“One of the questions I am always asking when I’m writing is ‘How can I show it rather than say it?’ Characters are best defined through action, and in screenwriting in particular it is very important to find visual ways to convey character because, with the exception of voice-over, it is very difficult to get inside a character’s head and know what he or she is thinking.
This is why I often introduce one the favorite devices I learned in film school; the emotionally charged icon. This is very much what the phrase would imply: an object that has been charged with some emotional resonance because of what it represents. An obvious example would be a locket that contains a photo of a deceased loved one. If the owner of the locket suddenly got a blank look on her face and started to fiddle with the locket, we would know that she is thinking of her long lost loved one. It’s a fantastic way to shorthand a glimpse into a character’s psyche.
Two of my favorite examples of the emotionally charged icon are the wristwatch in Pulp Fiction and the harmonica in The Shawshank Redemption.”
Karey Kirkpatrick (Over the Edge, Charlotte’s Web)
Now Write! Screenwriting edited by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson