Fiction notes: The power of juxtaposition

15/04/2023 at 10:53 am | Posted in Fiction notes, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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For decades, I wrote non-fiction. Then the poles shifted in my personal life, and now I almost always write fiction. But back in the beginning of my career, I did write a single short story. It was called ‘The Dormer Window’, even though the window in the story was a slanting, attic sort that could be more properly termed a skylight.

When it was published, in Britain and Ireland, no one seemed to mind the architectural inaccuracy. What they liked was the way it juxtaposed the hard drudge of a couple’s ordinary life with a window that revealed their passions and dreams, in unexpected ways. In the story, the husband created an attic bedroom, complete with slanted window above the bed. At night, their reflection revealed them as Chagall’s lovers, entwined and floating in the air. As one editor memorably put it, “It’s about love and DIY”.

I had a quick look for the story yesterday, but couldn’t find it. If I do, I’ll share it on these pages.

But what I really want to talk about is the use of juxtaposition in fiction writing. It’s such a useful device, to put two contrasting things closely together. And it seems to work particularly well for people. To be human is to have duties that we must do, to survive and hopefully thrive. But to be human is also to have powerful emotions. In day to day life we often try to hide these. However, it’s vital for our sanity that there is an outlet for our yearnings, hopes and dreams – a dormer window, if you will.

I invite you to consider what you are currently writing, or perhaps reading. Is juxtaposition present? And, if so, how does it enhance the story?

Wellbeing notes: rhyming affirmations

04/01/2023 at 11:56 am | Posted in Wellbeing | 4 Comments
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Perhaps every thought we have – especially the ones we think often, or fervently – has the potential to come true. Hence the expression, ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. I do believe that humans are hugely creative beings, in ways we scarcely understand. If every thought is a possible manifestation, it makes sense to choose at least some of our thoughts wisely. And the very best way I know of doing that is through rhyming affirmations.

Verses that rhyme have a habit of staying in our minds longer. We may find ourselves remembering them without even trying. They become a mantra that uplifts, in a way that’s reminiscent of comforting childhood rhymes.

I regularly write my own, personal rhyming affirmations, recording them with pen and ink in a journal. They’re not high art – just verses that stick in the mind. Verses that I repeat slowly, and mindfully. Verses that leave me feeling calmer, and happier. If you are at all inclined, I encourage you, today or tomorrow, to come up with a rhyming affirmation for yourself. It can be as simple as two lines that rhyme. Put pen to paper, or finger to phone, and play a little. And remember, no one is judging your creation!

The following rhyming affirmation is one I wrote last year. It’s a bit longer – four verses in total. Yet I have found this one particularly easy to remember, and repeating it slowly never fails to ramp up the levels of joy in my day. It reminds me that anything is possible, and that life – not just in some mythical future, but right now – is filled with a wonderful magic.

I believe

I believe in deeds of kindness

and presents wrapped in love

I believe that people can connect

with intervention from above


I believe in our creations

and doses of good luck

I believe that fortune flourishes

and blocks can get unstuck


I believe in my good health

and my body being able

I believe in friends who help,

who can inspire and enable


I believe in gifts from God

and moments of laughter

I believe, above all, in love

and happy ever after

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