Symbolism: Vulnerability

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:

An injured animal
Bird with a broken wing
The old and sick
Eggs in a nest
Exposed tree roots…

In Society:

Teenage prostitutes, street teens
Dark alleys
Lights burnt out or broken along a street
Dark parkades…

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Vulnerability. Some are more powerful than others. A limping animal crossing an open field is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a poor neighborhood may not foreshadow vulnerability 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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11 Responses to Symbolism: Vulnerability

  1. Pingback: Symbolism Thesaurus Entry Collection | Writers Helping Writers

  2. Julie Musil says:

    Wow, there are lots of gems in here. I don’t know how you do it. Thank you!

  3. Amie Kaufman says:

    Great post, thank you! Got me thinking.

  4. Thanks for all the great comments. I realize at first glance this might seem like one that might not be used as much as some of the others, but on reflection, when do we write a character that is not in some way vulnerable? I think it’s handy to have this list nearby if we need something to bring that out more and mirror the character’s trials through setting.

    April, It’s great that you already use symbols. I think they are often the most powerful when they naturally flow. 🙂

    Happy writing everyone!

  5. April says:

    Once again, this is fabulous. I’m actually pretty proud of myself because in my WIP, I use some symbolism that works, I think! I didn’t try to do it, it just happened. Symbolism I’ve always thought is such a beautiful way of saying something and telling the reader something important. Not that I always understood the symbolism (particularly in high school – I rarely agreed with the teachers!), but if I do understand it, it’s beautiful.

  6. Melissa Gill says:

    This is a great list. Thanks Angela

  7. Great list, as always! Thanks, Angela!

  8. Bish Denham says:

    You know what else reminds me of vulnerabilty? Furless, blind tiny baby animals. Or a new born fawn curled up waiting for mama to return.

  9. Matthew Rush says:

    Is that photo of an empty parking garage? Creepy.

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