Tag Archive - motifs

Using Motifs in a Powerful Way in Your Fiction

This is a reprint of a post I wrote many years ago, but it bears reprinting!

Motifs are powerful elements that writers can take advantage of when constructing their novels. But few novelists ever give thought to adding motifs. They might do so subconsciously or inadvertently, but I’d like to encourage you to take some time and deliberately construct some motifs so that they serve as superglue in your story.

Motifs differ from theme. However, the best way to bring a motif into your story is to tie it intrinsically into your theme. In The Hunger Games we see that not only does author Collins use an actual object or thing—the mockingjay itself, and the metal pin Katniss wears—the “song” of the mockingjay is used symbolically. The characters adopt the bird as a symbol for their revolution, and so the object and the theme are bound together. Continue Reading…

Layering Motifs in Your Novel for Powerful Effect

When our beach house fell off a cliff due to El Nino years ago, we felt a horrible sense of loss at this sudden catastrophe. We had been married on the back deck, and the spot we’d stood upon and said our vows now hung out sixty feet in the air, a hundred feet above the roaring surf. In combing the beach after the disaster, I picked up one brick from the fireplace that we’d spent many long, peaceful hours in front of, watching the crackling fire and listening to the pounding surf.

I kept that brick on my kitchen window sill for years, and you can imagine the symbolism it held for me—and not just reminding me of my loss. For it also symbolized for me that something solid was salvaged from the wreck of my house (and of my family, which suffered massive emotional destruction). Seeing it gave me resolve, comfort, inspiration. Continue Reading…

Motifs for Cohesion and Depth

Hard to believe we are now about to examine the twelfth and final pillar of construction—motifs. We’ve spent the whole year taking a long, hard look at what’s needed to support a weighty story, and I hope by now you’ve used the inspection checklists (at the bottom of each post) to analyze every aspect of your novel to make sure it’s built with solid, enduring materials.

Glue and Superglue

You may wonder why I consider motifs an important pillar of novel support. Surely not every novel in every genre needs to contain a motif (or two or five), but motifs can supercharge your story, and it’s very likely that if you add some, you can make your novel more interesting and memorable. I noted earlier that themes are the glue that bind the elements of your novel. Well, motifs are like Superglue. A little goes a long way.

Motifs can make the difference between an okay story and a terrific one. Novels that present powerful motifs reach readers on multiple levels, for we humans resonate with symbols, and although a motif isn’t strictly (or always) a symbol of some sort, a motif carries symbolic import to some extent. Continue Reading…