Symbolism and Motif Entry: Depression

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:

Gray skies
Drizzling rain
Heavy, low-hanging clouds
Stagnant water
Drooping flowers…

In Society:

A bed

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with depression. Some are more powerful than others. Fog is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a hole in the ground could stand for a number of different things and not foreshadow depression 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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15 Responses to Symbolism and Motif Entry: Depression

  1. esther says:


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

  3. Great list. Some of this reminds me of The Bell Jar.

  4. Wow, another amazing post. I especially liked fog. Thank you for this, Becca.

  5. Leslie Rose says:

    Great list! I’d add lack of eye contact to the society list. Thank you, Becca.

  6. I love this blog. Thank u!

  7. Oh man, well done. The first picture isn’t loading on my browser, but I’m picturing fallow fields, plowed ages ago, and now dry and cracked, with a cold grey sky in the background.

    Thanks Becca!

  8. Sadly, I’ve had some experience in this area. It’s sad that so many of us have. The upside is that many of our characters will, too, so we can at least put our experiences to good use.

  9. A powerful area to wade into. Thanks for the symbolism and examples. I will be sure to mark this for future reference!!

  10. This will come in handy for my new project. 🙂

  11. I suffer from this and the list is exactly what I feel. Great list.

  12. Bish Denham says:

    If I weren’t feeling so springy I’d get to feeling sad…Good job!

  13. Awesome list as always. I’m going to need this for my next wip. 🙂

  14. Great job – both of you! Thanks!

  15. Grandpa says:

    They are all the right symbols, and apt descriptions of depression. I know as I have been there – except for the suicide part.

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