Valentine’s Day is that time of year when you want to be noticed. That time of year when everything is red and beautiful and pink. That time of year when all you want is that box of chocolates the size of your body. That time of year when you see internet memes of Two Chainz, holding up his necklace, and saying in a speech bubble, “Baby, I may have two chainz, but I have only one heart.” That time of year when it’s hard. It’s hard to be alone. That time of year when sometimes murder is the only activity to get your mind off of Two Chainz, off of your own, singular heart.
“What?” you may ask. That seems like quite a jump to go from Valentine’s Day to murder. And you’d be correct. This is a paradox. A paradox allows invention and metaphor to see connections between concepts that are not immediately apparent (for example, murder and Valentine’s Day). On the surface, a connection between two unlike ideas (like love and murder) may be difficult to make. However, if the connection is strong enough, then the metaphor succeeds and the paradox begins to make sense.
This can be a useful tool in writing when you want to use a comparison between two unlike ideas to surprise or shock the reader. You just need to come up with two ideas and find an example of where and how they connect. For example, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. I think of Red. Red reminds me of Blood. If I wanted to make a shocking comparison between the ideas of “love” and “murder” to shock my readers for some reason, I might use red (the color of love and the color of blood) to make a connection between blood and Valentine’s Day: a paradox.
To do that here, I looked for an example of where blood and Valentine’s Day overlapped. (This is a good and useful method when looking to create shocking metaphors or paradoxes in your own writing: look for real life examples of how the two things you’re trying to connect have actually overlapped in real life). Here’s the example I found:
The setting is Oklahoma City in 2001. Valentine’s Day of 2001 saw a nasty snow storm in Oklahoma City. It was bleak. The wind screamed. Everyone either huddled indoors or drove their cars to whatever Valentine Day reservations they had made. This was not a time to be out and about. This was not a time to feel warm. This was not a regular Valentine’s Day.
John Hamilton was a doctor, well-respected, who lived and worked in Oklahoma city. To be a doctor, one must be comfortable with guts, with organs, with blood. To be a doctor, you need to know how to help the living be better at living. In order to know how to do this, you must know what exactly goes on inside of the body that makes it continue to breathe and function properly, and all sorts of things that can inhibit those processes and make the body sick or dead.
But, you don’t need to be a doctor to know that inhibiting the airflow from mouth to lungs will inevitably lead to loss of oxygen, and eventually, death. And you don’t need to be a doctor to know that getting hit in the head with something heavy can kill you. But let’s say you are a doctor. Let’s say you are John Hamilton, you know both of these things very well, and love is all you can think of this Valentine’s Day. Passion has overtaken your common sense, and you’re seeing red: love, and blood.
On February 14th, 2001 John Hamilton trapped his wife in the master bathroom of their family home. It was there he took his necktie (perhaps a necktie his wife, Susan, gave him as a present on one of their many shared holidays together over the years) and tied the cloth around her neck. It was then, John Hamilton, in a rage, incited out of passion, slammed a heavy object into her head. When the police arrived, they found a blood soaked room, a dead woman, and a man, who had let passion and questionable ethics change him into a Valentine’s Day Murderer.
You may be feeling a little shocked now, and rightfully so. Violent murder is often shocking. But you may also being feeling shocked by the connection between love, passion, and murder. And this is the effect of paradox. It can shock, jar, or stun the reader, and have an electric effect on your writing. I hope that I have demonstrated how to take two seemingly different ideas and connect them by using a metaphor (and a real life example) to create a paradox. The uses for this technique in writing are endless, and I’m sure you can think of interesting ways to use this in your own writing. If you have an examples or ideas, share them in the comments below!