‘Take a torch’, my dad said to me once, when I was embarking on whatever exciting activity I was involved with at the time. I must have given him a quizzical look as he elaborated: ‘because then everyone will think you’re in charge.’ In charge of what? I asked, but didn’t get an answer. But I took a torch anyway. Later that day when a friend dropped his front door key between two floorboards (yes that really did happen) I was there, in a flash, to shed some light – literally – on the lost key, enabling repatriation within minutes. But whoa! How cool was I?! I was immediately promoted to The One In Charge, The One Who Deals With Stuff and The One Who Sorts Stuff Out, whether I wanted to be or not. But my dad’s advice stuck with me through the years, and as it turned out I have had need of a torch on many occasions, each time winning the accolades of – amongst others – Clever Girl! (patronising) and You’re So Cool! as well as comments like You Carry A Torch? coupled with a sideways glance which says she’s weird.

But Light! Gotta love a bit of light. Light-hearted. Lightweight. Light At The End Of The Tunnel. Light as Love – “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” And for those who believe: Seeing the Light (other lights are available, terms and conditions apply).

So where does this put light in literature? All over the place is my guess. Light and Dark = Forces of Good and Evil; Light-hearted = Fluffy Rom Com; ‘What’s your book about?’ ‘Blood guts and death’ ‘Oh, that’s a bit dark’, = ergo, Not Light.

If you let your protagonist be influenced by metaphorical light, does this help you develop their character? Do we, we readers get to see them in a different… er…light? For example, you may have written your protagonist as a particularly needy, weedy irritating person, but with a zap of metaphorical light, you may enable them – through their thoughts and actions – to expose the failings or hidden agenda in another character, adding depth and layers to both exposition and plot.

As writers we can use day light, candle light, fire light, sun light, moon light, star light, metaphorical light, metaphysical light, comparative light or even no light to highlight (there’s that word again) an emotion, an experience, a person, a scene. Which is a bit like carrying a literary torch around with you. Mary Shelley very powerfully used light-ning to not only bring the monster to life, but (and this is just my take on it) as a metaphor for God’s power and anger at mankind.

Umpteenth proof read/draft of your novel driving you mad?

C’mon. Lighten up.


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