Keys are important objects in our daily lives, though never give them a second thought. They open doors, and beyond those doors are things that provide us with comfort or happiness. Without our house keys, for instance, we wouldn’t be able to get into our homes and see our families. Without our car keys, we wouldn’t get anywhere. Without the keys to our safe, we wouldn’t be able to get the important things we’ve kept hidden.
Keys are powerful symbols in any story. They symbolize opening and closing powers—for instance, when a character might use a key to lock someone in, depriving that person of his freedom. Or the character might use a key to unlock the door and free whoever is inside.
The above example just shows the physical power of a key. But keys also have metaphysical powers and symbolisms. They represent knowledge, mystery, initiation and curiosity.
Mystery comes in the form of secrets hidden behind locked chests, or locked doors. Knowledge can be in the form of a secret learned, wisdom unlocked through discovery. When someone is initiated into a secret society, they are given knowledge that was previously hidden to them, and allowed into the folds of a life they only imagined behind closed doors.
Keys can also mean initiation into a new way of life, or a way into some form of success. A family who just bought a house are handed keys to their new homes.
A woman who has purchased the car of her dreams is lifted into a whole new status when she is handed the car keys.
A man who just won the lottery holds the key to a bright future in the form of the lottery ticket.
Keys are also a status symbol—the more keys one has, the more properties they have.
More importantly, keys can be a symbol of power. When the mayor hands the keys to the city to a hero, it means that the hero has risen from a mere citizen to an influential and important part of the community.
When someone gives you the keys to their heart, you hold power over them, whether they like it or not.
The key to a good story lies in the author’s hand. He/she must find a way to tell a good story, and to weave the story beautifully. Beyond this, every author must find the key to the story itself–something that opens a door into a new plot twist or experience.
Every character is a KEY KEEPER. They hold a secret in their minds or hearts, and it is up to them to share the keys to their inner secrets. Look at your own stories. What are the key plot points, the key scenes? How about your characters? What is the key to their success, their happiness, their hearts?
Perhaps in discovering the keys to our characters’ happiness, we might also find the key to ours.
Great Key Quotes
“The Key to wisdom is knowing all the right questions.” – John A. Simone Sr.
“Love is the master key which opens the gates of happiness.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
“The key to your universe is that you can choose.” – Frederick Frieseke
“In oneself lies the whole world and if you know how to look and learn, the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either the key or the door to open, except yourself.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
“To hide the key to your heart is to risk forgetting where you placed it.” – Timothy Childers
The Symbolism of the Key – Tylluan Penry