Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Family

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:

Ducks swimming with hatchings
Bear with cubs
Fox kits playing together
A group of geese foraging together
Birds building a nest
Wolf packs
Bird flocks
Animal herds
Otter pairs
Prairie Dog groups
Bat Colony
Ant hills
Wasp nest
Moth or fly swarms
School of fish
Whale pod

In Society:

The Family tree/Genealogy
The dinner table
Crests, Coat of Arms
A common last name
Family vacations
Camp outs
Yearly family photos/Christmas card
Birthday celebrations
Iconic holiday gatherings (Thanksgiving, Christmas)
"Home Sweet Home" sign
Family game night
Weekend Barbecue
'Family' fun centers (entertainment)
Family Rate (swimming pools, theme parks, etc)
A sense of community
Baby Strollers
Family violence
Fighting over the past
Sibling rivalry
Parental embarrassment
Generation gaps
House rules/chores/allowance
Child custody agreements
Visiting rights/shared custody

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Family. Some are more powerful than others. A minivan packed for vacation is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, a Birthday celebration may not foreshadow Family on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.


Mary Vaughn said...

Good list to keep on hand for moments of brain freeze.

Traci Kenworth said...

More great stuff!!

Matthew MacNish said...

Okay, that picture of the teen in the driver's seat with her (presumably) little brother in the back is really funny!

Otherwise, great post as usual.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

"Family" is one of those words that can evoke very powerful images and emotions. However, all of your choices are on the warm and fuzzy side. Images reflecting the darker side of family should also be considered, as they're likely to provoke a more visceral reaction from our readers.

Angela Ackerman said...

Great point, Susan. I've added a few to the list. :)

Stephanie Faris said...

Great list! I need to save this to my jump drive to refer back to.

I mentioned you on my blog today...and linked you:

Bish Denham said...

We definitely have the nest building thing going on right now.

C.R. Evers said...

yet another fabulous entry! awesome job.

Jan Markley said...

Great post! We often don't think about the imagery around families.

Becky Wallace said...

I AM the nesting bird! Thanks for the great list!

Karen Lange said...

Thank you! Hadn't considered some of these; good thing I have you guys around to keep me in the know!
Happy weekend,

Beth said...

I love writing about those "iconic holiday gatherings". Lots of good material there for a story! Thanks for your other ideas, too.


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