Sneaking Literary Meaning Into Fiction

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Most of the writing advice I come across these days concerns moving plot, showing v. telling, and style tips. Readers want character driven stories – something not very well defined and worthy of its own post – and so the advice tends to push people towards achieving that goal. I’m not seeing too much emphasis on classical literary devices, probably because they’re either assumed to exist or considered too trivial to worry about.

This is disappointing to someone like me who likes having depth of meaning in a story in addition to having a decent plot. Both of them don’t have to be mutually exclusive. That said, it seems like writers have to sneak literary meaning into their stories.

I have to admit that it feels like that’s what I’m doing with my novel. Right now, I’m messing with uses of color to denote foreshadowing and plot repetition to reinforce theme. I’m also messing with the fact that most of my characters are liars, a critical component to maintaining a dystopian state of affairs. Of course, that’s a very subtle point, and calling attention to it defeats the whole point of including it in the first place.

All of these things hide behind the plot itself, an intrigue involving betrayal, violence, and the suffering of individuals in the machinations of their masters. I’ve intentionally tried to structure things so people looking for a decent plot will have it, but those who want more from what they read can look further if they desire. Making it a voluntary exercise is the fairest way I can think of to get what I want out of writing something and a reader getting what he or she wants out of reading it.


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