Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Loss

Every day we interact with objects, places and sensations that affect the way we think and feel. This can be used to the writer's advantage by planting symbols in the reader's path to reinforce a specific message, feeling or idea.

Look at the setting and the character's state of mind, and then think about what you want the reader to see. Is there a descriptive symbol or two that works naturally within the scene to help foreshadow an event or theme, or create insight into the character's emotional plight?

In Nature:

A tree barren of leaves
An empty field
Forest Fire location
Uprooted trees
Animal skeletons or scattered bones
Animal death
Fallen trees
Dried up waterways
Red poppies
Dandelion seed head with no fluff
Flood destruction
Animal grieving (elephants covering the dead, cubs refusing to leave their fallen mother, etc)
Industry encroaching on nature
Fences, barriers, presence of man symbolize the loss of natural habitats

In Society:

Missing teeth
An empty vessel (cup, bowl, etc)
Funeral homes
A mother crying at graduation
Staring down at empty hands
House fire
An empty well
Roadside memorials
Military memorials
Sunken ships
The holocaust
An empty chair
Widows & Widowers
Cancer ribbon
Fliers for Missing children, pets or items
Lost and found box
Items forgotten in a public place (coat, scarf, glove, book)
A person holding an empty dog leash
A used up candle
The color gray
Metal detector
Ghosts, spiritual presence
Damage aftermath caused by natural disasters

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Loss. Some are more powerful than others. A Funeral home is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a single red poppy may not foreshadow loss on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.
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Anna said...

Oh, I love the idea of forgotten items foreshadowing loss. Very cool!

April said...

I second what Anna said! That is very cool...thanks for this post! It gave me stuff to keep in mind while I'm writing!

Terri said...

These are wonderful. Thanks!

Christina Lee said...

A used up candle and an empty chair--awesome!

Christine Fonseca said...

I love these posts!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Just reading through the lists made me feel melancholy - but I guess that's point, huh?! :-)

PJ Hoover said...

It's been a while since I commented, but I have to reiterate how much I love your blog!

Terri said...

Wonderful images. I really love this entry.

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Love this post! I think we often forget about using such a device to foreshadow something to come. I am totally inspired! Thanks so much.

Marissa :)

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

P.S. Can we link this for tomorrow's round up on our blog? It's so crafty ;) Thanks Angela!

zaelyna said...

Very helpful and insightful, as always. Thanks! :)

Marian said...

The empty chair makes me think of the way Scrooge realized Tiny Tim was going to die.

Great list! The words always put so many images - and connections, and connotations - into my head. :)

Wendy Marcus said...

Thanks, Angela!

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks for all the great comments, you guys. It's interesting to me how different symbols call to each of you. I think too, how objects fit into the context of the story specifically will really contribute to what will work for each idea or theme to symbolize.

The weekend is almost here, people! Who's giddy? Or is it just me, lol?

Have a good one!


Karen Lange said...

This is helpful and such a powerful tool to use when applied well. Thanks, you always inspire:)
Happy weekend,

Tahereh said...

another fantastic post! you're brilliant :D

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Angela -

Thanks for your excellent resource. I always know where to come when I need to jumpstart my brain. :)


Marcia said...

Like all your posts, this is just wonderful. What a great resource and service you're providing. Thanks for your generosity!

Heather said...

I love symbolism when it's used well! It can be very powerful and add something extra to the story.


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