Symbolism and Motif Entry: A Quest for Knowledge

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer’s advantage by planting symbols in the reader’s path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character’s state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character’s emotional plight?

In Nature:

A forest pathway
Sunrises, sunsets
The moon
A starry sky

In Society:

A lab coat
A policeman’s notebook

SEE ALSO: Knowledge (We love learning so much that we did this one twice!)

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with A Quest for Knowledge. Some are more powerful than others. Walking past a silent exam room filled with students bent over their papers is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a key lying out on the desk may not foreshadow a quest for knowledge on its own.Let the story’s tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

Symbolism is a universal language that can add great depth and meaning to your story.

So you can reap the full benefit of this powerful tool, we’ve expanded the entire collection by 70% and integrated it into our online library at One Stop For Writers. Each entry comes with a long list of ideas for symbols and motifs, and we’ve included popular symbolism examples from literature and movies, as well. These entries have also been cross-referenced for easy searchability across all our other thesauri. To see a free sample of the updated Symbolism and Motif Thesaurus along with our other collections, pop on over and register at One Stop.

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Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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13 Responses to Symbolism and Motif Entry: A Quest for Knowledge


  2. I have an awesome award for you at my blog today, Angela! 🙂

    Have a great weekend.

  3. So, I should put a big picture of a Mayan temple above my computer? 🙂 Great list, thanks.

  4. Kara says:

    I just found your blog and I love it! Emotions and color symbolism are both a huge part of my wip and your thesauruses will help me immensely. I want to print out every page so I can reference them when I’m writing without an internet connection. Thank you!

  5. Angela says:

    Bish–that’s a great one. Actually, the Bible would be too.

    K.Hinny, thanks for stopping in!

    Hi Stina, I think often our symbolism comes up naturally and we don’t realize it until we finish the novel. But I think we can always beef description up and make it even more meaningful, so hopefully this helps!

    Shannon, my brain is a scary place. You don’t even want to know half of what goes on in there.

    Danyelle, mucho thanks!

    Kirsten, YAY! So glad this helps!!

    Elana, thanks!

    Mary, I knew you’d approve!

  6. Mary Witzl says:

    I REALLY like the idea of a classroom of students, quietly absorbing knowledge…

  7. Excellent entry today! Thanks.

  8. This one really helps me because I have so much trouble getting creative with symbolism. I’m on my final rewrite with my novel & am trying to weave in some more symbols now that I know the direction everyone takes. Thanks for this!

  9. Danyelle says:

    I love your lists! And great point on choosing to use a strong or more subtle symbol. 😀

  10. Where are you coming up with your symbolism topics? My favorite thing about this series, so far, is that you’ve chosen such cool and surprising topics! 🙂

  11. I love your symbolism thesaurus.

    I use symbolism in my novel, but I had the animal in mind first that I wanted to use (it worked with the story) and looked up what it symbolized. Fortunately it was perfect for the story. Whew!

  12. K.Hinny says:

    Thanks for the advice Angela! This is a strong message in it’s own right!

    I’m going to keep it in mind!

    Happy writing

  13. Bish Denham says:

    Wonderful. I immediately thought of the grail.

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