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Writing For Impact Use Contrast To Enliven Your Ideas
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Monotony is deadly in any art form. Why do we treasure the baroque music of Mozart? It is because he never is boring. The aural arabesques and curleycues of his compositions keep our interest at a high pitch.
The visual artist also brings force to her art by many means. One is to use contrast in the level of detail or the texture of the paint to avoid monotony. Some artists like Caravaggio are best known for their use of chiaroscuro, by which they emphasize the most important elements of the canvas by making them stand out as more illuminated than the darkness of the rest of the scene.
The same technique can improve your writing. Often a good writer wants to establish a clear, contrast between two ideas by joining them together or by putting one next to the other, often in parallel structure. It is a sign of intelligence to systematize and categorize, so you can show your intelligence while you appeal to the intelligence of your reader, by using contrast which creates a definite and systematic relationship between ideas.
Here are some examples:
When the going is tough, the tough get going.
To err is human; to forgive, divine.
The bigger the peppermill, the worse the restaurant.
Pietro Gomez-Cohen was a mess of contradictions. He was the best hitter, but the worst fielder.
There are other means beyond simple contrast:
1. You can get across an idea of complexity in a person or idea by emphasizing opposite or nearly opposite characteristics of that person or idea:
We tend to believe that milk builds strong bones, but many doctors say the opposite is true.
Television brings the world to our living room but destroys community connections.
Although she was beautiful and always made a good impression, her unpleasant character always made people dislike her.
2. Sometimes it is necessary to make precise contrasts, fine distinctions, or careful distinctions. This is the job of the writer who must be thinking of the possible careless reader of his work:
There is a difference between the economical and the cheap.
It may be legal for corporations to avoid paying taxes but it is not patriotic
I will fight against your political views but I will fight for you to have the right to express them.
3. Short phrases can be used in series to show contrast:
Whoever wants to grow tomatoes should prepare the soil, choose good seedlings, plant them carefully, fertilize them lightly, tie them carefully to stakes, water them regularly, and remember that success depends on good practices and that following these practices never fails to bring bounteous harvests.
Listen, young men, to an old man to whom old men were glad to listen when he was young. - Augustus
The Greeks called this Antithesis.
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