Juxtaposition is one of the most powerful tools in a writer’s arsenal
One of my favourite novels is Cao Xuequin and Gao E’s Dream of Red Mansions, which has nothing we would recognise as a plot by modern standards: it follows the “twelve beauties of Jinling”, the main characters of a decaying household in China under the Qing dynasty; and juxtaposes and contrasts their experiences to achieve a powerful and moving tapestry of narratives that speak both to the female and human experience.
This act of juxtaposition is one of the most powerful tools in a writer’s arsenal, and one that I’m particularly affectionate towards. A common example is dichotomies for characters: X being a foil for protagonist Y, or the opposites antagonist/protagonist, hero/villain. I prefer to think of it in terms of contrasts, to decentre the story—I go for moral ambiguity very often, and therefore my fiction tends to function in terms of POV characters rather than heroes. Read More »