Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Symbolism In My Novel ~ Should My Readers Agree With Me?


Should writers feel confident enough in their work to welcome differing interpretations of its meaning?

I’m almost tempted to stop writing and ask for your answers in the Comments

But, this is a Friday post—part of the series Behind The Scenes of the novel Notes from An Alien—and, I have a reader’s questions to answer (plus, the revelation of a piece of the story that was edited out of the final manuscript).

As always, please ask me any questions you have about the book in the Comments of any of these Behind The Scenes posts—plus, even though the book is for sale, it’s still free :-)

Last week, I shared various opinions about who ultimately decides the meanings of the symbolism in a novel.

Perhaps the most valuable perspective is that a novel achieves its “purpose” when the author’s intentions are echoed by the readers.

Now I must issue my first official Spoiler Alert: parts of this post do contain information that might interfere with your unbiased first appreciation of the novel—some folks care about this, some don’t

Author Jane Watson, a reader of this blog, said, in one of these Behind The Scenes posts, that she was “…interested in the origin of the name, Rednaxela, and in what he symbolises in the book… in fact the origin and symbolism of all the names fascinates me – how were they chosen, what do they mean? If you were to make a map of many of the symbols you use, water, plasma, mesh, spheres, forests, do they connect up and intersect in the meaning they are trying to portray? What is the overall theme of their meaning? Are they all a medium for connection and organic/mental growth?”

I won’t be answering all those questions in this post but will, over the next few weeks, explore all the symbolism.

Something I do feel important to point out is Jane’s approach to writing novels, revealed by her in the post, Author Interview ~ Jane Watson – Part Two:

“To me writing, the telling of a story or narrative, is held together not by ‘plot’ but by a network of images and metaphors. These provide the underlying emotional and organic structure of my ideal work. I suppose this is a rather architectural approach to story. My preparation for writing often involves pages and pages of mind maps of connected  images and lists of events with their corresponding symbols and images.”

So, I get to answer questions about the symbolism of my novel from another author who builds the structure of her stories with symbols—how cool it that? :-)

First, I want to briefly explain a symbolism that Jane has not asked me about—why the “co-author” of my novel is a character in the story.

Sena Quaren’s name is right on the front cover, in fact is listed first, yet she’s “only” a character in the book

Part of the reason for elevating a character to co-author was to let them say in the Prologue:

“What I say next may or may not be believed but, either way, this story is true—true as fact or true in the way fiction can rise to heights unattainable by mere facts.

“I am a woman from a star system about twelve light-years from Earth. If you choose to believe me, my story might be considered a history lesson—how to achieve unity and peace—a lesson that Earth desperately needs. If you choose to not believe I’m real, my tale might be considered a science fiction story about how to achieve unity and peace—a lesson that Earth desperately needs…

“I’ll proceed on the premise that I am real.”

I’m surely hoping some of the readers of this post are folks who’ve read the book and can give some feedback in the Comments about how much they “resonate” with what I say next:

Sena is a co-author because she’s part of the symbolism of my own Muse.

An author’s Muse helps them write their work (sometimes Dictates its content).

Also, having Sena introduce the story allowed me to permit her to give the reader a choice about believing the “Truth” of the book; and, that allowed me to give the reader more “permission” to get truthfully involved in the story

Now, on to explaining the symbolism of the name of the character who begins the action of the story in Chapter One, Rednaxela.

Rednaxela is my first name, Alexander, reversed.

So, before a reader gets very far in the book, I’ve pulled off two reversals—two psychological inside-outs—character as co-author and character as me.

Also, Rednaxela’s introduction is done with these words:

“He was ready to go but delayed slipping the bonds for a moment as he bid farewell in his mind to the daughter he’d never met. He knew his work for the Angan Corporation was critical—he was the leader of the first expedition to another World; but, Velu, his unknown daughter, would probably not know he’d done it.”

So, Rednaxela is in some respect “me” and he’s beginning the book by musing on a daughter he’s never met.

I have met my daughter but only a handful of times—long story—and the lost years can feel like I’ve never really “met” her

Admittedly, this kind of symbolism is quite private and I can’t ever expect a reader to tune-in to it.

Why did I do it?

It was my silent “dedication” of the meaning of the book to my daughter

Now on to Jane’s asking about the other names in the book.

The most important main characters’ names—Rednaxela, Xela, Zena, Delva, Mura, Verta, Sena–all end in the ah-sound, just like my daughter’s real name, Audra

Again, very private symbolism.

Remember part of Jane’s query—“…in fact the origin and symbolism of all the names fascinates me – how were they chosen, what do they mean?”

Apart from the ah-sound, the names have no particular symbolic meaning to me.

Perhaps some linguist-psychologist could ascertain a deep meaning but, when I was writing the book, these names (apart from Rednaxela) just popped into my conscious mind—as did the names of the planets, countries, regions, cities, and religions in the book.

OK, now, just a bit about the symbolism of the state of matter, Plasma, in the book.

Some readers see the appearances of Plasma in the story as constituting the actions of a “character” and I can agree with that interpretation of the symbolism.

But, let me now reveal that piece of the story I edited out, an explanation by Sena Quaren near the end of the book:

~~~~~~~~~

I have memories of communing with my mother while still in her womb. She had remarkable abilities with plasma communication and I was destined to carry those abilities further. It only makes sense we should have been able to “talk” before I was born.

Some of you may be thinking, “How can a fetus, who’s brain isn’t fully developed, do anything in the way of “communicating”?

I must tell you, even though many of my ancestors were religious and I am not, I do believe in a force, call it an entity if you must, a force that has created all we see, plus many things we don’t see yet interact with regularly. Just think for a second about gravity

Much has been said about plasma in these pages and I did give a very brief description of it in the Prologue but most plasma can’t be seen. Yet, even though most of it is invisible, it’s responsible for all the beautiful structures we see in the cosmos. It makes galaxies, stars, and planets. If you compare the creative force of plasma with that of gravity, plasma is so strong the difference needs to be represented by a 1 followed by about 34 zeros.

Plasma is everywhere. even surrounding every cell in your body. And, it’s abilities to aid inter-personal communication are not yet understood by your scientists. I do hope, though, that, even though we have more opportunities for interaction with plasma on our Worlds, your World soon realizes you can communicate with plasma’s aid, too.

Enough of that high-level talk. Let’s get back to the story. Oh! First, though, I should finish my bit about fetuses communicating.

I, personally, think that most of the emotional and psychological communication we all experience, from projections of feelings to spookier connections between individuals, are mediated by plasma’s omnipresence.

One other important consideration is that communication of abstract information is completely common. All children learn language by listening, way before they get any instruction about it. All those rules of grammar and syntactics are absorbed by kids through their ears.

And, as any parent will tell you, their children usually know clearly when they’re being lied to

Now, let’s really leave all this how-does-it-work stuff behind and get on with the story.

~~~~~~~~~

Hopefully, if you’ve read the book, this explanation by Sena will add new layers of meaning to the many appearances of Plasma

So, next week, unless one of you asks a question in the Comments that seems of more primary importance to cover first, I’ll begin explaining how I use the symbolisms of water, mesh, spheres, and forests—plus, (maybe not next week, but soon) I’ll explain why I begin the novel with two Worlds, one completely Corporate and one completely Religious

Bonus Symbol Explanation:

The issue of the equality of men and women is never explicitly broached in the story but it is symbolised by the fact that nearly all the important main characters—the people who move the story forward and accomplish the important tasks—are women………
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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8 responses to “Symbolism In My Novel ~ Should My Readers Agree With Me?

  1. John Pope March 22, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I wonder how you chose the odd names for you characters…Vulu, Brolan, Ralm, Akla, Morna etc. Also it would be fascinating to know more about say Brolan’s homelife. Since we can now ask whatever we want, Why would say a short story about Brolan the corporate head, deplete from the overall bouquet of ‘Notes From An Alien’

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai March 22, 2013 at 11:57 am

      Well, JohnPaul, going from back to front—I tried to express my decision about short stories in A Writer Discovers How To Say “No!” To Himself . . . — though, I will address Brolan in future Behind The Scenes posts :-)

      As far as my “choosing” the names, as I said in the post, “Perhaps some linguist-psychologist could ascertain a deep meaning but, when I was writing the book, these names (apart from Rednaxela) just popped into my conscious mind—as did the names of the planets, countries, regions, cities, and religions in the book.”

      Like

  2. John Pope March 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Thank you! I am currently re-reading while notetaking, and had chosen not to read above post due to spoilers…and now that I know names is part of above post….I’m doubly tempted to read it ugggg ugggggggggg

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai March 22, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      But

      You’ve already read the book

      Spoliers shouldn’t harm you :-)

      Like

      • John Pope March 22, 2013 at 12:47 pm

        I know, but I don’t want to be influenced by your choices….but I do hehe..

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        • Alexander M Zoltai March 22, 2013 at 12:49 pm

          Read the post, JohnPaul :-)

          Like

  3. Jane Watson March 25, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Even though a symbolism is private and the author does not reveal its source in a book, I think that such symbolism, because of its origins in the author’s inner world, in communication with their muse, is usually very powerful and impacts on the reader with archetypal force – as I think this depiction of Rednaxela’s relationship with his lost daughter does …. :-) The ‘lost’ section on Sena’s relationship with Plasma is fascinating…:-) She makes me believe in Plasma.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai March 25, 2013 at 11:44 am

      Well, Jane, I’m glad you’ve brought this out into the open ’cause I was hesitant to just come out screaming, “Hey folks, even though some of my symbols are private, you really, in your deepest self of Selves understand what I meant! “…I can’t ever expect a reader to tune-in to it.” :-)

      And, there will be more “lost” fragments of Notes from An Alien—even some that never got written out… :-)

      Like

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