How do you balance the contrasts in your story?

Karalee’s Post #27

In nature animals either flaunt or camouflage themselves for the purpose of reproduction or safety.

The peacock and the peahen are a great example.

Once the male has strutted his stuff and successfully mated, the peahen must hide and survive to lay her eggs and then raise the next generation. These contrasting roles are seen over and over in the animal kingdom.

So are they in our writing.

Flaunt or camouflage. Hide or highlight. Loud or quiet. Fight or run. Contrasts are prevalent whenever we  have characters in our writing, both in the overall arc of the story as well as in each individual’s character traits.

Take any major theater or opera production. The major character(s) take center stage and play the arc of the story while the secondary characters and the stage setting fill in to give more depth. In addition, each individual major character has his or her own internal traits that also contrast. Even the most overt and in-your-face character will have some hidden depths that only he (and maybe close friends or relatives) know about and that contribute to driving him to do what he does.

And even the most introvert of characters have a point where emotions will explode or be expressed more openly than usual. 

To me, that is what creating a story is all about.

Whatever the story, the major characters take most of the type space (protagonist and antagonist, or villain and hero) and their individual character traits ebb and flow like the tides, and also boom and flash when the storms go over. Then, when the lights come back on surprises await the reader.

And they all make sense.

And that is the art of storytelling; the magic writers want to achieve. 

How do writers do it?

In creating a story the three major areas I’m initially concerned with  are:

  1. The three acts. They define the major climaxes of the story and determine what the protagonist and antagonist must also achieve by these stages of the story.
  2. Traits of my major characters. The profession of the characters and the setting of the story will determine some traits, but others will need to be decided upon to fit what needs to happen in the story. When I first started writing I thought that physical characteristics were the most important, but as I gained experience it became apparent that the internal traits play an even more important role and determine why a character acts a certain way.
  3. Secrets of my major characters. A person’s personal experiences as well as the family background will determine this. I often have great fun creating a character’s family history and personal experiences, and often this becomes a major part of the plot.

So how do you balance the contrasts in your story?

4 thoughts on “How do you balance the contrasts in your story?

  1. Thanks for another interesting post Karalee.
    If the 5writers are trying to decide whether to continue with this blog, my vote is a definite yes! You’ve been honest and thoughtful about yourselves and the difficulties and joys of writing. I look forward to reading this every week. Thanks.

    • Thanks Judy. Our group has our first face-face meeting since starting this blog and we’ll be discussing how to critique a complete manuscript and continuing our blog. Readers interest is an important factor. Thanks again.

  2. I think I do these things reactively, without thinking about them. The protagonist of my novel reveals his past and family secrets in surrealistic dreams, that only make sense when one of the dreams, well into the story, sparks a violent reaction in him as he wakes up. The traits of my major characters come out in what they do and how they interact with each other. I’m not much for describing traits in the third person, or even describing what the characters look like. I get bored or impatient when writers give detailed descriptions of characters’ looks or personalities.

    • Thanks Jeff. Much of what writers do is instinctive and that’s what makes us writers. When we are stuck or understand the craft of writing more ( we all do with experience) it can be helpful to use our understanding to enhance our writing. Love your comments.

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