Drought and rain

A few days ago, as the rain bucketed down and drenched people ran across the pavements for shelter, a bus drove past with a big poster on its side: ‘We are in drought.’ Newspapers have made much of the ‘wettest drought in history’ and this contradiction made me reflect on the use of paradox in poetry and prose – paradox being defined as ‘two opposing or contradictory statements made at the same time.’ Some phrases came to mind: Henry Vaughan’s ‘deep and dazzling darkness’ in his poem ‘The Night,’ Milton’s ‘Darkness Visible,’ and the wonderful use of paradox in John Donne’s Holy Sonnet IX: ‘for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.’
Paradox is an immensely powerful tool which can give great poetic effect and also help you to find hidden depths in your characters. There is something paradoxical in all human behaviour. A character wants to be rich but turns down an opportunity to make money for some reason they don’t understand. Or they reject the person they love. They spend the whole novel trying to achieve something only to throw it away at the end. They appear happy and secure but are really concealing an explosive secret which will blow several lives apart.
Think of some paradoxes and contradictions in your own story, and really make them work for you.

2 Replies to “Drought and rain”

  1. Paradox was one of the many “tools of the trade” I learnt to use effectively on your excellent courses and it appears in my novel Deceit which was published online last month. Do encourage your current students to publish online – it’s fun !

  2. As an environmentalist – I have to say I would love to know the word equivalent to a ‘paradox’ with the following meaning;
    ‘two opposing iterations of intent, comprising an affirmative statement followed by contradictory action made by the same person without any self-realisation of the hypocrisy involved.’
    I speak of people nearly unanimously agreeing that ‘something needs to be done’ about the environment, but then losing the sense of that firmly stated conviction between the breath afterwards and the subsequent expression of nearly all regular habits of relevance.
    I am thinking of a story myself, and I would love to work that particular human habit in on some matter unrelated whilst leaving a question in the reader as to what my real point was.

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