Sunday, November 6, 2011

Juxtaposition of Relationships

Every narrative composition is about the dynamics of relationships, the interactions between characters that drive the piece forward. There are however, more elements to conveying those relationships than just the interactions between the sculpted characters.

As with any visual composition, the elements of a piece can be juxtaposed in a manner that can convey the specific dynamics of relationships. Through a manipulation of perspective and the details of a scene it is possible to emphasize ties or relationship dynamics, convey emotions and shared feelings, reveal occasions and shared history.

Ties and relationship dynamics in a composition are primarily a revealed through actions of the subjects but the details can clearly reveal similarities of physical characteristics, similar thoughts and perspectives. Choosing the appropriate details, it is possible to create a sense of unity between characters.

Ex. She pushed her way through the crowd when she saw Nick talking with someone at the back of the bar.

Photo Credit
In this example the atmosphere is crowded and suspicious but does not carry an emotional impact. If the perspective and focal points are adjusted it becomes significantly stronger.

Ex. She pushed her way through the crowd and stumbled to a halt. Nick was sitting with some redhead at the back of the bar.


Utilizing the relationship between subjects and the setting makes it possible to convey emotions and shared feelings in a subtle cohesive manner that prevents any jarring disconnections between the audience and the piece. When conveying a specific subject matter the composition is arranged to a 'telling-effect' that reveals the emotional impact rather than reactionary from the subjects.

Ex. The struggle caused the camera to slip and tumble over the side of the boat. We bolted to the railing and watched helplessly as it splashed into the water.


The entire scene is predicated on actions and the relationship between the subjects and objects in the scene. While no dialog or emotions are revealed the juxtaposition of the elements creates the emotion. The same can be created with the use of objects alone in a composition.

Ex. The light followed the red droplets along the darkened corridor only stopping when the source was revealed. A simple folding knife with dark stains on the glinting metal.

 Often compositions utilize occasions such as holidays, birthdays or other special occasions to create a sense contrast for the subject material. A more subtle use of objects and subjects in the composition is utilizing and emphasizing the shared history of the subjects. Referencing a single previous event, high school slogan years later or other telling moments.

A narrative composition is no different than a visual composition, the relationship between objects, details and subjects affect the overall piece. Choosing the appropriate emphasis, focal points and providing the right juxtaposition between the elements creates a stronger composition. Any single element can be enhanced to affect the overall piece.

4 comments:

Amber said...

You have expressed this perfectly! I love the examples you provided, and it gives the reader a chance to see how different a scene can be felt when the words are changed, even a small bit.

Thanks for this wonderful post! :)

PW.Creighton said...

Amber, thanks for the kind words and glad you liked it. Sometimes edits and revisions are nothing more than adding the right word. It's the relationship between elements that can hold the most power.

Michele Shaw said...

Proof in the power of words! The smallest changes can be HUGE. This is why I tell people I can ponder a single sentence for an hour or revise endlessly. Every change can weight a sentence differently and alter the scene!

PW.Creighton said...

Michele, thanks for the comment. That's what I love about mixing mediums, things just stand out more if you think of it differently.

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