Most people are familiar with the yin yang or taijitu symbol representing the balance of two opposites with a portion of the opposite element on each side. Together they create a whole.
I’ve never really been a huge believer in clear-cut good and evil, always believing people were multisided, ever-changing, and unpredictable. So, when I created the characters in Immortal Zero, I wanted every person I created to be complex on some level. I wanted everyone to walk that line between good and evil.
The main characters, Leona Almadzi and Leas Steele were designed to represent those two sides and how blurred those lines can get. When introducing them, I used opposing descriptions of their settings to set that tone immediately. Desert versus rainy coastline. Hot, cold. Dry, wet.
But I needed them to have immediate similarities too: grey eyes, female, authority. As the story progresses, I begin to explore those opposing natures on a deeper level by slowly revealing parts of their personality or how they react to things that come up.
We start out believing that Leona is honorable and famous, and that Leas is not. As I dig deeper into their characters, I try to pull out the bits that muddle that vision more and more. I want them to be ambiguous. I want readers to question if they think one person is good or bad, and why they think that. I want people to question my characters motives for doing something as much as I do, or as much as I would question someone in my life – including myself.
Then there are mistakes. If you’re human, you make them. There’s been several times where I try to sweep it under the rug and hope nobody notices. And there’s also been moments when I own it. Both times I usually attempt to fix it, regardless if someone has noticed or not. When I was younger, I might have even tried to blame someone else.
As an honorable character, when Leona makes mistakes, I expect her to either own it and attempt to fix it most of the time, unless the solution is outside her control. But there’s been a few times she’s surprised me. Does this make her a bad person?
On the other hand, we would expect Leas to lie and cheat her way through everything, including throwing people down for her mistakes. Instead, there are several times when she faces what she has done and, in some cases, takes the blame for something she hasn’t. Does this make her good?
The thing that really stood out to me while learning about yin yang wasn’t that these two opposing forces exist in unison, but that the difference between them is merely perceived that way. The moral judgements are perceptual, not real; and so, the duality of yin and yang exists.
So, what I consider good and bad may not be the same as what someone else considers good and bad. Our moral scope is skewed and tuned by our experiences in our past and the people who have impressed upon us. Therefore, we can never truly say that something is good or truly say that something is bad. It remains subjective. Some would use their religion or faith as a compass here, but I won’t touch on any of that here.
I suppose one way to tell if someone is good or bad – at least from my perspective – is to carefully weigh everything from the day they were born to the day they die. But even then, my moral compass is my own. Perhaps they lived their life honorably by their standards and I don’t agree. Maybe they were walking a path I couldn’t fully understand because of my lack of experience or missing information.
If they’re human, it’s easy misunderstand their motives and misjudge them. Which brings me to the main Immortals of the series.
The Immortals, Isus and Zero, is another way yin yang turns up in the story. Only since I’m not confined by human morality and psychology, I can really make them as extreme as I want in any direction and – since they are gods – the humans of the world would never understand their motives.
Their backstory was inspired by Jukihu and Juracan from the Taino Arawak nation from South America. These were two twin sons born of Atabex – or mother nature – and they personify order and chaos. I’ll be going deeper into this on another post as there’s lots to talk about when it comes to this idea, but I just wanted to pull it in briefly for now. Order and chaos, like yin yang, are neither good or bad and each exist together. But the extremes of one or the other is not exactly desirable by our human standards, and I get to explore this in the series to some extent.
The concept of yin yang through the series runs through the characters and the Immortals and inspired the relationships that exist between them. There are other minute examples of yin yang through the books, but I don’t want to give too much away. See if perhaps you can see them on your own.