Monday, October 18, 2010

Tips for Using Allegories in Fiction by Denise Hunter

This Manuscript Monday, we're continuing our series on including spiritual elements in our writing. Have you ever thought of including allegories in your writing? This is Denise Hunter's specialty. Please welcome her today as she shares some very helpful tips.

Tips for Using Allegories in Fiction
by Denise Hunter

Allegory--a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning.

An allegory can be a subtle yet powerful way to offer insight, spiritual or otherwise.

Should you use allegory in your story and, if so, how do you incorporate it effectively?

Think about it: Jesus used allegories to teach. He called them parables. The story of the prodigal son comes to mind. You can use an allegory to highlight a point in your story or you can build an entire story around an allegory. Let me explain.

In Driftwood Lane, circumstances beyond her control force Meridith from her comfortable home to a dilapidated bed and breakfast in Nantucket where she must become guardian to three siblings she doesn’t know. I chose driftwood to represent Meridith. Ironically, her father, who had abandoned her, was a sculptor of driftwood.

In order to open the readers’ eyes to this allegory, I needed to include some key hints. At one point of the story Meridith finds a piece of driftwood, which has washed up on the shore. She has the following thought:

Some time in the past it had been pulled from its home by a storm and spent heaven knew how long drifting aimlessly before reaching shore. Only to lay here, discarded for months or years.

During such passages, the astute reader will see she’s talking not only about the piece of driftwood, but also about herself. The oblivious reader will go happily on her way, none the wiser. *smile*

Allegories can also be used in broader ways. In Surrender Bay, my goal was to show that God will never leave us. I used the love story between the hero and heroine to demonstrate this.

Samantha has been abandoned by everyone she loves and is now afraid to love and trust. The hero, Landon, loves Samantha unconditionally. Samantha represents us, always pushing God away, and Landon represents God, always loving, always wooing. No matter what Samantha does, no matter how much she rejects Landon, no matter how much she hurts him, he continues to love and forgive her.

If you go for this broader approach and don’t use any other spiritual elements in the story, you’ll need to include some phraseology and symbols to help your reader see the deeper meaning. Here’s one such segment from Surrender Bay:

He pressed a tender kiss to the top of her head, and she melted. Why can’t life be like this? Why can’t I stay here forever and let him love me? Only when he held her did she realize she was a starving beggar, and he was the bread she so desperately needed.

Most Christians know that bread is a symbol for Christ. When writing Surrender Bay, I actively sought symbols used in the Bible and ways to use those symbols when referring to the hero. The trick is to use enough symbolism to clue the reader in without overdoing it.

I love using allegory in my stories. But if you choose to do so, be aware that no matter how well-handled the allegory, not every reader will pick up on it. For those who do, though, the story becomes a much richer experience, and the spiritual content becomes more meaningful.


Denise's latest book, Driftwood Lane, released in June, 2010.

Meridith can handle anything: guardianship of three distant siblings, a dilapidated Bed-and-Breakfast, even an ever-present handyman who's dismantling more than her fireplace--or can she?

When the death of Meridith's estranged father leaves her with custody of three siblings she's never met, she reluctantly goes to Nantucket to care for them--but only until their uncle returns from his trip. Little does she know, the uncle is already there under the guise of her friendly handyman, with plans of his own.

Will the love that grows between them be strong enough to overcome the secrets that brought them both to Driftwood Lane?


Learn more about Denise and her writing at her Web site.

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