Symbolism is an advanced technique that can add color, depth, and flavor to your writing. Experiment with it often and look for it in the books you read. Often, you’ll find that authors hide an entirely new layer of meaning within the symbols they chose.
Searching for Symbols
It helps to write your first draft without consciously thinking of what type of symbolism you’ll use. Once your rough draft is complete, scan it for important objects that can be used as symbols. If you don’t find any, then add a few to your second draft. Be sure to plant symbols early on and have them turn up repeatedly throughout your piece. Try not to draw the reader’s attention to the symbol; if it turns up in later chapters, they will remember it and recognize it.
Be sure to find out all of the possible meanings for your symbols to make sure you’re using them the right way. You wouldn’t want to mislead your reader. If you find out that your symbol has two meanings that both relate to your novel, that’s great. Websites like Dream Moods and or Kjos Ministries are good sources of meaning behind common symbols, colors, and images.
Getting Rid of Cliché Symbols
Some symbols have been written about over and over again. You’ve heard about red symbolizing lust or blood, wedding rings used as symbols for commitment and or a gun symbolizing violence and bad intentions. Don’t reuse tired symbols! Look deep into your story and think of what new meanings you can create with the objects you already have. You may even be able to put a twist on the meaning of a tired symbol. If you craft your story well and think seriously about what meaning you want to give it, a cliché symbol like a gun could instead be used to symbolize peace.
Plotting with Symbols
Turn your symbols into key plot elements. For instance, in The Lord of the Rings series, the ring becomes not just the main symbol of the series, but an important plot device. Go through your novel and pinpoint your story’s climax. What objects are important to the characters at that pivotal moment? Have they been used throughout the story as key elements in the plot or are they only important for just that particular moment?
Turning Symbols into Allegory
Allegories are written as one story, but their symbols are so important that an allegory is actually a two-for-one deal: a literal story and a figurative story. One technique from allegory is the use of characters and settings as symbols. One character in your novel can stand for the complicated concept of greed. A harsh, wintry setting can stand for the hardened hearts of the people who live there. Using the techniques of allegory can give your reader a world where things are more than what they seem
Adding symbols to your writing creates layers of richness and gives your audience a more enjoyable reading experience as they discover the meaning behind the symbols. As with all else in the craft of writing, the more you practice with symbols, it will become more natural for you to use them.