You Need To Try This Guaranteed Method of Creating Depth In Your Writing

More DepthOne of my favourite quotes is a juxtaposition, pitting perfection against failure.

“I think perfection is ugly. Somewhere in the things humans make, I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion.” Yohji Yamamoto

There are a million juxtapositions I could have used as examples, even ones as simple as: light and dark. But the point is over the last few books I have read, I have discovered what an extraordinary tool they are and, one that should be in every writers’ bag of tricks.

Here’s why, and how to use them more effectively.

Photo curtesy of Google Images

Photo curtesy of Google Images

Juxtapositions, what are they? google says: The fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.

Right. What does that even mean? And What does is mean for deepening my writing?

Juxtapositions are symbolic. They create metaphors and similes, draw the reader in through vivid imagery and bring depth to your writing… especially emotional depth (I’ll talk about this later).

More than anything though, juxtapositions give you conflict and resolution: goals and obstacles, heroes and villains. That’s a lot of stuff for one tiny literary device to do. But how do you actually create and use them effectively?

***

Juxtapositions can be used on a macro or micro level.

Macro

On the macro scale, usually, the protagonist starts the book in the opposite position to where they end. Or there are contrasting themes posed subtly throughout the novel.

When you decide your heroes goal, you normally juxtapose what they want, with what they have to do to get it, creating the conflict that drives the plot.

Micro

On the micro scale, you can use juxtapositions, in chapters, scenes or even short conversations, for example, using the weather to contrast against emotion or theme etc.

As always, I’ve used examples from the last few books I have read to explore what this looks like in practice.

Emotion

Emotion runs through most juxtapositions but, in particular the first three examples I’ve listed below. By positioning two different concepts next to each other and then contrasting them you create a Yin Yang image. Everyone knows the benefit of metaphors and similes, but the impact of them when you use two different images is always significantly greater.

“I’m afraid of upsetting the stillness.” Sarah Crossan, Breathe.

You can read the 5 lessons I learnt about the first person POV from reading that book by clicking the link.

What does that quote show us? The juxta is in posing stillness against upsetting. It’s perhaps not the best quote, but it still gives an image of perfect peace being ruptured. Because she’s afraid to do it, it gives more weight to that fear emotion.

If she had said, I’m afraid of moving, it doesn’t have the same emotional impact, in fact, its a rather flat sentence. Adding two contrasting concepts makes the fear deeper, more authentic and it also creates imagery.

Plot Development

As I said before, you can use Juxtas to develop plot on a micro or macro level.

“Every once in a while I catch Tomas staring at me as though longing to say something. But he doesn’t and neither do I.” The Testing, Joelle Charbonneau

This is a great an example of a micro juxta. The juxta is in posing the want to speak, against not doing it. This works on so many levels. Firstly, because of its huge emotional impact. Second, it develops characters individually because she shows that they want something but choose not to act on it but also together as it builds on their relationship which leads to…Third, it throws a spanner in the works.

This carefully crafted juxta, is one of the first lynch pins in creating conflict between those two characters. They are young and in love. But, this phrase shows the start of secrets being hidden and we all know conflict is at the heart of any story.

Character Description

“The point is valid, but his light tone is contradicted by the tightness of his jaw and the hands clenching and unclenching at his side.” The Testing, Joelle Charbonneau

Ok this example is less subtle, she uses the phrase contradicting, which makes the juxta obvious. Juxtas could be used as simply as contrasting light skin against dark clothing. Or, as in this example, the characters nature. It brings depth to his personality that he is capable of ‘faking it’ but he has a tell. Also it tells us that she knows him, can read him. It describes his nature of wanting to rebel, but conforming anyway.

Environment & Setting

“Tattered clouds tore through the sky, occasionally obscuring their only source of light and plunging them temporarily into a deep black void.” Ali Isaac, The Four Treasures of Eirean (The Tir Na Nog Trilogy Book 1)

You can read the 4 mistakes to avoid when transcribing research into fiction that Isaac taught me here.

This is a beautiful example of how you can describe the setting and draw a richness to it using a juxtaposition. Here, their light source, is posed against a deep black void. In the context of the book, this gives characters a challenge to overcome. But, in terms of description, it gives a vividness to the setting that you wouldn’t get if she had said, the clouds plunged us into darkness.

***

There is one last example I can think of: foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is another mechanism you can use juxtapositions in. The recent post about the James Bond of foreshadowing, shows how they use a juxtaposition right at the start and throughout the movie to depict their storyline.

Over to you, what examples of juxtapositions can you think of? Have you got a favourite? Do you use them in your writing? Or do you use other methods to get depth in your stories? Let me know in the comments.

If you liked this post, subscribe here to get writing tips, tools and inspiration as well as information on the release of my books.

43 comments

  1. Your article is excellent and I may come back again to re-read it… I found interesting to learn about the Juxtaposition as a literary device…

    I thought at first time that it could be related to a sort of simile which fonction was to highlight the similarities and not the differences, through contrast…

    Anyway, I took a peak online and found a very nice example coming from Literature which I am quite sure you will find interesting…

    I am quoting from http://literarydevices.net/juxtaposition/ ~ Example #2 ~

    `Charles Dickens uses the technique of juxtaposition in the opening line of his novel “A Tale of Two Cities”:

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”´

    Thank you for sharing…sending best wishes for your week. Aquileana 🎇 ~

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello my lovely, thank you for writing such a thoughtful comment.❤

      Interesting point about the similarities. I think it does both. It draws two things together that are different in order to compare them (the similar bit) makes them fit as a juxta. If they were totally unrelated I don't think the juxta would work. I guess there is a balance to be had when choosing the two things.

      In your example from Charles Dickens, his Juxtapositions are very stark, much more so than the subtly of the quotes I picked. his work, obviously, he was a literary genius. But for me, I think I prefer the ones in the post!! lol. Something about their softness, and the evocative poetry speaks to me.❤❤❤

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Aquileana, have you ever seen either version of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”? Maya Angelou has this in her memoir, about how a teacher got her to start talking again. It is so beautiful in that teachers voice!
      Thanks for the reminder! And, thank you, Sacha, for this post. There are so many nuggets of gold here, it’s hard to take it all in at once.
      Peace, love & great writing,
      Sherrie
      Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
      http://tinyurl.com/klxbt4y
      Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I love Yamamoto’s quote about perfection. When I was writing for my thesis classes, the guys kept saying my protagonist was to flawed, that someone that flawed needed a psychiatrist, instead of going to El Salvador.
        That upset me a lot because at that time, my protagonist was still mostly ME!
        Peace,
        Sherrie

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow, well, maybe it’s your perception of you? Maybe others are kinder in their perceptions? I know I am the most critical of myself. But, I love flawed protagonists. I can’t stand perfect heroes. So I reckon you are right on track❤

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oooh… interesting! Gosh, I never think about this stuff, I just write. I am amazed at the depth of your analysis, Sacha, and what you teach us from it. I love that quote about longing to say something, but neither of them do… so well written, so delicate and subtle, but says so much about both of them. I love clever little sentences like that. You almost don’t notice them when reading a book, but thy give away far more than pages of description. Great ‘show, not tell’.
    Thanks for the mention, btw… I dont even remember writing that sentence, I’m gonna have to go and rake through the book now, trying to find it, lol! 😁

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Pahaha you definitely did write it!! And a wonderful sentence it was.

      I know right, I Frigging love that quote too – it’s sooooo YA, and so rich. It’s one of those sentences I wish I’d written, they all are as it happens. That’s why I collect them.

      Thank you for saying that about my analysis a couple of people have mentioned recently that they like the style maybe I should write a post on that!! Looool never one for missing an opportunity for a post! 😂😂😂😂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That was really cool! I never knew that there was a word for this. Amazing how you described it. Actually, it represents what we all go through in real life. We first head into the wall in order to learn our lesson. That might be why this kind of creating a story is so intriguing for the reader. Great post, Sacha!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, as Ali said, love that quote too. Although with memoir I already know the plot, the characters, the meat of the story beginning to end, I discovered that all that doesn’t matter if I can’t craft it properly. I have to create living, breathing scenes (my story took place over 30 years ago…hope that doesn’t make me sound old!…), resurrecting characters I knew and loved and weaving in dialgoue that is as I remember it, recreating the conflict, the tension, the internal struggle against what really happened at the time and what was said and thought. Your post is a wonderful encouragement to this writer to remember to show not tell with as few words as possible, remembering the all important juxtaposition🙂 And that first quote…really says it all doesn’t it? Thank you again Sacha…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I reckon Geoff would be good at memoir, because his memory is literally endless. I have no idea how people write memoirs. I bow at your feet. It is something I just don’t have the brain power for. I wish I did. Maybe I could use some of my diaries, but its all stupid he said she said teeny bopper bullshit!! I can barely remember who I went to school with.

      Glad you liked that quote. It’s one I have kept and treasured. Thanks for reading❤

      Like

    1. I go with the flow too Rachel, but I guess by analysing the books I read I pick up different tricks to try. At first it’s hard to add them naturally but eventually they become second nature. Also I guess most of these things go in when editing, that’s really when the polished writing comes out. My first drafts are always a pile of poo!! 😂😂

      Like

  5. I do love a good juxtaposition in writing. 😜 Though I never really thought about the macro vs micro. Post has my head spinning. It’s got me thinking and wanting to write something juxtaposition-y.
    P.S. That first quote is stunning. 💖

    Like

  6. I found this quite fascinating, particularly with a view to contrasting yin and yang juxpo ideas… which play a part in my writing, particularly in my current WIP. There is always more to explore Sacha. Writing is never dull, it is constantly teaching us something new.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s