Symbolism & Setting—The Perfect Marriage

These are the nuances that make so much difference in a story you experience or one that you read.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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Today I have two very special guests. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are here to talk about a more advanced concept in fiction—symbol. Take it way, ladies!


We all want our writing to be layered. Like a gourmet meal, we want there to be more to them than just what is seen on the surface. In stories, this depth can be added a number of ways—through subplots, character arc, subtext, theme, and symbolism. Of them all, I think symbolism is one of the simplest methods to employ, and it packs a serious wallop.

Symbolism is important because it turns an ordinary object, place, color, person, etc. into something that goes beyond the literal. Babies represent innocence and unlimited potential, spring is synonymous with rebirth, shackles symbolize slavery, the color white brings to mind purity.

Symbols like these are universal in nature because they mean the same thing to many…

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I was a single parent for many years. Even after I remarried, I kept some of the same policies in place. I had a set limit I would pay for jeans, shoes, etc. If my children wanted the designer stuff, they had to earn the money to pay the difference.

My daughter and one of her friends had a discussion that she shared with me. She and her friend were reminiscing about the books they bought as children/teenagers. There was a little sheet of paper that they passed around in school. Really, it was two pages, front and back advertising the paperback books they could buy. She shared how she carefully considered each book and read the information about it.

After much consideration, she chose the books she wanted because while there was a set limit for clothing and shoes, there was no limit on books. She giggled when she recalled how she could have all the books she wanted. Still, she was very cautious with her single parent’s limited income.

My daughter told me how she and her friend enjoyed sharing their similar stories about clothes allowances that were limited and book allowances that never were. Then she confided there weren’t many people she could share that with and how great it was to find someone else who understood what she went through as a child.

While she was growing up, the “hard times” seem to have morphed into a badge of honor. Funny how that happens. And now here she is, years later sharing that experience with her close friend who understood what she was talking about.

I can still see her, bent over that sheet of books and reading about each one before finally deciding on the best ones to order and using her pencil to mark that sheet.

I did the same thing in school. There was never a limit on how many books I could get.

My oldest granddaughter is a big reader too. My daughter told me recently that she needed to have all the books she wanted and she would help pay for the books. Of course, these days, most of the books come from Amazon, but some still come from bookstores.

My son recently said that while most parents worried about keeping their growing children in shoes and clothes, he had to be concerned with keeping his oldest daughter in books.

I guess the time for the old two sheets, front and back that the school handed out for children to order books has gone.

We’re all still reading and now some of us are writing books as well. Nothing compares to the adventures we can have when reading. And isn’t that great?