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Maren Elwood p2

Highlighting characteristics of characters by using contrast…

Ms Elwood in Characters Make Your Story, written in 1942, says: “One arresting way of spotlighting the character of an actor is to confront him with a highly contrasted problem, or situation.”

She gives the example of a wealthy young bachelor who lives in a penthouse in New York. He has never performed a personal service for anyone. He returns to his penthouse at three a.m. and his servant is gone. There is a baby wailing in the middle of his bed. “The reader is immediately aware of all the character traits possessed by this young man and of their suitability or unsuitability for solving the problem confronting him.”

Ms Elwood says, “Contrasting emotion with action is one of the most widely useful ways of stressing character-traits by contrast.”

She gives an eg.: “Susie Phipps is timid, afraid of almost everything and, especially, of the dark and of thunderstorms…If, however, you show Susie, no less afraid than she has always been, making a long journey home at night through a raging electrical storm, in order to get a seriously injured child or favorite dog to a doctor, you have contrasted the emotion of fear with an act of courage.”

“By this intensifying of the effect of Susie’s fear, you have roused several strong emotions in the reader towards her. You have roused pity for Susie’s suffering, and admiration for Susie’s unselfish purpose of saving the life of an injured child.”

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