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?
Claw marks on tree bark
Broken trees, uprooted trees
Feathers scattered across an area of the ground
A patch of blood from a kill…
Bank alarms, fire alarms
Columns of thick smoke
Red light districts…
These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Danger. Some are more powerful than others. Footsteps following you down a dark alley is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, the presence of barbed wire may not foreshadow Danger 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.
Julie Musil says
I felt the spooks just by reading these ideas. Thanks!
Stina Lindenblatt says
I love these symbolism posts, Angela. Something tells me I’m going to spend even more time on your blog (if that’s even possible) for my next project. 😀
I love your blog. Gee I would have loved to have found it while I was writing my novel, ‘Lethal Inheritance’. I wrote my own emotional thesurus but it’s not as full as yours.
I’d love to know what you think of the result – it’s YA fantasy. You can take a look at ch1 at http://publishersearch.wordpress.com/lethal-inheritance/
Vicki Rocho says
LOVE these! You get the wheels turning.
Karen Lange says
Thanks, as always, for this good info. I am always on the lookout for foreshadowing in the books I read. I also like listening to the music on a movie to determine what the coming action is.
Leah (aka Mary_not_Martha) says
I love lists like this. I try to explain the symbolism to my family when we start a movie. Hopefully, my sons will pick up on it – a useful tool. Alice and Wonderland was loaded with it!
The list is great, as always. You make a great point at the end. “…decide whether you need one strong symbol or several small ones.” I like that. Thanks.
WAHOO! This could not have come at a more perfect time!! Just about to write a scene that needs to scream DANGER!
Angela, this blog is so fantastic! Thank you!!