Using Objects to Enhance Your KidLit Novel

Let’s talk about objects and how they can enhance your writing! Creating objects can help bring your characters off the page and help to create stories for them.

Look at the objects you have nearby. You probably have at least one of the following:

  • a family heirloom
  • photos of family, friends, holidays, festivals, and vacations
  • posters and or other images hanging on your walls
  • special clothes for special occasions
  • books
  • ornaments
  • everyday useful things like mugs or silverware

Every item has a history-including that plastic fork you have yet to throw out. They help paint a story of their surroundings. Wherever you can create an object in your writing, you build the world out a little more.

Here’s a few ways to use objects in literature:

  • as a plot device: sometimes the plot can revolve around finding or destroying an object (see Lord of the Rings)
  • to represent a character: sometimes, personal items say more about the character than the character’s actions. Think of the wands in Harry Potter and how crooked Bellatrix’s is.
  • as a symbol representing something larger than itself: for this the most famous example I could think of is the green light in The Great Gatsby, and how it represents Gatsby’s hopes, dreams, and his connection to Daisy.
  • as a clue: maybe you’re writing a mystery or detective fiction. Objects can be used to reveal all sorts of significant things. Channel your inner Sherlock and consider how people use objects every day to really drive this home.
  • to foreshadow something: sometimes a gun hanging on the wall will come up later.
  • to trigger a memory or flashback: sometimes things just look too familiar and they spark something within us.
  • as a device connecting characters’ separate stories: maybe your object, magical or otherwise, has been around for significant moments in history, sitting in the corner and lifelessly observing things as life happens around it.

Objects are useful because characters can find them, lose them, receive them, gift them, steal or have them stolen, search for them, treasure them, neglect them, lock them up, and even destroy them or toss them aside. And the symbolism of their actions can add to your story.

Now for the exercise:

Pick an object in your home that has some meaning for you. Study it for a moment and describe it in as much detail as you can.

Now construct a scene around it.

Was the object stolen or found?

Was it a gift?

Was it inherited?

Make sure the object triggers a significant event for your character (or you, if you’re writing about yourself). Let the object help them make a decision, understand something that happened, or turn their life in a different direction.

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Published by J. M. Tuckerman

J.M.Tuckerman is a neurodivergent writer with a big education. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, an MA in Writing, and a BA in Writing Arts (specializing in Creative Writing, New Media Writing, and Publication; concentrating in New Media Production), which she somehow managed to earn despite her three very loud and large dogs. Jessica was lucky enough to intern at Quirk Books and Picador, USA while earning her master’s degrees. Her service dog, Ringo, is very proud of all that she has accomplished and hopes to be on a back cover of a published book with her very soon. An avid reader, writer, and lover of young adult and middle-grade literature, Jessica’s bookshelf is overflowing with hardbacks, paperbacks, and a million half-filled notebooks. She is a proud fur-mommy to two lab/st-bernard littermates, a retriever-mix service dog, and one orange little hobgoblin cat, all of whom have made very audible appearances on the Booked All Night podcast.

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