About a year ago I wrote a post about avoiding cliché in my writing. This month’s issue of Poets & Writers brings us an article titled “Consider the Orange,” written by Benjamin Percy, which has the topic bouncing in my head again.
In the piece Percy talks about rhyming action – how certain physical things, when repeatedly correlated with an emotion in a story, come to symbolize that emotion. The example he uses is that of oranges in the Godfather movie trilogy. Oranges are seen when key characters die, to the point that subconsciously we begin to feel afraid when we see an orange.
The most interesting thing to me is Percy’s discussion of how this is done well, and not so well. A lesser writer, for example, might use stormy weather or a religious symbol to add a sense of foreboding. Uh-huh. How cliché is that? To use something like a bright piece of fruit is more or less genius.
So now I’m thinking – what could I use in my story as rhyming action? I have a smaller, but very important character who struggles with mental illness. Maybe I could have a small frog jumping around in the scenes in which he loses his cool. Okay, maybe a frog is a little distracting/strange (especially for a story set in the desert), but the overall idea of rhyming action is definitely one I’m toying with. If I did it well enough, my readers would get tense at the introduction of a frog to a scene, and not even know why…