Juxtaposition Boosts Comparisons – Behind the Scene

image by Hans
image by Hans

 

Definition of Juxtaposition 

 

Combining my research: Juxtaposition is a literary technique in which the writer places two story elements side-by-side for the reader to compare and contrast. Elements can be characters, places, concepts, events, actions, or objects. The elements are related but distinct. The comparison can show irony, humor, or sadness. 

Common Examples of Juxtaposition

 

  • All’s fair in love and war.
  • Making a mountain out of a molehill.
  • You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
image by johnhain
image by johnhain

Examples of Possible Comparisons

 

  • Good and evil
  • Despair and hope
  • Spring and fall
  • Poverty and prosperity

 

 

Examples of Juxtaposition in the Elements

 

Characters

Purpose: Highlight our protagonist’s failures.

Introduce into the story the protagonist’s successful brother, best friend, or colleague.

Places

Purpose: Shape a character’s beliefs about prosperity.

The character is invited to an estate with lovely gardens, opulent buildings, and stone statues. On the way home, he gets lost and ends up in a shantytown. Show how he reacts to each place.

Concepts

Purpose: Show despair in the strong and joy in the weak.

A self-centered, successful prizefighter suddenly becomes a lost child at the deathbed of his frail grandmother. His grandmother, who raised him, pats his hand and praises God that she’ll soon be with the Lord, whole and joyous.

image by ThePixelman
image by ThePixelman

Events

Purpose: Contrast in third world countries suffering during war and peace.

A soldier runs through a village fighting the enemy, his Uzi rat-tat-tatting. In the next scene inside a hut of a nearby village, a nurse missionary ministers to a woman sick with malaria. The sick woman’s two young sons sit cross-legged on the dirt floor, playing a game with stones.

Actions

Purpose: Differentiate between leaders and followers.

At a women’s military boot camp, women are sent on a long run. The women complain. They can’t go any farther. This isn’t training; it’s torture. A woman, a peer among them, jabs a finger at a telephone post ahead and yells, “Come on. You can make it to that post. It’s not that far.” The women stagger on to the post. The same woman points to the next post and shouts the same thing.

Objects

Purpose: Show man’s penchant for rebellion that hurts only man.

On the grass beneath a billboard depicting a man dying due to smoking cigarettes is an accumulation of cigarette butts.

Juxtaposition can support important story comparisons. Click to tweet.

How have you used juxtaposition in your stories?

The Secret Ingredient to Engaging Your Audience

“Communicating an idea juxtaposed with its polar opposite creates energy. Moving back and forth between the contradictory poles encourages full engagement from the audience.” —Nancy Duarte

Hot Dog and Chopsticks

You step back from your creative work and, no matter how hard you rationalize its appeal, you know in your heart something is missing. The ingredient that takes it from dull to fascinating.

Most of us know the secret ingredient already. Then why don’t we use it? I’ll address reasons why we overlook the secret ingredient after I give you some examples of how it’s been employed.

Secret Ingredient: CONTRAST.

Musical Instrument Keyboard KeysExample 1: My favorite rhythm activity with preschoolers is freeze dance. In Bible Study Fellowship and Sunday school, we danced to music pieces on the small keyboard I carried. Then I’d punch the stop button. The children froze arms, legs, and face expressions. I tried to catch them in a stumbling stop or moving when silence dropped. They enjoyed the dancing, the anticipation, and avoiding getting caught.

The freeze dance provides these contrasts:

  • freely moving bodies vs. rigid frozen bodies
  • doing our own thing vs. obeying the rule to stop
  • anticipation vs. fun result

When we solely put on music and let them dance with scarves, the children didn’t stay engaged very long. Unless they used their scarves as whips (creating their own contrast).

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Image courtesy of Suat Eman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Example 2: If you sat in a waiting room with a blue wall in front of you, how long would you stare at the wall with interest? Now, say the wall was white with a foot-by-foot blue square painted on it. Would your eye wander to that blue square now and then? Would you wonder why someone painted a blue square on the white wall? Might you imagine what you would have put on the wall instead of the blue square? Or what you’d add to the blue square?

The contrast of blue and white, big and small, and the why and why not of the blue square creates more interest than a solid blue wall. That’s why artists use light and dark, shadows and highlights.

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Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Example 3: Would you sit through a movie or play where the actors constantly shouted? Or issued nonstop dramatic emotion—always whining or always blubbering or always laughing? Actors and storytellers know sprinkling subtle and dramatic emotions, shouts and whispers, and movement and stillness engages their audiences.

??????????????????????????Too much of anything gets old and audiences lose interest.

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Example 4: And for me, the greatest contrast of all: Creator and created. If the Bible were only about humans and their sinful natures and fleeting brief lives on earth, our future would be hopeless. But the Bible reveals the nature of the almighty Creator who sent His Son to earth to save us from our sins, give us eternal life in His kingdom, and make us whole.

←  →

Why doesn’t a writer, an artist, or presenter use contrasts? Here’s reasons that came to my mind:

  • He does, but uses less than polar contrasts. The contrasts fall short of appearing different to the audience. The actor reduces his screams to shouts.
  • He fails to put the contrasts he sees in his mind into his work. This is a common problem of novice writers. They imagine a scene and its emotions but fall short of transferring what they’ve created in their minds to the page.
  • He uses an experience in his personal life. His emotional struggles with the experience convince him to avoid one side of the contrast. Contrasting costs too much pain.
  • He thinks the one element that intrigues him is sufficient to attract his audience. He forgets his passion must be related to the audience. Contrasting that element to its opposite helps the audience see his viewpoint.

Can you share an example of how you’ve contrasted elements in your creative work?

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