Friday, June 01, 2007

Guest Blogger, Shelley Bates

Today we have Shelley Bates here with a glimpse into her latest release, Over Her Head, and a very insightful article about using symbols, imagery and metaphors to create a story that holds together and enchants your reader. AND, if you leave a comment, you'll be entered in a drawing to win a copy of her new book! Enjoy!

Thanks, Dineen, for inviting me to guest on your blog! I’m celebrating the release of my fourth book for Christian women, Over Her Head, which has my favorite cover of all my books so far.

The art department at FaithWords really knows what it’s doing. The thing I like most about it is the way the heroine, Laurie, seems to be swimming toward the light. In fact, she spends the whole book doing that. Isn’t it amazing how they captured the whole plot arc with one image?

The use of images, symbols, and metaphor really served me well in the writing of the book, too. I had my central idea, which was taken from Psalm 124:

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us: Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul: Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.”

Once you know your central idea or theme, you can tie all the pretty stuff—the images, motifs, and so on—into it. What this does is create cohesion in your descriptions and settings that can give your book a sense of its own completeness. You won’t find yourself wandering off into thickets of narrative that don’t contribute directly to your story. Instead, it will look as though it grew organically. “Write tight” doesn’t just mean hunting down adjectives and adverbs with a red pen and making them bleed. It means choosing only words and phrases that contribute
somehow to your theme—that form the metaphors and images that support it.

Let me show you what I mean. Over Her Head is set in a small imaginary town in Pennsylvania that has a river running through it. The homicide that kicks off the book happens on a bridge—a big, old-fashioned wooden trestle. Bridges usually connect two sides of things, but in this book, bridges divide: truth from lies, friends from enemies, the comfortable past from the uncertain future. People cross bridges at turning points in the story—maybe a little obvious, but it was fun to architect it that way.

The theme of being overwhelmed by a wave not only reflects how the victim died, but is borne out in the heroine’s increasing feelings of drowning and helplessness as she watches circumstances close around her teenage daughter. And the victim’s mother searches the riverbanks for any of her daughter’s possessions that might have washed up—the way she’s searching her memories of their rocky relationship and trying to hang onto the good
things about it.

See how this all ties together? Sit down with your manuscript and give its central theme some thought—and then work with your descriptions and motifs to give your story its own unique flavor and sense of wholeness. Your readers will thank you!


Delia Latham said...

Wow. I so enjoyed Shelley's guest blog, Dineen! Especially liked the example of the bridges.

Delicious food for thought! :)

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Way to tantalize a reader, Shelley! I'm also a big fan of well-placed, well-timed, carefully-cultivated metaphors and word pictures. You've helped me see how to maximize their use without making the metaphors themselves an overwhelming flood!

Betsy Ann said...

Sounds great!!! Thanks, Shelley, for the advice!! And thanks for hosting this, Dineen! =) SIGN ME UP!!

Sally said...

The bridge comment is intriguing. I'll have to look for those bridges in the book.

Rose McCauley said...

Thanks for the thought-provoking lesson. This book sounds lovely. I would love to read it and look for the symbolism. rose

Merrillee said...

I love the use of symbolism and figures of speech in novels. Thanks for your lesson.

Beauty4Ashes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beauty4Ashes said...

This book is on my must read list for the Summer!


Annette M. Irby said...

What a great article. Thanks to both of you. Love the title of this one, too, Shelley!

Put me into the drawing. :)