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[4 Writing Tips] How to Use Symbolism in Fiction

“Symbolism is no mere idle fancy…it is inherent in the very texture of human life.” –Alfred Whitehead

This post shares writing tips for using symbolism in your work. Fiction can benefit from symbols which add meaning and aid in your readers’ understanding of the text. Whether this comes in the form of a word, place, character or item, it will represent more than an idea, creating multiple layers of meaning for your audience. Here are four writing tips for inserting symbolism into your novel.


Using Symbolism in Fiction [4 Writing Tips]

  1. Focus on Your Theme

Symbolism is about sharing new meanings with your readers that help weave together the overall theme of the book with the storyline. Start by creating a plot map, character web and list of themes for the book. Ask yourself what you want your audience to take away from reading your novel.

  1. Get Inspiration from Other Authors

Remember learning about symbolism in English class, where items like the conch shell in Lord of The Flies represented power and authority? Think about the symbols you learned about in famous works of fiction and this can help you determine what layers of meaning you will create in your book.

  1. Show, Don’t Tell

An important writing tip is to remember to show instead of tell your story. Symbols are an excellent way to avoid spelling it out for your audience because they use simple scenes, events or conversations to create a new layer of the story.

  1. Take Cues from the Physical World

A good way to get inspiration for your symbols is to take a cue from nature. Many times in fiction, metaphors and symbols are represented by plants, weather or animals. For example, a blossoming flower can symbolize youth, while a thunder clap at the moment of a deep conversation between characters can show your readers there is tension in the air.

By focusing on your theme, getting inspiration from other authors, using symbolism to show and not tell and looking to nature for ideas can make your novel stronger and resonate with your audience. What symbols do you use in your writing?

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