At some point during my early drafts, if I am writing fiction, I'll look for symbols in the story. If I find them, and if they are significant to the story, I will work at reinforcing them.
I learned more about the use of symbols from the college English Literature course I took this past summer. One thing that was stressed was, beware of finding symbols where none were intended.
Last weekend, at a reading by author Jane Urquhart from her latest novel Sanctuary Line, someone asked her what was significant in her use of cut glass in the book. It seems to come up frequently in the story.
Jane replied that she really didn't know. She recalled that a few members of her family collect cut, or pressed glass. Its appearance in the book must have come from her sub-conscious. It seems it isn't a symbol at all.
Jane is sure that one day, however, some clever reviewer is going to be able to see its significance. And then she'll know what it means!
A delightfully honest answer. I'm not going to worry too much about symbols. They could signify nothing!
(The photo above shows sunrise over Lake Flower, in late October. It was taken from our favourite little motel in Saranac Lake, NY.)