Modern Meaning Making

I’m thrilled to welcome Magdalena Ball, who recently published Black Cow, a book of fiction  which explores themes of family, relationships and the meaning of life.  Enjoy her post below.  

Every piece of literature ultimately is involved in the process of meaning making. That is, by using text and literary devices we create a story of conflict and resolution.  When everything is working well good stories take on the character of mythology–elevating the struggle between expectation and reality to something universal and powerful.  Our protagonists find truth through this conflict while our readers become active participants, synthesising their own stories in response to the text.   Good literature provides the opportunity to deepen our knowledge of who we are even as we lose ourselves in a fictive universe.  Following are a few key elements of storytelling that lead to modern meaning making – what I’m always aiming towards when I write and what I’m always looking for when I read.

Changing frame of reference

Good fiction encourages the reader to see the familiar in new ways. This can change mental models and open the way to further discovery, perception, and changing understanding based on what the reader experiences. The reading becomes a cooperative experience between the reader and writer as they collaborate on the “performance”of the reading.  It’s at that point where the fictive dream, as John Gardiner put it, becomes encompassing, and the experience of reading becomes a real experience for the reader, where the way in which we think and perceive is expanded and enriched.

Viewpoint and narration

The viewpoint and narration are not as simple as choosing which person to write in and which character’s perspective to view the action.  It’s also about creating a strong, rich facade that drives the story. The narrator can be a character, or can be simply the overall form in which the story is described. A strong narrative voice is the backbone of any good novel and perhaps one of the earliest, and most important decisions a writer has to make.

Symbolism

Great art is always transcendent. It goes beyond the personal and immediate and hints at something broader, beyond the immediacy of its story. To do this often takes subtle symbolism, picking up names, objects, allegory, cultural indicators, parallels, and situations to draw on the reader’s own cache of meanings and expand the work.

Of course not all stories will be elevated to mythic levels, nor will they necessarily create new meaning in the reading. Sometimes a book is light, enjoyable and instantly forgetable, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However,  if you’re the sort of writer or reader who is always looking for something of depth in your reading – feeling, emotion, and a new way to describe, and understand what had previously not been understood or recognised – then meaning making is what the writing process is all about.

Magdalena Ball is the author of the newly released novel Black Cow. Grab a free mini e-book brochure here:  http://www.bewritebooks.com/mb/BlackCow/BlackCow.html

For more about Magdalena visit: http://www.magdalenaball.com

Leave  comments, shares, or retweets to be entered in the BLACK COW book tour drawing for some great prizes. 

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7 responses to “Modern Meaning Making

  1. Thanks for your insights Maggie.

  2. Great article. Thanks for submitting!

  3. Wow! I can’t believe you got so much into a single blog post, Maggie. I hope everyone will still read the works of Joseph Campbell. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d read his work. That expertise shows in both of your novels!

    Best,

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Excited about the new edition (expanded! updated! even more helpful for writers!) of The Frugal Book Promoter, now a USA Book News award-winner in its own right (www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo)

  4. Thanks so much for hosting me Mary Jo, and thanks Nancy and Carolyn for your comments. Carolyn, you’re absolutely right that this piece is something of a nod to Campbell, whose book The Power of Myth has been quite influential on me (also liked his Mythic Worlds, Modern Words). Mythology is such a huge source for writers – even in something simple like a name (for example, the Norse “Freya” in Black Cow) can add depth and dimension to a work.

  5. LOVED this! It has inspired me to search out and lose myself in a good piece of literature….or even to dare to dream about writing a piece of literature! Thank you, Magdalena.

  6. I need time to assimilate this but it goes a long way toward helping me define the differences in response and feeling I have toward the books I read. .

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