Symbolism and Motif Entry: Instability and Turmoil

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:

Rolling dark clouds
Thunder and lightning
Muddy ground
Churned up, silty rivers
Crashing waves…

In Society:

Riot gear
Sink holes
Barred windows/doors
Car alarms going off…

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with instability and turmoil. Some are more powerful than others. An earthquake is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a broken window may not foreshadow instability and turmoil 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.

Bookmark and Share


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.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Symbolism and Motif Entry: Instability and Turmoil

  1. Angela, FYI – I’ve linked your blog in my post for today. As always, you do a stellar job!

  2. Jackee says:

    “Let the story’s tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.”

    So very true! And I loved your list, so many and so ominious, all. It even opened up some ideas of my own.

    Have a wonderful weekend, Angela!

  3. Our subconscious is the soundtrack of our lives. Oh, and your profile picture reminded me : May is Zombie Awareness Month.

    Check out Laughing Wolf’s blog :

    Have a great weekend, Roland

  4. Tabitha Bird says:

    Great lists. I find linking inner turmoil to other things evokes beautiful images. Much like you suggest here 🙂

  5. This is another amazing entry. The tumbleweeds reminded me of the old Westerns–they always blew across a deserted street before the showdown.

  6. Thanks for the list! It’s amazing how we do some of this sub consciously. 🙂

  7. Excellent ideas. Thank you for your time and insight.

    Blessed weekend,

  8. Awesome! You seriously need to get this blog into a book! I would totally buy it ;o) Another great entry!

    Have a great weekend ;o)

  9. Those are some great ideas! Thanks for that list.

  10. Angela says:

    Thanks everyone. I’m glad this helps!

    I think symbolism often comes naturally to some extent duing the drafting process, but then afterwards when we finish and see the theme emerge, it’s always good to take another look through and see if we can change out some of our symbols with ones that enhance better, or to build slightly on what we have.

    Symbolism should never be forced, but it’s handy as well when looking at building a mood or emotion into the scene as well, as we often have emotional responses to certain objects. 🙂

  11. PJ Hoover says:

    I don’t think I used your thesaurus nearly enough in my latest WIP. Must remedy that!

  12. I love your posts about symbolism! It’s something we rarely (consciously) incorporate into our won writing, so these posts always get me thinking.

  13. I love this series!

  14. Indigo says:

    A fountain of information. Thank you! (Hugs)Indigo

  15. Very cool. I need to do more of this in my WIP. Thanks! Great post!

  16. This was a timely post for me. What great ideas. Thank you!

  17. Lisa Amowitz says:

    Wonderful advice, Roni! Thanks! I do notice this in books I love and I’m sure I’ve done this myself, but I think I’ve been sort of semi-conscious on how much this device can move a narrative along.

  18. Terri says:

    Love this. (And the picture of the lightning!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.