ray bradbury writing quotes

Symbolism in writing: What a few famous authors had to say

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 3.10.54 PMI've always been more of the, "the apple really is just an apple" camp, when it comes to symbolism. I think that's why I connected much more with my creative writing classes than with my lit classes in college--I always felt like in the lit classes, we were playing a game called, "what was the author really trying to say?" And I always enjoyed  focusing on the actual text than when I thought was secretly inserted into it. Today, my good friend passed on this story on Mental Floss, on a student who surveyed several famous authors on whether they intentionally use symbolism. Many of them say no, and many have a lot of funny things to say. Definitely check it out. This is perhaps my favorite piece of insight and advice, from Ray Bradbury:

"Not much to say except to warn you not to get too serious about all this, if you want to become a writer of fiction in the future. If you intend to become a critic, that is a Whale of another color…Playing around with symbols, even as a critic, can be a kind of kiddish parlor game. A little of it goes a long way. There are other things of greater value in any novel or story…humanity, character analysis, truth on other levels…Good symbolism should be as natural as breathing…and as unobtrusive.”

Then there's this, from Norman Mailer:

"I’m not sure it’s a good idea for a working novelist to concern himself too much with the technical aspects of the matter. Generally, the best symbols in a novel are those you become aware of only after you finish the work.”

So I guess I shouldn't feel so bad that I do a whole lot of writing and very little thinking about what I'm writing, at least in the early stages. Fellow writers, do you ever consciously use symbolism? Do you find that some symbols have appeared during or after you finished a work?


Great writing quotes for any writing personality

I have always been a sucker for fun quotes about anything. I used to have an amazing archive in my saved AOL Instant Messenger away messages (in those crazy days before the dawn of Facebook). I think writing quotes are the best. Happy or frustrated, they always give me good inspiration when I need it (and finding them is a wonderful procrastination tool!). The one above is a favorite—perfect for the emo writer—and below are a few more, arranged by personality.

For the writer who takes herself EXTREMELY seriously "If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it." —Anias Nin

For the nihilist "You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." —Ray Bradbury

For the minimalist “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” —Stephen King

For the writer whose very in touch with herself “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” —Virginia Woolf

For the baby-steps writer "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." —E. L. Doctorow

For the self-editor "I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil." —Truman Capote

For the procrastinator (who needs a kick in the pants) “Write while the heat is in you … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.” —Henry David Thoreau

For the optimist "You fail only if you stop writing." Ray Bradbury

For the dreamer “Writers live twice.” —Natalie Goldberg

For more of my favorite quotes, check out my Pinterest page. 

“A sensitive look at the wake of a friend’s suicide, infused with genuine emotion, hope, and just enough well-placed romance.”~Booklist

“The Writing King of Difficult Subjects has to be John Green. After reading The After Girls, I would definitely put Ms. Konen in his court.”~Ink and Page

“A striking debut and an eerily good book… THE AFTER GIRLS is a vivid portrayal of interrupted lives and enduring friendships. It is as much about the known as the unknown and as much about healing as loss.”~Michael Northrop, author of ROTTEN, TRAPPED and GENTLEMEN

Ella, Astrid, and Sydney were planning the perfect summer after high school graduation. But when Astrid commits suicide in a lonely cabin, the other girls' worlds are shattered. How could their best friend have done this--to herself and to them? They knew everything about Astrid. Shouldn't they have seen this coming? Couldn't they have saved her?

As Ella hunts for the truth, and Sydney tries to dull the pain, a chilling message from Astrid leaves them wondering whether their beloved friend is communicating from the after life. The girls embark on a journey to uncover Astrid's dark secrets. The answers to those questions--questions they never dreamed of asking--will change their lives forever.

Get a copy of my debut young adult novel, THE AFTER GIRLS, here.