Monday, June 28, 2010

Modern . . . Contrast

Last week when my brain was a pile of goo after the stressful weekend prior, I let myself veg and reread the 60,000 words I've written in my contemporary about the Bedouin woman, the ex-SEAL, the pirate, and the black-arms dealer. One of the things that my hero mentions and which struck me as well is the contrast of different worlds within one.

It's something we all come across, right? There's your world, whatever it is. For me, that's a small town, mountains, family nearby. Peaceful for the most part, a relatively slow pace. Though the area has its problems and its trouble-makers that occasionally shock us with the level of depravity humanity is capable of, our crime-rate's darn low compared to, say, a city. But maybe that's where you live--where the buildings stretch toward the sky, the trains rumble under the ground, and everywhere you turn there are people rushing to who-knows-where.

Then there's the other side of the world, where civilization rarely intrudes. Or the parts where the people will say things like, "Why worry? It's just another war." There are the people who have so much that they think everyone in the world is their slave--and those who have so little they think everyone owes them.

Things can get really interesting when these worlds collide. Tons of books do this to great affect, from the simple city-girl-in-the-country idea to the American-girl-caught-in-a-warzone thing. In Seized (the contemporary I'm working on), I thought it would be fun to have a clash of many worlds. There's the Bedouin woman, who grew up in the deserts of Egypt among a tribe that is still fully nomadic. Her people have been largely unchanged by modernity, especially in their thoughts regarding woman. They had vehicles, but she was never allowed to drive one or fiddle with the controls. She's never used a phone. Never turned on a computer. She knows about the outside world, but mostly through a British anthropologist that traveled with them for a while.

Her world changes drastically when she ends up on a yacht in the Med. Again when the yacht is hit by pirates, and she's taken with the other booty. And yet again when the ex-SEAL rescues her and takes her home to his parents' horse farm in Virginia to recuperate. That's what leads him to reflect on the collision of worlds--that in this peaceful place, the one that his parents think of as "the real world," the forces that have shaped the heroine's life don't really exist. But now they will, because he brought it to them.

Ah, conflict. Sometimes contrast can create a lot of it.


  1. I love books that throw characters together like that. I think it creates much richer dialogue and conflict.

  2. Exactly. Small example from this one:

    Hero: "I was a Navy brat."

    Heroine: "You were a troublesome child?"

    Me: =)