Symbolism and Motif Entry: Perseverance

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 person or animal fording a river
Animals swimming against the current
A narrow track winding up a steep, rocky hill or mountain
Mountain goats, yaks, snow leopards, mountain lions and other high altitude animals
Nests on top of high pines
Predatory birds circling, on the hunt (eagles, falcons, etc)…

In Society:

Bailing water from a boat
People fishing
Boats fighting the waves/current/rapids
Standing steady when a wave hits
Weeds growing in sidewalk cracks
Plants growing toward windows and sunlight…

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Perseverance. Some are more powerful than others. A tree clinging to the side of a cliff is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a stopwatch may not foreshadow perseverance 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: Perseverance

  1. Great stuff as always. I love the picture of the flower. That says it all.

  2. Thanks everyone. 🙂 Symbolism often comes through naturally (as it should) but occasionally we need to tweak things to enhanse an idea, theme or feeling. I hope these entries help!

    Julie, thanks for passing on that link. I didn’t know about it and I love it when people let me know about features on The Bookshelf Muse–it totally makes my day. 🙂

    Have a great weekend, all!


  3. Julie Musil says:

    Your posts are so thought-provoking. Many of these images I never thought of in relation to perseverance, and yet they make complete sense. Thanks once again.

    And thanks again for your tweet, which helped me reach the 100 follower mark!

    You probably already know this, but Anita Nolan blogged about your blog! In case you haven’t seen it, it’s at

  4. Jaleh D says:

    I never thought about trying anything like that. At least not on purpose. If I’ve got any of those types of symbolism, it’s been accidental.

  5. The dung bug image is classic!

  6. I love this site! And you’ve made my day – I’ve sprinkled many of these in my WIP in hopes that others would interpret them as intended. It’s good to know the Bookshelf Muse backs up my instincts.

  7. Vicki Rocho says:

    I love these! There is always something that makes me say “hmmmmm”

  8. Mikki says:

    Once again this is a great entry! I really use your site a lot, and love it…refer friends to it all the time. BTW, thanks so much for the link to the Civil War…I’ve spent 2 years doing my research for this novel, and can’t figure out how I missed this site. It’s fantastic! Oh, yeah, sorry you didn’t like the Percy Jackson movie…now I know I’ll stay away!

  9. Terri says:

    So nice to see not everything can or should be disposed of with a nod or a shrug or a shake of the head.

  10. Karen Lange says:

    This is a good one, and so crucial as the make or break for some characters. Makes me think, too, about the perseverance in my own life.

    Have a great weekend! 🙂

  11. Amy Tate says:

    Yes! And it’s fun when the rhythm plays with the image. Do you know what I mean? I can’t ever plan it, but when it happens it’s really cool.

  12. Another spectacular lesson for the Angela file. 🙂

  13. lbdiamond says:

    Great post! Coincidentally, I’m just now to the point in revising that these symbols are starting to shine–it’s really cool to watch the details pop out of the page…it’s like meeting my subconscious thoughts.


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