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How to describe symbols : Tips and Advice • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

How to describe symbols

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Shimmitar
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How to describe symbols

Postby Shimmitar » Fri Jun 10, 2016 4:34 pm

So, i have a hard time describing things in general, though i have gotten better at it. However, describing symbols is even harder and i'm not quite sure how to do so. Any tips, or examples would greatly be appreciated.

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cynicalwanderer
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Re: How to describe symbols

Postby cynicalwanderer » Sat Jun 11, 2016 3:44 am

Do you mean describing the shapes of certain symbols? I guess just try to distil the most important and obvious elements into something with a bit of your own personal style added.

So say for the infamous Illuminati symbol, you might describe it as the image of a cold, staring eye trapped inside a triangle or something along those lines, depending on what mood you want to create with the description. The key elements of the eye, the triangle, and their relationship (eye inside triangle) do a sufficient job of describing the appearance of the symbol - the reader doesn't need to be specifically told about the angles or shape of the eye or anything like that: give the outline and let the reader's imagination do the rest of the work for you. And the "cold, staring" and "trapped" are just bonus flavouring.

Most of the well known symbols can be handled similarly, with a few brush strokes and some style additions. A yin-yang, with ominous tones added: The circle was half black and half white, the battleground between them divided by a line snaking through the middle. Each side had a small dollop of its opposite colour embedded within it, like a well-placed spy.

Even if your symbols are entirely fictional, you may want to aim to make them similarly simple enough to describe with a few quick phrases or similes that the reader can easily visualise, and then add your own bits of flavour to make it unique and fit the mood goals of your piece.
"I've stopped giving advice. Even when people ask for it, they resent getting it." -Ross Macdonald.

Shimmitar
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Re: How to describe symbols

Postby Shimmitar » Sat Jun 11, 2016 12:22 pm

Yes mostly the shape. I know in works of fiction like harry potter, there are a lot of symbols, like the deathly hallows and what not.

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Loren Killdeer
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Re: How to describe symbols

Postby Loren Killdeer » Mon Jun 20, 2016 5:27 pm

It is pretty hard, but Cynical Wanderer got it covered.
I think its helpful to have a croquis of your symbol on paper, so you never get confused while describing. But as Cynical does, using methapores will help you a lot on describing and giving the symbol the atmosphere it needs!

Best of lucks
“Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
― Mark Twain



samotnik
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Re: How to describe symbols

Postby samotnik » Wed Jun 22, 2016 11:44 am

In addition, you may try finding common objects, forms and shapes to compare with your symbol.

No matter what you do, most of your readers will create a picture of something (slightly) different than your idea. If I may suggest, instead of putting countless words describing it, to point out only the main characteristics - those that are important for your plot. Let the readers create their own image of the symbol and still be able to follow you through the story.


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