Meanings in our writings and please our readers intensely

subtext and symbols

Hello all! Welcome back to this blog.

A clock isn’t just a clock. It’s a symbol of other things that permeate the story. 

Mentioning a season isn’t just how’a the weather or to place a story in time. It has meanings, and connotations with life itself, human life spans, among other things.

Our references, all the things we read and watch, live and learn, bring us to the threshold of deeper meaning and purpose in the stories we write.

This reminded me of a personal story…

In my high school senior year, one of our Portuguese Language class assignments was the reading, and study, of a particular theme in a Portuguese Classic work. We had to write a paper, and present it, in front of the whole class.

The book contained a lot of themes from which to choose from: plot, characters, places, symbols, and other sorts of fundamental pillars, that served as building blocks for that particular story.

I admit, it was rich in possibilities.

But, truth be told, I hated that book.

It was long and boring, I couldn’t understand half of it, and so dull that I kept falling asleep before the first twenty pages were up. It was a painful read for the time… and I took the class a second time, to improve my grade and have the chance of a better access to college. So, I suffered the boringness twice.

I guess it doesn’t matter which book it was, but for this story intents, I’ll leave the link here:

Aparição by Vergílio Ferreira and the youtube movie trailer. ‘Apparition’ as a direct translation.

I don’t believe it was ever translated to english. It didn’t made it to the worldly stage, like Saramago’s work, for example.

And the shock I felt as I discovered it was made into a film!

The book blurb goes as follow:

Aparição is a novel by Vergílio Ferreira in which he discusses philosophical theories connected to existentialism, written in the first person.

Need I say more?

The movie trailer got me curious to see which parts of Évora I do know… and that’s about it for the current me book reader.

But, back to the subject at hand.

Can you guess what I chose to study and present a paper about?

Symbolism, of course! In both years. And, no, I didn’t cheat on the second paper.

I will not pretend to have been interested in it so much that I went back to the existentialism theories and construct upon those. No. I wasn’t so great at philosophy either but, I was good at the Creative Writing part of it though.

So, I stuck to the more immediate symbolism of the different objects, ambiances, and words used in the text. Grouping them into different types of symbolic representations and delivering a multitude of possible meanings, and how those served the text in itself.

Looking at it from the symbolic perspective was fun. And it was the only theme I could have dealt with at the time.

But still, I didn’t go too deep, alluding more than actually stating through text. Yes, the animosity between me and that book got me little to nothing invested in studying it. I was sixteen at the time so…

But this experience with symbols, symbolism and layers upon layers of deeper meaning, got me hooked.

I have read books on it, and watched college lectures about it, and pinpointed examples of good, not so good, and poorly written symbolisms, always sharing the opinion of those who favor symbolism as part of a more meaningful construct, rooting fictional stories into deeper meaning.

[For years that I have been eyeing a Dictionary of Symbols that costs a small fortune]

We write to connect people. We write stories bringing our experiences and personal reflections to the plots.

Symbols and working with other levels of meaning, gives meat to the bone structure of these stories.

Understanding how certain words may allude to particular themes gives dept, and some complexity to our stories, and to every other artistic representation.

It’s not just listening to a catchy tune, but understanding the lyrics. Not just watching a movie, but capturing the ambience and the mood intended. It’s looking at a face, in a painting, and recognising the expression in the eyes. It’s not just quoting a phrase of some random book, but scrape the fluff, and connect with a representative meaning.

A clock, a meal, a particular time of the day or night, the season of the year, a facial expression, an action, a lack of action, a physical place… all have meanings, and can be worked into our story as representative details that help compose a really great piece of storytelling.

And it’s fun to locate those pieces of deep meaning in our stories, and make them work for the success of the plot, and for the possibility of bringing our art to a new level of mastery.

Intelligent people connect through meaning. And readers are in the intelligent game, aren’t they?

I believe they are. 

And so should we, the writers, be.

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Bye and Keep writing! ✍🏼

Edit the White Room Syndrome in your writing

white room syndrome

Hello all! Welcome back to this blog!

Let’s talk about writing! Let’s talk about the White Room Syndrome.

The White Room Syndrome happens when we are writing a scene and fail to give the details to help the reader imagine what the surroundings of the characters look like.

We start telling the story without giving it a recognisable physical space to live in.

The physical details helps us ground a story. Instead of having the action happening in a nondescript, empty scenery around them, we have the opportunity to bring it to life by sharing a bit of what’s going on outside our characters experience, and how those surroundings may or may not affect them in that scene.

In further analysis, the details we infuse our stories with, may be of specific relevance and representations of themes and points we wish to make with our stories.

We should never neglect the chance to make our narrative more meaningful and choosing some specific details to intertwine in our narrative will achieve this.

Theme and the White Room

It’s not just describing someone’s space, making it speak about the character in itself, or decorating the set so we can feel a more vivid imagery and immersion in the story. It’s using those references to allude to the bigger theme and propelling our story in the way we want it to go.

Not everything has to have a double meaning, or be on theme, but if it’s possible to have double meaning and if it serves a function in the telling of our story, know that she gets better for it.

Describing in the White Room

Description has its objectives and it serves the story, helping to construct a narrative that feels more real. The surroundings can be working with, or against, our characters and thus elevating the story to other levels of artful complexity.

But to capture the scene we have in our head and commit it to paper requires attention to detail. Even if we want our readers to fill in some blanks, and trust me a reader is quite eager to do some of that, we must be careful of leaving too many blanks to fill.

If a reader has difficulty in envision the setting, or if he’s seeing something else entirely from what we thought we had created, then we have incurred in the White Room Syndrome.

But this is only contemplated when we have other people giving feedback or if we can distance ourselves enough from our work to catch these inconsistencies.

Fixing the White Room Syndrome

Answering some simple questions like:

  • What so we want our readers to see in this scene?
  • What are our characters feeling and how can their surroundings reflect that?
  • Which objects or surroundings may enlighten the reader toward the characters inner struggle?
  • Which senses are we using when in that space? (smell, hearing, taste, sight…)

The dangers of Filling the White Room

Be mindful not to over-share information. Those long, boring, uneventful pages of description may be a pain to read and make our readers drop our work as if it burned them. I know I have dropped a few myself.

Over-sharing is a very common mistake and it hurts our story. Nobody wants to sit there and read all about every tiny bric-a-brac in a room… or of a story. Too much detail is as hurtful and no detail at all.

Don’t use random things just because you want to paint a picture so bad that anything would serve this purpose. There are meanings behind most objects, color, ambiences, weather… Don’t use them idly. References will work only if they are respectfully and diligently chosen for some effect.

Avoid the clichés. This is something that is cross-cut in all of it. Avoid a cliché like you would avoid the plague (LOL).

Filling the room with a few well beaten references to some idilic little town, or a creepy old mansion, or using other types of “It was a dark and stormy night” type of descriptions, it’s not very imaginative or advisable… Unless you’re doing an all cliché type of story.

When we need the White Room to do it’s thing

There are certain moments in a narrative that may require a White Room. Like when we want to convey more attention to some character’s internal landscape. To focus on the important is better than to distract our reader with the casual and just there for the word count.

In these moments we might want to shed more light into dialogue, or inner monologue, or sensations, and not so much in what is outside our characters. Describing feelings and thoughts gain the front stage to better tell some part of the story, while their surroundings may fall back.

In conclusion…

The White Room Syndrome is something to tackle on a second draft, when we are on the editing phase of our manuscript. It shouldn’t be considered in the initial stages of creating a writing piece.

Being too worried with this in an earlier stage may damage our writing flow and the ideas we have for the initial draft… which can always be worked on and improved upon, but later in the process.

And it’s one of those things that is here to remind us that art is made of meaningful details added in specific moments, when we are focused on making our writing better and more meaningful.

In our composing efforts we should pay attention to it in order to improve our manuscript. But we shouldn’t let it define us while we are creating a piece.

We have been suffering from the “show don’t tell” and “the cut all the fluff out”, at least I know I have, so it’s normal that we have difficulties in discerning what details to put into our stories. Good editing will solve that.

I’ll leave some outside articles for further reading and reference below.  

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Bye and Keep writing! ✍🏼



Writing is a work in progress… so is rain


Hello all! Welcome back to this blog.

This week I have been working on revising ‘The Shapeshifters’, my current major work in progress. I am trying to work out how to do my first big revision on an english written novel.

I confess, I am quite scared by the task. After all, I have a lot to practice until I find myself content with my english writing voice (does it makes any sense to you?)

But I found myself really enjoying the rereadings of this story. I always find something to revise and correct and even that being the case, I feel quite taken with this story… and by mulling over about the next two books on this series.

My transitional period from NaNoWriMo efforts into revising mode got cut quite short. Usually I take a few months before getting back to a project but, this time, I really didn’t want to lose the momentum. So I got back into revising just a few days after completing this draft.

Quoting from Neil Gaiman’s blog post, which you can read fully here…

neil gaiman

I like to do this exercise also but, in this project, I feel I have been doing it since the beginning, always comparing notes with that first outline and see how I could improve upon.

I know my first outline didn’t have one third of what I managed to build into it on its third draft.

But I’m still not done with it. I want to tweak some details and to build solid foundations for the two books to come.

Paying other attentions to the writing craft

As I mentioned before (in this article here…), I’m experimenting Scrivener for my writing efforts and it’s been very fun. I find it very useful, specially in the writing and editing mode. I’m kind of exploring it as I go, and I am feeling that maybe I found a way to simplify some of my writerly messes.

And, for now, I’m just rereading it and tweaking it like that. Later, it will come the time to thoroughly research all the terms I have been outlining, and test for their consistency and service to the story.

Does it need a big edit or rewrite?

Honestly? I don’t think so… which just adds to the scary part of things.

It would be easier to handle if I perceived big flaws and went about solving them. But if I don’t perceive them does it mean that they don’t exist? Or that I am just not seeing straight? I guess this is just me overthinking… as usual. Or is it?

So this is all a big work in progress. One that I am enjoying thoroughly, even if it gets me unsure on lots of aspects. Now I intent to follow the schedule, keep working on this story (and the others to come), and do my best in building this universe I have been so fond of.

Some life updates…

Also, I couldn’t refrain from writing about our underwater daily life here in Lisbon, Portugal.

It’s been raining a lot, for more than a week now. We are a tempered climate sort of place, and people, and we are usually very unprepared for any real change in the weather. For the last week there have been lot’s of floods, and landslides, and occurrences derived from the excess rain water.

Yesterday, I woke up to water in the middle of the living room. It had been slowly entering the house during the night, infiltrating through the roof, descending the wall and pooling on the floor.

This is a major problem since it keeps raining, and no one will risk going to the roof, to fix the source of the damage. We are doing shifts in tending to the kind of cascading water inside the apartment and just wishing this rain to abade.

It could be worse. There are lot’s of other situations worse than ours. So let’s hope for clear skies and tend to our businesses anyway.

And this is why this post is coming so out of schedule… lot’s of water to clean

Thank you so much for reading this blog. I hope you have a happy and tranquil December.

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Bye and Keep writing! ✍🏼



Don’t let the noise get to you


Hello all! Welcome back to my blog.

So, don’t let the noise get to you…

It has been some intense days here at this corner of the world. Lot’s of noise and inner chatter as usual.

I’ll give you a glimpse…

Christmas🎄 is coming in full speed, which means there’s lot’s of planning and a million of little things to do. Not to mention all the stress related with the shopping🎁 activities.

In these first days of December, I have been trying to rest a bit, because I’m still bothered by a persistent migraine… which really is a pain in the **head** 😅

Also, I find these days are a somewhat transitional period from the NaNoWriMo writing efforts (of 77 600 words) into a ‘what’s next?!?’ phase. And this aggravates me a lot.

And then it is the end of the year phase. Lot’s of reviews, and plans, and other stuff to do… I love to be well rested for planning mode but I figure this year is a no go on the rested mode.

Moving on…

This year I finally got the courage to grab one of my NaNoWriMo winner goodies by Scrivener (courtesy of Scrivener and NaNoWriMo for winning the 2022 challenge of writing the 50 000 words in November). And then I proceeded for installing the software and do the 30 days trial.

I started using it immediately for the project I have been working on, which I called ‘The Shapeshifters’, and I am really loving it.

I’m kind of in a learning process but I can already see the upsides to using this software. I have been hearing so much about it, but I find that I never really grasped what it could do for my writing and editing processes.

I am quite thrilled with it and have already started my editing process for this story.

So… the transitional period got cut really short and on December 2nd I started editing this story☺️

I came across a little quote I took a few weeks ago and it goes like this…

keep it simple

This quote’s context was about the practice of meditation but I figured it is applicable to other kinds of practices.

I have always thought these kinds of things, like Scrivener, were nice to have but quite dispensable. Most of this idea came from a budget tightness that never seems to allow for nice to have’s.

But I’m taking this seriously. I have been writing for decades and I can see this software serving all my writings for different formats and genres.

There is no fixed formula for getting our steps right. No full proof formula to approach our writing practices the best way. No grand scheme that gets us good results.

There are practices, and commitment, and lot’s of work.

All we can expect is to have the courage to look for what works for ourselves. And the insight not to overcomplicate things. And, above all, to refrain from all the noisy channels that keep blaring into our hearts why something shouldn’t be as it is.

It’s better to work with what is. To keep it as simple as possible. And to tune the noise down.

Yes, this is a very complicated time of the year for a lot of us. And we have different reasons for it to be so. I just get to remind myself that I work with what works for me, to keep it as simple as I can, and not permit the bad noise to get to me.

And to renew my commitment with this writing project… now, using Scrivener.

Thank you so much for reading this blog. I hope you have a happy and tranquil December.

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Bye and Keep writing! ✍🏼