Make a Story Stronger with Symbols

One way to make any story stronger is to add symbolism. A symbol simply represents a prominent idea in the story. “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter” is about a Japanese woman who lives a lonely, dead end life and yearns to get out of it. To symbolize her feeling of being trapped, she owns a pet rabbit that she keeps in a cage in her apartment.

When she plans to leave her life in Tokyo behind, she tries to let the rabbit free in a park, but then she gets angry when the rabbit refuses to move. She starts coaxing it to move, then starts yelling at it to move, but the rabbit just sits there.

The rabbit’s unwillingness to move mirrors the hero’s own unwillingness to move out of her dead end life. By seeing the rabbit’s hesitation to live freely, the audience can see the hero’s own unwillingness to live freely.

Symbols represent powerful visual reminders of the hero’s gradual emotional change. In “Harold and Maude,” Maude teaches Harold (the hero) how to sing and dance along with how to make music by giving him a banjo. As he starts playing the banjo, he also starts changing and embracing life. Finally in the end when he dances away, playing the banjo, that symbolizes his complete embrace of life for good.

Symbols can be a powerful way to remind audiences of the hero’s current state of mind. By repeating the symbol and showing the change in the symbol’s state, audiences can see how the hero him or herself is changing, and that will make a more compelling story.

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