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