C.S. Lakin reports:
"Motifs? Most writers don’t really know what they are, but they can make the difference between an okay book and a terrific one...Not many writers consciously plan out motifs to use in their novel, but sometimes they come naturally into the story. Motifs are symbolic elements packed with inference, but they don’t have to appear in your story as an actual item. Motifs can be a word or phrase, a concept, an image—just about anything that can be repeated with significance and symbolism. The weather can be a motif, for example, if each time something terrible is about to happen, 'lightning' strikes. Using motifs in writing fiction is one of the most powerful and evocative ways of getting across your themes in your novel. Few authors use them, and few use them well...Two definitions of motif in Merriam-Webster’s give a good feel for what a motif is: 'a dominant idea or central theme; a single or repeated design or color.' Think about a motif as a splash of color that you are adding to your story palette—a very noticeable, specific color that appears from time to time and that 'blends in' beautifully with the overall picture you are painting...Motifs can be an object, an idea, a word or phrase, a bit of speech—and you can combine these in your novel to create richness...The best use of a motif is in your title, and a great title will tie in to your book’s theme, often as both a motif and a double meaning...I hope you can see here the motifs at work and how, throughout a novel, these can surface to bring cohesion to a story. You can use an object, like a balloon for example, to symbolize important qualities. A balloon could represent freedom, the need for release. A slow-growing tree could represent faithfulness, steadfastness through all seasons, something a character can be viewing out her window at different times in her life...[A]s you plot out your novel, or tackle your rewrite, think of two or three motifs you can weave in, then go back through your book and place them strategically. If you can somehow use the motif in your title, even better. And if you can think of motifs that parallel and/or enhance your overall theme, you will have a book that will be unforgettable. Pay attention as you read great novels to see if you can spot the motifs the author has used. You will be surprised how you will start seeing them if you pay attention and look for them. May these thoughts spark some ideas in your head and get you running to your pages!"
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