Symbolism and Motif: Knowledge

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 owl
A serpent
The human brain
Neurons firing

In Society:

A library
A book
A teacher/professor/tutor
Parchment or Scroll
Ink and paper
An alphabet..

SEE ALSO: A Quest For Knowledge (we loved knowledge so much we did it twice!)

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with knowledge. Some are more powerful than others. A library is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a diploma could stand for a number of different things and not foreshadow knowledge 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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11 Responses to Symbolism and Motif: Knowledge

  1. Pingback: Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: A Quest for Knowledge | WRITERS HELPING WRITERSWRITERS HELPING WRITERS

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

  3. Thank you all so much for your additions!

  4. Foreshadowing is a great device!!

  5. – valdictorian?
    – graduation cap?
    – awards?
    – spelling bee ribbon?

    I’d never thought of a lit match being a symbol for knowledge. Interesting.

  6. SP Sipal says:

    Love your post and the brainstorming you’re doing for symbolism. I like the lit match idea as well. Could add maybe a science lab or that type of equipment, like a beaker.

  7. Heather says:

    There are some excellent ideas on knowledge in here, and just when I needed it! Thank you!

  8. An apple might work too, maybe? Apple for the teacher and all. What do you think?

  9. Bish Denham says:

    And then there’s Athena…

  10. I would never have thought of a match being lit, but that totally works!

  11. Interesting post. After watching episodes of ‘Chuck’, I’ve come to see gaming addicts as associated with smart nerds (as a high-school teacher I don’t often see the connection in real life).

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