How to Write an Allegory
- Start with the hidden story. What’s the underlying message you want to get across? Maybe you want to explore a historical event, or express your opinions about a moral idea. Figure out what your topic is and what you want to say about it.
- Break the hidden story down. What are the most important characters or aspects of the hidden story? These will become the main characters, settings, and events in your allegory.
- Pick a theme for the surface story and find correlations. The surface story should be very different from the hidden story. Science fiction and fantasy work really well for this purpose, as they give you free reign to invent a world that suits the hidden story perfectly. Then come up with characters, etc., to cover all the main elements you listed in Step 2.
When to Use Allegory
Allegories are great for creative writing — they can provide a huge amount of inspiration for a short story, novel, or epic poem. In many ways, allegories are easier to write than non-allegorical stories, because you already have a “hidden story” to build off of. For example, say you’re writing an allegory about the American Revolution. If you get stuck while writing, all you have to do is pick up a history book and do a little research — you’ll soon come up with new characters, events, and settings to include in your allegory.
Allegories don’t really have any function in formal essays. In an essay, you should make your argument clear, direct, and explicit, rather than using symbols or allegories. However, you might want to write an essay about allegories, which can be a great way to interpret a work of literature. If you’re looking for an interpretation of a novel, you can check if it works as an allegory for some other philosophical issue or historical event. Be careful, though, that you’re basing your argument on the text itself, and not bending it to fit into your allegory.