Quick--Name something that exists solely because a writer dreamed it up. One yummy example is Harry Potter’s favorite drink, butterbeer. On tap and wildly popular in Florida, a butterbeer can foam your lips courtesy of a JK Rowling-approved recipe. After reading a scene in the books or visiting Hogsmeade in the movies with Harry and friends, you can’t help but crave a butterbeer mustache of your own.
Does your writing contain powerful objects? Do you create symbols? Do you simply hand your characters a cool prop when convenient? People intuitively know a good thing when they read about one. Make your object important and they’ll remember it.
Consider butterbeer. A frothy, slightly fizzy, kid-friendly butterscotch drink, butterbeer is on hand to celebrate a Quidditch win or relax on a day off school. Is it a coincidence that Harry's friends often smuggle the stuff into their cozy common room? Is it an accident that the worst wintry weather coincides with pub trips? In contrast to the cold outside, the friends holding the mugs take on the warmth and comforting qualities of the drink. Who doesn't need friends, warmth and comfort? I'd guess J.K. Rowling designed butterbeer moments with great intention.
The orphan Harry was friendless as can be before arriving at the wizard school. It is friendship—love—that ultimately gives Harry the strength he needs to defeat the villain Voldemort. Friendship is a powerful theme in the Harry Potter books, and butterbeer is a symbol of that theme. No wonder fans make the trek to Orlando to taste it!
Ordinary objects can hold great significance. A photo of a person or place your character hopes to see again. An apron once worn by a treasured grandma who knew how to cook her way into a family’s heart. The smell of a flower or a few notes of a melody remind your character of a person, place or aching need.
Create a symbol:
Is it necessary to the scene? To the overall story?
Are your scenes cluttered with objects? Can fewer be given a spotlight?
Does the object represent anything else going on? Does it symbolize a theme?
Fantastical or ordinary, is your symbol grounded in humanity?
Characters come alive when they need to do things such as eat, drink, love, sleep, clean, communicate, travel and defend rights just like us. Your characters will leap off the written page and resonate with readers.