Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Symbol of Good Writing By Angela Ruth Strong

This year, since my novel Finding Love in Big Sky has been optioned for film, I started taking classes on screenwriting so I could better understand how my story might be changed. You know they always are. It’s disconcerting as a novelist, but in learning more about writing for the screen, I can appreciate the reason for this.

When writing a novel, I get into my character’s head and explain their thoughts and feelings. Without voiceovers, this isn’t possible on film. Instead, they use symbolism. Whenever he looks at the photograph, you know he’s thinking about his dead wife. Or whenever she clasps her necklace, you know she’s thinking of the grandmother who gave it to her. While this isn’t necessary for a book, it can definitely add to it. It can show how a character has grown or changed without spelling it out.
In my book Lighten Up, I have my character reach for M&Ms in the counselor’s office. They comfort her pain, and she gains weight from overindulging. In the wedding scene at the end, she looks at the pastel colored M&Ms then walks out of the wedding without taking one. She’s found health.

Now if you’re wanting to take symbols even deeper, you can connect them to scripture. I did this in my Resort to Love Series. It started with Finding Love in Sun Valley, where Emily Van Arsdale does a Bible study on water. I learned a lot and got so much good feedback that I continued with the rest of the books.
Finding Love in Big Sky is a Christmas story, so naturally I used scriptures about the star.

In Finding Love in Park City, my main character heads into the mountains for the Sundance Film Festival, so I gave her a mountain top experience.
Finding Love in Eureka took me the deepest. With an adopted character, I wanted to explore the idea of a family tree, which led me to Jesus dying on a tree so that we could be grafted into his family.

Writing symbols can be both powerful and fun. I like to try to pick them out too. When my husband and I went to see I Can Only Imagine, I asked him afterwards what he thought the symbol was. Without being a writer, he was able to guess, “Baseball bat.” That symbol was the perfect representation of how his father beat him and the exact moment when that anger was released.
Think about your own life and all the symbols that represent memories. There are probably many of them boxed in your garage or attic at this very moment. Ballet slippers. Art projects. Seashells. Trophies. This is real life, so adding a symbol to your story is going to make it also feel realistic.

While I do have the desire to write screenplays and have books adapted for film, that’s not the goal of symbolism. The goal is to help the reader connect with your story. The goal is to write truth.
What is one symbol that has stood out to you in literature?

Angela Ruth Strong published her debut novel, Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010, and has since had her books selected for TOP PICK by Romantic Times Magazine and in development for film. This Idaho Top Author and Cascade Award winner also started IDAhope Writers to encourage other aspiring authors. She currently lives in Meridian with her husband and teenagers where she teaches yoga and works as a ticket agent for an airline when not writing. She'd love to have you visit her at  
Social Media Links
Author Website:

BCC: Solving a murder mystery is harder when you don't trust your partner...or their taste in beverages.
Sassy city girl Tandy Brandt moves to the small town of Grace Springs to start a coffee shop, never imagining she'll be competing with local beauty queen Marissa Alexander and her dream of running a tea house. Unfortunately, the current store owner dies before selling the location to either of them, and they both become murder suspects.

The unlikely pair team up in an attempt to discover the real killer, though with the secrets in Tandy's past and Marissa's infamous clumsiness, they could be their own worst enemies. Despite their differences, they follow clues to question a sweet, apple pie baking antique store owner, a GQ Santa in the retirement center, and a hipster millionaire with no social skills. Will they be able to figure out whodunit and prove their innocence before one of them goes to jail...or worse?
A Caffeine Conundrum:


  1. Hi Angela! Very interesting post. Hope to be watching the movie based on your film soon. Blessings!

  2. Hi, Angela! Thank you for this great post on symbolism. I like this quote: "The goal is to help the reader connect with your story. The goal is to write truth."

    1. I got that idea from Donald Maass in The Emotional Craft of Fiction. Deep stuff!

  3. Angela, I'd love to see your book become a movie! Must be exciting and tough to wait for a decision to be made. I wouldn't have a single fingernail left.

    So tell us about your new book. When does it release that and how did you come up with the idea for a mystery?

    1. Thanks for asking. A Caffeine Conundrum released Sept 1. The idea came from a real life caffeine overdose that sent my husband's coworker to the ER and could have caused a heart attack in someone older. I needed a murder to bring my coffee lover and tea drinker together, and caffeine overdose fit the bill. That's where the fun/insanity begins. (I also watched a lot of Psyche while writing this.)

  4. Great to see you here, Angela! Love this post on symbols. I like finding them as a reader and including them as a writer. Thanks for visiting!

  5. What an excellent post. I loved all the symbolism in the Finding Love series you wrote, especially the first one crafted around water. Good stuff!!


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