As stated in a number of places on my website, everyone has a story to share. We love to share stories for a number of reasons—a sense of community, the joy of laughter, raising awareness. But most of all, we share stories to teach lessons.
I think we can all agree that the most memorable stories are the ones that have deeper meaning, drawing attention to life lessons, problems in society, problems in politics, and any number of other things.
So how can we, as aspiring writers, do the same in our storytelling?
That is a question that I’ve had for a long time. Personal confession: I’ve never been good at identifying themes in the novels and stories I read—at least, not the intricate ones. I tend to look at stories as a whole, identifying overarching “easy” themes, such as you have to stand up for what you believe in, truth is better than a lie, and various other life lessons. But other themes, like political and socio-economic themes, are more difficult for me to spot.
As a result, themes are difficult for me to incorporate into my storytelling.
I know I’m not the only one with this issue. It’s taken time for me to learn how to identify these themes—and I’m still learning. But I thought I’d share some of my findings with you. After all, it’s share and share alike, right?
Today I’m going to share a few tricks that some of the most famous authors of the last century have used in their writing.
This trick is probably the most obvious. Many of the greatest storytellers of our time have used this, including C. S. Lewis and George Orwell. Allegory is defined as “a story that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning.”
This trick usually encompasses the entire story, using the events of the story to point to one overarching point the author is trying to make. George Orwell used his famous novel Animal Farm to point to the dangers of totalitarianism. The story can also be a thinly veiled replica of another, greater story. Lewis replicated the story of Jesus Christ and mankind in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Humor, whether dark or light, commonly carries a deeper meaning behind it, especially in storytelling. Comedians use this almost exclusively, of course. They’ll tell stories that are painfully relatable, and then make us laugh at it.
The trick of humor, as I’ve seen it used, is to start with a truth. Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle utilizes this trick quite well. He used the truths of humanity—our laziness, selfishness, cruelty, and overall madness—to make his readers laugh. He stretched these truths to their farthest reaches, exaggerating situations and characters until it seemed nearly unbelievable. As accurately stated by The Atlantic Monthly about the work, “We laugh in self-defense.”
Irony is defined as “the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.” This is commonly used in stories of all kinds as well, on a much larger scale. It’s alternatively known as Dramatic Irony. This is defined as “the full significance of a character’s words or actions [being] clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.”
In other words, authors cause events to happen in story that are the opposite of what the characters expected, even though the reader knew beforehand what would happen.
Shakespeare used this quite often in his writings. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare made certain the reader knew that Juliet was merely sleeping, not dead. But Romeo didn’t know, and as a result, he killed himself.
Note: Dramatic irony is difficult to accomplish unless the story has more than one point of view.
There are many more tricks to use in writing, especially to teach lessons about life and its problems. These three seem to be quite prominent, though. What other tricks have you seen authors use? I’m always collecting new ones, so let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at email@example.com !
By the way, are you interested in learning everything you can about today’s system of writing? Me too! I’ve done a lot of research recently. Check out some of my findings!
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Thanks so much for popping in. Until next time, writers!