Let’s talk about objects and how they can enhance your writing! Creating objects can help bring your characters off the page and help to create stories for them.
Look at the objects you have nearby. You probably have at least one of the following:
- a family heirloom
- photos of family, friends, holidays, festivals, and vacations
- posters and or other images hanging on your walls
- special clothes for special occasions
- everyday useful things like mugs or silverware
Every item has a history-including that plastic fork you have yet to throw out. They help paint a story of their surroundings. Wherever you can create an object in your writing, you build the world out a little more.
Here’s a few ways to use objects in literature:
- as a plot device: sometimes the plot can revolve around finding or destroying an object (see Lord of the Rings)
- to represent a character: sometimes, personal items say more about the character than the character’s actions. Think of the wands in Harry Potter and how crooked Bellatrix’s is.
- as a symbol representing something larger than itself: for this the most famous example I could think of is the green light in The Great Gatsby, and how it represents Gatsby’s hopes, dreams, and his connection to Daisy.
- as a clue: maybe you’re writing a mystery or detective fiction. Objects can be used to reveal all sorts of significant things. Channel your inner Sherlock and consider how people use objects every day to really drive this home.
- to foreshadow something: sometimes a gun hanging on the wall will come up later.
- to trigger a memory or flashback: sometimes things just look too familiar and they spark something within us.
- as a device connecting characters’ separate stories: maybe your object, magical or otherwise, has been around for significant moments in history, sitting in the corner and lifelessly observing things as life happens around it.
Objects are useful because characters can find them, lose them, receive them, gift them, steal or have them stolen, search for them, treasure them, neglect them, lock them up, and even destroy them or toss them aside. And the symbolism of their actions can add to your story.
Now for the exercise:
Pick an object in your home that has some meaning for you. Study it for a moment and describe it in as much detail as you can.
Now construct a scene around it.
Was the object stolen or found?
Was it a gift?
Was it inherited?
Make sure the object triggers a significant event for your character (or you, if you’re writing about yourself). Let the object help them make a decision, understand something that happened, or turn their life in a different direction.