Friday Reflections: Freedom

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Hullo, folks! I’ve had a bit of a break this summer because of a bit of travelling and plenty of family fun, but I’m back for today’s Friday Reflections post.

One of the world’s most beloved poets (of course, she was much more than a poet, too), Maya Angelou, recently passed away. Her poems are amongst my personal favorites; they always inspire me, and give me strength.

Today’s post has also been inspired by her life, and the topic is Freedom.

Freedom

Image Source: quotesstack.com

The Meaning of Freedom

Well, the dictionary certainly defines freedom in several ways, depending on the context — but each of us desire different kinds of freedom. It could be freedom of speech or the freedom to choose a way of life; it could be the freedom to read books, the freedom to be educated. It could be a country’s freedom — independence. Someone could be breaking out of social confines: limits determined and imposed by society, based on class, creed, race or gender. One could also yearn spiritual freedom.

What’s the first kind of freedom that strikes you? Which would you prefer most? Do you think you already have it? If not, why not? If so, does it satisfy you?

You could also always write about how doing some specific action set you free in some way. Perhaps creativity sets you free? Or going out for a run in the early morning? It could be emotionally taxing, like letting go of someone or some past incident; it could be a ritual of some kind that releases you in some way. One could also let go of inhibitions and fears (like in the song, Let It Go). Go for whatever resonates with you best!

Freedom works great as a theme in novels and short stories, even in poetry; and there are many symbols that are commonly used to represent the concept of freedomBirds (in flight) are amongst the most common images used (such as as on the covers of the book series, The Hunger Games). Another image is that of broken chains, which constructs a story: there is a past (one of confinement), then the struggle for liberation, and finally freedom.

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”
-Maya Angelou

An Exercise: Illustrate your concept of freedom

Based on what kind of freedom you’ve chosen to write about, can you construct an image that would be representative of it? Try to avoid cliché images, come up with something different. Try to be specific, and use all five senses to flesh it out.

You’re welcome to even try to sketch this image, if not write a poem or a prose piece.

‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’

One of Ms. Angelou’s best-known and loved works is her autobiographical work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; the poem of the same title is equally famous.

I share it with everyone here today, so that it may continue to sing of freedom:

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

(Poem Source)

With that, I’ll sign off — I wish everyone a happy weekend, and happy writing 🙂

 

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Stretching Out: Trying Different Forms and Genres

What makes April PAD/NaPoWriMo challenging is writing a new poem every day. Making time for writing on a regular basis is already difficult for most people! And sometimes we end up cycling around the same themes, the same phrases, the same types of poems. Poetry that’s new and different, every day – that’s the tough part.

I personally love that part of the challenge – precisely because it forces me to face my clichés, and break away from them. I step outside of my usual forms and themes, challenge myself with new ones, try writing with new voices, fresh styles.

If I have enough time on my hands (perhaps a couple of hours) I test myself by writing in form. I wrote about this during last year’s challenge, as well, and one of my milestones then was how I’d managed to write my first-ever sonnet (or two). And I’ve written quite a few Haiku by now, but this April I stuck as closely as I could to the original form — in fact, I wrote two of them in Japanese!

Writing in form, traditional or modern, helps hone our craft. Plus, subject matter and theme can be further supported by writing in specific forms or meter that suit them. It’s not just in the message, after all, it’s in how it’s delivered. A poem is obviously more than the meaning it makes: it’s in how it makes meaning.

Image

I found the image here; do give the article a read!

 

If you choose your form and meter wisely enough, they could add new layers to your poem! Also, you could use forms just as effectively to break stereotypes, or even satirize common trends like this lovely sonnet by Shakespeare does (Sonnet 130):

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
   And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
   As any she belied with false compare.

 

If your form works with your poem’s theme, the overall effect is that much greater. That’s why we hear so many poets warning us not to default to free verse. Personally, I don’t find anything wrong with free verse – as long as it suits the context. What if the poem is all about non-conformity, breaking out of confinement – that sort of thing? Perhaps free verse makes sense. Even better, you could show the gradual development in the poet pesona by working within form/meter and having a break in form/meter later on in the poem.

In fiction-writing, too, we choose between genres and forms. You shouldn’t default to a form (novel, short story, novella) or genre because it’s a trend, but because it makes sense for your story. Make sure you know all the whys and wherefores.

The last time I stepped out of my genre for fiction-writing, I found I was pleasantly surprised by the result! I had a novella unlike any I’d ever written before, fresh and even a little shocking — and it never would’ve come to be if I hadn’t let myself try something new.

Writing Prompt: (Try) Something New

If you haven’t been at it already, try composing in different poetic forms. Perhaps you’ll find one you really love! Mr. Brewer’s list over at Poetic Asides is a very convenient and comprehensive resource: I hope you’ll find a form in there you haven’t written in already!

You could also try new styles, if not forms. Perhaps a different voice, like you would in a dramatic monologue. Explore characters and landscapes you haven’t before.

Before I sign off, I offer this as a writing prompt for anyone who’s looking for one: (try) something new.

  • The poem/piece itself could be your exercise at trying something new.
  • It could be about how you’re trying something new.
  • It could be about something new in your life, or maybe something new in someone else’s life
  • It could perhaps be something new and alien to the ecosystem (like plastic!)

Take the prompt where you will in your thoughts!

Happy Writing!

Have a great day folks, and keep writing! Just ten more days of fierce poeming to go, stay strong 🙂

Friday Reflections: Windows

Hello, folks! 🙂 I hope everyone’s been keeping up with their challenges — we’re more than half-way to the finish line! (Don’t let it fool you though — there’s no real finish line, only milestones along the journey!)

Today’s Reflections topic is Windows.

“Strange things blow in through my window on the wings of the night wind and I don’t worry about my destiny.”
-Carl Sandburg

Windows

I don’t want to put any more thoughts into your head before you brainstorm — you might have more creative images popping out of there than what I’ve got! Just take five, ten minutes to jot down your thoughts. Do you imagine a scene? Note down what you see; then consider why that image might have come to you. What does it have to do with “windows”? What significance does “windows” have?

It’s entirely up to you whether you want to write about Microsoft’s famous Operating System, or these wonderful glass-fitted openings in rooms:

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

You could even read through this Wikipedia article and take a look at the many different kinds of windows!

The word “window” could also refer to those rectangle cut-outs with transparent sheets, in envelopes, through which we can read the address.

You could observe what’s outside your window right now (or perhaps what’s outside the window of your favorite Cafe), and write about the kinds of people, happenings, and encounters you see.

Just take your pick and write away!

(It might help to know that the word “window” comes from Old Norse, combining the words “wind” and “eye“.)

There are so many interesting phrases we use today incorporating this word:

  • out the window
  • window-shopping
  • window to…(e.g., imagination)
  • a window on (something)
  • window, as an interval, i.e., time window/window of four minutes…

The phrase ‘window-shopping’ is always fun to work with! Though this quote always comes to my mind:

“I went window shopping today! I bought four windows.”
-Tommy Cooper

Apart from phrases like these, windows often take on symbolic or metaphoric meaning in a lot of writing. Windows are interesting in how they are often transparent, and could let in wind and light, but are still barriers.

“Many a doctrine is like a window pane. We see truth through it but it divides us from truth.”
-Khalil Gibran

A character confined to the space of one room, the window that he/she gazes out of takes on a very different meaning. We have characters smashing open windows to enter/exit buildings – it could be for a robbery or even after a robbery, as the last resort/getaway strategy; it could be to run away from one’s wedding; it could be to get inside one’s own home — perhaps he/she had locked him/herself out!

One may open a window to let in a breeze – the breeze may carry in with it fluttering leaves, inspiration, or some scent that invokes memories for the poet persona. Glass windows also let in lightwhich may be metaphorically significant. Does the character/poet persona open or close the window? What about curtains or blinds?

You could choose to be extremely concrete, or completely abstract; you could choose to dance somewhere between the two, or back and forth.

Here’s an excerpt from the poem I’ll Open the Window by Anna Swir (you can read the entire poem here), to give you an idea:

I will open the window
and the large, frosty air will enter,
healthy as tragedy.
Human thoughts will enter
and human concerns,
misfortune of others, saintliness of others.
They will converse softly and sternly.

Another poem: From a Window by Charlotte Mew.

Many have written about what they see outside their window, or why they’re looking out the window (instead of just going out the door?). Perhaps the very idea of looking outward is a positive one, signifying that someone, who has been withdrawn for a long time, is finally opening up, moving out, moving on… Perhaps they yearn for freedom — to go out, to experience the world, or be with nature.

While we’re on the topic of “windows”, I’d also like to share this lovely, very touching video (and the music):

 

In the spirit of National Poetry Month…

I’ll share one more poem today; it may not have windows (but I think poems themselves are windows, in a way), but it’s one of my personal favorites.

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Happy Writing!

I hope this helped you get your creative juices flowing, if they weren’t already. Good luck with your NaPoWriMo/Poem-a-Day challenges! Have a happy weekend,  folks — I hope it’s full of writing/poeming 🙂

Friday Reflections & more!

Hello, folks! I wasn’t able to make posts thanks to a few exams that occupied my first two weeks of April — but here I am, to join in on the National Poetry Month fun! I’m ten days late into the game, but better late than never, eh? I have been keeping up with the Poem-a-Day Challenge. In fact, most days I’ve been able to write more than the required one 😉

For anyone who’s new to the whole event: April is National Poetry Month! (I’d peg it as international now, actually.)

There’s generally a lot of poetry awareness around this time, so if you can help it, try to read a new poem every day. Better yet, spread the word! Get others to read more poetry, share your favorites, spread the joy!

For those who enjoy writing poetry, April’s even more fun! April for poets is as November is for novelists: it brings with it the NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) challenge: writing one poem a day, every day, for the whole month! Anyone who’s participating can find a great many blogs full of prompts and poems this month. Be sure to check out NaPoWriMo.net, where they offer many suggestions and a prompt every day.

Mr. Brewer over at Poetic Asides also conducts a Poem-a-Day Challenge during April, so do participate if you’re interested! This year, it’s even more interesting with an anthology being released including submissions for the challenge, as well as with various judges coming in for the event.

NaPoWriMo 2014

A Poem for the Day

I’ll kick off with a poem, to spread the Poetry Month joy 🙂

The Poets light but Lamps— by Emily Dickinson

The Poets light but Lamps —
Themselves — go out —
The Wicks they stimulate
If vital Light

Inhere as do the Suns —
Each Age a Lens
Disseminating their
Circumference —

Friday Reflections: homebound

Take a few moments to brainstorm on the topic: “homebound”. Jot down all of the ideas that come to you, make a note of the kinds of things you see in the images and scenes that the word brings to your mind. Take a moment to think about who is in that scene and why things are happening that way in the scene.

The prompt came from the poem I wrote yesterday, of the same title. There are two definitions for this particular word, and in my poem I took advantage of that duality of meaning:

home·bound
adjective
1. Going homeward: bound for home
2. Confined to the home

(Definitions courtesy Merriam-Webster)

You can question what we mean by the word “home” – how does your character or poet persona (or self, if you’re the one speaking) think of “home”? You can also play on what we mean by “bound”. It can be seen in a negative light, that is, being bound or confined to a thing. In which case, is there a sense of wanting to break away from there?

Put together, the words interestingly have this definition: “going homeward“. Does it recall the phrase, “home is where the heart is”?

Does your character/poet persona happen to not have a definition for “home” because of unique circumstances? Do they perhaps form one by the end of your piece?

Home could be the earth. Home could mean a tent or cabin at camp, a single-bedroom apartment, a two-storey house, a mansion – anything. It could even be a hovel (like Yoda’s, on Dagobah!).

Yoda's Hovel

Home also happens to be a very common button on websites, directing people to the homepage! Just for a little twist, in case you feel like writing something about computers or the internet!

Hope that gave you some food for thought!

Happy Writing!

For those of you taking on the challenge, we’re already a third way through! Stay strong, keep poeming, and most importantly, have fun 🙂

Even if you’re not attempting the PAD Challenge/NaPoWriMo, you’re welcome to start even ten days late, or just spread some love for poetry this month! I’ll be updating more frequently (now that I’m free from my exams!) with more poems and prompts.

Happy writing, folks!

Friday Reflections: Memories

Good day, folks! 🙂 Hope everyone’s been gearing up for (Inter)National Poetry Month! It’s just a few days away, now.

To get you warmed up, in case you’re participating in the April Poem-a-Day Challenge–or any other Poetry-writing event, this Friday’s Reflections post has several references to other poems, books, songs, and related articles! 🙂

Without further ado, this Friday’s topic: memories.

by PARANOIA--7 at Deviantart

wonderful photography by PARANOIA–7 at Deviantart

Brainstorm!

Before my ideas clutter your thoughts, just take a few minutes and brainstorm around the topic “memory”/”memories”:

  • list out any words that pop in your head when you think “memory”
  • jot down any memories that strike your mind first
  • if you want to write about memories as such and their nature (not specific incidents in your life), you could brainstorm through the process of memory-making and remembering, and on how/why these happen

If you have a specific memory in mind already:

  • brainstorm note any and all details you can remember, down to names, places, clothes, colors, time of day, season/month, dialogue (if any) and even brand names
  • brainstorm as many sensory details as you can with regard to the scene of your memory; if what you’re going to write is going to recall a memory, you can create the scene most effectively by being specific
  • try to brainstorm words that capture the mood of the memory

All Kinds of Memories

When we say “memory” we can mean the power of the human mind to save and recollect information. We could also mean Computer Memory: RAM or hard-disk memory…could be a tech-y poem (I’ve written one, it’s quite fun)!

The mémoire (French for memory) is also literary form. It’s not, however, the same as the memoir (the better-known of the two).

Memory poems, and the theme of nostalgia, are amongst my favorite when it comes to writing. I love saving up many keepsakes and little trinkets, and when I go back to them, they almost always invoke a little poetry.


(The word nostalgia always reminds me of Yanni’s piece — this particular medley is all the more evocative.)

Often, these writings are bittersweet, because we’re talking about what’s already passed. Sometimes, they’re downright painful!

Some such famous poems include Lord Tennyson’s Tears, Idle Tears and William Blake’s Memory, hither come.

We talk about cherished memories, painful memories and childhood memories; we talk of short term and long term memory, and even memory loss. Many contemporary stories have protagonists who suffer from memory-loss — either temporary or permanent (think Memento). We talk about how some memories fade, or about how we’re either trying to remember or trying to forget something.

Sometimes, we’re trying to remember something, and it’s on the tip of our tongue, but not quite — a very interesting phenomenon!

We have all kinds of things aiding our memory now — Post-It notes, reminders and alarms, To-Do lists(potential list poem!) How do you keep track of/remember what has to be done? Do you have a system? Take a look at your system — if you don’t have one, see if any family member you know, or perhaps a friend, does. Observe. How often are these aides…required? A little too often for comfort? Or does the subject perhaps have extremely good memory? (I certainly don’t!) Perhaps photographic memory?

We could remember a person, remember an experience or even an object. We could remember our pasts, remember the people and things we’ve lost. We could even remember a culture — perhaps a dying culture — the remembering of it being its only means of survival.

A poem I wrote several years ago was written from the point of view of a woman who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. I was able to create tension by placing her beside her daughter, whom she did not recognize, and also by filling the scene with items and ideas that were to evoke memories — but only cause the woman pain and confusion instead.

You could also write about recollecting certain memories with someone else who has experienced them. Or perhaps, being unable to do so.

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”
― Lois Lowry, The Giver

Photographs

It’s interesting how photographs used to be so rarely taken once upon a time, and often only in large groups, or in studios — and now we click! thousands of them with mere touches to our smartphones. Many of us still have that nostalgic feeling, though, when we go back to certain photographs we haven’t seen in a while. Sometimes, the memories seem so far away that we wonder if it really happened:

“Was it a dream?
Was it a dream?
Is this the only evidence that proves it,
A photograph of you and I–”
Song: “Was It a Dream?”, 30 Seconds to Mars

One of my personal favorite Memory songs is Memories by Within Temptation, and its lyrics give us an example of the effect one’s memories can have on him/her:

 

The Mind works how it will

This article on Memories, Photographs, and the Human Brain looks into the working of the human mind and how it captures memories and images.

It’s interesting how we remember things. How much of it is really as Mr. Márquez says?

“He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”
(from Love in the Time of Cholera)

And then there is this lovely bit from Haruki Murakami‘s Kafka on the Shore:

“Most things are forgotten over time … There are just too many things we have to think about everyday, too many new things we have to learn. But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.”

Happy writing!

Try to put together the pieces of your brainstorm and flesh out the details of the memory you’ve chosen. Finally: what does it do for the poet persona/writing voice? It could offer some kind of progression or growth. Does it prove cathartic or epiphanic, or provide some sense of closure?

Give some thought into why that particular memory, and what its recollection achieves.

Hope that gave you some food for thought and hopefully helped to write a piece 🙂 Happy writing, folks!

Friday Reflections: What’s in a name?

I apologize for having taken quite a long break from blogging — coursework’s kept me busy, and I’ve had some trouble with the internet connection at home. I’m back, though, and ready to start gearing up for National Poetry Month (April) / the April Poem-a-Day challenge! 🙂

Hope everyone’s been reading, reflecting, and writing!

What’s in a name?

This Friday’s prompt — as the Bard once wrote, “What’s in a name?” — was inspired by a line of dialogue I heard from a character in a video game. (Prompts really do strike you from out of anything!) The character in question had made a statement about the pride and strength she draws from her family name.

By an extension of the idea of signs (previous post), the quote immediately got me wondering about how her name, as a sign, had gained significance – so much significance that it became not only a matter of pride for her to boast it, but also gave her a sense of purpose on the battlefield.

What, indeed, is in a name?

Shakespeare says…

Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2, Lines 38-47

“Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself

O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.”

This is the origin of the phrases “What’s in a name?” and “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – the idea that it is not the name (or title) of a person or thing that matters so much as their essence – what they really “are“.

Indeed, should one be another’s enemy merely because of a name, in this case – a family name that one inherits (not taken on by choice)?

Of course, one could also say that a name is inextricably linked with a person/thing’s personality or essence.

The video game character who inspired this post, for instance, found purpose in her name. It gave her something to fight for. Her family name and her title are very much a part of who she is essentially. She has become that kind of warrior because of her name. Would she have known this pride or strength had she been of some other name or title — or without any title at all? (Just as a note: she is based on a historical figure.)

And we understand a lot about a character’s aspirations, when he/she wishes to “make a name for him/herself”.

Identity, Belonging and Other Questions

The NamesakeIt’s very interesting to wonder whether our names affect our character. In fact, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake deals with this concept in a certain light. It’s also a work about diaspora that deals with questions of identity and belonging, among other things. These are also important concepts where names are concerned.

How much of one’s sense of identity comes from one’s name? How much of one’s sense of belonging to one’s village/city/nation comes from one’s name? What if your name and your place, where you feel you belong, don’t “match”? Would you rather it match, or rather you stand apart? Does your name, like my video game warrior’s does for her, stand as a symbol of pride and strength for you?

These are all questions we can ask for anything – whether for self-reflection or to write more complex characters in that next novel.

In Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley, it’s clear that Kunta Kinte holds tightly on to his name as though it were a matter of survival – and indeed, it becomes so, as it is carried on from one generation to the next.

Similarly, naming can be seen as a very powerful act in Native American literature. An example is in N. Scott Momaday’s The Names: A Memoir, where he writes,

“Pohd-lohk affirmed the whole life of the child in a name, saying: Now you are, Tsoai-talee.”

To name

There seems to be great power in naming people or things. We do know that language communication depends heavily on the system of naming. Writers spend hours together deciding on the perfect names for their characters. Why would that be? How much do names mean to you? Do they matter right down to their consonant and vowel sounds, the shapes of the letters on the page, the multiplicity of meanings that the name could take?

Every time you name a character, you can take various aspects of the name into consideration – the visual, auditory and psychological effects it has — on him/her, the other characters, and the reader.

You could even make powerful irony out of a name by having the character’s personality oppose it completely!

Here’s an interesting passage from Gary Paulsen’s Woodsong on imposing names on others:

“I began to understand that they are not wrong or right–they just are.
Wolves don’t know they are wolves.
That’s a name we have put on them, something we have done. I do not know how wolves think of themselves, nor does anybody …”

To name-call

An incredible, heart-rendering piece of spoken-word poetry by Shane Koyczan on this (thank you, Fahima, for pointing me to it):

Write away, folks!

Whether it’s going to be another amazing piece of poetry like Mr. Koyczan’s, or your next character’s name and personality file, spend some time thinking about what, for you, is in a name  and don’t forget to write your thoughts down! 🙂 Happy writing and happy weekend, folks!

Friday Reflections: Signs

Hullo, folks! It’s been a while–and I missed posting for a few weeks, terribly sorry–January had been a rather busy month. I’m back for February, and for this Friday’s Reflections post! 🙂

A week or two ago, we were discussing semiotics in class. Not only do I find it an extremely interesting field of study, I feel that the understanding of it could help any writer add layers to their works! And of course I found a prompt there in all that talk about signs and symbols and one thing representing another.

So many signs

I won’t be getting into the nitty-gritty of semiotics, but even without that, we can flesh a lot out of “signs”. Take a few minutes first, though, to brainstorm and jot down whatever comes to mind when you think, “Signs.”

There are so many different kinds of signs!

Image

image source: http://www.space.com

We have astrological and zodiacal signs. Perhaps one of your characters sets a lot of store by astrological readings; perhaps every character in your novel is bound to his/her destiny as it’s writ in the stars? Similarly, the images on Tarot cards have different meanings based on the reading.

A quick search for the actual definition tells me a sign is: “An object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else.” It can also be: “a gesture or action used to convey information or an instruction.” So objects as well as gestures can be signs. We even have sign language and, of course, your signature is your “sign”.

You could even say, “gimme a sign!” as when you’re asking someone to give some sort of hint or indication.

There are so many — just take your pick.

The world is replete with signs. How many have you placed in your last novel/story/poem? What do they convey and how do they convey it? Give some thought into the way a sign conveys meaning. Is it some arbitrary symbol that has come to mean something based on a cultural idea? Or does it actually resemble the thing which it represents?

Can you come up with your own signs for a story? Or perhaps take an existing sign and make it represent something else all together? How would your characters or readers know that the sign means something other than what they’re accustomed to reading it as?

Symbols

Symbolism is a very useful literary device, and it adds to books and poetry a great deal. The red rose is a symbol of passionate love, while olive branches are symbols of peace. Someone’s actions can be symbolic as well – representing on a higher level, the character’s beliefs or desires, even. Animals, aspects of nature, and Inanimate objects can also become symbols.

You can pick a kind of symbol, and build a story or poem around it–like the famous red STOP sign that’s always used as an example! Or place various signs or symbols across a story. Try introducing a significant object in a story -as small as a character’s pocket-watch or even keys- and let it symbolically represent a theme or characteristic.

Symbols add very interesting layers to stories; sometimes they offer more insight into a character, based on the kinds of symbols associated with them. Commonly used symbols are flowers and birds.

Plus, symbols ask readers to make connections, to ponder a word’s connotations, instead of placing meanings right before their eyes.

Signs everywhere

Really, every word on the page is a sign presented by the writer to the reader.

With this in mind, try writing your piece. Make your work richer and more layered with symbols and metaphors — but of course, not too many!

Take a look around you and notice the signs everywhere: in the way your neighbor’s been limping, or the signboards along the road. Do you see anything unique? And even if you don’t–taking a look at the various conventional signs, consider the signs whose meanings we take for granted.

Dig deep, and happy writing folks! Wish you a productive weekend! 🙂