The Beauty Of Contrast

I’m writing this post from here:

For those of you keeping score, this is a beach on the big island of Hawaii.

I’m not gonna lie. It’s freaking amazing. Neener neener.

This time last week, I was here:

This was the display at my grandma’s memorial service.

What a difference a week makes.

Don’t get me wrong; the service was a beautiful and fitting tribute to the woman who was appropriately labeled “the heart of our family.” But still, it was a memorial service. Probably not what most people would excitedly volunteer to attend on a normal day.

Why is this post tagged as a writing post? Hang with me for a bit.

There is a great contrast between a beach vacation and a funeral. In one, you’re bathed in the sun’s warmth, taking a dip in the cool ocean, or enjoying the feel of the sand between your toes. It’s all about contentment and living in the present.

In the other, you’re shoved into the past, which is probably a good thing because in the present, you’re reminded that your loved one won’t be around anymore. All you have left is the past – the memories, the stories, the laughs. While everyone grieves in their own way, many people cry.

You don’t see much crying at the beach.

We planned this vacation over a year ago. The fact that it’s happening a week after my grandma’s passing is pure coincidence. When I was among my family and preparing to say goodbye to my grandma, I imagined what I would be thinking on this trip. A few months ago, I knew it would be relaxing, fun, and educational (because volcanoes). It’s still all those things. But in a way, it’s better than I thought it would be.

Last week’s experience made it that way.

Hitting an unexpected low before the high makes the high feel sweeter. The fact that my grandma loved life and squeezed every ounce of “present living” (like at a beach) from it makes this all the more poignant.

Again, what does this have to do with writing?

As fiction writers, we are weavers of drama. We put our characters through hell, euphoria, and everything in between. We want our readers to feel what our characters feel, and one way to do that is to play up the contrast.

Is your character about to experience danger? Have him feel especially safe just before. How about love? Stomp all over his heart first. The change can happen quickly or over the course of the story as the primary arc – with highs and lows along the way, of course.

Get the idea? A character who finds love after already being pretty happy with life isn’t very compelling, at least if you’re trying to sell fiction. Think about the emotional direction you want your character to go, and then consider the opposite. You need both for the best ride.

How have you used contrast in your writing? 

8 thoughts on “The Beauty Of Contrast

  1. So sorry to hear about your grandma, Allison. We’re never ready to lose them. Glad you’re getting some time in a beautiful place. :O)

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  2. I like how you connected it to writing – because often the highs and lows do end up going hand in hand. All I could think about while reading this was how I purposely tried to make it work that way when I was going back east for my Grandfathers memorial service a year ago. I started by going up to Maine to visit some of my best friends for a (packed) few days of sunshine, laughter and love before the memorial.

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  3. Right now, I have a shrewd businessman whose wife just boarded a rain and left without saying goodbye, pretty much bending but not quite breaking his heart, a new assistant he’s about to meet that is going to end up costing him his job, and his faithful number two, who probably has a crush on him, just went on a date with his chief adversary. Today’s chapter has her waking up naked in said adversary’s bed.

    It’s fair to say that my MC is going to have a really, really bad day.

    After which he’s about to meet the girl of his dreams.

    Should be interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

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