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Brett Marie
11-05-2011, 05:01 PM
Rereading the first draft of my novel, I've been evaluating my use of a recurring motif of doors slamming shut to symbolize momentous events that mark points of no return in my characters' lives.

I don't know how well this motif works in my story (and I won't until I let someone else read the thing), but I thought I'd ask my fellow writers to sound off on motifs.

What motifs work in books you've read? When don't they work? What motifs have you used in your work? Should we try to use them more often, or are they just the device of pretentious 'literary' writers?

Discuss.

Chrissy
11-05-2011, 05:30 PM
I like your idea, especially if it's a little bit subtler. Like, one time it's a regular door, one time it's a car door. Maybe sometimes it could slam and sometimes it could be closed quietly. So that the motif creeps up on the reader and she can say to herself, "Hey...is there a pattern going on here?" and feel the coolness of 'discovering it.'

First time I've considered this type of thing, really. Very cool IMO.

Brett Marie
11-05-2011, 05:43 PM
Thanks, Chrissy! I'm sad to say my motif is a lot more heavy-handed than that, but your ideas are real food for thought. That's what revision is for!

Jamesaritchie
11-05-2011, 08:22 PM
Sounds good, and it's certainly an interesting idea. At the same time, I've never intentionally used a motif in any of my writing, yet critics seem to find them in everything I write.

All of which means I have no idea how well this of that motif works.

Libbie
11-06-2011, 04:55 AM
I like discovering subtle motifs in books, like the rose motif in Lolita. I read that book probably ten times before I realized it was there, but once I saw it, I couldn't deny that it was an intentional motif.

It's hard, I think, to inject a good motif. It can be done heavy-handedly, and then it feels like you're being clubbed with a cluestick.

Phaeal
11-06-2011, 06:57 PM
I love discovering patterns like motifs. It's like listening to music spinning and struggling and morphing along, then bursting into that glorious bit of melody you recognize from earlier -- the leitmotif, in fact.

In one of my series, I'm associating white animals with moments of revelation for the MC. So now you know what to look for. ;)

JSDR
11-06-2011, 07:06 PM
I do sunrises to signify changes in the MC's POV, and sunsets to signify changes in the other MC's POV. After the MC's metaphorical death, I flip the imagery because he's in "hell" and has to put himself back together again.

I hope someone gets it...

ETA: not changes in POV, but changes that happen while we're in that POV... I'm up too early -.-

backslashbaby
11-07-2011, 12:13 AM
I've seen some that stuck out too much, imho. I apologize that I can't explain how, other than that they were stated bluntly and used too frequently in the work in my view.

I like them very much and do use them. I like mine to be subtle, and I usually use them to help create/reinforce a mood or subconscious take on something. For instance, if I wrote a character's shirt as yellow (assuming it was important to describe), I go back and change it to burgundy if I want to reinforce an autumn theme, etc.

The autumn theme itself probably represents death. That sort of thing. I really like Jungian stuff, so it's fun for me to do, as pretentious as it may sound *blushes*

eta: I have another example, if you are interested. A character is going to die in a fire in one of my stories. Not only is it fitting plot-wise that characters often smell fires burning in the winter air (because the fire is caused by a heater, and lots of folks are heating for the winter), but the smoke in the air is a foreshadowing motif. I hope that makes sense :)

quicklime
11-07-2011, 02:46 AM
Rereading the first draft of my novel, I've been evaluating my use of a recurring motif of doors slamming shut to symbolize momentous events that mark points of no return in my characters' lives.

I don't know how well this motif works in my story (and I won't until I let someone else read the thing), but I thought I'd ask my fellow writers to sound off on motifs.

What motifs work in books you've read? When don't they work? What motifs have you used in your work? Should we try to use them more often, or are they just the device of pretentious 'literary' writers?

Discuss.


i think they certainly can be.....


there's two issues:

1. Do they add anything to the story?
2. Do they detract from the story?

I don't usually try to cram things in for fear they will look artificial and crammed. If they do, then you stand to look like a wannabe literati d-bag. If they work well, they work well and it can be an excellent tool....just like most other tools, the effect depends on the skill of the user.