Alyson Noel, botanical, codices, Elizabeth Fais, Ernst Lehner, Evermore, flowers, Folklore and Symbolism of Flowers, Johanna Lehner, Katherine Applegate, Plants and Trees, red oak, Samantha Gray, secret language, Stacey Lee, Story, symbolism, The Secret Language of Flowers, The Secret of a Heart Note, Trees, Victorian, Wishtree, Writing
Symbolism deepens the emotional core of a story, enhancing the three-dimensionality of characters and their relationships. It’s pure magic when done well, but it’ll ooze like a didactic plague if not.
An elegant way to weave symbolism organically throughout a story is through the use of flowers, plants, and trees.
Say it with flowers
It may surprise you that flowers have secret meanings. From Victorian times, and earlier in the Middle East, flowers were used to convey messages due to social mores that dictated suppressed feelings. Society’s stringent rules created a secret language of courtship, love, and friendship through the use of flowers.
For example, daffodils represent new beginnings, lily of the valley imply a return of happiness, bluebells stand for constancy and everlasting love, and tulips (especially red tulips) symbolize perfect love.
Take tulips, for example, red tulips are associated with true love, while purple symbolize royalty, and white tulips are used to claim worthiness or to send a message of forgiveness.
There are numerous resources for the hidden meaning of flowers. I’ve offered links to a couple of botanical codices below, and there are any number of web sites dedicated to the language of flowers.
Tell it with trees and plants
Tree and plant symbolism was woven through Egyptian and Celtic cultures, and is still influences us today. If flower symbolism doesn’t work for the characters and theme of your story, trees and plants may be an option.
The maple tree is a symbol of strength and endurance. While the willow tree represents mystical powers and a spiritual alignment with the moon, because it thrives near water.
Katherine Applegate used a red oak as the main character in her middle grade novel, Wishtree. An appropriate choice, since the oak is a symbol of wisdom. To the ancient Celts, the oak also represented durability, purity, and constancy.
Stacey Lee weaves an expertly rich tapestry of botanical symbolism throughout her evocative coming-of-age novel, The Secret of a Heart Note. Mimosa is one of the two remaining aroma-experts (aromateurs), and she uses her mystical sense of smell to help others fall in love—while protecting her own heart at all costs.
At once, hopeful, funny, and romantic, Lee’s lyrical language brings the characters and plants to life. You might even catch a hint of the poetically rich aromas as they find their way off the pages and into your heart.
- The Secret Language of Flowers, by Samantha Gray
- Folklore and Symbolism of Flowers, Plants and Trees, by Ernst and Johanna Lehner