Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Symbols in Fiction

Sorry this posting is a tad late today. I was up early to go to the polls. In case you're the only person in America who hasn't heard, Massachusetts is having special election today to fill a US Senate seat. If you live in the Bay State, don't let a little snow keep you from your civic duty. Get out and VOTE!

Today my blog guest is a lovely lady from England~Helen Scott Taylor. If you're a regular reader of my blog you'll remember her from her debut novel THE MAGIC KNOT. She's back with another faerie story called THE PHOENIX CHARM. I think you'll love her brand of magic!

Take it away, Helen!

Symbol: Something used for or regarded as representing something else; a material object representing something, often something immaterial; emblem, token, or sign. (Dictionary.com)

I’m fascinated by the charms and keepsakes people have. In our society, Jewelry such as wedding or engagement rings and lockets have special significance when given by a loved one. When we attach emotion to an item, it comes to symbolize those feeling and the relationship.

Concrete symbols that represent important events or relationships between characters often have huge meaning in fiction. Even items that have no intrinsic value can become significant when they indicate the characters’ feelings. Although I’ve long since forgotten the plot of the first of J.D. Robb’s In Death series, Naked In Death, I still remember that Roarke found a button from Eve’s jacket and kept in his pocket through much of the story. This demonstrated beautifully his interest in her without the author having to stress the point.

Symbols are often used in paranormal and fantasy stories, including romance. They can signify emotions, relationships, conflict, or other important elements of the story. Concrete symbols such as rings or swords are used to make an intangible concept tangible so the reader is given a focus to follow that element of the story.

I’ve used tokens and symbols in my Magic Knot fairies series. The Magic Knot itself is symbolic of the person who owns it. Each character of fairy blood has a Magic Knot consisting of three linked stone rings that hold the essence of their body, mind, and spirit. Lovers exchange Magic Knots placing the care of their essence in the hands of their loved one, demonstrating the ultimate in trust and connection. Divorce is not possible in my fairy world. Once lovers exchange Magic Knots, they are bonded with one another for life. That’s a long time when some of them are immortal.

In The Phoenix charm, the heroine is a sensual water nymph whose power has been bound with Celtic symbols painted on her skin. When she finally removes the Celtic symbols near the end of the story and releases her true nature, it is symbolic of her acceptance of who she is.

Can you think of any symbols used in fiction that you found enhanced your experience of the story?

Phoenix Charm Cover Copy:

Cordelia has sworn she’ll abstain from looking into Michael’s future—particularly when the image in the gilded smoke of her divination mirror shows him half naked. Yet she can’t resist watching the sexy rascal slowly running his hand down his ribs, over his abdomen, flicking open the button on his jeans with a little flourish like a magician performing a trick.

Respectable wise woman Cordelia restrains her secret water nymph sensuality with the Celtic symbols painted on her skin. But Michael’s powerful fairy glamour leaves her breathless, off balance, struggling for control. When Gwyn ap Nudd, the Welsh King of the Underworld, steals away Michael’s infant nephew, Cordelia must work with him to save the child. But how can she trust her instincts with Michael tempting her to explore the hidden elemental depths of her nature and insisting that she believe in the power of…The Phoenix Charm.

I have a free short fantasy romance story on the Dorchester website to celebrate the release of The Phoenix Charm. For more information and story excerpts go to www.helenscotttaylor.com

Emily popping in here: What a great way to "try before you buy!" Thanks for coming by, Helen. She's also giving away a copy of THE PHOENIX CHARM to one lucky commenter, so let's get the ball rolling with Helen's question:

Can you think of any symbols used in fiction that you found enhanced your experience of the story?


Dina said...

Hi Emily and Helen,

I enjoy reading books w/ symbols, like swords and rings and stuff, they all give you the view of the story. I've not thought of any 1 symbol that enhanced the story though, they all fit very well w/each story.


Tawania said...

Hi Helen,
I can't wait to read The Phoenix Charm, the reviews are great! The only symbol that really stick out in my mind from a book, is the double bow and arrow tatoo from Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter books. I enjoy reading books with symbols from legends or fantasy, they always lend a air of mystery to the story.
Happy Reading :)
Tawania Etheridge

Heather D said...

Hi Emily and Helen.

Not too long ago I read Haunting Beauty by Erin Quinn. Danni wore a necklace. It turned out that the necklace was not only a link to biological family but it was a link to her past. Now I am second guessing my memory... I think I might be confusing two books. Anyway there are so many symbols that play a huge part in stories. The Templar Cross keeps coming to mind.

Congrats on your new release!

Mia Marlow said...

Alfred Hitchcock called these symbolic things "maguffins"~ his word for something that all the characters are interested in that keeps the story moving forward. It's the Ring of power in Tolkein, the Ruby Slippers in Oz, and the little medieval puzzle box in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. In each instance the item represents power or knowledge or both.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Dina,

Thanks for stopping by to read by post. I think the symbols are often so well incorporated into the story that we don't consciously notice them. That probably shows when the symbols use is well done.


Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Tawania,

The most easily identifiable symbols seem to be in fantasy books. They probably occur in historical and contemporary fiction as well, but we don't identify them as such so easily.


Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Heather D,

I've seen mention of Hauting Beauty a few times and thought what a wonderful cover it has. I must pick it up. I beleive it's set in Ireland.


Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Mia,

Over the years, there's been a lot writen about the use of symbols in fiction. I suppose it's even more relevant to films where the audience gets to see the symbol rather than just read about it.


Mona Risk said...

Helen, I am glad you left this link on Facebook. I like your explanation of symbols. The Magic Knots were great symbols. What do you think of a scepter as symbol of power? You just gave me a fantastic idea for my para. The Phoenix Charm is a wonderful tale that will leave you dreaming.

Jane L said...

Hello Helen,

I can't specifically remember a symbol in a story. But I am facinated with little trinkets or pieces of jewelry or buttons or anything, I am just intrigued, what it may have meant to someone at one time! Have a wonderful week!

EmilyBryan said...

I guess there's a symbol in STROKE OF GENIUS. My hero Crispin has a linen handkerchief with the initials CRS embroidered in gold. He's had it since he was a child. It's the one link with his mother, and the nameless gentleman who made a bastard of him.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Mona,

Lovely to see you here. I included scepters in my novella The Sons of Ra. It goes well with the Egyptian mythology because many of the gods carried the scepter with the flat head and forked tail. I think it would be good in your para.


Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Jane,
I totally understand your fascination. I love wondering about the story behind little trinkets and pieces of jewelry, especially if they are old or unusual.


Helen Scott Taylor said...


Thank you for having me as your guest today. I absolutely adore your cover for Stroke of Genius. It is one of the most beautiful covers I've seen in a long time. It would actually go perfectly with the free short story I have up on the Dorchester website.


Linda Henderson said...

The first book with symbols that comes to mind for me would be the DaVinci Code. After that the Harry Potter books use animals as symbols and the House of Night series by P.C. & Kristen Cast use tattooes as symbols.

Michelle Santiago said...

Hi Emily and Helen!

i think symbols enhance my reading experience in that it makes certain characters more memorable. One that comes to mind is Larissa Ione's Demonica series--each of the demon brothers have a symbol/mark on his neck. for example, one has a scale and he came from a family of "judge" demons.

I was over at Mrs. Giggles the other night and read her reviews on 2 of your books Helen--they sound really intriguing and I'd love a chance to read Phoenix Charm.

Julie Robinson said...

Hi Helen and Emily,

I love symbolism (Jung, not Freud) because symbols resound with man, though some may be more culturally based. I loved The Magic Knot and would immensely enjoy a copy of The Phoenix Charm.

Emily, I have to say that I think Vexing the Viscount was my favorite so far, though they were all superb. I just loved the masquerade and games of virgin seducing virgin!!

Julie Robinson said...

How about 'the one ring to rule them all.'
Haunting Beauty is a story worth reading.

In trying to think of one that hasn't been mentioned, Melissa Mayhue's Highlander series comes to mind. Those who were descendants of the Fae had a heart-shaped red birthmark to identify them.

Veronica Wolff also has a Highlander series in which she uses a maze of overgrown shrubbery, an artifact, and a painting (one in each book). But when the heroine in her first book goes back in time through the maze, it makes me think of getting lost in the 'maze of time.'


librarypat said...

The only symbol that comes to mind at the moment is the scar on Harry Potter's forehead. It represented so much: love, hate, protection, magic, connection, strength.
There was one historical romance I read where the hero had a book of poetry that was all he had left from the life he left behind. The heroine was the first person he had shared it with.

Mystica said...

The symbol enhances the story and gives you an idea of where it is headed to.

Thanks for this giveaway.


EmilyBryan said...

Julie--I'm so glad you enjoyed my VEXING THE VISCOUNT! It was delicious fun to write the love scenes between my two virgins, Daisy and Lucian, since they were both in discovery mode!