Opposites: Vol 4… Antithesis

Antithesis deals with contrasting ideas, usually in the same sentence and with similar construction.

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
— John F. Kennedy

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”–Neil Armstrong

A true antithesis shows a clear, contrasting relationship between two opposing themes by joining them together.

Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus
— author, John Gray

To be or not to be
— Hamlet by William Shakespear

It was the best of times, it was the worst of ties; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

The parallel structure provides a visual and aural balance.

We have explored four options for using opposites in your writing: Paradox, Oxymoron, Irony and Antithesis. Consider how you can practice using these devices in your writing.


Rogers, Cindy. “Opposites Attract: From Paradox to Antithesis.” Word Magic for Writers: Your Source for Powerful Language That Enchants, Convinces, and Wins Readers. West Redding CT: Writer’s Institute Publications, 2004. N. pag. Print.

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(¸.•´ (¸.•* Suzanne Costigan writes middle grade and YA novels. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada with James, her children, three dogs and four cats.

Suzanne’s first novel, Empty Cup, is an edgy contemporary young adult story about a seventeen year old girl who lives through life’s ultimate betrayal. Suzanne lives in Winnipeg, MB.

Batting 1000 with Kid's Non-Fiction: 1- The Basics

In this next series of blogs, I’ll be exploring the non-fiction side of kid’s lit.  It’s a flourishing industry, but like everything else in the publishing world, the market is shifting as the Internet, social media, eBooks and print-on-demand gain in popularity.

book openFirst, though, let’s look at a few basic truths.  Start with a little test.  Take two books – one fiction, the other non-fiction.  Quickly examine each one.  Don’t bother reading.  You haven’t time for that. Simply scan the covers front and back.  Flip through the pages. Glimpse what’s inside.

Done?  Close the books.  Now list the contents of each one.  Don’t worry about the details – just brainstorm what you’ve noticed.

Now let’s look at the list.

  • Front cover
  • Back cover
  • Author bio
  • Chapters
  • Lots of pages filled with text
  • Front cover
  • Back cover
  • Author bio
  • Chapters
  • Lots of pages filled with text

So far not all that much difference is there?  But wait.  For non-fiction, the list grows longer.   Depending on the book you selected, the non-fiction sample might also have:

  • Photos, illustrations, maps, charts, tables etc.
  • A table of contents
  • An index
  • A bibliography of sources
  • A page titled ‘For Further Reading’
  • A glossary of terms
  • Testimonials from accredited experts
  • A list of photo/illustration credits
  • etc.

This simple test points out some truths about each type of publication, as well as a few hardcore lessons for those writers who want to be published in traditional print formats.

Truth #1

Hands down, non-fiction is more expensive to produce.  All those photos & illustrations, the glossy pages, the washes of colour, the extra pages for a glossary or index – these cost money.  Add the fact-checker that many publishers will hire to ensure accuracy and dollars mount.  Publishers of non-fiction have to be cautious if they want to earn a profit.  And when numbers are crunched, that’s what it’s all about – staying in the black; keeping out of the red.


S320748f081459df49c0864b8cb9152c2uccessful non-fiction writers have to tap into subjects that not only interest kids, but also do double duty in school, library, bookstore and eBook markets. More tie-ins = more markets = more sales potential = more profit.

Ancillary Lesson:

Whatever ideas non-fiction writers bring to the table, they must go beyond what kids and adults can find for free on the Internet.  There has to be a unique perspective, a creative spin, an enticing writing style, a delicious brew of information, some tantalizing connection to a hot topic – something out-of-the ordinary – before publishers will slap down money and take the risk.

Truth #2

Fiction is all about story.  Non-fiction is all about ideas and information.  The two are different in form and purpose.  Those are obvious distinctions, but these differences speak volumes about what publishers are looking for in the writers they seek, and even more about what writers must do to secure a contract.


For fiction, publishers are looking for a story that takes readers on an enticing and ultimately satisfying ride.  For first-time writers, before publishers seal the deal they will likely want to see the entire manuscript from its captivating beginning to its heart-warming or gut-wrenching end. Whether you are a law professor, an accountant, or a mother/father of five – none of this matters much in the final analysis.  Can you tell a masterful story?  That’s the question here.

untitledFor non-fiction, the grading system is different.  Check the list at the start of this blog.  Note the ingredients – table of contents, bibliography, glossary, index, pictures & illustrations…   You need a winning idea to get published, but also the chops to drive it home.  In the world of non-fiction, organization, research, accuracy, clarity, precision, and the ability to deliver content in a creative, interesting and unique way are key elements.  Credentials sometimes matter here, too.  If you are writing about UFOs, for example, and have a major in astronomy and a minor in physics, that could work in your favour, though not always as much as you might think.  I’ve written about subjects far removed from my specialty (science).  In those situations, my learning curve is steeper, but the journey is interesting and oh-so rewarding.

Serendipity EffectBecause ideas, concepts and information fuel the non-fiction machine, the approach to publishers is different.  I learned this the hard way.  For my first book, The Serendipity Effect ( re-issued later as Accidental Discoveries), I wrote the entire book – all 35,000 words – before I went looking for a publisher.  I mailed the manuscript to a likely firm and then waited.  Four months later, the package arrived back with a tiny form rejection attached to it.  Figuring that it would take a lifetime to get the book published, I finally did the research I should have done in the first place.  I discovered that while mailing out an entire manuscript might work for fiction, that’s not the norm for non-fiction.

What matters in non-fiction is the idea and how effectively you can pitch it to publishers.  What is your concept or vision for the book?  What distinguishes it from other books on similar subjects?  What markets might it fit?  Why this publisher? What makes you a suitable candidate to write it?  Often publishers have ideas of their own they would like to see included.  It’s much easier to tinker with the concept at the outset, to slant and slope the manuscript to everyone’s satisfaction before the book is written rather than after the initial draft.

For all these reasons, the approach to publishers is much more strategic for non-fiction than for fiction. And that brings up the subject of my next blog in this series: The all important proposal that just might snag you a non-fiction deal.

Larry Verstraete (www.larryverstraete.com) is a Winnipeg educator and the author of 12 non-fiction books for youngsters.  His next book, Life or Death: Surviving the Impossible (Scholastic Canada) is set for release in Spring 2014.

Other blog entries along the non-fiction line that might interest you:

The Futures Box – A Wealth of Ideas

A Story is a Story. Or Is It?

Taking Aim at the Non-Fiction Market

For Larry Verstraete, an award-winning author of books for young people, writing is all about the journey and often the perfect writing storm occurs when high adventure, science and history converge. An advocate for literacy, Larry often visits schools and libraries to share his passion.

Opposites: Vol 3… Irony

Irony is similar to paradox, however it implies an insult, sarcasm, or humourous moment at someone’s expense.  It’s paradox with a twist.

There are many types of irony:

Situational: What we expect to happen and what actually happens are two two different things. “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant is an example of situational irony. His main character dreams of a life of riches. She is given the opportunity to live this dream for one night thus borrows a necklace from a friend. The necklace is stolen that night, and the main character spends the rest of her life working to repay the debt. The ultimate irony comes when she discovers the necklace was a fake.

Dramatic: The audience knows the meaning of what’s happening, but the characters do not.

Socratic: Admitting one’s own ignorance ends up exposing someone else’s inconsistencies through questioning.

Verbal: Language that implies a discrepancy between two different levels of meaning. For example, a dad who is finally out of patience with picking up after his son, might say,  “Would Sir Nicholas please let me know when it pleases him to have his humble servant pick up after him?”

An author can make a point with being direct or predictable. This can even make an author memorable!


Rogers, Cindy. “Opposites Attract: From Paradox to Antithesis.” Word Magic for Writers: Your Source for Powerful Language That Enchants, Convinces, and Wins Readers. West Redding CT: Writer’s Institute Publications, 2004. N. pag. Print.

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•* Suzanne Costigan writes middle grade and YA novels. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada with James, her children, three dogs and four cats.

Suzanne’s first novel, Empty Cup, is an edgy contemporary young adult story about a seventeen year old girl who lives through life’s ultimate betrayal. Suzanne lives in Winnipeg, MB.

Where’s the Conflict?

I want to enter the Highlights Magazine annual fiction contest.  The category for stories in the 2014 contest is Holidays. I’ve decided what holiday I want to write about and I’ve invented a main character and chosen a setting.  I’ve written rich descriptions for both my character and my setting but I’m stuck on a conflict.  I know a good story needs a conflict but what can mine be? After several days of stewing and still coming up with nothing I decided to look through my collection of children’s picture books and list the kinds of conflict I found.  Here’s my list so far………

something is stolen

a terrible storm is approaching

people make fun of the main character for some reason

something or someone is lost

the protagonist  is scared of something

a fire or some other disaster happens

the main character is involved in an accident

the main character is tempted to do something wrong

the main character lacks the strength or necessary items to complete an important task

dealing with family changes like a new sibling or parents’ remarriage

discovering something bad that someone else is doing

forgetting to do something important


jealous of someone

moving to a new place

scared to try something new

not wanting to listen to parents’ advice

main character shrinks down to a small size

protagonist is obsessed with something in an unhealthy way

the friends or family members of the protagonist are in conflict

poor self-esteem/lack of self acceptance


main character has a physical disability or unique physical characteristics

death of a family member or pet


environmental damage


Now I’ve got lots of different kinds of conflicts to choose from.  Which one would be best for my holiday story? 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……….

A Children’s Writer Who Has the Magic Formula

Chicken Soup

 Planning Ahead

MaryLou Driedger is just beginning to write fiction and non-fiction for children after working as a teacher, newspaper columnist and free-lance journalist for thirty years. She also blogs at What Next? 

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.

On a Quest for Quirks

Blah, blah, blog, blog.

Writers get asked all the time where we get our ideas. And when we have deadlines looming over us like boogey-men, we ask ourselves this same thing.

Plot, grammar, scenes, dialogue, character creation–the list goes ever on and on down from the door where it began.

But the more time we spend on learning the craft that is writing, and the more sweat we brew sitting and writing, the more readily these things come to us–at home, on the bus, at the mall, in the shower. For me it’s driving, my long commute to work.

writing-ideas-08The trick is to get those thoughts down in print as fast as you can. Those eureka moments as Larry Verstraete calls them, never present themselves the same again. I’ve learned to record them verbatim immediately. I think writers develop a radar for write-worthy material. Myself, I see things, little by-plays of life when I’m out and about that a lot of others don’t pick up on. (Except for a special friend of mine, who sees the same things and we break into maniacal laughter with a glance at each other.)

These odd occurrences of daily life make for brilliant idea fertilizer. Diving boards, cannons even.

I know an intelligent adult who still says ‘hiveway’ instead of ‘highway,’ another who says ‘breakfRast‘ instead of ‘breakfast,’ and another who throws ‘so’s‘ into every sentence he speaks.

As children, and not so young at that, we would get a kick out of mimicking the habits of the speakers at our open-pulpit church services, aping the way one always fiddled with his glasses, on-off-on-off, or how one fellow stood in a tilted pose with one brown-shoed foot stretched out so far in front of him you’d think it was 10 inches longer than the other. (It wasn’t-we checked.) Furious licking of lips, constant page flipping of their Bible, perpetual runny nose, flaring of nostrils, caterpillar-fuzzy eyebrows hopping up and down–you name every habit and quirk, we missed nothing and blew it out of proportion with glee.book

People are really individual, and they do the greatest and awfulest things. The malls are prime proof. Recently out shopping I followed behind a barely average size mother with her 6’3″ tall son walking beside her. I looked down to notice he was avoiding stepping on all the cracks in the tiled floor!

And then in the lingerie section I witnessed a young mother with her 12 year old girl and 9 year old son; she was vainly attempting to shop. The son kept squirming and running across the aisle and goofing around, the mom retrieving and admonishing him. Finally she spluttered loudly from the bra section, “If you don’t settle down and stay here I’ll make you HOLD them!” My, he was obedient after that.

All these things are story, character and scene fodder. We and the world are truly fearfully and humourously made.000 WordWeb3

Several simple things can aid us particularly in character creation. Pet peeves for example open unlimited potential. If a character has a phobia of creepy crawlies, think what you can all throw at him to put him ill at ease, or make him react out of character. Or how others can play off him. Nervous habits, limps, lisps, the trembles, a scar or birthmark can provide great distinguishing features for characters.

As you drive or ride the bus, watch out the windows consciously for odd buildings or activities. I have two marvelous places near home that I’m dying to write something smashing about. They are so spectacular in an understated way that it has to be just the right kind of story to bring them alive and do them justice. Yet I drove past them for years without giving them a second glance.

Writer’s radar, it’s great. Ideas are everywhere, we have only to be alive enough to tap into the things we see and hear all around us. Everyone does this differently. I keep snippets–photos or illustrations, singular words or phrases. Lists are a great fingertip boost and I leave you with 2 helpful links.


Rick Walton’s Brilliant lists of Phobias, Habits, Issues, Locations, Occupations & you-name-it-all.

resized by half

Awesome potential with this book. “Struggle with how to show, not tell a character’s feelings? Need help creating fresh body language that doesn’t come off as stale or cliché?
(In pdf or paperback.)

See also http://dragonflydithers.wordpress.com/diverse-debris/

Christina’s motto is:
“Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” (George Bernard Shaw)
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