The Irreconcilable Self

Characters in our stories, just as people in our lives, may embody two or more irreconcilable traits that are completely opposite of one another and even to the extreme. In fact, when this is the case, it creates tension,drama and conflict weaving together that magical draw that keeps a reader hooked, anxious to turn the next page even when it is long past her bed time. Although in real life we may discourage this tension and drama in our lives despite the tendency some people have to create it (oh come on- we all know those drama queen types and certainly, you and I have “never” done it ourselves right?), in the lives of the characters we read about it is a requirement.
Eric M. Witchey, in his article in the October 2011 edition of The Writer magazine, tell us ” if we link a character’s irreconcilable self to a story’s overall theme, we can grab and hold our readers until the character is released from his tormant”. He further warns us that any piece of narrative,setting, conflict, dialogue, scene, sequence or act that doesn’t relate to and impact the irreconciable self and theme does not belong in the story”.
Think of a character who hates and loves at the same time. Perhaps he loves his catholic father yet hates the way his father treats his jewish friends and over time he has come to hate his judgmental father while loving him at the same time. Perhaps his friends are no longer welcome in his father’s house- the home the character resides in with his family. One can imagine the tension and conflict and subsequent drama that develops from that extreme combination of feelings (irreconciable self) in that character. The story’s theme could be accepting people for who they are which works against that scenario, therefore; creating the necessary emotional tug of war that is necessary for keeping the reader engaged. Surely, this conflict of love and hate and the weakness of mankind’s habit to judge is the making of a good story.
One can only hope our own “drama queen” family and friends resolve their own conflicts as effectively as the characters in our stories have!

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