Hold the mirror up to nature.

"...to hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure." - Hamlet Act 3, Scene 2

Why am I quoting Shakespeare? Well, I think as writers we would be remiss if we didn't take every opportunity to hold our mirror up to nature. Our characters should not only reflect aspects of our own inner lives, but readers should be able to look and see something of themselves in them too. Writers must weave their tales with effective literary devices: metaphor, simile, allegory, analogy, imagery, and mood, painting a picture with depth. And even when the stories are set in distant futures or long forgotten pasts, the reflection in the mirror is something the reader recognizes instantly. 

Recently, I read “The Forever War” by Joe Haldeman.

A classic of sci-fi storytelling, it follows one soldier’s journey from the first battle of a long war, all the way to the last. Time dilation and the massive distances involved mean the main character experiences four subjective years of military service while centuries pass back on Earth.

And, although the main thread of the story is about a very long war between Earth and an alien race, Haldeman is holding up his mirror to show the futility of ALL wars. The Forever War was written as an allegory of the Vietnam War, but it’s as relevant today as it was in the seventies when it was released. 

Even the title, is more than meets the eye. Why, if the war did not last ‘forever’, is it called The Forever War?

This is just one example. Write your stories and be true to the world you create. Hold up the mirror and then trust the reader. 



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