Thinking About Contrast

Who’s sick of hearing about my book promotions? I know I am. Let’s talk about unexpected contrast in our writing.

I love contrast, even to the point of conflicting with reader expectations. Writers should always be willing to move from daylight to darkness, from cheer to gloom. I love the final battle on Endor as an example of unexpected contrast. The Empire, with all its technology is up against a bunch of Ewoks with rocks and sharp sticks. We expect the worst, but that isn’t how it played out.

Bad guys with names like Hannibal Lechter are pretty common. What about a handsome hunk called Matt Stone, with blond hair and a White House behind a picket fence. When Matt turns out to be a maker of snuff porn, we get a little jolt as readers. I like the little jolt. It reflects a bit of real life into the story. Lizzie Borden and Ted Bundy don’t sound like scary characters, and they were real.

What if the computer hacker who can do anything online has to solve the key plot point by reading through a pile of ancient scrolls? I like the contrast. The guy is perfectly prepared for the wrong situation.

Why can’t the demon be a female named Britt?

Who didn’t love the swordsman displaying his skills with a huge scimitar? Indiana Jones shot him and moved on. I was there in the theatre the day it was released. The whole crowd cheered.

I’ve seen plenty of full moons in broad daylight. I’ve never seen a werewolf out then. This I can handle, because humans are at a disadvantage in the dark. Our characters should always be at a disadvantage.

Why can’t witchcraft involve microwaves and stick blenders. (Okay, I did this, but I’m not ready to tell you about it.)

Technology vs ancient. Light vs dark. Cold vs hot. Sexy vs ugly. There are times when this can become a trope, but it can also be a nice tool.

I like the idea that Princess Fiona became an ogre and not the other way around. Doc Brown had to find a way to use lightning to power the deLorean. Contrast tech vs nature.

It’s Wednesday so I’m posting. This one would be a lot more fun with some discussions. Weigh in folks. Do you love or hate contrast in stories? Why?


Filed under Writing

19 responses to “Thinking About Contrast

  1. Ali Isaac

    We thrive on that contrast! Books and movies would be pretty boring without it. Hows this for a contrast? The main character in my books is a disabled boy in a wheelchair… he’s also the hero. Thats a bit unexpected!

    Btw… guess whose book Im reading?


  2. There is a constant contrast between action and pondering in my crime novel. I guess because it moves back and forth between the murder mystery plot and the criminal organization activity. Not sure if it’s working though.


  3. I love contrast and I love your great examples above! Well said, my friend! 😀


  4. A very good point, and I agree that the little jolt can really thrill me as a reader and keep me turning the pages 😀


  5. I love a bit of contrast! I love bad guys who turn out to be good I love good guys who turn out to be bad, I love worlds where the daylight kills you and the hero can’t see in the dark. Oh yeh. I use humour a lot, mostly where I shouldn’t but it seems to work. Bottom line is, I think people like to be shocked once in a while.




  6. I love contrast! If art imitates life, then writing should be full of contrast!


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