This is a guest post by author J. Giambrone
Allegory is the skeleton beneath the skin of the text. It lends the story weight, credibility, and meaning beyond the sum of its parts. It is also a guidepost for writing it.
If you type the word allegory into Google, you’ll get this: “a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.”
It’s my view that all stories will reveal things about the author whether intentionally or unintentionally. It’s best to get a handle on the concept up front. Storytelling is often a game of cat and mouse where the author’s true purpose is obscured, and the reader can pivot from one side to another in an ongoing argument, depending upon a particular plot point. Good fiction is a dance between opposing ideas, and these often represent vastly larger concepts.
The central metaphor in an allegory binds two concepts together. The first is the character’s journey, and the second is a more universal, more well-known phenomenon. The text erects a bridge between the two, or perhaps a series of bridges is more apt. These structures must stand over time and resist scrutiny.
There are so many examples to choose from. My free e-book, Gilding the Allegory, explains the relevant concepts in more detail.
My next novel will use a central metaphor that goes like this: what if supernaturals behaved like mercenaries, like rent-a-heroes using their powers in the service of the highest bidders?
That is obviously a metaphor for issues occurring in the larger world today, issues of military conquest and international blackmail. But it’s coded and obscured, taking place in a world of superheroes and villains.
A less obvious example is in my previous novel Transfixion, which originated with an idea about a hypnosis weapon. The hypnosis weapon is a metaphor, but for what? The weapon captures minds and assembles them into a new army. This army is brutal and uncompromising. Those who have been “duped” are no longer who they once were—or are they? The weapon fills their minds with instructions and a vague ideology, one where they are on the correct side and all who resist are the problem.
The hypnosis weapon is a metaphor for war propaganda, blind nationalism, mental conditioning. If there was ever a weapon that needed to be stopped, this is it.
Another novel, Wrecking Balls, tells a comedic tale of self-destruction. When two buddy comedians have a falling out, and suddenly they are driven to compete against each other, they both fly off the rails. Competition leads them to ruin… or does it? Is that just the comedy game, where self-destruction is rewarded and celebrated, the craziest comedians being the most interesting, the true artists? The conflict arises from whether the two can overcome their escalating competition and reconcile, or if they are destined for complete annihilation.
A central metaphor is something you can feel in your bones, and it resonates because it’s correct for the story. It informs the characters and the plot. If certain events occur in the narrative then the allegorical connections are strengthened. This is powerful Juju, and it should not be overlooked.