Writers’ block can be a real issue. Luckily, there are tons of techniques to help move past this pesky problem. Divining inspiration is not an easy task, especially when you’re eager to move forward with whatever it is you’re working on. Even if you’re just a reader, not a writer, readers’ block is something that can strike at any time as well – you just don’t feel like reading, or you don’t know what your next read should be.
It is times like these that call for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Finding stories in everyday occurrences is easier than one may think. Basically, it involves keeping your eyes open and knowing how to observe effectively.
Consider literary illusions. Yes, you read that right – illusions, not allusions. Illusions are a unique way to see the world through a different lens. Think of an oasis in the desert. In your mind’s eye, you see it. It relies on the concept of possibility, and the adaptability of your mind to function in such a way that you believe what you’re seeing, hearing, or for our purposes, writing and reading.
You may be thinking that it’s impossible to write with illusions. You’ve only ever seen illusions happen. I’m going to give you the tools to write with literary illusions and to know how to pinpoint them in your reading.
TV shows and movies use illusions which help with the persuasive writing styles they are trying to convey. They are trying to persuade you to believe their storylines. They must use illusions to help do this. We’ve all heard the phrase, “The camera adds ten pounds.” It’s also true that the camera adds depth and width to a set.
In person, the set of Central Perk, the coffee house on Friends, is much smaller than the cameramen would have you believe. Their camera angles add substance and enlarge the area that your mind’s eye sees. The same goes with the set of Jeopardy. On TV, the cameramen would have you believe that the audience is twice the size it truly is. These examples illustrate just how important the concept of illusion is in good writing. If the Friends cast was picking up their coffee everyday from a shop no larger than your bedroom, the hustle and bustle of people on a busy New York street coming in and out while ordering skim lattes and scones wouldn’t be nearly as believable and enjoyable to watch. The same goes for the set of Jeopardy. If the audience looked like it had only about 50 people in it, it wouldn’t seem the show has nearly the amount of fans it truly does. They add depth to make viewers perceive things in such a way that they are engaged and curious about just what will happen in any given scene. If the cameramen do their job, the illusion is captured, and you, the captivated audience, don’t even realize what is at work before you.
So, I’ve discussed how to more aptly notice it, but now your question probably is just how to do this in writing. I’m here to tell you that just because TV and movie writers have the visual medium to help craft their illusions, writers are just as capable through their words. Showing and telling are powerful tools that can help.
In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, she creates the literary illusion of a fantasy world where wizardry is cool, and young children can win out over evil forces and dark powers. The question of whether Snape was good or evil throughout the books is one that I will not reveal here, in case you haven’t had the pleasure of reading these tales, but the concept of whether he was good or bad throughout the stories was an illusion in itself. Rowling created instances in which Snape would seemingly be doing something threatening and with ill will toward Harry, and then she would turn around in the next chapter and have Dumbledore singing Snape’s praises and telling Harry that Professor Snape was a trusted friend and teacher, and there was no chance he worked for the darkest wizard.
So, which was it? Rowling’s ability to make us see Snape in both good and bad ways make his character as poignant a one as can be found throughout her stories. He is a character whom people love to hate, or maybe just plain hate, but if it wasn’t for Rowling’s writing, the glorious illusion that she spun out through those seven books wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining to read. She made us question ourselves as well as the character.
That is the mark of truly good and persuasive writing. Readers must ask questions. However, they must also have their questions answered. Open-ended questions might be fun to keep readers on the edges of their seats, but if they are not answered, you will have a broken link that didn’t connect the parts of the story. Curiosity must be satisfied. Create illusions, but help readers along. Make them see, hear, and feel. Write (and read) in such a way that allows you to do just these things, and your literary illusions will be dutifully crafted and created for your audience.