How you can use flowers as a medium for your characters to communicate?
When we tell a story we try our best to convey every single detail of our characters with our readers. Be it verbal or unspoken.
In frames and movies we use expressions and gestures for our characters to communicate with one another. It also makes it easier for our viewers to understand what they want to convey about their situation and as for written stories, we use literary expressions, gestures and objects. These object could be anything like props, music, books, flowers, etc. Today I want to talk about one such prop of conversation: Flowers.
In past one year I spent a lot of my time watching movies, series and short films made around the globe. Analysing scenes, shots and camera angles are something which I did simultaneously but this time I wanted to observe the story, the conversations, dialogues, the usage of words, pauses, silences and props they used into the making of a film. During this process of observation what caught my attention was the use of flowers to have the unspoken conversation between the characters. Which made me curious on learning this new language too. The Language of Flowers.
The Language of Flowers
In the real life world in India, the only use of flower communication I have seen is when one confesses his/her love to someone or when one visits a patient at the hospital. So, I really was so fascinated by the beautiful use of flowers in literature and visual presentations which made me invest around 2 months of my time studying the symbolic meanings of flowers all around the world. Let me tell you, before starting this research the only flower’s symbolic meaning I was aware of was rose and… rose only I guess.
One more thing I learnt that even the change in color of a flower changes the literary meaning of it too. Like as we already know what different color roses mean, for example: red rose means passionate love, yellow rose symbolises friendship or sorry and so on.
In roses, even the number of roses one gives to another also holds a hidden meaning like 1 rose means ‘love at first sight’, 13 roses say ‘friends forever’, 2 roses for ‘mutual feelings’ and these numbers goes on from 1 to 999 with their own meaning.
It might sound very tiring and boring at first to go for this because if you are able to find a list of flowers with their meanings, you will still have to reach out to the search engines to verify it. You really don’t want to give the wrong flower at the right moment, do you? Yeah, that’s why it’s a bit tiring, consumes a lot of your time and energy too if you are making the list on paper with handmade drawings like I did… But if you are not then it will take half of the time I took. (by the way I made a digital documentation of it as well side-by-side.)
So when to use flowers?
Use them when you want to convey something, like a conversation without words and sounds. Use them when you are out of words for your characters but still want to convey something really important. You can also set them in the background to give your viewers or readers a glimpse of the mood of your story.
For example: Imagine a pair of a kid and a lady who do not share a blood relation but their bond is no less than a mother-daughter relationship. Years later, when the kid gets older and is independent in her life, she decides to makes a visit to the lady with a bouquet of cotton flowers as a gift of gratitude to let her know that all these years what she got from her is motherly love, even though they were never related to each other they shared such bond and wishes her well being in life.
~Here, Cotton flower symbolises motherly love, promise of wealth and well being in life.
What to take care of while using flowers?
Using flowers in imaginary or real life requires might sound fascinating. Sometimes we use a flower just because they look beautiful but do not, I repeat DO NOT use them for it. There are two BIG reasons for this:
- Beautiful but Negative: There are chances that flowers which look really beautiful and attractive have negative meanings hidden behind them.
Example: Petunias symbolises resentment, anger and share the message of ‘to get you into trouble’. It is one beautiful flower with a striking personality but holds a negative meaning in it.
Other flowers like Cyclamen (separation), Black Rose (death), Yellow Carnation (rejection), Butterfly weed (leave me) and Red Dahlia (betrayal or dishonesty) are some to name.
2. One flower, Two meanings: Depending on the region and cultural representation, one flower can have two meanings incorporated with it.
Example: Marigolds. In India, according to the Hindu festive culture marigolds are use in the decorations and given as offerings in temples as well as they are referred to as the “flower of soul”. But as it travels around the world, Marigold gets itself a different meaning.
In France it says ‘a sad love’; ‘sad goodbye’ in African culture; Germans called it a ‘monks head’ (as its petals were all plucked out, it looked like a monks head) and in Mexico it has it’s symbolism with the festival ‘Día de Muertos’ (the day of the dead).
So, one should be careful while giving such flowers as the person receiving might have the knowledge of a different meaning from what you wanted to communicate.
What to do in such situations?
There are many simple ways you can avoid this mix ups:
- Refrain yourself from using such flowers and replace it with another flower of the meaning you want to share.
- Check if the flower you want to use has another color in it. As I mentioned above, the meaning of the flower changes with color too. ex: ‘Purple Hyacinths’ means sorrow or regret but ‘Pink Hyacinths’ show protection & happiness.
- Or just state the meaning of the flower you want to communicate by making a conversation between your characters or in some other tricky way. (You are the mastermind of your story so you can easily fix it! ;))
Character A of my story has started a new company of her own and today is it’s inaugural ceremony and invited Character B to attend it. To congratulate her Character B gives a bouquet of Anemones but Character A gets dishearten.
Now, what exactly happened here?
Anemones is a flower with multiple meaning which is why none of the Character A & B were wrong. The problem here was the character’s individual knowledge about the flower’s meaning. ‘A’ knows only about the negative meaning where ‘B’ knows the positive meaning which caused this disturbance in their meeting.
What can we do to prevent this?
- First, let us check if Anemones have any other colors in them. Instead of group of all colors ‘B’ could have asked for a bouquet of white and purple Anemones symbolising sincerity and protection where the colors red and pink symbolise death and forsaken love.
- Anemones itself have a lot of meanings attached with them. The meaning Character ‘A’ perceived was “bad luck and ill omens” and the meaning Character ‘B’ knows is “anticipation and excitement”. So, for ‘B’ to convey the right meaning to ‘A’ she could either give the flowers saying
“I heard that Anemones mean anticipation and excitement. So, I thought that nothing could be more better than them to congratulate you as you start your new journey with this business.”
Or even ‘B’ can put a small card in the bouquet giving her wishes in written words.
- Or lastly Character ‘B’ can replace the flower Anemone with another flower to congratulate ‘A’. Like by giving ‘daffodils’ or ‘lilies’ instead could help in giving out a clear communication of ‘‘good luck’’ though flowers to avoid the clash.
So this is how we can use the language of flowers to enhance our level of unspoken conversation. I hope it was useful to all those who write, click or like giving or receiving flowers.
Personally, I don’t like receiving flower bouquets. Why to kill flowers? Bouquets itself share a negative meaning for me, it feels like the one giving them means that their feelings are also temporary like the life of those cut flowers, I would rather love receiving them in pots so the flowers and the meaning they posses can grow with me. But I am fascinated with their usage in ink and frames. (P.S.: I am more of a cactus person.)
Also, many people around the globe like to assign themselves a flower, like a flower which reflects their personality more. You can also do that.
Like in Spain the ladies wear ‘their’ flower in their hairdo. It’s a part of their ‘Flamenco Costume’.
So, pick a flower which suits you the best!
Mine would be ‘Begonias’! What’s your?
I have shared some links below of some sites to the ‘list of flowers’ and their meanings:
List of Flowers and their meanings: https://www.1800flowers.com/blog/flowers-in-art/symbolic-flowers-in-movies/