Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge: J is for...


For my entries in the 2012 A to Z Challenge, I will be focusing on writing elements that I find important and that I want to incorporate into my work.

Today, the topic is JUXTAPOSITION

Juxtaposition is often associated with the visual arts.  But as I mentioned in yesterday's "Imagery" post, the best writing IS visual -- it's just that the images are being formed inside the reader's head.

Juxtaposition is used to create contrast and comparison; to give visual impact to images because of their associations.  Consider the two images I used in my word definition picture above.  By themselves, a tricycle or a tank would each hold certain individual meaning, but when placed next to each other, the visual and emotional impact is raised.  They are both broadly defined as 'vehicles', but it's the radical difference and the conflicting emotional subtext that pulls at the viewer:  Tricycles imply small children, innocence, and vulnerability.  Tanks are tools of war, death, and destruction. The emotional impact from conflict between the two becomes much larger than just the individual images taken by themselves.

This type of juxtaposition works well in writing, too.  Consider how many 'fish out of water' stories there have been -- these are successful because of the juxtaposition of the main character's emotions, values, and history against that of the environment they are thrust into.  Similarly, there are a gazillion "romance of opposites" stories where events force two drastically personality types together, and the juxtaposition of their characters creates the interest.

Juxtaposition invites conflict and tension -- the core of all drama and the vital element that hold a reader's interest. Seeing how characters react to events, people, and environments radically different from what they are familiar with is a plot element that can have universal appeal.

But Juxtaposition doesn't have to be of characters or even of large plot elements.  It can also be used in smaller doses in scenes, settings, or even within a single character.  But the secret it not to just throw weird elements together for the hell of it -- the goal is to use components that reveal story, highlight character, or add dramatic depth, and that can play off of each other, much like that tricycle and tank.

It's not always easy to do smoothly, but when it's done well, juxtaposition can create a strong emotional connection in your reader.

And that's the whole point of writing.

Thanks for visiting -- see you the rest of this month for more alphabetical fun!

Don't forget to visit HERE to see all the bloggers taking part in this A-to-Z challenge, and try to drop in on as many of them as you can!


Rhonda Parrish said...

I was just explaining juxtaposition to someone yesterday LOL If I remember, I'll send them here to check this out next time I see them :)

~ Rhonda Parrish

Milo James Fowler said...

Fish-out-of-water tales are some of my favorites -- both to read and to write. Whatever amps up the tension, right? Great series, Chris!

Sharkbytes said...

I like juxtaposition. It often leads to irony. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge Blogs this month.

Matthew MacNish said...

Great post for J, Chris! I'm following now.

Nicole said...

I love using juxtaposition - as a concept and a word - in my writing. Nice post!

thelmaz said...

Stopping by from the Challenge. Great post.

.jessica. said...

Awesome post - juxtaposition can be such a powerful tool. It's definitely a great way to elicit emotion and add depth to a story. I find that when I use it, it tends to be organic/accidental, but I should pay more attention! :)

DL Hammons said...

Have you ever discovered words you just didn't like?! Juxtaposition is one of mine! :)

Rusty Webb said...

That was a good choice for 'J'. You and Matthew are on the same page it seems. Great minds and all that I suppose.

Peggy Eddleman said...

I think juxtaposition is SO POWERFUL in writing! What a great idea for J!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I like the concept of odd things being in juxtaposition, but rather than have them breed conflict and tension, I'd rather see growth and tolerance. Yeah, I know. Just call me Pollyanna.

Chris Fries said...

@Rhonda: Thanks! Glad I can help, lol!

@Milo: Yeah, me too. "A Stranger in a Strange Land" an the Lord of the Rings trilogy are probably my all-time favorite works and Valentine and Frodo are both basically fish-out-of-water. ;^) Thank you for the visit and the comment, good Sir!

@Sharkbytes: Hi! Thanks for the comment. Glad you stopped by my humble lil' blog! I'll be sure and repay the visit.

@Matthew: Thanks! We both hit the juxtaposition topic for our J's. ;^)

@Nicole: Thank you very much!

@thelmaz: I appreciate the visit and the comment! Thanks!

@jessica: Thank you very much! I agree. Sometimes the best results are when we don't try to force things and just let them happen. This is one of those things that can really be cheesy if it's forced. Well, depending on how you define 'cheesy' LOL!

@D-Bone: What do you mean -- Some words are better than others? You're discriminating! What are you -- A wordist??? ;^)

@Rusty: Thank you very much!

@Peggy: I agree. Thank you!

@Susan: Well, in real-life, growth and tolerance are great things and I strive for it all the time. But in my writing, it's all about conflict, tension, struggle, turmoil, and striving, LOL! Drama, baby! OK, I'm a softie and I frequently go for the final, harmonious resolution and happy ending, but during the story, I think tension is vital to create interest ("what's going to happen?!?"). Thanks so much for the visit and the comment!