We learned in school that we should analyze a work to find the hidden themes and symbols, etc. It was not uncommon to pull out our magnifying glasses as we inspected the literary works for their motifs.

What this has done to many writers is that it has compelled them to install these mechanical devices into their own works in an attempt to generate deeper levels of meaning. It sounds like a great idea, right? And in our modern times, no one wants to be thought of as superficial. Being superficial is the new “idiot,” as far as I’m concerned.

The trouble with these literary devices is that writers will create symbols that mean nothing to the characters. When we think of the Red “A” embroidered on Pearl’s chest from The Scarlet Letter, we know immediately what that means. But more importantly, the characters within the story know what that “A” means .

Whenever we are using symbols within our stories that mean nothing to the characters, it’s like inserting an iPhone into a novel written during the First World War. It doesn’t fit, and it’s forced.

Whatever we write has to be as the characters experience it. Inputting random motifs and themes, simply because we feel that it gives our novel personality, is unnecessary. Should we use symbols? Absolutely, if your novel calls for it! Will there be themes that are lodged within our story? Yes! But these symbols and themes all fit within the story itself. They aren’t weird like two-headed snakes.

11 thoughts on “SCHOOL MESSED ME UP

  1. Jessica Baker

    I’m not sure I put motifs in my stories, but I’ve got to admit i do love a running gag, and usually try and thread a few in, mainly to amuse myself! Although I’m not normally subtle so hopefully the reader would pick up on them!

    1. William Stadler Post author

      Lol! Yeah something about a thread that’s neatly woven. It can really add a lot of intrigue to a story!

  2. juliehhicks

    Hey William, just FYI: this is the first time this has ever happened but every time I clicked on the “read more of this post” link in my email, it kept taking me to “page not found” – mind you I have a hyperactive antivirus software and our internet connection can sometimes be wonky so this is probably all related to that somehow. All I had to do was click on your “home” link to read the post so it was no big deal but wanted to share just in case others were having the same issue. Great post once I got to to where I could read it! 🙂

    1. William Stadler Post author

      Thanks, Julie. I’ll check the link to make sure that it’s working properly. I wonder if WordPress was having some trouble yesterday.

      Anyway, thanks again!

    1. William Stadler Post author

      I agree, Vikki. I do like symbolism, and I have a tendency to lean to far to the symbolic side, but I have to pull myself back and remember that if it doesn’t matter to the characters, then it doesn’t matter to the reader.

  3. Virginia

    Hi William, I’m doing a Guest Post Week next week and I’d love for you to be a part of it! All it is, I’ll ask you 3 questions about your writing – all you have to do is contribute 3 elaborate answers and maybe a pic of yourself? It’s just my way to get to know the bloggers I enjoy reading. Anyway, let me know as my first guest post is going up on Saturday

    1. William Stadler Post author

      Absolutely! I would certainly love to do that. Just get the questions to me, and I’ll answer them! Thanks for the opportunity.

      1. Virginia

        I’m thrilled that you said yes William! I print out all your posts and use them as a reference guide – your posts are a fantastic resource!

        I was wondering if there is an email address I could send the questions to? Or if you prefer facebook? There are only 3 questions so if you could provide elaborate answers that would be great.

        Thanks so much again – I wasn’t sure if you’d agree, so I’m stoked that you have! 🙂

  4. William Stadler Post author

    Virginia, of course I’d say yes! I’m so excited about the opportunity! I love doing stuff like this; it certainly is my passion.

    Facebook works, but I don’t really prefer it.

    Please forward your questions to with the Subject Line: QUESTIONS.

    Thanks again, Virginia 🙂


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