Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Symbolism In A Novel ~ Who Decides The Meanings?

This post is part of the new Friday series: Behind The Scenes of the story Notes from An Alien.

If you want to avoid having “spoilers” intrude on your enjoyment of the book, just grab a free copy and read it before you dive deeply into this series of posts—the book is short and, deep

This post has no spoilers.

I was going to answer questions from one of our regular readers about the symbolism in Notes from An Alien but thought it better to defer that post till next week.

To prepare for discussing the symbols, I posted a question on one of the forums at LibraryThing.

The title of my forum post was the same as the title of this blog post.

I began by stating:

“I realize that no matter how carefully I’ve used symbols to give the reader my meanings, they can (and most often do) either attribute different meanings or don’t even see the symbolism

Here are some of the responses:

“The readers rule no matter what you do.”

“We sometimes need better readers. LOL”

“the greatest challenge as a writer is to get the reader to experience the same story as the writer. We often love those moments in our own books that go completely unnoticed by even the most attentive readers. The crafting is so beautiful, yet hopefully invisible to the reader.”

One person in particular said:

“once the text is out there, it doesn’t do you any good to go around saying ‘That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.’”

I answered:

“I would never try to say, ‘That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.’—I’m far too interested in the meanings the readers are getting for themselves :-)   I agree that the writer works to impart meaning…   The reader also extracts meaning…    I do hope the reader reads the same story I wrote—yet, I love finding out the story they actually read :-)

Other responses were:

“Every reader has a different experience of a story, a different interpretation. I think those make for an interesting conversation rather than everyone ‘getting’ the same thing from the story.”

“Absolutely. In fact, when an author listens to their readers, they can often find more in their stories than they thought was there :-)”

So, to give me more to think about as I prepare to present some of the major symbolism from Notes from An Alien next week, perhaps you’d care to share your answer to that question in our Comments:

Symbolism In A Novel ~ Who Decides The Meanings?

And, next week’s Behind The Scenes post will have a few spoilers, so grab a free copy of Notes from An Alien—I’m sure you can finish it in a week :-)

You’re also encouraged to ask me any questions you have about the book in the Comments of any of these Friday posts.
Read more Behind the Scenes posts…
Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
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8 responses to “Symbolism In A Novel ~ Who Decides The Meanings?

  1. madiebeartri March 15, 2013 at 6:18 am

    I have wondered if I am giving enough information in my character sketches for people to understand the world I am trying to portray. I look back and reread. I know in my mind but are other people imagining the same. :)


  2. cmmarcum March 15, 2013 at 6:33 am

    Three men look out their window and see a tree. The guy on the top floor sees green leaves and nothing else. The guy on the middle floor watches the birds make a nest. The guy on the bottom floors snarls at the trash left by human visitors. What the reader ‘sees’ is often a matter of where they are when they look.


  3. Jane Watson March 17, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Who decides the meanings? Perhaps both the author, as they give to the reader, and the reader as they receive… One of the greatest things about reading a book is that, while the author shares with us a world of his or her making, we also, as we read, construct a world in our minds using the road map he or she gives us….and so a new universe is born… in our minds, the product of this exchange… at least that is how I experience it…:-)


    • Alexander M Zoltai March 17, 2013 at 9:27 am

      If what you say is true, Jane, then the kind of English class I experienced—each student maneuvered into admitting the very same meanings in a book—is very wrong

      Perhaps, somewhere in the world, there are teachers who allow each student to form their own meanings of a story then let the students share………?


  4. Pingback: Symbolism In My Novel ~ Should My Readers Agree With Me? | Notes from An Alien

  5. Pingback: Water As A Symbol In A Novel ~ Many Uses, Many Meanings | Notes from An Alien

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