Anything that has a deeper meaning beyond its appearance, is a symbol. Although not all your readers might pick up on the symbols you use in your story or poem, the readers who do pick up on your symbols might recognize how your story or poem gains in strength. Still symbols can be interpreted in different ways, as every person (e.g. writer or reader) has its own personal knowledge and context. Some symbols are quite straightforward, for example the arrow and archer’s skills of Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games. The arrow and archery skills match her direct, purpose-full personality. Other symbols are less easy to interpret, or may have double meanings, or different associations amongst different people. For example the colour “orange”. In the Netherlands this colour is associated with nationality, King’s Day, and certain celebrations; in a lot of Asian countries this colour represents spirituality and joy; in North America this colour indicates changes and the start of autumn, until Halloween and Thanksgiving. Symbols do not have to be complicated; the meaning is most apparent when the symbol is common.
Examples of common symbols: chain, mirror, bride, ladder, black, white, red, garden, wild nature, predatory animals, pastoral animals, fire,
Assignment 1. Choose one or more common symbols. You can also add one or more yourself. Now describe how you would use these symbols in a story. Write for 10 minutes.
Symbolism can be used for foreshadowing as well: a small occurrence or detail may have a much larger meaning than your reader might guess at first.
Assignment 2. Start writing an introductory scene where you use a small occurrence or detail that symbolises the mood of a character. Write for 10 minutes.
Symbolism is often used to deepen a character, such as the arrow and archery skills of Katniss Everdeen.
A white rabbit often represents a herald: a character archetype that announces a first (new) challenge or the call to adventure. A white rabbits appears first in Alice in Wonderland, after which it appeared in The Matrix, Star Trek, Los, Jurassic Park, and in The Long Walk by Stephen King.
Assignment 3. Write a short scene where a white rabbit announces a first challenge or call to adventure. Write for 10 minutes.
Symbols are often associated with big themes such as revenge, narcissism, love, or redemption.
Assignment 4. Think of a big theme such as mentioned above (you can also pick one of these) and think of something that could symbolise this big theme. Work for 5 minutes.
Assignment 5. Create a character with one ore more clear attributes that strengthen the character’s personality. Use: name, age, gender, looks, favourite food, strength, weakness, crazy obsession, symbolic attribute(s). Work for 10 minutes.
Assignment 6. In the previous assignment you have created a character. Now write a short scene where you introduce this character at the city centre of a large town. Write for 20 minutes.