| I know, it sounds obvious – the power of opposites – but it really is worth breaking down the features of opposites to gain one of the most powerful writing tools you can have. Here’s three big reasons why I love opposites:The human condition is built with opposites. As in masculine and feminine, we know that opposites attract.
Opposites also make each other pop. The features of one are vibrantly clear when seen next to their opposite.
And finally, knowing what drives opposites allows writers to build each world and play with the tension between them.
The first time I really understood the importance of opposites was watching a hero story where the lead was impossibly good at everything. It was boring. Then I noticed how good writers put a coward next to a hero as seen in The Matrix. The action of the hero is so much more exciting when we see another character in the same situation but unable to stand the pain. This is using the opposites of shadow and light – good and evil. This pair of opposites is a matter of degree. They both are striving to deal with fear but they are on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as hitting the mark.
There are also opposites in kind. Heroes are learning to push back against fear and extend the boundaries of their mortality. A hero finds something worth dying for and takes the risk to get the job of preserving it and protecting it done. The song Let Her Go by Passenger is on this theme of seeing the world in terms of what you don’t want.
Virgin characters awaken to what they love and pull it into their life. They find the courage to fully live. Putting this kind of opposite next to each other creates energy – which is very compelling.
The masculine Warrior King uses his life to make the feminine safe to walk the Earth. Feminine Lovers lead the masculine to their souls and their connection to Source (this is my archetypal version of a Cherokee proverb).
I think this touches on another key feature of creating the opposite dynamics. One is externally focused as in fighting off in-coming dangers – real physical problems. The other is internally focused and cares about connection to your authentic voice and levels of happiness. These characters are always asking “do I feel I belong here? Who do I really love? How do I say what I really feel?” And they create the space for others to do the same.
Image by imagery majestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This brings us to another fundamental difference in opposite pairs. One believes in the importance of being objective and unemotional. It’s not personal, it’s business. The other trusts their feelings and takes action based on their intuition.
The last fundamental opposites is in the way a person faces two alternatives. Have you ever noticed how some people think in terms of either/or and some people default to “what if it is both!?” (which I call ‘and’ thinking). These are two fundamentally opposite ways of facing the world. Either/or is left brain and And is right brain thinking. Apparently we are all capable of both but we tend to default to one or the other. You can use this fact to create characters that will spark with each other until they learn to see the value in what is opposite to their natural tendancy.
So here it is in a nut shell. The opposites share these root features:
Pulling in pushing back
Internally driven externally driven
And thinking either/or thinking
Whenever you want to build more energy between characters try putting these opposite qualities into situations or dialogue.
Happy Writing !