One of my favorite books, Something Wicked This Way Comes, derives a measure of energy from two of its protagonists being opposites.
Jim Nightshade is brash, adventurous, seeking danger, half in love with the dark promise of the autumn carnival. Will Halloway is thoughtful, sensitive to the danger in the air, yet somehow more innocent because of it.
All of this is expressed in exquisite, visual prose which fires the imagination, much of which might be lost to modern edits.
Opposites were depicted in a very different way in Naruto, a pair of contrasting characters I became quite obsessed with. Uzumaki Naruto is open, hot tempered, and thinks with his heart while Uchiha Sasuke is reserved, cold, and thinks with his head. The two of them act as foils for each other, their relationship coming to dominate the overall plot.
Inspired by these examples. I’ve developed my own pair of opposites; Danyel and Tayel of my Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest stories.
Danyel is curious, drawn to the mysterious, even while he frightened of it. He’s sensitive to the vulnerability of the shadows, the fact that many of these creatures were once people.
This gets him into trouble as his twin, Tayel, always feared it would.
Tayel has no curiousity. He senses too much in the darkness. He doesn’t want to sense more. He doesn’t even like asking questions about it, for questions open Doors through which something scary might peer though. He prefers to talk in riddles when his brother asks him about what he sees, lurking in the shadows. He fears Danyel’s questions will get him into trouble.
Danyel and Tayel are different than Will and Jim or Naruto and Sasuke, yet there’s a similarity in the way they conflict with each other, growing all the closer because of their opposition. It’s part of their journey, how their relationship changes as it is tested, and is all the stronger for the obstacles it faces.
The opposition generates conflict, which feeds the plot. The characters move forward, propelled by their opposition, to face the problems which lie in wait for them, developing their way through them.
I’ve felt the momentum, watching Will and Jim running to confront their challenges, seeing Naruto and Sasuke fight their way through theirs. I’ve created this energy myself, pitting Danyel and Tayel against each other, seeing them slam against the Doors, shadows, and menaces which await them.
It’s a powerful source of energy, opposites.
How about you, dear readers and writers? Do you have any favorite opposites you’ve enjoyed seeing in some form of story? Have you ever created such a pair yourself?