I came across an interesting exchange on Neil Gaiman’s Tumblr site a little while back – interesting to me because it discussed something I had wondered about myself. (Sidenote: Isn’t the internet a wondrous place? Any question I have had or will have or didn’t even know I had will somehow, sooner or later, show up somewhere out on the internet without me ever having to ask it!)
Anyhow – the actual exchange can be found at this link. But since I’m apparently not smart enough to get a screen capture so as to actually place it here in the blog, here is the content:
Q: Mr. Gaiman, when people read the stories I have written, they always ask me what message I’m trying to convey or what symbolism I have in what I’ve written. I’m never sure what to tell them because most of the time I’m not thinking about it, I’m just trying to tell a story that I think people will enjoy. Do you always have a message to convey and symbolism to think about in your stories? Or is it okay to just write something for people to read and enjoy?
A: Don’t tell them anything. Just smile sweetly and write the next story.
Figuring that stuff out is their job. Your job is making things up. And if you’re making things up properly there will themes and symbols and messages aplenty, whether you intentionally put them in or not, because you are human and alive and writing a story.
A writer gets to explode on the page. Critics and readers are the ones get to to gather up the shrapnel and examine the damage and figure out who got hurt.
I love this! You know when you read a really good book and then you read some professional review of it and they talk about all the symbolism and meaning behind all the stuff that you just thought was a really good story? It always makes me wonder if I should be trying to put more symbolism into my stories. But maybe in many of the stories where symbolism has been divined and praised, there wasn’t really meant to be symbolism at all? Maybe the author just wanted to tell a really good story. That’s what I strive for in my writing. And to do just that much and do it well is challenging enough!
How about you? Do you put much thought into the symbolism behind your stories? Or are you just striving to tell a good story?
Just For Fun
I watched Willow with my daughter last night. This is STILL a good movie! I suggest you rent it or pull it up on Netflix tonight. This was back when Val Kilmer was still pretty hot (though, to be fair, I looked better back in 1988 than I do now, too) and before Warwick Davis became Professor Flitwick.