Find Your Talisman

by Katherine Grace Bond
published in Writing

Each book has a central idea or theme that carries the story. The idea may be something abstract like love, faith, freedom, truth or adventure. As you work, the idea will develop its own story.

  • longing for a mother
  • discovering “truth” about oneself
  • searching for home
  • finding a religion

In a way the whole story is a hide-and-seek. The protagonist is trying to hunt, seek, uncover, dis-cover, and arrive at some “thing.” The best way to communicate that thing is through metaphor: a central image that can tie your book together. It should be something packed with possibility.

Each of these books features multiple scenes with the talisman. In fact, for each book, the talisman is featured on the original cover art.

Janet Lee Carey actually carries her book’s talisman with her, as she works on the manuscript. During the writing of The Double Life of Zoe Flynn, she carried a glass doorknob in her voluminous bag. While passing through airport security, her talisman was picked up by the x-ray machine. When the security staffer pulled it out of the bag, all Janet could think to do was stammer, “I’m a writer!” (If you ever meet Janet, ask her to tell you the rather mysterious story of how she found the glass doorknob.)

  • What is your talisman?
  • Plan three scenes focused on your talisman.
  • Write one of those scenes.

Find an object you can carry around with you that symbolizes your central metaphor. Carry it around, if you can, for the rest of the time you are writing your novel.

But do have an explanation prepared for Homeland Security.

Katherine Grace Bond often finds herself in the woods of Washington State escaping from giant cats and shadowy figures in cloaks. She is the creator of TEENWrite acting/writing workshops, where participants come as their characters. Visit She is the author of the young adult novel The Summer of No Regrets (Sourcebooks, May 2012).








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