I hated AP Literature. Not because I didn't like English class - I loved it - but because I detested symbolism. I dreaded the long discussions about the meaning of the green light in The Great Gatsby or the the Mississippi River in Huckleberry Finn. It seemed like a weak excuse to continue studying works of "great American literature" because, for some reason, schools seem determined to only teach books published 75+ years ago.
The question why are the curtains blue? is emblematic of this struggle for me. I used to tell my mom that an English teacher would say the curtains were blue to represent the sadness the character felt at their unrequited love, the inner peace the poet found, or the endless toil toward freedom bound to subsume society. Asked about those very same curtains, I joked, it was likely that the author would say "I like blue curtains".
As an author, I'm going to make 15-year-old Bridget hate me, and say honestly that the curtains are blue for a reason.
Now to be clear about my stance on the issue at hand, sometimes the curtains are just blue because it's a color the author hasn't used recently, or because the main character likes it, or because blue dye is the cheapest in the kingdom. But as a writer, I proudly weave themes, symbols, and foreshadowing throughout my stories; dropping innocuous comments which eventually puzzle together into a masterwork (at least, in my head).
I remember very clearly sitting my boyfriend down to make him read the first few chapters of Summer Twilight over a year ago. The story is told from two different perspectives: that of Alex, the snarky Imperial spy with a chip on his shoulder, and of Caidy, the artistic, stubborn princess who gets lost in daydreams. These two characters, as my narrators, see the world very differently: they could look at the exact same scene, the same moment, and view it in opposite ways.
As he read (and put up with me staring over his shoulder muttering nervously under my breath), I couldn't help point out little things: "See how I used this word here? That's 'cause Alex would use it, but Caidy wouldn't", and "Look at what she notices here; when Alex was riding up he saw different things". I don't think I'd fully put it together until I had a captive audience to talk at, but I was quickly realizing how intentional every word I had written was.
To this day, that remains true. My first book is 80,000+ words, and I chose each one of those words carefully. I chose them to express specific things, to capture particular moments or emotions, and to illustrate aspects of the world. I included details that won't pay off until later books, to the reader paying close attention. And I did so completely shamelessly.
However, for me, it's about making the reading experience fun. I grew up in a deeply interactive world, which has only become more so. Augmented Reality is one of my favorite concepts - the idea that you can use digital technology to enhance a guided tour, a phone app, or to learn a skill, fascinates me endlessly. I love how the worlds from some of my favorite books have bled onto internet forums through fanfiction, interactive maps, and more.
In my writing, this interactivity starts in the book itself. It rewards readers who pay close attention, or who reread once they know the twists and turns of the story. It encourages the audience to participate in the story, to get to know the characters not only through what they feel and think, but in the way they look at reality. It's something I'm really proud of.
Bottom line? The curtains are blue for a reason, no matter how badly high school me wishes they weren't. #sorrynotsorry
Bridget is the author of Summer Twilight, available for purchase now!