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?
The changing landscape on a journey
Bleached bones lying in the sun
Sun and stars…
Meals (breakfast, lunch dinner)
Time cards at work
Holidays (Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s day, etc)
Summer sports shifting to winter sports (or vice-versa)…
These are just a few examples of things one might associate with a passage of time. Some are more powerful than others. A journey through a changing landscape is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a gold watch may not foreshadow a passage of time 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.
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, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Laura Pauling says
I just helped my son with this as he wrote his mystery story which was getting way too long b/c he was showing too much. I said, just narrate and tell us what happened.
Problem solved. 🙂
Chelle Cordero says
Terrific post, very sage advice.
Chelle Cordero, Author
http://chellecordero.com/ Chelle Cordero Website
Julie Musil says
Great post, as always!
Thanks everyone for the kind comments. I think the passage of time is one we all have to show at one point or another, either as part of the plot or through symbolism. This should provide a few alternatives that would work for any story. 🙂
Margaret West says
I cpoied and pasted for future reference. Thanks, great post.
What Bish said!
Elana Johnson says
Excellent advice here. I tend to fall back on temperature. I need to change it up a little bit.
And I love the way the third HP movie uses seasons to advance time. I’m so going to do that in a book one day…
Adventures in Children's Publishing says
I just wanted to thank you for this amazing writing tool. I did a blog piece on it a while back, and just retweeted it because–once again–the emotion thesaurus just saved me when I was stuck. It is such a great way to get jumpstarted!
Bish Denham says
Another excellent post!
S. Paul–that’s right, I remember that movie. It was rather sketchy, relying on the scruffiness and length of his beard for the most part.
Stina, PJ and Christine, thanks for the kind words. 🙂
Christine Fonseca says
I just LOVE this blog and had to tell you…again!
PJ Hoover says
I love it, Angela! These are really awesome, you know that, right?
Stina Lindenblatt says
Brilliant as usual. 😀
S. Paul Bryan says
This brings to mind the movie Cast Away. There is a point where the movie skips over a considerable amount of time (years?) yet I remember they did such a poor job of portraying it that it seemed at first as if only a day had passed.