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Is That What I Really Meant? January 11, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in education, history, ideas, science, writing.

My son forwarded a link about a project Bruce McAllister started when he was a high school student in 1963. He wrote 75 authors asking if they intentionally put symbolism into their work

The wide spectrum of authors answering fascinates me. Some were terse like Ayn Rand–but she responded. Others like Ray Bradbury were generous with their time and thoughts (what else would you expect out of a great writer like Ray?) Another revisited the question a year after the initial survey. Interesting to see how long the comments from the sf authors were.

The old saw about “write what you know” is true in the sense that a writer can’t put something into a story if it isn’t already in the brain–or the pieces that are put together to form the story. You are a prisoner of your own experience. Worse, you are in solitary confinement, only getting brief glimpses outside (and then this becomes part of your experience).

I have always said that a writer is responsible for 75% of the story. The reader brings the other 25% and this is entirely beyond the writer’s control. Those that hate a story not only don’t find their 25% engaged, things in the 75% go awry, also. But those that click, those that have their full 25% firing on all rockets, see things the writer possibly never intended–or ever could. A synergy, if you please, makes for the best books.

In a way, finding symbolism is a matter for the academics. I doubt it matters much to writers (unless they are academics and think this is necessary). Delivering a powerful story, an entertaining one, is (or ought to be) what drives a writer.

So what do you see?


1. Al Ellis - January 12, 2012

I totally agree with you that the writer might not care, or possibly shouldn’t.

By the way, I see an evil kitty, juggling.

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