Tag Archives: dexter

Literary Devices from A to Z – Brought to you by the letter C




 is for Conflict




Conflict is what drives the plot forward. It also supports character development. Without conflict there is no story, end of story.

There are generally 3 main types of conflict authors use, person vs. self, person vs. person, and person vs. society. There are other sub-types, such as person vs. machine/technology (which could be lumped into person vs. society), person vs. the Gods (which is a type of person vs. person conflict), to name a few.

Person vs. Self

Internal monologue is a hallmark of person vs. self conflict, in which a person struggles over a decision. Quite often, the character weighs the pros and cons of his/her situation in an effort to gain control of a predicament.

He brushed away a blood-soaked lock of hair from her forehead. It left behind a copper trail. Her skin was pale, her lips and cheeks inordinately red where her makeup had clung in spite of the blood that had left her. Nigel cursed himself for the situation in which he was in. Maybe if he’d let her know how he felt, things might’ve been different. If she’d only known it was he who truly loved her, not the thug that had fired the bullet that ended her life. If she’d have known, perhaps she would have declined to follow Posner to this room because she’d worry for him and what he’d think.

Chicken or Egg: A Love Story

In this example, Nigel berates himself for not expressing his love for Paula while she was alive, a mistake he vows to correct when he travels back to a time before her death.

Person vs. Person

This type of conflict occurs when a character finds him/herself in opposition to another character. The conflict can manifest itself through dialogue, online communication, or action sequence:

He swung at her. She ducked; he clipped her on the shoulder sending her reeling. She shrugged her shoulder twice in an effort to gauge how hurt she was; seemed fine.

“We don’t have to do this, you know,” he told her.

“You should have thought of that before you threw the first punch,” she replied. She took a step forward and swung at the underside of his jaw with all the force she could muster. He intercepted the swing by grabbing her wrist. He twisted her around until he had her in a bear hug, her arms pretzeled around her midsection.

–Chicken or Egg: A Love Story

Person vs. Society

In a person vs. society conflict, a person challenges the accepted social mores of society. This frequently happens if the protagonist is an anti-hero (like Dexter Morgan of Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series) or dystopian fiction. In “Hope Floats”, the unnamed preteen protagonist goes against society when he leaves the confines of his underground community in search of food, something only “paws”, adult males, do:

I climbed out from the rubble to feel sunshine on my face for the first time in a while, I don’t remember how long. I know how to keep time, that’s not the problem. It’s just that these days we tend to rely on the maws and paws to keep track for us. It’s their responsibility to tell us when we’ve had too much of anything. Too much sleep. Too much fun. As if I’m not old enough to figure that out on my own.

Leave your comments below. Describe a memorable conflict. What kind was it? What genre was it?

Dexter Meets Nancy Drew

Dexter Meets Nancy Drew

Harper Curtis squats in a house, the owner dead and rotting in the hallway. In his pocket he finds a key. When he uses the key in the front door, he is taken to whatever time he imagines. He returns later to bludgeon the owner, thus coming full circle in the timeline. Harper travels through time looking for his “shining girls”, girls that emit an aura-like light that he alone can see. He finds them as children, making contact with them when he does, promising to return again, sometime in the future. When he finds them as adults, he brutally slays them, leaving with them a souvenir from a previous kill. The book opens with Harper gifting Kirby a small, plastic horse, years before the date left behind by the mould on the bottom off the horse’s foot. He returns later to murder Kirby, but unbeknownst to Harper, she survives and devotes most of her adult life to bringing Harper to justice. Harper’s hubris in leaving behind these anachronistic souvenirs is what eventually helps Kirby orchestrate his undoing.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is part Dexter’s evil twin, part grown-up Nancy Drew in the perfect combination. It’s been a while since I’ve read a page-turner, and The Shining Girls is a mesmerizing one at that. Beukes’ prose is literary and compelling. Her tone is gritty and dark, whether from Harper, the murderer’s, Kirby, the victim’s, or Dan, the reporter’s points of view. Whether depression, disco, or near-twenty-first century, Buekes’ story makes the era come to life. I love time travel as a plot device, but it must be done right. I need to know about the technology that transports the characters from one time to the next. Beukes chooses to make the device a psychic key, of sorts. Beyond the question of how the original owner obtains it (which is told in the final chapter), the reader is too caught up in the lives of the characters to question it’s true origin (i.e., from where or whom it originated in all time and how it got its power), which is a credit to the author, as I thought this would hang me up and sour me on the novel altogether; it didn’t.

Like The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Shining Girls is one of those novels I can see myself returning to in the future (no pun intended) to read and re-read before I am able to grasp all of the subtle nuances of the manuscript. And I will do this with gusto.

Graphic from http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16131077-the-shining-girls

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

The Anti-hero

I love Dexter, be it reading Jeff Lindsay’s novels or watching the television series. It was weird at first, rooting for the bad guy, but the more I read/watched, the more I realized that “bad” had shades of grey. Lately, many shows feature protagonists who are more anti-hero than hero. Take ABC’s Once Upon a Time, for example. It’s no secret that my favourite character on that show is Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold, a man who killed his wife, chopped a man’s hand off, held a woman hostage, and beat an old man with his cane, twice. Through it all, I root for him. I feel the loss of his son, the anguish in his love affair with Belle, the plunging psyche as he picked up the remains of his prized possession, the chipped cup, from the hospital floor. Scandal is another example. Olivia and her team have murdered, stolen, and lied. Olivia herself is in an affair with a married man and was involved in rigging votes in the last presidential election. Is it wrong to want to see her and Fitz together? To want Fitz to remain blind to her conspiracy? To want Mellie to die in childbirth? To love Cyrus for calling off the gun for hire he’d paid to murder his own husband to keep the secret buried?

For two weeks now, I’ve been watching FX’s The Americans. The premise is intriguing: Russian spies carrying out covert missions while posing as the all American family. As I watched this week’s episode, I questioned my interest in the show. Talk about anti-heroes? Elizabeth and Phillip pose as heads of a nuclear family, living out the American Dream in their house in the suburbs with their son and daughter. Last week, they used their garage to store the spy that raped Elizabeth during her training in the trunk of their car. This week, Elizabeth poisoned an innocent college student and the two blackmailed his mother for the cure. Elizabeth played the nurse to the boy while Phillip beat up the uncle, broke his hand, strong-armed the mother, and nearly suffocated the boy to get what he wanted, which was for the mother to plant a bug in a politician’s office. As I watched, I thought, “How horrible. I don’t even think I like these characters.” Then Phillip sat in his car after suffocating the boy and nearly cried while Elizabeth consoled him. I won’t say I root for him as I do Dexter, but I think I watch to put together the glimpses of humanity. So long as the gruesome brutality is balanced with the humanity, I may continue to watch.

I am no stranger to television brutality. Shows like True Blood, Vampire Diaries, and Walking Dead are full of it, but the macabre is acceptable, almost expected, given that the characters are vampires and werewolves and hunters and zombies and just trying to survive. Shows like this don’t bother me much. What I find horrific is when the monsters are human, drawing blood for nothing more than the horror of it. Dexter, I understand. He witnessed his mother brutally murdered in front of him as a toddler. Dexter’s impulses are born of blood. He knows what he does is wrong. Unable to quash his compulsion, he has found a way to control it instead, killing only those who deserve to be killed. Not the same for Joe Carroll on Fox’s The Following, who gets others to kill for him a la Charles Manson. I can’t figure out why he does what he does other than the fact that he can. American Horror Story is another show that pushes the blood-soaked threshold, but it does so with a subtle irony and hidden horror stereotype allusions that elevate it from horrific bloodbath to interestingly compelling.

The line between good and evil has blurred for the traditional superhero types as well. Gone are the days in which the hero does good both in and out of their costumes, like Batman or Superman. Today’s heroes fall nothing short of human. This week’s Arrow, for example, showed Oliver brutalizing his own mother for answers. On Person of Interest, Detective Carter often bends and/or breaks the law to save Reese and Finch. Even the president of the United States is not exempt—this week’s Scandal saw Fitz murder Verna in her hospital bed to prevent the jury tampering secret from getting out. Gone are the days of good and evil, of black and white; welcome to the days of anti-heroism and shades of grey.  

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!