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?
Ducks swimming with hatchings
Bear with cubs
Fox kits playing together
A group of geese foraging together
Birds building a nest
The Family tree/Genealogy
The dinner table
Crests, Coat of Arms
A common last name
These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Family. Some are more powerful than others. A minivan packed for vacation is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a Birthday celebration may not foreshadow Family 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.
I love writing about those “iconic holiday gatherings”. Lots of good material there for a story! Thanks for your other ideas, too.
Karen Lange says
Thank you! Hadn’t considered some of these; good thing I have you guys around to keep me in the know!
Becky Wallace says
I AM the nesting bird! Thanks for the great list!
Jan Markley says
Great post! We often don’t think about the imagery around families.
C.R. Evers says
yet another fabulous entry! awesome job.
Bish Denham says
We definitely have the nest building thing going on right now.
Stephanie Faris says
Great list! I need to save this to my jump drive to refer back to.
I mentioned you on my blog today…and linked you:
Angela Ackerman says
Great point, Susan. I’ve added a few to the list. 🙂
Susan Flett Swiderski says
“Family” is one of those words that can evoke very powerful images and emotions. However, all of your choices are on the warm and fuzzy side. Images reflecting the darker side of family should also be considered, as they’re likely to provoke a more visceral reaction from our readers.
Matthew MacNish says
Okay, that picture of the teen in the driver’s seat with her (presumably) little brother in the back is really funny!
Otherwise, great post as usual.
Traci Kenworth says
More great stuff!!
Mary Vaughn says
Good list to keep on hand for moments of brain freeze.