Thursday, January 24, 2013

Juxtaposition Abounds

A funny little incident occurred the other day that made me depart from my intention of taking a look at another of the interesting New Mexico sites described in THE BISTI BUSINESS and write this instead.

Every Monday, I co-host (it would be presumptuous to say co-teach) a writing class at the Bear Canyon Senior Center here in Albuquerque. In this and other such classes, we emphasize good writing must contain conflict to test the mettle of a story's characters. Conflict...stress...struggle. Without some element of friction, your story simply lies there, not going much of anywhere. In fact, the story line, itself, might become a struggle for the reader. It may prove so boring he or she casts the book aside and forgets about it. And tension is required , not only in mysteries, which I write, but also across the broad spectrum of literature.

But let's look specifically at mysteries. Whether it is Tony Hillerman's Navajo Cops, Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee;  James Lee Burke's New Iberia Deputy Sheriff Dave Robicheaux; J. A. Janice's Sheriff Joanna Brady; Stuart Woods's lawyer, Stone Barrington; or my private investigator, BJ Vinson, each and every one is mired in conflict. More often than not our heroes are battling evil. Occasionally, it is good versus evil, but more often it's Good versus Evil. Sometimes they are engaged in an internal struggle with these same elements we all have inside us. Burke's flawed hero fights that sort of war a lot. But let's face it, confrontation is a lot more exciting when the hero or heroine is seeking to put an end to the wicked machinations of nogoodniks. In mysteries, such friction can range from pitched battles of wit and will to outright bloodshed. And we all like a little bloodshed (not too graphic) in our lives...preferably between the pages of a good book.

Have you ever noticed how good and evil can sometimes blur the edges so that one almost bleeds into the other. How sometimes the hero or heroine will do something a little off-center that runs the risk of crossing an ethical line? Yet, the reader recognizes what our protagonists are doing is in the pursuit of the greater good and give them a pass.

Have you ever had a friend--or a relative--who (probably in your younger days) led you down the "trouble path" farther than you were usually willing to go? Come on, we all have had such an influence in our lives at one time or the other. I call that the juxtaposition of good and evil. It abounds everywhere, sometimes recognized, often not.

The incident I mentioned brought this home to me anew when I booted up my computer the other day. My system told me I had two spam messages. I always take a look at such messages to make sure emails from friends and associates haven't accidently ended up there. When I opened the spam folder this is what I saw:

            -Why Wait to Have an Affair with a Cheating Housewife
            -Join Christian Singles

Read that any way you wish, but to me, it says that juxtaposition abounds in everyday life.

NEXT WEEK: I'll try to get back to THE BISTI BUSINESS.


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