is for Symbolism
Sometimes a red rose is just a pretty flower sitting in a vase on the shelf while others it is a symbol of love. Visual symbols, like the rose, are usually linked to imagery. Other symbols may be linked to theme. The bottom line is that if something recurs in a story and means something other than the obvious literal meaning, it’s probably a symbol and not just another pretty flower.
In The Revenant, Morgan is a symbol of good, his brother Malchus, a symbol of evil. The sum of their lives show that good and evil are more than simple black and white divisions. There is a little bit of evil thought and good intentions in the best of us, but in the case of Morgan and Malchus, their personalities ultimately polarize and repeated references to this polarization is what makes them symbols (and foils).
In I am, Was, Will be Alice, the ability of Alice to control her time traveling becomes a symbol of hope. If she can control when she travels, maybe she can save the lives of her teacher and student peers and ultimately, herself.
Likewise, in the short story “Hope Floats”, a butterfly found by a child in a dystopic world becomes a symbol of hope. Having settled underground, a child ventures to the surface and captures a butterfly to give to his mother to show her there is still hope for returning to the old way of life. But when the butterfly dies, he realizes there is no turning back the clock.
Symbols are all around us in everyday life and in popular culture. I prefer the puzzle of the subtler symbols, no rose = love in my writing! Do you think of symbols at all? Can you think of any you noticed recently? Share examples of the best ones in the comments below.