I’m still thinking about a presentation by Dave Wolverton at the recent LDStorymakers Conference. The title of the presentation was “Using Resonance to Attract Readers.” Dave thinks a lot about why people read what they read, and his approach on this topic was very practical as he tried to get us, as writers, to think of how we might gain more fans by crafting our work to hark back to other popular or well-known pieces of writing.
Resonance is defined as “the quality in a sound of being deep, full, and reverberating.” Figuratively, it means “the ability to evoke or suggest images, memories, and emotions.” The term originated from the Latin resonantia (echo) and resonare (resound).
Reverberation isn’t much different: “a re-echoed sound; being reverberated or reflected. In physics, it is defined as “the persistence of a sound after its source has stopped, caused by multiple reflection of the sound within a closed space. The term originated from the Latin reverberat (struck again).
The concept applies throughout the arts. Consider music, where most first hear of resonance. Any symphony has certain themes (melodies) which repeat during the course of the piece, with or without variations. So the music has resonance built in. I imagine the same occurs in art (although, not being an artist, I can’t be certain). It definitely occurs in dance and theatre.
We can do the same thing, as writers, with our written work, whether it be poetry, plays, essays, short stories, or novels. Repetition, or resonance, adds power to a piece if not overdone.
And it doesn’t have to exist only within the piece. Ideally, what we have created will resonate and reverberate long after. As stories similar to ours are read in the months and years to come, ours may be remembered along with all the sweet and powerful memories originally evoked. It works the other way, too (and that’s mostly what Dave was talking about). If we’re smart, we’ll write something that will remind our readers of powerful or popular books already out there.
On a more spiritual level, I’ve come to realize that this is simply another manifestation of the “two or more witnesses” principle in judging truth. “It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.” (John 8:17) “…In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word by established.” (2 Corinthians 13:1) Art is an attempt to discover and communicate truth and it comes closest to its purpose when a piece of work is resonant–“deep, full, and reverberating”–like this performance of the Christmas Carol, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” sung by the Azusa Pacific Men’s Chorale in an impromptu performance in the Mormon Tabernacle, renowned the world over for its acoustics. (The carol was based on the Latin poem Corde Natus by the Roman poet Aurelius Prudentius and its musical arrangement has been added upon and embellished over the centuries, thus making it living proof of resonance in the arts.)