Symbolism Thesaurus Superstitions and Signs: Bad Luck Omens

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 lack of birds
Animals running from a forest
Ominous clouds
Black rot on a branch, in a portion of a crop, a patch of ground
Touching or standing close to a lightning-struck tree
Comets (some perceive this as a good omen, others bad)…

In Society:

Black cats
Walking under ladders
Spilling salt
Breaking a mirror
Opening an umbrella inside
Stepping on sidewalk cracks…

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Bad Luck Omens. Some are more powerful than others. A black cat is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, curdled milk may not foreshadow Bad luck 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, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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16 Responses to Symbolism Thesaurus Superstitions and Signs: Bad Luck Omens

  1. Casey says:

    I just realized that all of these things generally happen to me/see happening on a daily basis. Except the funeral procession one, obviously. xD

  2. Jaleh D says:

    Haha on the stepping on sidewalk cracks. I don’t see it as bad luck, but I still try to pace so I don’t step on them if I can help it. A sort sort of mild obsession.

  3. Kate says:

    The black cat in your photo could cross my path any time he likes – he’s beautiful!

    Good post, yet again.

  4. Julie Musil says:

    You’re back! Hopefully you had a great trip.

    Another awesome list. Thank you!

  5. Anne says:

    I’m thinking of how I can sneak some of these in. Great post!

  6. Lynda Young says:

    Great list you’ve compiled. Very helpful.

  7. Great list, and I didn’t know many of them until coming here.

  8. Wow! There’s a lot in your list that I hadn’t heard of before, but they make perfect sense. Intuitively they sound like bad luck, and I suspect the reader won’t even notice *why* they’ve started to feel uneasy. Too cool!

  9. I’m with Vicki about the bad luck omens I commit regularly. I’ll be sure I consult the list before I start querying. 😀

  10. Tahereh says:

    your brilliance boggles the mind.


  11. SWK says:

    As always, enjoyed this post. Just fascinating the way you put these together. You should turn this into an iPhone app – would be awesome!

  12. Oh man, every time I think I’m just about done writing my book, you post new stuff and I go “OH MAN, that is perfect! Got to add some of that in!”

    Haha, thanks to you and your awesomeness, I may never finish! 😀

    But if I ever do finish, my book will be so much better thanks to your blog!

  13. Vicki Rocho says:

    I shudder to think how many of those bad luck omens I commit regularly!

    Other than the fact I am now looking nervously over my shoulder, I adore the list.

  14. K.M. Weiland says:

    I simply adore your blog. It’s such a brilliant idea. I can only imagine the time you spend brainstorming! Thanks so much for sharing such a valuable resource.

  15. Lydia Sharp says:

    Excellent list! Incidentally, I used the “curdled milk” symbol in a sci-fi novel without even realizing it at the time I wrote it. But when I looked back at that particular chapter, it fit PERFECTLY. 🙂

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