Symbolism and Motif Entry: Transformation and Change

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:

Eggs hatching
Seed pods
Dandelion fluff on the wind…

In Society:

The Death Tarot card
Plastic Surgery
Make up
Hair cut…

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Transformation & Change. Some are more powerful than others. A Butterfly’s cocoon is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, Crime could stand for a number of different things and may not foreshadow Transformation & Change 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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21 Responses to Symbolism and Motif Entry: Transformation and Change

  1. Sheila Deeth says:

    Great list. What great idea resources. Thanks.

  2. I think my favorites are the ones in nature. Thanks for breaking it down. Such great ideas, as always!

    I have an award for you on my blog. Enjoy!

  3. Dawn Simon says:

    Great list! Thanks for sharing, Angela!

  4. That’s awesome! WOOT!

  5. Leslie Rose says:

    Oh Angela, thank you for inspiring the lesson on symbolism for my class tomorrow. My students will eat this up when I put it on our Smartboard.

  6. Oh, this is as wonderful as always. I love your lists. Many thanks!

  7. Wow! This is a great list!

  8. Yay, glad it helps! Have a great writing week!


  9. nutschell says:

    Hey Angela,
    Thanks for dropping by my blog! I love this transformation post. The information here is so useful, I’m sure it will help transform my own writing. 😛

  10. Oh, this is a really interesting one ;o) Thank you!!

  11. Karen Lange says:

    What a great topic choice for the coming days of spring! Thanks as always, for such great stuff! 🙂

  12. Lenny Lee* says:

    hi miss angela! wow more good stuff! my wip is mostly outdoors so now im gonna look for more outside stuff that could help with how my characters get changed.
    …hugs from lenny

  13. There’s always a great article to be found here!!

  14. Yes this is one that we all use a lot in our writing. 🙂 Glad it’s useful to everyone. 🙂

  15. Julie Musil says:

    Love this list. You added transformations I didn’t even think of. Thanks!

  16. PAMO says:

    A timely post for me. I’ve been thinking about symbols and you’ve given me much to think about.

    I also read your prior post about Japan. It’s hard seeing the devastation.

  17. Marvelous! I’m bookmarking this post. The process of deep reflection involved in selecting just the write description can enhance personal insight as well as convey a precise message and evoke the desired reader response.

  18. Great list as always. I could definitely use some of these in my wip. 😀

  19. I think this symbol has got to be the most used (that and death) because in every story characters change. Thanks!

  20. Bish Denham says:

    Wonderful! Glad you got the phoenix is on the list.

  21. Deb says:

    Hey! Thanks (as _always_) this one is perfect for my current wip-so yes I will be a linking to it in my research section!

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