Motif

Magnifying class held by puff figureWhat is the difference between motif and theme?  A motif in narrative is a recurring element throughout a literary work. A motif can be an image, words, an object, a sound, color, or ideas. A motif is not a symbol. A symbol represents something, for example, a light bulb means “new idea”. Often symbols occur once or twice in a story whereas a motif repeats and is noticeable. A motif is not a theme, it helps to develop or explain a theme, which is a central idea or message. Theme is the deeper layer of meaning beneath the story’s surface.

Motif is more concrete than theme. A good example of motif is the ring in Lord of the Rings. It is present throughout the story and helps to develop the theme of power corrupts. In the Hunger Games trilogy, the mocking jay image is a motif that recurs to promote the idea of rebellion. More than one motif can be used. In Macbeth, blood is one motif as well as light and dark, and  blindness.

One of the motifs I use in Norman in the Painting is a pink running suit that Jill, the protagonist, wears. It helps to develop the theme of fear. Jill keeps in shape so she can run away from anything she doesn’t want to face. Foo Dogs are another motif. She buys several sets instead of the usual one and places them at every doorway of her house rather than the typical placement at the front door. Traditionally, Chinese Foo Dogs are imperial guardian lion statues. One male that guards the structure of the building and one female  that guards the family inside. Jill appears to be capable. She works as a CPA, lives by herself, and resents her older sister telling her what to do,  but underneath Jill doesn’t feel safe.

What are your motifs in your story?

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timetowritenow

For over twenty-five years, I've taught elementary grades, high school, and county special education classes. Now I am a field supervisor for teachers working toward their teaching credentials. I also teach writing classes in Dublin and Pleasanton, California. I have won 5 awards in short story contests, My stories are published in The California Writers Club Literary Review, and several anthologies including four times in Las Positas College collections. I have several book projects, but the two that have my immediate attention are HADA'S FOG, which is women's fiction, LILLI, a YA novel, and NORMAN IN THE PICTURE, a paranormal mystery. I have published an anthology WRITTEN ACROSS THE GENRES that includes writings from members of my writing classes and other writers. It's available on Amazon and Kindle.

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