Juxtaposing Your Characters for Best Effect

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

According to dictionary.com juxtaposition is the act of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast, or the state of being close together or side by side.

As writers, we want to show our characters to best effect and one of the ways to do this is through their supporting cast of characters. Similarities and differences will be obvious as the story rolls on. I use juxtaposition in the following ways.

To emphasise themes.  If I’m trying to show how someone grows and changes, taking on more responsibility, then most likely, I’ll also have a grossly irresponsible individual in their life. Someone they have to look out for and keep in line. Through their interaction with each other and the problems they need to solve, my responsible character will shine.

To show diverse approaches to problem solving. You and I might have the same challenges, however, I may deal with my situation a lot differently than you do yours. In this way, I show the personality differences. One may look at problem solving as an opportunity to exercise some initiative. The other may quail at the issue set before them. See how the diversity will come out?

To define each character’s role. Different people provide different things in our lives. I wrote two sisters in the novel Hardware. During the upheaval in the family, Meghan provided her mother with companionship and physical assistance. Camille played the role of problem solver and tackled demands made by a blackmailer, which included doing the requisite financial transactions. And of course, the antagonist created all the problems. An aside here - I never noticed before that agony is part of the word antagonist.  Is it any wonder they create such problems for our MC’s?

To suit the storyline. The main characters in the novel Hardware are Camille and Quinn. Camille is a conservative, self-contained individual who first comes across as snooty. In her view, Quinn has all the markings of a playboy and she does not know what to do with the attraction she feels for him.  Quinn is attracted to her, but is put off by her superior attitude and though he decides not to pursue her, he cannot deny the fact that she stirs his blood. This is a classic case of opposites attracting and is a good recipe for romance.

So, do you have any tips you want to add to this list?

 We have no dishes, so I’ll tell you about fruits starting with J. We have the Jimbilin, otherwise known as all this stuff (that I got of f Wikipedia) Otaheite gooseberry, Malay gooseberry, Tahitian gooseberry, country gooseberry, star gooseberry, West India gooseberry. It’s tart, so isn’t for everybody. It can be stewed with sugar before being eaten.

Another aside – the star fruit is also called Chinese Jimbilin here in Jamaica.
Chinese Jimbilin/Star Fruit
Jew/June plums are also tart when green, but mostly sweet when ripe. Very tangy. School children love this peeled and eaten with salt. The seeds has some spiny extensions that can stab you in the gum, so eat the flesh with caution. The juice is refreshing. 

June Plum
Jackfruit is a malodorous monster of a fruit that I love. It’s fleshy and sweet and best eaten at home as it carries a pungent odor and a sticky substance that glues lips together. In other cultures, the seeds are roasted and eaten and some curry the fruit as a meal.


  1. Great tips on character juxtaposition.

    And I lurve Jackfruit..it is quite a common fruit in Singapore!

  2. This is great information. i think it is important to show some contrast when creating our characters. It gives our readers more to look at and different perspective.

  3. Great tips, never heart that word before or even the fruits. Love learning about new things :) Thank you!

  4. Damyanti, thanks. I'm with you on the love of Jackfruit!

    Josh, I agree contrast between characters is important.

    Siv, it's always a pleasure to share information.

  5. I have never heard of Jack fruit. It looks interesting. I agree with Josh above, we need to show differences with our characters--it makes them more real.

  6. Another great post! I really enjoyed reading it. As a writer, I think this is something we do without meaning to in our work. Thank you for writing on such an interesting topic. :-)

  7. Hey, Angela, thanks for dropping in.

    Sarah, sometimes we get so used to what we're doing that we don't even stop to think why we're doing them.

  8. The Jimbilin looks awesome on the tree. Also, great explanation and use of juxtapositions too.

  9. I appreciate tips from other writers. I need to go back and look at my wip. I am not sure I am using juxtaposition to my advantage.

  10. Thanks, Lynda!

    Susan, glad you found something here that makes you think.

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