What Is Your Character Willing to Die For?

“What Is Your Character Willing to Die For?” by Joan Y. Edwards

Image Props for Stories #8

What is your character willing to die for? Once you know that answer, choose a prop to symbolize it. in your story.

I think that once you’ve become conscious of how symbols can help you weave a story, you will begin to do it naturally, without thinking about it. Your subconscious mind will lead you to fascinating symbolism for your manuscripts. You want natural and meaningful symbols that come from the facts, action, and functions of your story.

There are many books and movies that use a prop to symbolize the theme.
The Notebook
Diary of Anne Frank
The Scarlet Letter
Daddy Day Care
Gas Food Lodging
Maid in Manhattan
Queen of Hearts
You’ve Got Mail 
Dark Moon Rising

There are many who use props as symbols:
Toy Story – Woody – symbol of toys that know they are only toys. they symbolize those people who know who they are in this world.
Wizard of Oz – The ruby-red slippers – symbol of everything magical and symbol of power
The Graduate – the stockings of Mrs. Robinson – symbol of seduction

When it storms (with lightning and thunder) rains in a film, it symbolizes bad things are going to happen.
My purpose is to get you to think outside the box. I want you to get your creative juices going. Try it out. See what you think.
The three props for this post are: hat, fly rod for casting with curls done by curling hair on rags, book


Indiana Jones had a hat that became synonymous with the character.  My husband, Carl and I love to wear hats. He is never without  a hat. I don’t always wear a hat.
Add a prop to inspire you in your writing. A prop can add depth, dimension, and meaning. It also gives you practice in describing a tangible object. Make a prop symbolic of the theme of your story. Choose an object to represent the dreams or fears of your main character. A prop can also be a symbol of a flaw for one of your characters. You want it simple and understandable. You definitely want the prop believable, not contrived.
The props I placed here might not fit your story. That’s okay. My point is it is good for you as an author to brainstorm objects that are significant to your characters. Substitute a meaningful prop that your character would “die” to keep, “die” to get, or “die” to get rid of it.

Many stories have symbols. You want to find the one that fits your character in the precarious predicaments in the situation you’ve put him. It would be something the character would panic without.

Fly Casting Rod and Curls

When I was 8 years old, my father, John Bernard Meyer belonged to a casting club. He taught my sister, Judith and my brother, Butch, how to cast a line into hula hoop rings in the water. It was a great experience for me. My mother, Ethel Darnell Meyer, rolled my hair on rags the night before. That’s how I had great ringlets in my hair. My father was gone a lot. To be included in one of his hobbies was a blessing to me.

Joan Fly Casting 1948

The object doesn’t have to be something your character would die for, however, it must be emotionally significant to him. Brainstorm all the things that mean a lot emotionally to your main character. Then brainstorm things your main character is so afraid of that he would curdle on the spot. Compare these with something that he believes is insignificant, but discovers that his life depends on it.


Family and books are important to me. I would never move far away from my family. My book, Flip Flap Floodle, is a great reminder to me personally and to many others to keep on going – Never Give Up.

Write freely. Write what you think about. Write for 10 or 20 minutes. Use what is relevant and meaningful. Insert it into your current work-in-progress or save it in a writing exercise folder. You might want to use it as food for thought at a later time.

In a blog post on Brainpickings.org, Maria Popova tells about how 16-year old Bruce McAllister surveyed famous authors in 1963 on their use of symbolism. He wanted to know whether it was intentional or written naturally, subconsciously. From Jack Kerouac to Ayn Rand: Iconic Writers on Symbolism, 1963: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2011/12/12/the-symbolism-survey/

“Symbolism arises out of action and functions best in fiction when it does so. Once a writer is conscious of the implicit symbolism which arise in the course of a narrative, he may take advantage of them and manipulate them consciously as a further resource for his art. Symbols which are imposed upon fiction from the outside tend to leave the reader dissatisfied by making him aware that something extraneous is being added.” ~ Ralph Ellison
“Playing around with symbols, even as a critic, can be a kind of kiddish parlor game. A little of it goes a long way. There are other things of greater value in any novel or story…humanity, character analysis, truth on other levels, etc., etc. Good symbolism should be as natural as breathing…and as unobtrusive.” ~ Ray Bradbury
“A symbol grows from the facts.” – Saul Bellow

With these Story Starters writers get an idea of what to write. Illustrators might get an idea of items to put in an illustration.

  1. Jasmine’s hair fell out strand by strand. She always wore a hat. One morning she had nothing to cover her bald head. (emotions: panic, sadness, fear, embarrassment)
  2. Jane worked in a fishing museum. A little girl brought in a fly rod for casting to be placed there in honor of her father who died. (sympathy, sadness, grief, loss)
  3. Timothy was a librarian. At the end of a big tropical storm, all that was left of the library was one book. He was devastated. Meanings of devastate: destroy, ruin, wreck, lay waste, ravage, demolish, raze (to the ground), level, flatten. (emotions:  sadness, defeat, depressed, overwhelmed, shocked, grief, anger)

Thank you for reading my blog.

The Giveaway is over on January 19, 2014.
Let’s sing together. It’ll get you and me in the mood to celebrate.
Lyrics to “Celebrate Good Times”
Happy Birthday to All of Us – Today or any other day. I’m glad you’re here and alive!!


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Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards, Author
Copyright © 2014-2019 Joan Y. Edwards

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15 thoughts on “What Is Your Character Willing to Die For?”

  1. Hi Joan,
    If I say the hat I wear in my blog represents what I’d die for, I guess it appears I would die for a laugh. I don’t think I’d go that far.;)
    I couldn’t resist the urge to jest! Thanks for another fun post.

    1. Dear Linda,
      Thanks for writing. Well, maybe to die for is a bit strong. You do love a good laugh. You helped me laugh now. Laughter is a great gift.
      Have fun with your writing!

  2. OMGosh – YES – Happy Birthday, Joan!
    I Love you, Joan – and love your ‘prop’ comments. How marvelous! Need to incorporate into my work. Thank You so much for this – but mostly for you – you are wonderful!
    Birthday Hugs and Kisses to you!!
    COME ON!!

    1. Dear Claire,
      Thank you for writing. Thank you for the sweet birthday wishes. Thanks for your friendship, too. Kool and the Gangs – Celebrate Good times is a fun song. I love to sing it. It fills me with ENERGY. It’s a great energizer.
      Glad you enjoyed the post.
      Never Give Up

  3. First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Wishing you many many more birthdays and blogs to inspire us.
    Character doesn’t have to die for a certain prop but a prop could be a significant key to bringing a story to a final conclusion, as in the novel I just finished. No more clues than that. Just saying…..

    1. Dear Sandra,
      Thanks for writing. Thanks for the Happy Birthday wishes, too. I’ll do my best to keep writing blogs to inspire you.
      You’re right, a character doesn’t have to die for a prop, but it could be very significant in some way. Keeping the novel you just finished a secret…good for you.
      Celebrate your gift of anticipation,
      Giving us something to anticipate,

    1. Dear Holly,
      Thank you very much for writing. I’m glad that you automatically add symbolism in your writing. That is an amazing article that you shared. I believe I’ll add it to this blog post. It’s food for thought. It’s fun to think about and discuss. There are many ins and outs of writing. When writers discover a new little thing that lights them up and unlocks a problem they’ve been having, it makes them feel good about their writing for a long time. What do you think is the hardest part of writing?
      Celebrate you.
      Never Give Up

  4. I hope you’re having a very happy birthday, Joan! I love the picture of you flycasting. I remember my grandmother trying to curl my hair with rags – SO much nicer than those awful bristle rollers. (I wear it straight, now, most of the time – curling it is still a challenge and a pain!) I got hooked by a fishing hook, once, so even being near people who are casting a line scares me. Still, it makes me smile to think of you up there with such intense focus, enjoying a day fishing with your dad.

    1. Dear Holly,
      Thank you for writing. My birthday has been great! I found a site online that tells you how to roll your hair with rags. I don’t know how Mother did it. But she did a great job. I’m glad you liked the picture. It was definitely fun to be included in my Dad’s hobbies. I’m glad it made you smile. That makes me smile, too. Now I’ll smile double when I look at it, one smile for me and one for you. I did have intense focus, didn’t I?
      You gave me a nice gift…two comments on one post.
      Good luck with your writing!
      Celebrate you
      Never Give Up

  5. Barbara writes,
    Why should I be surprised that you chose a HAT as your first prop? Of course, you did. The article caused me to think about my characters and what prop I would use to identify them. I tend to tell, but this is a great idea for showing who your character is.
    Thanks, Joan, for your Never Give Up ideas and teachings. I am a learner, and I’m learning a lot from you.

    1. Dear Barbara,
      Thank you for writing. I’m glad that my putting a hat as my first prop didn’t surprise you at all. See that shows how well you know me. I’m glad that my article started you thinking of the possibilities of a prop you could use to identify your characters. It’s there. You only have to look for them. In your writing about the people of Indonesia there are many built in symbols that you tell about but you weren’t thinking this was a symbol. The symbols grow naturally out of the characters and things that mean bunches and bunches to the character.
      I went to see Book Thief with my granddaughter, Kirstyn. She read the book and wanted to see the movie. In it were different symbols: books – symbols of knowledge and ways to show things to people who can’t see them, also of banning 0 opposite of freedom. An accordion played by PaPa symbolized how he tried to look at the good side, the musical side of things, it symbolized his heart, too. There were numerous symbols that were natural and not just put there so you could see them. Book Theif has many love stories in it. It is also sad. However a good cry levels your emotions. Appreciating a good love story will lead you to others.
      Good luck with your writing. I look forward to the day your stories about these wonderful Indonesian people is a book I can hold in my hands.
      Celebrate you.
      Never Give Up

  6. Five different people left comments on this blog post. Holly wrote twice. Thanks, Holly.

    1. Linda Martin Andersen
    2. Claire Iannini
    3. Sandra Warren
    4. Holly Johangiri
    5. Barbara Lunow

    I asked random.org to choose a number between 1 and 5. It chose number 2, therefore, Claire Iannini, you won a copy of Flip Flap Floodle. Please send me your snail mail address so I have a copy mailed to you.
    I am delighted that each of you stopped by. Thank you. I’ll put a separate post so that you’ll be able to see the winner announced there. You can leave a comment there.
    Celebrate you.
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards

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