Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Violence

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:

Pack hunting
Fangs & claws
A snake’s hiss or the rattle of its tail…

In Society:

Violent crimes (murder, home invasion, rape, etc)
Escalating verbal abuse
Broken windows & locks
Kicked in doors

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Violence. Some are more powerful than others. A slaughterhouse is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a single uprooted tree may not foreshadow Violence 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.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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12 Responses to Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Violence

  1. Great list! Your blog always inspires me. Thank you!!!

  2. Matthew Rush says:

    It just never stops coming does it? Well done as usual, thanks Angela!

  3. Interesting choices. The blood and feathers on the ground really shook me. Maybe because I have a bird? Great list! And definitely a theme worth foreshadowing with symbolism.

  4. C.R. Evers says:

    another fabulous list. Great job guys!

  5. Beth says:

    Great list. I especially love the examples you’ve given from nature. One or two of those could nicely compliment a violent scene.

  6. Jemi Fraser says:

    Very nice – there really are so many images and thoughts that could foreshadow violence.

  7. Brilliant, as always, Angela.

  8. Carol Riggs says:

    I just love the symbolism stuff in novels, in reading them as well as writing them. It adds a whole new layer of meaning and depth to the work! Thanks for the usual great list. Have a great weekend!

  9. Oh, this is a great subject! What would the rest of us do without you two brilliant ladies? Robyn Campbell and I were comparing notes on how many hours we each spent over here while writing our last stories! Seriously. LOL. 🙂

  10. Yet again you offer up a useful tip that’s got me thinking. *runs off to write* 🙂

  11. These will be of good use in my stories as mine tend to lead on the dark/edgy side!!

  12. Brilliant as always, Angela.

    Donald Maass has a chapter on symbolism in his workbook. Once I get to that point in my revisions, I’m going to be hanging out here. That will be right after I’m hanging out here during the chapter on setting. 😉

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