Be glad in the Lord and rejoice! Psalm 32:11

Friday, November 12, 2010

Guest Post by Sheldon Russell, author of "Insane Train"

I'm excited to host Sheldon Russell, author of Insane Train, today. Mr. Russell was kind enough to write the following blog!

Sweet and Sour: How Opposites Attract
By Sheldon Russell

Well, technically, opposites don’t always attract, at least initially, but there is almost certainly a heightened interest among people who are different from each other.

It’s an opportunity for writers, being the opportunists that we are, to exploit a naturally occurring dissonance, which, with luck, can turn into full-blown conflict, which can lead to an engaging story and perhaps a satisfying resolution. If you watch movies, read books, breathe, you have been seduced by conflict in one form or another. It is the beating heart of story and can lead to all kinds of mischief. Since conflict arises from differences, it behooves the writer to create as many differences as possible, and no where is mischief more available than with characters who don’t understand each other.

In my book "The Yard Dog," the protagonist, Hook Runyon, is a one-armed railroad bull who drinks busthead liquor and collects rare books. He encounters Dr. Reina Kaplan, a Jew from New York with a Ph.D. in literature. They’ve not much in common, but there’s plenty of fireworks to go around. The levels of interaction between opposites can be complex and multilayered.

Consider humor, for example. It, too, arises from surprise and conflict and is best pitted against its own opposite, tragedy. Even conflict resolution can produce powerful emotions and bring about things like romance and happy endings.

One of my favorite plot lines, a stranger comes to town, is the epitome of dissonance arising out of diversity. The stranger lands in a place he doesn’t know or understand. Now, the town’s people have a stranger amongst them, always a threat to the way things are and have always been. So who gives in? Who changes? Why? What are the dangers of being in a place where no one else believes like you, talks like you, or thinks like you? Differences abound, and differences lead to entanglements.

There’s nothing a writer, or reader, likes better than entanglements. And then again, opposites can sometimes set their differences aside against a common enemy.

In "The Insane Train," second in my Hook Runyon mystery series, a group of disabled vets live together under a bridge. Roy is from Kentucky, Santos from Old Mexico, and Ethan from the Bronx. Although they have nothing culturally in common, they share the hardships of poverty and the daily harassments of a corrupt police force. These vets are as diverse as I could make them, but they have become family, united against a world that no longer cares about them.

My wife, who is a sculptor, often points out the importance of light and shadow in sculpture. She is keen on working both dimensions into her pieces. Even an artistic dim-wit like me can see that she’s right. A work with all light or all shadow is flat and uninteresting. But put the two together, shadow against light, and the piece is transformed into something beautiful and alive, something more than the sum of its parts.

Any writer will tell you that he works for conflict in his story at every opportunity. It’s the spark necessary for igniting the emotions of the reader. The possibilities are endless when opposites are put together. So make your characters as different as possible. Throw them into a tough situation. Turn up the heat, and they will do the rest.

 About The Author:

A retired college professor, Russell lives in Guthrie, Oklahoma, with his wife, Nancy, an artist. He has previously won the Oklahoma Book Award and the Langum Prize for Historical Literature.

The Yard Dog, the first Hook Runyon novel, was nominated for the Oklahoma Book Award and earned high praise as Russell’s debut mystery.

I received a review copy of this book from Nancy Berland Public Relations. The tour stop was courtesy of Lance Wright at Omni-mystery.

I am an Amazon Associate and if a book is purchased through this link, I might receive a small renumeration.

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