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Hope's Rebellion

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Writing 101: So What the Heck is an Allegory?

When critics talk about books, they tend to throw around all sorts of important-sounding words and phrases, like “allegory” It’s a big, fancy word and it’s almost always said in some sort of reverential way. Many of the greatest stories are given that label, allegory. So...what the heck is it?

Defining the Allegory

 In the proper definition of the literary term, an allegory is any story, poem or another work of art that has a hidden meaning. Usually, that meaning is political, religious or somehow moral in nature. But that's just the problem with an allegory. There's a fine line between a real allegory and an interpretation.

One of the most well-known allegorical stories, they say, is “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis. It’s all one big metaphor for the life and subsequent death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, perhaps the most famous literary figure of them all. Critics say the book has extremely clear references to the Biblical story of Jesus of Nazareth, heralded as a savior for mankind during the Bronze Age. Critics have even said that the stone table in the first installment of "Chronicles of Narnia" represents the stone tablets that Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai. And "Aslan's country" is, of course, Heaven.

Unless you don't want it to be. Because like any other critical review of any work of art of any type, the most significant meaning is what you get out of it...and not what all the critics and experts say about it. No one can know what hidden meanings an author hides in their work except for the author themselves. And if the author gives the readers every single answer and reveals every single hidden meaning, then what's the point of reading the book?

An allegory is just one more of many literary terms that are often used to break down and analyze books. It's just one more thing that people use to try and figure out the author's "real" meaning in any story. Only the author can decide what meanings they’re trying to put into their stories and only the readers can figure out what they find inside that story.

But it’s always good to know what the term means. That will make it easier for you as an author to roll your eyes when critics try to tell you what your stories are secretly all about.

Writing 101:Writing Comedy

Being funny is a huge asset in writing. People remember what's funny. They react. If you can make someone laugh, you can make your stories much more enjoyable. But is funny something you can learn? How did comedic writing start...and how can you master it?

Ha Ha Ha

The first stories were not funny. The earliest stories ever found were epic, lengthy tales full of tragedy and trials. The first plays ever performed, way back in ancient Greece, were tragic tales. But then one ancient Greek decided he didn't want to make people cry. He wanted to make them laugh.

Aeschylus is considered to be the father of comedy because he was the first playwright to write a comedy. It was in ancient Athens, the city famous for building the Parthenon and inventing democracy. It was classical Greece, a time of learning and enlightenment. Great philosophers and mathematicians walked the streets here. It was in this great city of the ages that Aeschylus invented the idea of comedy.

And he did it with a lot of dick jokes. It's true. In that great city of Athens where walked the greats like Plato, Euclid and Socrates, the first-ever comedies were ribald plays full of sexual innuendo with actors who walked around on stage wearing enormous strap-ons.

The ancient Athenians loved it. Aeschylus became wildly popular and his plays were soon used as inspiration by other comedy writers. In fact, dick jokes and sexual innuendo still carry the comedy genre more than 2,000 years later.

Comedy doesn't need to be sophisticated. It doesn't need to be fancy. It just needs to be funny. Aeschylus succeeded at writing comedy because he simply wrote what made him laugh. He liked ribald comedy full of sex jokes and huge fake penises. And it turns out, the very fancy and sophisticated and enlightened Athenians loved it, too.

Many writers fail at writing funny because they are trying to be funny. They spend a lot of time thinking about comedy, about what's funny, about making people laugh. You don't need to do that. Sometimes, a basic penis joke will work wonders. Don't try to be funny. Just write in a way that makes you laugh and others will, too. Whether they're laughing with you or at you, they're still laughing.

Writing comedy is only as hard as you make it. The whole point of comedy is that you shouldn't have to think too hard to get the joke. So go ahead and include that dick joke in your next story. After all, it was good enough for the ancient Greeks.