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JUXTAPOSITION: How to evoke intense emotions in readers

Do you want to write words that have the power to move your reader to tears? Or to laughter, or maybe even anger?

A writer has a very important power. They can make you cry, laugh or angry about anything they choose. That is the craft and art of good writing. 

Today, we will tell you about a way to harness this power. Let’s talk about the art of ‘Juxtaposition’.

  1. First, watch this video:

  2. Next, watch this one: 

  3. Now, watch this one for 30-40 seconds, starting from about 50 seconds in:

  4. And lastly, watch this one, just for 20-30 seconds:

Take a moment. How did you feel when you watched these three videos together? Would you have felt the same way if you simply watched video 3 on its own? I’m guessing the answer is no. 

This is the power of juxtaposition.

What is Juxtaposition?

It is the technique in which you put two contrasting images side by side. 

Why use Juxtaposition?

By putting two strongly opposing images side by side, you can evoke feelings that are much more intense in your reader. This comes from a theory by the famous philosopher “Derrida”. He said that the world exists in “binaries”. This means we know something is good only because we know it is not bad. It is human nature.

By using juxtaposition you harness this key human trait to make your reader feel the emotions you like!

How to write using juxtaposition?

Imagine your character is an arrogant corporate businessman. You could use juxtaposition to make your readers feel anger towards him by setting the scene as such:

Set the scene at a casino, and describe the luxury in detail. Describe loud music, champagne glasses, green bills of money flying around. Perhaps describe money being scattered all over the floor.  Detail the luxury coat your character is wearing, the amount of money he has spent and anything else that paints him as a rich, arrogant businessman. 

Once you have written a paragraph describing this, cut your your paragraph with a description of a poor waiter, with a torn uniform who is on the first day of his job. Emphasise the waiter’s humane fear and how he does not fit in the luxurious setting in the casino. How does the waiter interact with the luxurious scene set above? Pick the small details of this interaction. What ‘cutting’ your paragraph means is that in your paragraph about the rich man, insert lines describing the waiter. Show interjections of their lives side by side. 

Juxtaposition to create suspense…

Another way to use this technique is to create suspense. Try this:

Write your highly intense scene, either where the climax takes place or where a big reveal appears with fast pace action. Now cut this fast pace scene into multiple parts, cutting the scene just before revealing a detail. Between these newly cut parts, add flashbacks or a scene in a different setting that is slow pace and juxtaposes your fast pace, intense scene. This increases the urgency in your readers to keep turning the pages and find out more!

There are several examples of this in film, and one great example is The Silence of the Lambs climax scene. Here, (spoiler alert), as the killer inches closer to the victim in his dark basement this scene picks up pace, speeding up. This scene is interjected, or cut, by a brightly lit slow paced scene of the policemen and deliveries.

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