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A Rag-tag Team of Misfits July 13, 2010

Posted by laurenrobbins6 in writing.
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courtesy of amazon.com

 

I would just like to preface this post with the fact that I like spotting patterns. I love trends and seeing the similar in the seemingly dissimilar. In fact, the subject for my thesis arose out of this very habit. Too many times, I saw Jules Verne pitting his English characters against his French characters for it to just be a coincidence. And why was it that every single biographer called him a science fiction writer when the term did not even exist in the late 1800s?

Anyway, a little while ago, I amused myself by watching science fiction tv series…as procrastination from this same thesis. The pattern in the really good sci-fi series in space (and I’m talking about Firefly, Buck Rogers, and Farscape in particular) is that a rag-tag team of misfits outside of the law serve justice, protect the innocent, and have some pretty cool moves (not surprisingly, this also applies to westerns).

That, of course, is an easy comparison to spot. However, on closer inspection, you can see that even character roles are repeated. In these particular shows, the main character is a man with a high level of integrity and (in Buck Rogers and Farscape) is even a stranger in a strange land. Inevitably, there is the love triangle, the androgynous but brilliant sidekick (sometimes a robot, sometimes an alien), the gung-ho, trigger happy guy, and, of course, the character of the ship itself.

This pattern can also be seen in the early Star Wars movie (and by this point I think that I’ve revealed that I’m a huge geek). The rag-tag team in that example is made up of Han solo (the gung-ho trigger happy guy) the wookie (the androgynous, most alien-like one), and Luke Skywalker (debatably the main character with a high-level of integrity). And, of course, it exibits the classic love triangle with the only woman on board.

The point of this rant is that this set of patterns also occurs  in fiction (written fiction) with many different genres. Most commonly, I’m thinking of mystery. A really good mystery will throw out a red herring or two and just when you have your suspicions, the real culprit emerges–the bad guy becomes the good guy and the good guy becomes the bad guy. For me, at least, mystery is a very hard genre to write in because it takes a lot of planning ahead in novel structure–something I don’t do well. However, once you pick up on the patterns of the genre, it’s easy to have a starting point.

In later posts, I plan to look at the patterns of more genres. Please comment if you have a suggestion!

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