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Writing guide 101: Introduction to Motif and how to use it in writing?
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Writing guide 101: Introduction to Motif and how to use it in writing?

If you’re a writer, you should be aware of this important literary device: Motif!

“What is a motif and why is it important?” you ask.

Interesting question. Motifs are one of the important literary devices, yet their definition is quite difficult to pin down.

But we will try to explain it to you anyway! So here we go:

A technique consisting of a recurrent element that reflects symbolic importance to a literary work. A motif can be a repeated image sometimes, and other times it can be a repeated phrase, word, or subject articulated in a language. In addition to this, a motif can also be referred to as a recurring event, action or situation. From a certain type of smell, colour, temperature or sound, it can be anything that is repeated.

A key takeaway from the definition of the motif is “repetition.” And with the help of this technique, you can develop a theme of your story, illuminate ideas and add depth to your stories, making them feel more insightful.

It’s like the difference between a plastic bowl and a wicker basket. A story without a motif is like an ordinary plastic basket. It’ll do the job but it’s not as extraordinary as the handwoven wicker basket – it requires efforts, time and most importantly, skills to hand weave reeds into unique patterns and make a pleasing basket. It cannot be made by accident, and that’s exactly how motif works in narratives.

Motifs add a sense of intricacy into your writing and help persuade the reader to focus.

In order to make this technique work, you should be aware of all the right and the wrong ways of employing motifs in your stories.

With the help of Law essay writing services, we will explain to you how to use the motif to create a powerful and more meaningful story.

Let’s start with the basics!

What is the purpose of the motif?

Writers use motif for a variety of purposes. For example:

  • Evoke a certain type of emotion
  • Highlight primary themes
  • Engage with the readers on an intellectual level.
  • Establish symbolic representations with the help of repetition.
  • Create a pattern of concepts and ideas.

Motifs vs Symbols

Motifs sometimes include symbols, but they shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

A symbol is particularly an object that demonstrates something else. For example, a red rose symbolizes love and romance.  Gold symbolizes wealth, or a throne symbolizes power. A white flag or dove symbolizes peace. A snake symbolizes betrayal, poison or fertility, depending on the context of a narrative or sentence.

Motifs are often incorporate symbols. To understand it better, let’s take an example from “The Great Gatsby,” a classic treasure of symbolism to explain this. The author F. Scoot uses a green-light-across-the water-motif to symbolize the desire of Gatsby that can never be achieved; the motif reoccurs several times throughout the novel.

Now note the difference: A motif can appear several times in the story, whereas a symbol can appear only once.  To employ a motif, a symbolic motif should appear repeatedly.

Motifs vs Theme:

Motifs and themes have some similar concepts, and many people often use these two interchangeably. But these are two distinct literately devices with different functions.

  • Themes are the central idea of your narrative: They reflect the meaning and purpose of a series of events that make a plotline.
  • Motifs are repeated elements of themes: Writers use the motif to create themes. Basically, themes are conceptual and abstract, whereas motifs are concise and tangible.

If a story has recurring images of shattered glass pieces, broken objects and cracking mirrors, then these broken images are a repeated literary motif. A theme of this story would be “something in the life of a character is about to break.” The theme of stories are open to interpretation, but the motif is an unquestionable aspect of a narrative.

Examples of Motif in narrative writing:

  • Recurring lying characters (a reference to the discovery of an unfaithful partner).
  • A character who constantly forgets something (to cue up something significant on the horizon may be a disease).
  • The frequent pattering of rain every night (a reference to cleansing or a rebirth of a character).
  • Recurring bad weather throughout the story (signifies nature power over humans or something bad has about to happen).
  • A recurring appearance of red color around the character (signifies that the character is in danger or is in love).
  • A recurring image of a country flag, courtrooms or police sires (signifies the character’s desire for “freedom”).

Hope this blog clears up your confusion about the use of the motif in narrative writing. In case you need any further help regarding motifs, feel free to reach out. We will always be there for your assistance. Good luck!


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