Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Mystery

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?

Disclaimer: In researching things that are mysterious, I discovered that the idea is fairly subjective. What one person finds difficult to comprehend, others may believe in whole-heartedly without really having to try. So I've tried to limit this list to things that most people would agree are mysterious, and to things that are commonly associated with mystery. I've also omitted examples that people associate strongly with fear (ghosts, hauntings, exorcisms), since those things would be better classified as creepy or scary than as mysterious.

In Nature:

Clouds covering the moon
Life and Death
The Bermuda Triangle
Crop circles
The Devil's Footprints
The Loch Ness monster
The paranormal
Easter Island
The Great Pyramids
The human body
The Sixth Sense/ESP
Animal communication and behavior
Space travel, exploration, the universe
Northern Lights
Comets/other phenomena
Unidentifiable noises

In Society:

A magnifying glass
A red herring
A smoking gun
Agatha Christie
Dinner parties
Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes' hat
Nancy Drew
The Hardy Boys
The question mark
A sealed envelope
A locked door, vault, locker, etc
CIA, FBI, government agencies
The pursuit of knowledge
A magician's hat
Scrying/foretelling/reading tea leaves/tarot cards
Gypsy's crystal ball
The Past & the Future
Ideas like alternate universes and realities
A closed door

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Mystery. Some are more powerful than others. A magnifying glass is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, the Great Pyramids could stand for a number of different things and not foreshadow mystery on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.


Porky said...

That's hard to add to, and I'd suggest only 'darkness', epsecially in the countryside, away from streetlights and in corners and behind doors.

Re Bigfoot and Nessie, If anyone has an interest in cryptids generally, there's a long list at Wikipedia.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Brilliant as always! :D

Bish Denham said...

Solar and lunar eclipses are mysterious....

Matthew Rush said...

Are those the murder weapons from Clue? That is awesome.

Leslie Rose said...

I'm always taken by a series of sun rays streaking down through the clouds. They remind me of a gateway.

Lenny Lee* said...

wow you sure got a long list of stuff. i got that big snowman guy in one of my stories. i forget what you call him but hes pretty mysterious. im gonna copy down that list cause i like stuff like that in my stories.

Laura Pauling said...

Awesome. I love deception and mystery so I had to click on these post right away. I wonder if I should include all the symbols in one chapter. Or is that too much? :)

Lisa Gail Green said...

Always such great ideas!

Julie Musil said...

This is an awesome list! This might not apply to writing, but creepy music always adds mystery to a movie. Thanks, ladies!

Becca Puglisi said...

This was kind of a tough one, so I appreciate the suggestions!

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