Sunday, December 13, 2015

Winter Light

Chanukah, the festival of light, commemorates the miracle of a scarce supply of oil burning for eight days. What better time than now to revere light? Many of us fade at least a little during winter, missing what fosters happiness, not to mention inspiration.

The symbolism of light is rich and ancient. Shakespeare’s Juliet has this to say of her lover:

When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

This tragedy complicates dark and light, as all insightful fiction does. But no matter what your faith or lack of it, light represents goodness and illumination; it’s a gift from and to the gods or God. Light’s presence has always protected us from animals, spirits, and fear of the unknown.

What’s that got to do with your novel? A great novel offers subtle and surprising enlightenment. In that sense, isn’t every novel a festival of enduring light?

Festival. The word originally described religious gatherings and social bonding, later adding group entertainment and celebration of the arts. The novel encompasses all of that: a good time, a cultural expression, and both strengthening and questioning of norms.

Tip: Incorporate all the elements of festival into your novel.

As a writer, you’re in the fortunate position of gathering and distributing all the “available light.”

~ Find the light.

Whether with candles, fireplace, imagery and the prose you create or enjoy, gather all the light you can. Unless you collect the light, how can you possibly share it?

~ Study the characteristics of light.

Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself. ― Truman Capote
How recently have you questioned light and dark, good and evil in your novel?

~ Revere the intrinsic symbolism of light.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ― Martin Luther King Jr.

What better time than right now to revisit this relationship? Can you do that in your own novel?

Use your fiction to reveal the light that represents our hopes—and burns beyond our expectations.

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