Story as metaphor, by Alicia Rasley

“Think of story as metaphor. It’s not just the narration of events (though it’s that too). It’s got some meaning or meanings buried maybe not too far under the surface. How you name your characters, what you have them do for a living, whether they slam a door or close it quietly– all these can be metaphors for some deeper truth.”–Alicia Rasley


This is part of what I keep trying to communicate to so many seemingly clueless pros (yes, pros as well as the well-meaning amateurs and know-it-alls who are like me and who think they need to tell everyone how to Do It Right, grin.) Some critiquers are primarily focused on getting me to name my characters more mundane names or to have them do more common jobs and think a lot less, or they’ve got the idea that everything should be “about what happens.” If things do not take place in crashes and explosions and screaming on the surface, they feel that “nothing happens.”

Numerous people are convinced that there should be breakneck-paced, nonstop “moving forward” in every story, and they believe they want to see nothing but action in any story. But subtext, bidden or unbidden, perceived or not, is still there. (Subtext . . . it’s like in that episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond”* in which his mother takes a sculpture class and makes an “abstract” that looks like . . . well, everyone but the mom sees it as naughty bits, and it’s a hilarious commentary.)

* [I know, I know. Hubby makes fun of me for having gotten fond of the re-runs of this show. Yes, it can be stupid, but what it hits correctly is the family experience with a certain stripe of messed-up family. The character of Robert is the most human and humane of all of them. It’s not nearly as stupid as the majority of today’s sitcoms.]

Do you speak in metaphor often? Is subtext an essential part of the way in which people communicate, with or without their conscious knowledge? How does body language figure into this?

“Harry Potter is about doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”–Stephen King


Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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