The Yin and Yang of Character.

In Chinese philosophy the concept of yin - yang means dark and light, used to describe how opposite or contradictory forces are connected. This concept lies at the heart of traditional Chinese medicine, and even martial arts. Dark and light, female and male, low and high, cold and hot, water and fire, earth and air— all are thought of as manifestations of yin and yang. This is because they believe light cannot exist without darkness, and we all know men have their feminine side and women a masculine one.

In the 2nd century Confucious apparently attached a moral dimension of good and evil, although the modern sense of Yin-Yang stems from Buddhist adaptations of Taoist philosophy which generally discounts good/bad distinctions, preferring the concept of balance. They insist that yin and yang are not so much in opposition as complementary opposites, a part of a dynamic whole. But we in the west love to say there’s a little bit of evil in every good, or a little bit of dark in every light, and vice versa. And it is an excellent way of viewing character. How do we start to develop a character using this idea?

FIRST: Think of the chief character trait and choose a keypoint characteristic. 

Make a list of all the positive aspects of it. And then the negative. You can make these into a vice-virtue wheel, or just do a list.

E.g: Independent

Positive aspects:
Free thinking
Often quite courageous

Negative aspects:
Won’t always accept help or listen to advice
Proud, even arrogant at times
May find it hard to accept failure

NEXT: Now ask questions: 

What does the character want?
What is his/her aim or goal?
Why does he/she want it?
What is the source of his/her motivation?
Why does he/she behave as she does?

There must be obstacles to prevent him/her achieving their goal.

Conflict is the stuff of fiction. External conflict will come from other characters, fate, events and incidents that you the author throws at her. But her keypoint characteristic will determine how she deals with them. The negative side of the keypoint characteristic is the flaw, the inner conflict that is preventing him/her from achieving their goal. But the positive aspect of this trait should hopefully help to overcome them.

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