Yesterday, I had a wonderful time at my humorous grandmother’s funeral. I enjoyed sharing good memories about her with my relatives. People handle grief in many ways, but it has the ability to turn gradually transparent as time passes, bringing new spiritual lenses through which to view the world. For me death is the most important event in life, but unfortunately we tend to ignore its inevitability and make it seem unnatural. But because I like to see everything from the perspective of storytelling, I’m going to dig deep to the bedrock of life and death with my new power tool—resonance.
This is going to be BIG. It will make the skeleton of your story structure to kick off the coffin door and jump out to ROCK! This is as big as tailbones are for Muslims— according to their belief the tailbone doesn’t decompose completely in the ground, so that on the Day of Resurrection it will regenerate into the complete human being. Cremation isn’t allowed for the dead; it would make the resurrection impossible.
Let’s break down one tailbone with the GREAT HAMMER OF JUSTICE into different parts, analyze them, and try to put them back in the right order, so that we don’t unleash some freakish creature with ninety-nine eyes staring at us from its forehead. These parts will be your resurrection files that, once put together, will make your story dance the rumba and samba inside the jelly of your reader’s skull like a living thing—and you’ll get the attention your story deserves.
First, I’ll share a little memory that will also define what is resonance. My grandmother was someone who knew endurance; she was pure dedication, working herself to the bone each day. My grandparents’ cottage never had running water. But she was the running water—she fetched the water from a well with buckets, to cook and do the dishes, et cetera. Every time we finished eating at the table, my grandfather yawned and announced his moment of rest with sort of a laughter: “HE HEeee…” He always went to lay down on the sofa for an hour nap or so. She was left alone, but she always cleared and cleaned the table and went to do the dishes. I can still hear the snoring, and the dishes clinking against each other in the kitchen. After she was done, she went to rest next to him.
How does this relate to resonance?
My grandparents’ daily ritual reflects their life together, and their last times. When my grandfather died, my grandmother was left alone. When he was buried, her name was also written in the gravestone. Her place would be at his side. Because they had been in marriage for almost seventy years, they were a team, albeit with stiff gender roles of the past world. Despite the fact that my grandfather died one year and a half before my grandmother, it all resonates: he dies and she would come after him—AFTER finishing everything that needed to be done.
Now they rest side by side. Together. Like they always did, eventually.
Here’s another example of resonance in play. Let’s say Harry and Barry meet in a heavy rain. They fall in love, live a happy and long life, with roses and spikes and thorns, and everything else that’s included. Later Barry dies. At the funerals, when Harry has lowered the coffin into the grave and thrown sand on it, the sky suddenly tears open and it starts raining, heavily. Harry looks up and sighs peacefully, saying: “This is exactly how it was supposed to happen.”
The lesson? They met in the rain only to say farewells in the same kind of conditions. Harry will surely hold that special moment of resonance very dear and close to his heart for the rest of his days.
The benefit of resonance to any storyteller lies in learning to draw upon existing stories. Everybody does that intuitively, but we can also do it consciously.
Let’s take The Bible for example. I instantly remember the mysterious beginning where the world was created in seven days. Everybody knows that story, the basic idea of it. But the great thing is that you can harness its structures, the way it suits your needs. Maybe you want to divide the story of your book into seven parts and put your hero through hell just to put him to rest on the last, seventh day, like God did. Maybe you’ll put your main character doing something evil, like spreading a MEGA insomnia virus, so that on Sundays nobody can fall asleep in the whole world. [add evil laughter].
Why do you need to weave resonance into your story?
1) Resonance satisfies the reader’s subconscious mind. It’s written in the blueprint of the human brain. Resonance is the very thing how we have passed on information since we started walking upright, pushing ourselves up the ladder of morality and reason. For example, the reason why we don’t know much about Adam, Abraham, Moses, and so on, is because of oral storytelling and its limitations. Myths were the only way to pass and preserve important knowledge. The limitations of human memory yearns for resonance: simple stories put into rhythm and poetry takes less effort to learn than dry facts. Behold the dawn of technology: the myths that were full of resonance and repetition, were the very first hard drives for storing information. This is why we remember catchy songs and nursery rhymes so easily. Or the Teletubbies:
Tinkey-Winkey (Tinkey-Winkey!), Tipsy (Tipsy!), Lala (LALALLALAA!!!) …
2) Resonance is love. It creates the right conditions for the right mood and impact, because it takes emotional needs into consideration. Resonance has the power to humanize your story, you, and your characters. It draws your readers into the story, allowing you to speak to them more deeply. I dare to claim that resonance makes readers feel that you care about them.
3) Without resonance in your cover art and story title you are shooting off the hip with Random Revolver. The worst thing that can happen is that you lure the wrong kind of people to review your work. Even if your story is great, failing to meet the expectations of your target audience can cause you unnecessary heartaches and nightmares. People in general like what they’ve liked before. Study the covers of your genre in Amazon for example, before getting sucked into the vortex of being over-creative. The cover is always art, yes, but not a place to be creative.
4) It allows you to grow as a writer. I base this to my personal experience, but once I understood that resonance is universal everywhere, in every form of art, my eyes opened. I could dig deeper into my personal experiences. I didn’t have to plan my stories guessing what might resonate with the readers. With the resonance in my mind, I can even write more powerful dialogue. I understand the voices of my characters better, as well as their background and motives.
Take care of your tailbone. It might seem a useless body part, but to some people it resonates with a divine tune.