using symbolism in writing

using symbolism in writing

Using symbolism in writing creates deeper meaning in stories and helps form a special inside connection between reader and writer. The dictionary from Oxford Languages says, “Symbolism is an artistic and poetic movement or style using symbolic images and indirect suggestion to express mystical ideas, emotions, and states of mind. It originated in late 19th century France and Belgium, with important figures including Mallarmé, Maeterlinck, Verlaine, Rimbaud, and Redon.” Symbolism takes the use of an action or object to represent an idea or quality.

There are different types of symbolism, and, for the sake of this post, we’ll talk about my favorite—metaphors. According to, “A metaphor refers to one thing by directly mentioning another. It essentially compares two dissimilar things while showing that they have something in common. Therefore, while a metaphor can provide clarity, it can also show the similarities between the two things or ideas despite their obvious dissimilarities.”

One example of using symbolism in writing is when we read “life is a rollercoaster.” This metaphor uses a rollercoaster to indicate the highs and lows of life.

Personally, I really like the use of symbolism. It can help evoke a certain mood in the story. Spoiler Alert: I used symbolism quite a bit in my novel, Miserably Happy, and if you plan to read the novel, just a heads up, in this post I use an example of one of the objects I used for symbolism in the novel. And that would be…

rabbits! (hey, it even works with Easter this month!)

Cute lil things, aren’t they? In fact, let’s call ’em lil bunnies. Even cuter. And in the beginning of the novel, Livy Miser, the main character thinks they’re cute, too. In fact, the guy she leaves her marriage for, Anthony, texts her pictures of bunnies often, since they run around his mother’s yard.

After Livy and Anthony move in together, when things are rosy between them, they’re at the park and bunnies run to and fro across the footpath. But as dynamics in their relationship grow progressively worse, bunnies chew up her sapling in the backyard.

So she replaces it with a new sapling, and, as Anthony breadcrumbs her and reveals he’s a taker not a giver, rabbits once again take her freshly planted replacement sapling and eat it up, too. Yeah, turns out this guy is bad news for her since his version of love is selfish and insensitive.

On Christmas Eve, her car won’t start, she opens the hood, and a rabbit jumps out, revealing not one, not two, but three chewed up cables! Not only does this create expense, she’s also left without a car on a holiday, since Anthony is out of town. Thank god for Uber. Well, actually, thank god for friends, too, because her best friend, Jess, picks her up.

Now Livy sees the creatures as rodents, and the third and final time she plants a sapling in her backyard, she stakes chicken wire around it, to keep it safe from those rodents, and this coincides with the last time she gives Anthony the chance to break her heart.

This article is simple yet helpful when explaining how using symbolism in writing can be effective. (Click on the headline or link below to access it.) The writer breaks down universal symbols by category, the two main categories being color and object, and then goes on to tell us symbolism is usually found in the most important scenes through reoccurring imagery.

The article provides downloadable tools to help plan the use of symbols throughout the book and gives examples of symbol overuse.

When I wrote Miserably Happy, I listed my symbols and wrote out how the symbols appeared throughout the book within the progression of the story. Hence, the example of the rabbits above: first, the bunnies hop to and fro on a sunny day, then the rabbits eat and kill two of her saplings, then she stakes chicken wire around the third sapling, to keep the rodents out. So, the animal didn’t change, but the main character’s feelings and actions toward the animal did change, demonstrating her strength in the end to guard herself from the same bullshit dished out from her ex-lover.

Check out the article! It’s a quick read.

And Miserably Happy is available at the end of April! If you’d like to download the first 50 pages, pop your email into the box below and open it in your inbox. I’ll send you an additional email as a heads up when the book is available.