Symbolism and Motif Entry: Safety or Refuge

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:

High ground–ridge, cliff, tree
Enclosed, defensible space: cave, crevasse
Treeline across a open space
Holes to hide in
Desert oasis..

In Society:

Bank vaults
Locked or even closed doors
A warm blanket
Weapons close at hand…

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Safety or Refuge. Some are more powerful than others. One’s own bedroom is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a bird’s nest may not foreshadow safety or refuge 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.
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Jan Markley
10 years ago

great collection of words. thanks for breaking it down for us!

Stina Lindenblatt
10 years ago

LOL. In my novel, forests and darkness are definitely NOT refuge for my mc. 😉

Great post as usual, Angela!

Angela Ackerman
10 years ago

Glad this list helps! If anyone has something you’d like to see symbolized, please do let me know! 🙂

Sharon K. Mayhew
10 years ago

What a great writing exercise! It’s a great idea to do with your characters. 🙂

Jaleh D
10 years ago

Your posts never cease to provide new things to consider. Fascinating.

Julie Musil
10 years ago

“A house with lights on”

So perfect, and I wouldn’t have thought of that.

Karen Lange
10 years ago

Your blog is a treasure trove of info and goodies! Have a wonderful weekend:)

10 years ago

you always amaze me with your posts.

thank you!!

Susanne Drazic
10 years ago

Great list! Thanks for sharing!

10 years ago

A perfect post to start my writing day! I find that when I connect to an image that reflects my mc’s sense of self, their anxieties, or another aspect of their personality, it tends to bring the story to a new level. Exploring this type of imagery (even if it doesn’t wind up in the final draft) is an essential part of character-building for me. Love following your blog! Stasia