From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dichotomy is good

One of my favorite stories so far from the New Yorker '20 Under 40' collection is a story called 'The Warm Fuzzies' by Chris Adrian. Its hilarious and kind of genius. Its somewhat of a coming of age story about a girl in a large Christian family who go around and play Christian music in a family band and have a slew of foster kids that come through for short periods of time. The dichotomy in this story is that this young girl wants so badly to be obedient and good and love her family; however, she also has this voice in her head that says nasty things and mocks everyone around her. What she says out-loud and what her inner voice says are sometimes very different, and that's what makes this story so interesting.

I think that's the key to interesting characters, and particularly interesting dialog. There should always be a little bit more to what they're saying. We're drawn in. We want to know where the two voices really are different, and where they're actually not as different as they seem.

Don't we all feel like that sometimes? An inner dichotomy? Sometimes its not even that we're pulled in different directions necessarily, but that we've got some seemingly mismatched things inside our heads? I'm a good, active Mormon girl who grew up in Provo and went to BYU. I also have a thing for grunge rock, skulls and guys with long hair. I like puppies and pirates, David Archuletta and Nikki Sixx, Jane Austen and Steven King.

We all have weird, quirky combos like that. There's no reason they have to be mutually exclusive. I think its healthy and exciting to embrace all sides of our personality. It's what makes us us.

What are your interesting dichotomies?

Sarah Allen


  1. Umm... I like making friends but I hate meeting new people?

  2. I am one who likes quiet but I married a man who needs to talk. I am more introverted, but I put myself in situations where I must be extrovert. Hmmm.

  3. I love being with the students in my class, but I hate all the curriculum political hoops I have to jump through with them. I hate and love my job. What happened to school being fun?

  4. Sometimes I hate to write but I love having written.

  5. I dress like a conservative woman but I love ACDC, Metallica, Disturbed, Korn....I think you get it.

  6. Very interesting! I think things like this would definitely help make our characters more well-rounded and real, when we write. Not just "pure" one way or another. The Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde thing has always been fascinating; we may all have it to one degree or another. :)

    I probably would surprise people in that I'm mild/conservative on the outside, but like Shelly, enjoy "wilder" music at times. :D

  7. If you call me on the phone I will talk and arm and leg off you, but I cannot pick up the phone and call you. I write fiction and I think all I can write about are various dichotomies. I guess that counts for the part where they say you have to have "conflict".

  8. I love the complexities of being human. Being able to capture that complexity isn't always easy, but it makes our characters so much more interesting and real.


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