Let’s talk about the dress. You know the one I mean. Months of speculation finally were satisfied last Friday when we glimpsed it at last, then studied it in detail as Kate Middleton slowly processed down the aisle of Westminster Abbey.
There are a lot of adjectives we could use to describe it, from sophisticated to sexy, but most meaningful was what the dress recalled. As many commentators remarked, it paid homage to and invoked the wedding dress of Grace Kelly, another commoner who became a princess.
A wedding dress is always symbolic. In this case its meaning ran deeper. It said not only that every girl is a princess inside but that every one of us is, in a way, royal. On Friday, Kate Middleton wasn’t the only one who was elevated. We all were.
The meaning of symbols isn’t always easy to understand. Some meanings are lamely obvious because of repetition: dove, eagle, rose, sunrise, winter, ice, lightning. Others are so obtuse they are eternal fodder for term papers: albatross, white whale, the Valley of Ashes.
Whether obscure or obvious, symbols convey a sense of meaning by association. The strongest symbols evoke emotions and ideas. They can tie a novel together or highlight something important in a scene. Characters themselves can become symbolic. Think Animal Farm or Lord of the Flies.
Whether one-time and fleeting or recurring and grand, what matters to me is that novelists use symbols, and lots of them. They’re hard to overdo. They’re a fundamental tool for writing beautifully, whether your intent is literary or commercial.
Let’s try packing your current manuscript with more meaning. Ready? [Read more…]