groups. That’s a deliberate choice in Transformation Project, but a libertarian fan tells me she found a strain of it in Daermad Cycle, so apparently it’s a personal ethic that flows out of me. Again, I’m not going to preach it because I think message fiction almost always sucks, but my characters are making these choices based on my principles and I hope the reader will ponder the reasons why.

I value self-sufficiency and abhor dependence. That doesn’t mean that a disabled character shouldn’t be helped when they need help, but that I will tolerate only so much whining in life … from myself, from you, and from my characters. I do have characters who are constantly in the why-me’s and who will need to remain like that because that is their role. They are hard for me to write, because my personal ethic is to look boldly at things, say “This is crap” and try to wade through it to the other side. I am a resilient person who has had to be resilient in a life that has not always been a bowl of cherries. I choose to bounce back because that is better than living in defeat. But that’s not everybody, so sometimes characters have to be downer-Debbies. They usually don’t last long because, to quote Don Henley, I want to find their inner child and kick its little ass … and as the author, I can actually do that without going to jail.

I don’t do damsels in distress. I received a great compliment in an Amazon review recently that my female characters are not stereotypical of the apocalyptic genre. They are active, often armed, and willing to take risks, but they are also females. I don’t try to make them physically equal to men because women aren’t in reality physically as strong as men. I’m not making any sort of feminist statements when I make my women capable and as strong as they need to be, but also working in community with men. That is simply my experience of living in Alaska where men are really men and women repeatedly win the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest.

I thought I would share what some famous writers say about messages and symbolism in their books.

Isaac Asimov: “Consciously? Heavens, no! Unconsciously? How can one avoid it?”

Ray Bradbury: “No, I never consciously place symbolism in my writing. That would be a self-conscious exercise and self-consciousness is defeating to any creative act. Better to let the subconscious do the work for you, and get out of the way. The best symbolism is always unsuspected and natural.”

So, while I don’t start out with any sort of message to my readers when I write, these themes flow from who I am as a person. If a character happens to embody those ideals, it is rarely a deliberate choice on my part, but I hope my readers respect or that they will come to respect these ideals through reading my books. Mostly, I just hope you love the characters and experience what they experience, but of course every act of creativity imparts some flavor of the creator within it.

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Posted October 24, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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5 responses to “The Art of Getting Out of the Way

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  1. Very enlightening… an interesting read 🙂

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  2. I think symbolism in books- done quietly and not interfering with the story- can add to the story line or our knowledge of the characters.

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  3. We all follow our own spiritual path, and I am just discovering mine after 58 years. However, I do agree with being self-reliant, although not all of my characters are.

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    • Writing a book is like constructing a quilt — lots of colors and patterns. If you design a quilt that is all one color, it’s not very attractive. Similarly, our books must have varied characters in order to be entertaining. We can’t have all self-reliant characters. My challenge in writing an apocalyptic is in allowing some of the more dependent characters to survive because they have a special skill or are just lucky or they are the granddaughter of one of the wealthiest men in the country who is in a position to get the town supplies other towns don’t have access to. I want to kick her butt, but I have to remember who her grandfather is.

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