Donna Rewolinski is the author of the Novice Mystery series. You can find out more about her here, see her books here, and read her last post here.
Writing a mystery series is a challenge, but it gets harder when there are two main characters working together.
When I was a teenager, I was told that Yin and Yang meant opposites, but in college I took a Tae Kwon Do class. My master was Korean born and raised. He spoke of complements. That the two sides lean on each other. They don’t compete or dominate, but rather balance each other. Their combination forms a complete circle. A smooth edge that is continuous. Unbreakable.
When writing both characters, there needs to be balance for the team, not an individual, to reach a successful conclusion and unmask the murderer. But how? Incorporating the elements of yin and yang.
Right brain and left brain. Soft and hard. Light and dark. Loud and quiet. I’ve spent a great deal of time with both characters, so that their voice is strong and distinguishable from the other. They’re a police detective and a civilian. Male and female. Husband and wife. Analytical and Intuitive. Together an unstoppable murder solving unit. Having been married to each for a long time, they’ve come to appreciate each other’s varying talents and strengths.
Yin and yang allow for each to be safe when speculating on motive, suspects, or murderer. In any situation both characters can look at the same scene, suspect, or piece of evidence, yet have different opinions on its relevance. They don’t keep score on who’s right or who’s wrong in any situation but incorporate the other’s opinion and weigh the validity of it. It’s the team that wins when the murderer is caught, not an individual.
Mystery and thriller writers pose yin and yang elements in each of their novels. There is always a crime committed and someone to reveal the perpetrator. Good and evil. Both characters can be strong, talented, and intelligent, yet move the story along with very different ideologies.
However, the biggest secret of yin and yang symbol is that small piece of one that resides in the other. That piece, I think, is respect. Each side of the symbol is aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Respect allows each half to be their best self, let their strengths shine, and provide stability together. The complete package.
Writers spend hours on believable plots, red herrings, and character development because we know our readers are smart and bring their unique gifts and observations to the situation. The yin and yang of what the writer gives the reader and the reader gives the writer. We lean on each other, appreciate each other. There is a thrill when a reader says, “I just finished your last book. When is the next one coming out?” Authors work to get the next book into the hands of the reader. It’s the never-ending circle of complementary elements.
This Post Has 13 Comments
Donna — I’ve “traveled” with you (through your books) to both Ireland and Mexico. And now I’m looking forward to France!
I agree with your assessment: “The biggest secret of yin and yang symbol is that small piece of one that resides in the other. That piece, I think, is respect.”
Thanks for giving us the lens of yin and yang. I’m going to examine everything I read (and write) through this lens now. I love the image of circle completion by one leaning on the other.
Donna, thanks for your provocative post. Seeing the value and similarities in supposed opposites, so characters can work together as a respectful, productive team–Wow! What a metaphor for life, both inside and outside a book.
Great post and it certainly made me appreciate my own characters of Ava and her best friend Pauline, as well as the pairing of Ava and her Grandpa Gil in my Fudge Shop Mystery Series. In pairs, they complement each other and strive to keep each other out of trouble and happy in life. Knowing that yin and yang dynamic has always helped my books write themselves somewhat because without the push-pull of yin and yang there would be no action plot and emotional plot.
What a wonderful perspective. Thank you for sharing it. It makes me want to go back over my characters and make sure there is balance.
Powerful insight into writing and everyday life. Thank you for sharing.
As Sherill and Avanti pointed out, your astute observation about balance within characters can and should be applied to everyday life and the differences between non-fictional people
Great post, Donna. I love how your two characters interact and it’s so rewarding to read a story with two protagonists who get along and respect each other. I also enjoy that they are middle aged with adult children and grand children, an age category that is often ignored. Thank you for this thoughtful post about balance and respect!
I appreciate your perspective so much, Donna. It gives me another aspect of my own character relationships to delve into and see how they balance one another. I think even protagonists and antagonists often share this yin and yang pairing. Thanks for making me think!
That’s one of the things I love about pairing characters – especially when I have a bit of opposites attract going on. The team is greater than the sum of the parts.
That’s a lovely way of looking at yin-yang. Opposites may attract but are not always attractable. Thinking of them as part of a circle keeps it together.
What a lovely post, Donna! Balancing ideas, characters, good and evil, helps create compelling stories.
The concept of Yin and Yang isn’t new to me, but applying it to my writing is. Thanks for your insights.