Tangible objects are among the most important components of a powerful story. An object can be anything and can represent anything. It might be a treasure, an item of power, a symbol of doom, a testament of love, a secret of life-shaking identity.
Think about objects in movies or famous books that have rendered the story powerful. A favorite of mine is the rose in Beauty and the Beast that drops petals and marks the time until the Beast will die of his curse unless he finds true love. Now ask yourself, What if there were no rose?
A writing friend of mine pointed out that some of the best books and movies have the primary object in the title. Lord of the Rings and The Maltese Falcon are good examples. So is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
This concept might seem banal in its simplicity, but I know that I personally have a tendency to think my story will resonate whether a significant event is tied to an object or not. I think this makes me miss great opportunities.
Objects in stories are powerful for many reasons. They:
- Give your readers something visual they can imagine (shame about one’s past becomes an embarrassing lost journal)
- Turn abstract concepts into tangible realities (i.e. a secret becomes a page torn out of a journal)
- Create new opportunities for things to happen to these important objects (there is a part of the page that seems to have been erased and rewritten by an unknown hand)
Consider the objects in your story and ask yourself whether they’re being fully utilized. Where would King Arthur be without the enchanted sword given to him by the Lady of the Lake? How would Cinderella’s prince have known that she was the matchless woman for him without the glass slipper?
Is there an object in your story that should be brought to the forefront to complete its potential? Does each of your characters have an object that helps inform his/her identity on the journey?
Or do you need more objects to spice up your story? A little bit of time spent imagining might bring up some magical, terrifying, mysterious, thrilling, captivating, intriguing and otherwise enticing objects that are full of meaning and possibilities.
Think of what a story might look like if it was centered around…a door, a key, a garden, a pond, a necklace, a shriveled apple, a stone statue, a diamond.
What objects have you used successfully in your writing? What parts of your writing seem to be missing these treasure troves?