Monday, August 29, 2011

Don't mock me

Okay, I admit it... I'm watching Tangled (the Disney movie) for like the dozenth time.

I re-watch movies a lot... especially animations. I love watching the sub-characters and concentrating on what they're up to in the background while the main characters are living their own tale.

Books too, I'm a re-reader. The main reason is because, not only am I a speed reader, but 'cause I'm dyslexic, I tend to miss stuff the first time around. I like to re-read, 'cause I always find something new and interesting... just like re-watching an animation to concentrate on the background things. Seriously, I'm even curious about the effects like leaves, water, grass, etc. 'cause every tiny seemingly insignificant element, movement or object are deliberate, unlike live action where there can be unexpected variables.

So that's all fine and good, but what does this have to do with writing? 'Cause you know I'll inevitably lead it back to that...

Well, I'm very interested in the re-read potential of the stories I write.

Okay, that sentence sounds a little weird, but it's still true.

Like 'easter eggs' on a dvd, I like learning about little details that authors intentionally put in their writing, 'cause it's normal for people to attach significance to certain things. It not only helps you remember facts, but it plays a large part in organizing your world-view, and therefore, the way someone writes. And it's always different for everyone.

Two things in my writing that are always more than what they seem are colours and numbers.

As a personal tidbit, I'm particularly fond of the number thirteen 'cause it's my birthdate :) month, actually, which is why I also have a special place in my heart for the number nine, outside of the fact that √9 = 3, so 9 is a square number. Thirteen is also the most classic unlucky number, which revs my under-dog spirit into overdrive. I get particularly excited/hyper when my birthday falls on a Friday the 13th.

Is it weird that a dyslexic person is so interested in numbers? Probably... because I suck at math. Yup, it's the second lowest grade I ever received in school (the lowest being French). Languages and math are the two subjects that, no matter what I did, no matter how hard I worked or memorized lectures, I could not overcome my disability. And that's why they have special significance. The two subjects I couldn't find a work-around for. French, I re-took in University. I couldn't gradate with an Honours degree without having a second language, and I succeeded at that. Well, barely. Math... well, I had to claim it in a different way. So as a result, numbers always show up in my stories.

In Project #1, everything important is tied to a prime number (sorry I'm such a nerd). Prime numbers mean the world makes sense, so when there isn't a prime number, it's like a subtle hint. Thirteen columns, five compass points, four wings in a school, all the numbers are what they are for a very specific reason. Nothing is simply a number chosen by random.

In Project #2, the main superstition of the glass city is tied to Phi (the number which is used to calculate a spiral which occurs in nature, like a spiral seashell). In Project #3, the repetition of the number two is very important to the final *reveal* (which I only figured out last week).

As for colours, grey shows up numerous times (okay, I know grey is not technically a colour), as does red... but I'm not going to reveal my thoughts on those two colours. In the strange inner-workings of my brain, yellow and green are *happy colours*, orange is calming and blue hypes me up. Black is a colour of wildness & passion. White is not a colour of purity... rather, it is a blank canvas waiting to take on the appropriate colour(s). Take that as you may, and if you've read my SSS page (or the individual SSS posts), the fact that Faith wears a white nightgown is not by chance. That the floor tiles in her room are alternating grey and red, is also not by chance. Her bedroom door is also grey. Red and grey also show up in Project #3 along with yellow. Yellow and green are of special significance in Project #1, as are red and white (in that specific combination).

A single number or a single colour can pack a huge amount of significance into seemingly unimportant line of description.

There are many key things I add into my writing, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes they just appear without prior planning. The way I view colour often determines my character's hair colours, as does my obsession with numbers plays a key role in setting, world building or significant points in a character's life. I always love it when a particularly devoted reader picks up on the repetition/importance of these things, just like I love discovering new layers when I re-read a book or watch a movie, though I doubt anyone would pick up on the prime number thing (or much of the other stuff) if I didn't mentioned it. Oh well, at least I'm having fun, right?

I'm curious, what items/things do you wrap with significance in your own writing?

...and yes, I'm aware I'm a little bit crazy.


  1. I like working in Wrong. I try to make my characters smart and to give them good reasons to make the decisions that they do, but to have them make the Wrong decisions because they didn't have all of the information that they needed at the time.

    Being Wrong doesn't make them less smart, after all, and then they're stuck trying to pick up the pieces.

  2. I almost never re-read books.

    As for significance, I have sorts of stuff. I have a fantasy WIP that's somewhat influenced by Chinese culture, so I've slipped in a lot of numerical references reflected of that (i.e., having repeated sinister things associated with the number 4). Conversely, 8 is often associated with goods things in the story of the fundamental order of the universe.

    One of my WIPs (Osland, which you've seen snippets on in SSS) is basically a modern paranormal update on the Wizard of Oz and is absolutely LOADED with all sorts of allusions and double-meanings, et cetera. Almost every name (even 90% of the side-characters) was very deliberately chosen.

    There's also a lot of other stuff that seems insignificant a first, but is very important later on.

    Heck, the character from my SSS snippet this week, Lydia Wray, is a good example of that. She, in the story, basically represents the 'Scarecrow' archetype. Her last name, Wray, is the name of a village in England that has a yearly scarecrow festival.

  3. Hey, I often reread books I've enjoyed. That's why there are so many of them piled up around my house.

    And there's something very comforting about a movie I've already seen.

    Hi, fellow-campaigner.

  4. @ Kurt

    Ah, yeah, I can see that! Personally, I like having my characters make assumptions that the reader knows is wrong... Simon, in Project #3, only figures out he's been heading down the wrong path around the 2/3 point in the story...

    @ J.A. Beard

    Wow! That's really cool! I don't think I've ever (knowingly) made references to movies before... I'll have to re-read your SSS ;)

    @ meredithmansfield

    Hi back! I love re-watching movies or re-reading for that element of *comfort* too.

  5. That's so cool that colours and numbers are important to you :)
    Colours have a big affect on me, red is empowering. So are blue, purple and green to a lesser extent. For some reason yellow equals disease, weakness and nasty things. I start feeling a little weak when I see the it. I don't know why since I kind of like the colour.

    I'm working on a story with shapeshifters. The magic that allows them to alter their appearance is connected to their emotions. The physical appearance of a shapeshifter is often a clue to what's going on inside; fingers turn into claws, black scales cover the arms, eyes turn grey etc.

    Often when I have writerblock I re-read a book that I loved. The feelings that the story envokes help me continue writing.

  6. Hello again, We bought that yesterday. It's really good. Not sure if I've caught it all the way through yet.

  7. Hi, thanks for stopping at my blog and joining. I'm a fellow campaigner but I couldn't figure out how to join/follow your blog :(

  8. Hi, Monkey, I'm in one of your Campaigner groups! As far as symbolic aspects that crop up in my writing, I'd say, one has a painted box that represents the girl's lost artist dad, In another novel, the sun has special meaning and power. In another, I have a painter who is obsessed with lucky numbers, so funny you should post about it.

  9. Hi Monkey! I'm checking in as a fellow campaigner.

    1)I love Tangled and have watched it multiple times myself. :)

    2)I completely agree with you about re-reading. I don't think there's a single book on my shelves that I haven't re-read at least once (okay, maybe 1). Most of them, I've re-read numerous times. I've never quite understood why people only read books once if they love the story.

  10. Hey Monkey! Thanks for posting on my blog today - I'm from Ontario, by the way. =P

    On topic: I tend to re-watch movies more than I re-read books. Maybe it's because re-watching a movie takes less time than re-reading a book, but who knows. When I do re-read a book, however, it's always one that (after a single reading) I can tell has more to it. Even then, I sometimes only re-read bits and pieces rather than the whole thing.

    But yeah, re-readability is one of the qualities that can elevate a novel to greatness. If a story has any chance of standing the test of time, it needs to be re-readable.

  11. Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog and following. I thought I'd do the same and think I'll enjoy your sense of humor :)

  12. I'm a re-reader as well. Likewise, like you, I write my novels on various levels so that those who want a straight adventure or mystery or fantasy can have it -- but those that look deeper will find each name of a character means something.

    Each artifact's name and function reflects a theme in the novel. (I was an English teacher at one time. LOL.)

    My Native American LORD OF THE RINGS, THE BEAR WITH 2 SHADOWS, can be read by children, then re-read by them as teenagers, then later read by them as adults -- each time finding new "Easter Eggs" and facets they missed the first time around.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and following, Roland

  13. The more reach the piece of literature, the more difficult it is to actually absorb the ideas of the fiction or essay. I find that, in some cases when I read certain literature, not only is speedreading ineffective, but the piece at hand must be read possibly 3 or 4 times, and with other people to bounce off ideas on what the poem, dialog, etc. is trying to get across.
    Things like Schiller and plato makes me sometimes duck and cover... and then I nod my head at the inevitable destiny saying, "I'll have to dedicate my life to these pieces..."

    but it serves the mind good to read something more then once!

  14. @ Emilia Quill

    I always find it interesting that colours can mean such different things to other people... your magic/colour thing sounds really interesting!

    @ Catherine Johnson

    Hope you enjoy it! ...sure, there's the usual Disney songs and cheesy dialogue, but there are so many things to like about that movie.

    @ Catherine Stein

    Ah, sun symbolism! Nature always makes good fodder for religious/mythological significance :)

    @ Nicole

    Wa-hoo! Another 'Tangled' lover! Do you have a favourite book out of all those you re-read?

    @ GKJeyasingham

    Ontario! Oh no, do we have to be enemies? (the whole east/west thing...) Seriously, nice to have another Canadian here :)

    @ Tracy Krauss

    I seem to have a 50% hit rate of those who like/dislike my sense of humour... so I'm glad to have you on board ;)

    @ Roland D Yeomans

    An English teacher! ...then I'm sure you have many thoughts on the significance of things in novels. What do you think about iconography/etc the author puts in intentionally verses what the audience reads into a story? 'Lord of the Flies' is a pretty classic example of this debate...


    ...awesome name by the way... trickster gods are the best ;) Yes, you really do have to read differently to appreciate (and comprehend) fiction vs. non-fiction or philosophy. Personally, reading Plato is like a punishment for me... his writing is so muddy at times I can barely drag my feet through it. I think I prefer the more modern philosophers.


Type me out a line of Shakespeare or a line of nonsense. Dumb-blonde-jokes & Irish jokes will make me laugh myself silly :)