Write On Wednesday
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Write On, Wednesday: Injecting Symbolism, Part 3

By Leslie Lindsay

The fiction writer knows that there is a lot that hinges on a good story. Some of these elements just happen in the prose, but some of them are more deliberate–but hopefully the reader doesn’t detect that. In fact, injecting symbolism into your work should be very organic and surprise you–the writer–as much as it does the reader and for that matter, the characters.

No pressure, right?

In carefully crafted and researched novels, symbolism just appears because well–it’s been ingrained through your research and comes through in terms of osmosis.  

My little ghost girl, Evelyn brings with her a ragdoll from generations past. In my mind’s eye, I saw a small cloth doll created from scraps of fabric and wrapped in a maroon cloth. She has no face. Evelyn drags this prized possession around with her. She loses her, she deliberately places her in the view of her “chosen one,” in a look at me kind of way.

And so I worked with her. The doll, the ghost girl. I let them know I was there to help tell their story. They listened. They cooperated. (Well, some days, when the writing was flowing). And then I got curious: what are the origins of rag dolls? And what history do they have in the US? Other places?

What I learned may or may not surprise. The small, faceless dolls are that of Amish origin. They don’t have a face because, as one story goes: a little Amish girl received a doll for Christmas. The doll had human-like features. She loved the little doll. Her father snatched it away, cut the head off and said, “Only God can create people!” Yikes. He then replaced the doll’s head with a plain stuffed sock. The doll was now faceless.

This is the exact reason the Amish don’t allow their photos taken. It has a lot to do with graven images and one should not have their faces imprinted on film or other media because it mimics “those in heaven” and “in the ground below.”

Well, this all thrills me to death (okay, bad pun)–because you see–Evelyn is a ghost girl who was accidently buried alive. She graps her little ragdoll and is “in the ground below” with her faceless ragdoll until she is “released” by the protagonist.

Pretty fascinating, huh?

Till next time, Write On, Wednesday!

See also:

[image source: http://www.nantucketcountryantiques.com/antiq/category_client.php?category_id=86 on 7.18.14]


  1. Mark says

    This sounds so exciting! Thanks for sharing your Zombie Road project. I’ve been loving all of the posts about it and interviews with authors related to the topic of spirits and ghosts. Have you ever heard about the Fox sisters? Their story is fascinating and might be useful background information. My favorite book on them is Talking to the Dead by Barbara Weisberg. (http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780060566678-8)

    • Thank you, Mark! I appreciate your book suggestion about the fox sisters–I’ve heard of them, but haven’t read that book. I’ll definitely add it to my TBR pile. ~L : )

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