Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Doomsday

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:

Fault line shift
Volcano eruption
Super cell storms (tornadoes, severe winds, lightning, etc)
Comets & solar events (eclipses, appearance of a black hole, solar flare, etc)
Mass Extinction
Animals fleeing areas
A lack of bird activity
Animals dying unnaturally
Floods, mudslides
Heat wave, cold wave
Deadly hailstorms
Forest fires
Massive sinkholes
Crops rotting in the field
Trees splintered, ripping themselves out of the ground
Large landmass change (lands rising, sinking, lakes disappearing, river routes changing, etc)
Unusual weather patterns and temperatures
Animals behaving strangely (flooding populated locations, mass migrations, etc)
Cracks, fissures, buckling and other ground level movement/change
Dead fish/waterfowl washing ashore
Pole or axis shift
Huge climate changes

In Society:

Billboard/handheld signs declaring doomsday
Street corner preachings
Increased church attendance
People flocking to churches, police stations, hospitals
Barricaded buildings & homes
Traffic jams on city exit routes
Foot traffic on roadways, people carrying children, backpacks, dragging luggage
Abandoned cars
Looting, crime
Broken glass, trash, debris
Black smoke
Ash fall
Smashed storefronts
Broken down doors
Empty shelves
Stock market shutdown
Economy shutdown
Governmental breakdown
Skyrocketing gas prices
Scarcity of water
Loss of electricity
Abandoned places of work
Masses descend on grocery and survival stores
Police, fire and rescue, medical presence
Overflowing hospitals, medical tents set up in parking lots
Helicopters overhead
No fly zones, grounded air traffic except government/army
Traffic accidents
Massive line ups at gas stations
Fire, explosions
Gunshots, screams, street side shootings
Visibly carried guns and weapons
Army presence
Police sirens
Nuclear events
Chemical or biological warfare
Empty homes, possessions left behind
Signs of a quick exit (doors left open, cars running, meals uneaten)
Large populated areas (cities, communities, entire towns) devoid of life
Graffiti quoting scripture or prophesy

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Doomsday. Some are more powerful than others. Overflowing hospitals with medical tents set up in parking lots is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a single abandoned car on a roadway may not foreshadow Doomsday on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.


Tom M Franklin said...

just a quick comment to say i genuinely appreciate this series. GREAT work!

-- Tom

Bish Denham said...

Excellent, though depressing...
Mass extinctions comes to mind as a possible sign of doomsday.

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks Tom! Nice to see you here. :)

Bish--how could I forget? I'll add it in! Thanks :)

Matthew Rush said...

Holy crap! Look at that building. Don't forget shifting of magnetic poles or the earth's axis.

Susanne Drazic said...

Wow, what a list. Brings sadness to think about all this, but definitely brings images to mind when reading through the list.

Angela Ackerman said...

Matthew, Thanks for the add!

Susanne, it is sad to think about isn't it? That's actually why I posted it now rather than wait for all the 2012 hype to kick in. I don't want to add to it, freaking people out.

Angela said...

I know some people will associate smaller things or use personal experiences as a predictor that doomsday is not far off...

Living in Europe we see a lot of protests that include tent cities to "bring home" the realities in other parts of the world that we foget about as we go through our daily routines.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Useful for a short story I'm working on, thanks!

Melissa Gill said...

What is it about doomsday that gets everybody so fired up? Me, I love it. And I love this list!

Paul C said...

You have provided a very rich resource of images here.

Jeff King said...

Choice of words does dramatically affect the way a reader see the world or actions we try to convey.

Thx for the examples

Shannon O'Donnell said...


Is it okay if I use your blog with my composition and English students this year? It's really one of the best writing tools out there. :-)

Dayana Stockdale said...

WOW this is a very helpful post. I'll have to check back if ever my work feels a little dull

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks everyone for the comments--I'm glad this helps!

Shannon, please do share the Bookshelf Muse with your students! I'm happy to know this will help in your classroom as well as with your writing. :)

Paul C said...

Hi Angela, I just provided a link for this wonderfully,helpful post.

Karen Lange said...

As always, good and helpful info. You're a treasure. Thanks so much.
Happy weekend,


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