Every day we encounter objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. Writers can use this to our advantage when we plant symbols in the reader’s path that reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.
Look at the setting and the character’s state of mind, 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?
The male emperor penguin: withstands brutal polar storms for four months and loses half its body weight while caring for its egg
Dolphins: when a pregnant dolphin goes into labor, the rest of the dolphins put themselves at risk by surrounding her to protect her from sharks while she gives birth
Spiders: In some species, the mother will surrender her body to her hatchlings to be eaten. The process is called matriphagy.
Giving a child up for adoption
Being a surrogate mother for no financial gain…
These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Sacrifice. Some are more powerful than others. An ancient altar is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a Medal of Honor might stand for a number of different things (courage, brotherhood, loyalty) and may not exemplify sacrifice 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.