Writer’s Glossary: Leitmotif

Today on Writer’s Glossary…


Originally a  musical term of German origin, leitmotif is a symbol or


Black Swan uses mirrors as a leitmotif to represent a fragile and fractured sense of identity and reality.

narrative idea that recurs throughout a work to reinforce the story’s main theme.

For instance, in the film Black Swan uses mirrors as a leitmotif to represent the theme of duality and fractured reality, which are also  represented by the Swan Lake ballet.

In Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, Estella is hard and cold and she is often referred to in those terms, even down to her name, which means star – a cold, hard, distant thing.

Leitmotif can be a hard one to pin down, but once you start to look for them, they become easier to spot. In terms of using this technique in your own work, start with your themes and think about how you can play with them, using recurring objects or descriptions. It often comes naturally, so don’t force it. Subtlety is key, otherwise you risk falling into melodrama.

4 thoughts on “Writer’s Glossary: Leitmotif

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this post on Leitmotif, I’m so interested in the various narrative techniques and found this enlightening. Thanks so much, I’m so glad I came across this site 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: How and Why to Write a Mirror Scene | Writers Anon - Taunton's Writing Group

  3. Pingback: 3 Steps for Editing Your Novel | Writers Anon - Taunton's Writing Group

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