Stories about dualities usually involve two characters. Sometimes, they’re siblings (like the Elric brothers in Fullmetal Alchemist); other times, they’re partners in crime (like Chirrut Imwê and Baze Malbus of Rogue One). They can be enemies, lovers, colleagues… so long as the story flexes between the two poles that the characters represent, the story reflects duality.

Note that I use the term duality, not binary. The two characters do form a binary. Like a plot, this character binary is the actual representation you see manifested in the narrative. The characters can take any form that makes sense to the setting and the story, but they are always distinct from one another.

The duality, however, is the narrative design behind the character choices. Each character represents a goal post. The narrative plays out between the two goals. The ends can be personality traits, or they can be limits for both characters, who may then try to find a compromise over the course of the story. It doesn’t matter what the goal posts are, nor if there’s some kind of ideology behind choosing certain goal posts. The fact that there is narrative motion between the two ends at all is what creates a story.

Reading comprehension exercises

  1. Explain the difference between narrative binaries and narrative dualities.
  2. Give an example of a story that centers on a duality.
    1. Identify the main characters.
    2. Explicate each character’s values and personality.
    3. Explain how the characters are similar to or different from one another.