Friday, April 10, 2015

A to Z Challenge: I is for Imagery and Its Symbols

Welcome to April. With its customary showers comes the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. For those who are unfamiliar with it:
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. (Source) 
The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE 

My theme this year is EDITING

I'll be posting practical advice for editing any story, novel, or other piece of writing. Editing is something most authors struggle with, and after years of doing my own as well as that of others, I have a pretty good eye for what needs work. I'll be doing short posts on editing topics and (hopefully) dispensing simple, valuable advice to help everyone out there self-edit.

I is for Imagery (and its Symbols)!

Imagery, at it's core, is just the pictures you evoke with your words. And you want to be doing this! One thing we are hard on each other about in my critique group is visualization. If I can't visualize something while I'm reading it, I mark it and tell the author that I need more description and imagery because I can't picture it.

So what's that got to do with symbols? 

Your imagery should either be symbolic or invoke symbols. Let's look at some well known examples.

In Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, notice how the Shire is always blue-skied and sunny. It's full of quiet farms, greenery, and lazy days. The Shire represents peace, home, and all that is good in the world. Notice how it doesn't contain black skies, spouting volcanoes, or monsters. Mordor, on the other hand.... Tolkien knew how to evoke imagery that was also symbolic.

Symbols are powerful things, especially in writing. Because all words are inherently symbolic of the thing they signify (The word dog is not actually a dog; it's just the combination of letters that signify "dog") symbols are a really a writer's territory and playground. 

Use them purposely!!!

Figure out what you want to symbolize in a scene--good, evil, particular intentions, etc--and find ways to symbolize it through your imagery. You can also use imagery to foreshadow things. (You are the perfect person to do this because only YOU know how your story is going to end!)

Of course, this is definitely an art. Symbolic imagery can be really on the nose (like Tolkien and epic fantasy in general) but for the most part, it should be subtle. The second it becomes too obvious, you could argue that it ceases to be symbolism.

Have fun with symbols, use them purposely, and enhance your story!


  1. I need to work on that! Of course I've just started writing, so this is all good information for me. Great post, and I'll try to keep checking back for all your advice. If you have time you should stop by and check out my I Post.

  2. If I've used them, it's been by complete accident. Although I did use environment and the looks of once race to convey harshness in my last book.

    1. There you go! I think good writers do this anyway, even if it's not on purpose. But being purposeful about it makes it more powerful, in my opinion. :D