Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yin and Yang


Yin-Yang. Yin Yang. Yinyang. You’ve seen it written many ways. The symbol is one of the most recognizable in the world. But what in the heck is it about?

As an author looking to create interesting characters, I am always on the hunt for character analysis strategies. [Read tomorrow’s blog for another tool I use.]

First a superficial intro to yin-yang. Yin-yang comes to us from the Oriental religious tradition, Taoism. It was later adopted into Chinese Buddhism and Confucianism.

Yin-yang deals with the two cosmic forces, basic forces, of the Yin (female; moon, some say earth; cold; darkness; absorption; passive) and Yang (male; sun, some say heaven; hot; light; penetration; forceful). You can tell men designed this concept, can’t you?

The yin-yang symbol is the ideal, a balance of the forces. White represents enlightenment and black represents ignorance. So, one could say, in all knowledge there exists ignorance, and in all ignorance there is some knowledge. Now that makes for some interesting book characters!

The dualities exist in real people, but too often we have trouble writing multi-dimensional characters. While in common parlance, folks often equate yin with good and yang with evil, that is not part of the philosophy. Rather, and rightly so, yin-yang is who we are as indivisible entities. Yin and yang are meant as complementary, not oppositional, to one another.

As an author, I have my protagonist. I want her to be a certain way. It’s easy to find her positive aspects. I like her, of course. So her yin, to be believable, should be what is oppositional to her finer points.

Let’s say she is driven to succeed, but she has this procrastination streak when she thinks things will be uncomfortable. She also is caring and supportive, but feels taken advantage of by some family members and is about to cut them off.

Her antagonist, on the other hand, can be quite an interesting foil if his yang pushes things through, forcing her to act when she needs to delay. He could manipulate family members to push her buttons. But his precipitous nature might cause him to make mistakes.

See how one could cast oppositional traits for oppositional characters?

You can do the same thing with characters on the same side. I tried to do that very thing with Carrie and Harlan, heroine and hero in my erotic romance, Streetwalker (published this year by Sizzler Editions). Carrie and Harlan not only have their own yin-yang thing going, but when the two are together, they create an encompassing yin-yang and the harmony completes both of them. At least for a while, until their world is shaken and they need to readjust their elements.

Look at your characters. Are they multi-dimensional? If not, consider how to deepen them with yin-yang. If nothing else, it gives you another interesting topic to present in all those interviews you’ll be giving.


  1. I look at similar emotional and physical strengths/weaknesses/needs/wants but I don't fit those like a puzzle piece to the other characters in advance. I let the story do that. I'm just aware as the author of the protagonist's issues as well as main antagonists. Great blog post, Angelica.

    1. Of course, you're right, Margie. It can only be preliminary planning because those darn characters have a mind of their own and will surprise you with what they come up with! Thanks for stopping by. I always love comments!

  2. Great post Angelica. It's a concept we in the West tend to ignore in our everyday lives.

    1. Thanks, Jianne. I agree there is so much to tap into from the world consciousness. This is just one of the life forces I use. Thanks for coming by and commenting. Hope to see you again.