How to Use Motifs in Your Story

What are motifs and why should I care? You ask.

Good question. Motifs are an important literary device that will help you develop your story’s theme.

Motifs add depth to stories, making them feel more intentional and meaningful.

It’s the difference between a towel and a tapestry. A story without motifs is an ordinary kitchen towel. It’ll do its job, but it’s not spectacular in any way. On the other hand, a story with motifs is like a handwoven tapestry. It takes time, skill, and careful deliberation to hand weave a pleasing picture or meaningful design into a piece of fabric. It doesn’t come together by accident, and that’s how motifs work in stories.

Motifs add a level of intricacy to your storytelling and persuade the reader to pay attention.

But there’s a right way and a wrong way to carry out motifs in your narrative.

In this post, we’ll look at how to use motifs to build a stronger and more nuanced story.


Let’s start with the basics.

Motifs are recurring elements in a novel. Motifs can be physical objects, images, actions, sounds, symbols, or abstract ideas. The most important thing to note about motifs is that they repeat themselves throughout the story. The elements may not appear in the same form, but they will share the same message.

For example, an author may wish to use ticking clocks, wristwatches, and hourglasses as a series of symbols to represent one motif (i.e. the passage of time). That motif will then tie into the story’s main theme (i.e. the transience of life).

Here are 9 must-know literary devices. See More . . . 


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