Fear in Writing: Character Contrast

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Monday, November 23, 2009

Character Contrast

Do you read front to back, first page to last until your done no interruptions? I don't. I certainly don't read the last page first! But I also don't read just one book at a time. (Unless it's an easy read -- the easier the faster, capisce?)

So it was that I found myself reading Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union alongside Tasha Alexander's Only To Deceive. Talk about your strange combinations.

From Chabon, p. 181:
"He yanks his sholem loose and turns it around, and the world pulls the trigger on all its guns. Zilberblat grows a horn of blood from the crown of his head."

From Alexander, p. 210-11:
"The bright sun did not take much of the chill out of the air, but I walked at a brisk pace, welcoming the turn of the season. The freedom brought by a simple change of clothing was extraordinary."

What made this co-reading work for me was the quality of both authors' writing - they are both very good. But what fascinates me is the contrast between the two, and it is something I feel very important in any great book, and in any great life.

Unless one is channeling Aldous Huxley with dystopian intentions no one intends to write static characters. The contrast is so important. I don't read or write romances, but I want my characters to have feelings. So how can a tough, murdering detective feel love? That's a contrast I have to play out carefully.

What kinds of contrasts have you sewn into your characters? What is one of the most interesting characters you have read?

P.S. The Coen Brothers are rumored to be making Yiddish Policemen into a movie. I am a Coen fan, but I highly recommend the book for its unique style and glimpse-by-word into a world that was new to me.


  1. I haven't read Chabon yet, but I've heard great things about his books. I will have to borrow it from you when you're done :)

  2. I've been hearing a lot about Chabon's book. Thanks for reminding me that I need to pick it up at the library!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. Melissa- you can borrow it this week!
    Elizabeth - you can borrow it next by mail if you can wait that long! How long do I have to wait for you next book? I need to check my library for your first one.