Symbolism Thesaurus Entry: Superstition & Signs (Good Luck)

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:

Clear skies
Mild weather
Shooting stars
The North Star
A four leaf clover
Oak trees

In Society:

Rubbing a Buddha's belly
Finding a penny
The big half of a turkey wishbone
Finding a parking spot close to destination
Finding a meter with time on it
Red Chinese Lanterns
The number 7
Blowing on a set of dice
The gift of Bamboo
Wishing well or fountain
Dream catchers
The Hand symbol
The power of three
Rabbit's foot
Salt tossed over shoulder
Throwing rice at weddings
Rain the day of the wedding
Couch change
Finding money in a pocket you forgot was there
Crossed fingers

These are just a few examples of things one might associate with Luck . Some are more powerful than others. A four leaf clover is a strong symbol, and likely will not require reinforcement. However, the presence or gift of an egg may not foreshadow Luck on its own. Let the story's tone decide if one strong symbol or several smaller ones work the best.

*NOTE: This collection of good luck symbols is not complete, only some of the most common. Different cultures and parts of the world have their own luck totems.


Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Another awesome writing post, Angela. This is such an important way to reinforce setting, as well as character and more. Can we link you for tomorrow's round-up? Thanks so much!


Angela Ackerman said...

Of course, as always! This one was a fun one to write. :) I think our characters are always looking for a little luck. :)


Mary McDonald said...

Great post. I sprinkled some things like that into my book. Because it deals with the U.S., I wanted very All-American hints. For instance, they have apple pie at one point, hot dogs later and talk baseball.

SWK said...

You should totally turn your thesauri (sp ?) into an iPod app for writers. Such fun to read and think about your lists.

Lia Victoria said...

What a wonderful idea for a post! I've never considered doing something like this before. Thanks!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

This is so cool--to add a touch of superstition. You always give me so much to ponder.

Medeia Sharif said...

I use symbolism with a light hand in my writing. It reinforces the tone and setting.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Angela--I'm think swk is right. I was just thinking I should print off all of your posts and use them as a resource book.

Angela Ackerman said...

Thanks everyone for the great comments. I'm glad this one gets people thinking. I agree Medeia, symbolism should be used with a light hand. :)

Sharon, I'm so glad you like this resource. I know it might be tempting to print out what I have here, but as it's something I may end up putting in a book one day, I don't encourage it.

I've worked hard on these and post them freely for others to use, but at the same time want to make sure I retain control over different types of published formats. I know that your comment was likely just meant off-the-cuff, but I felt like I should address it as copyright is important to me. :)

Hope everyone is having a great writing week!


cassandrajade said...

Great discussion. Thanks for sharing this. Some of these symbols I hadn't considered before.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Next time I send out a query, I'm kissing my husband first for luck. :D

Marian Perera said...

That's fascinating - I had no idea elephants and eggs and acorns were considered good luck. I'm guessing an egg that slipped out of your hand went splat on the floor would be bad luck, though. :)


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