Thinking about complex numbers some more, especially in the wake of my “Sweet Popcorn Gal” story, which obliquely alluded to them, I wonder whether the general structure of the plane of complex numbers can be used as a way to map out psychology in fiction.
To the East we would find the positive real, representing all that is good and noble in a character’s actions. To the West is the negative real, representing the moments when a character acts in a shameful or cowardly manner. But why restrict ourselves? After all, in fiction the real can combine with the imaginary.
To the North is the positive imaginary, a place where our character thinks good and noble thoughts. But to the South lies the negative imaginary, a fearful place where the soul explores its darkest inner urges.
But it is only when we wander from these two perpendicular paths that our character becomes truly complex.
The Northeast and Southwest are fairly simple places. The former is reserved for our saints — noble characters performing noble deeds. In the latter dwell their opposite, the cardboard villian, whose evil actions stem from evil thoughts.
But the Northwest is truly interesting, a place reserved for those unfortunate souls who find themselves doing evil, even though they are pure and noble of heart.
And the Southeast is the most fascinating of all complex places, a realm where evil and damaged souls wander about doing good, and making a better place of the world around them.