. . .Help the reader learn from contrast.
Today, I am featuring another chapter from Roy Peter Clark's book,"Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer," published by Little, Brown and Company. You can find a copy here.
Ironic juxtaposition is the fancy term for what happens when two disparate things are placed side by side, each commenting on the other.
Consider this introduction to the Philadelphia Inquirer's story of the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island:
4:07 a.m. March 28, 1979
Two pumps fail. Nine seconds later, 69 boron rods smash down into the hot core of unit two, a nuclear reactor on Three Mile Island. The rods work. Fission in the reactor stops.
But it is already too late.
What will become America's worst commercial nuclear disaster has begun.
What follows is a catalog of terrible truths that officials will learn, along with harrowing details: "Nuclear workers playing Frisbee outside a plant gate because they were locked out but not warned of the radiation beaming from the plant's walls." The suspense that builds from those first short sentences reaches a peak when the failed nuclear reactor produces radiation that bombards workers playing Frisbee. Radiation meets Frisbee. Surprising juxtaposition.
And now, take a tool from Roy's WORKSHOP, and put it to use:
-Feature photographers often see startling visual details in juxtaposition: a street person wearing a corsage, a massive sumo wrestler holding a tiny child. Keep your eyes open for such visual images and imagine how you would represent them in your writing.
Have you ever noticed ironic juxtaposition in a modern art piece?