Saturday, October 8, 2011

Your Team

Lately, I've been examining a lot of visual story-telling formats. Cinema, television, graphic novles, comics, anime, manga--and I've always had a soft spot for what I call simply "teams".

We all know the teams--they're grouped together for some greater purpose, and each one of them is a unique individual instead of a faceless nothingness.

There's a formula to these teams, I'm noticing, that the most sucessful stories that use the team format use. I could be completely off base on this, but I doubt it. I thought I would share it here, since it interests me and I hope it will interest you.



  1. The Number: The ideal number of people for this team seems to be from 5-8 individuals. Traditionally, 6-7 is the number used. Look at the Power Rangers (it's successful, so deal with it). They rarely have more than 6 members. "The Magnificent Seven", "Seven Samurai", and "The League of Extraoridnary Gentlemen" all use 7 (Except the graphic novel "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", which uses 6.). "Watchmen" uses 5 core members to their team. "Fullmetal Alchemist" has 7 homunculi. Even less obvious examples of the team ("Ouran High School Host Club" comes to mind.) stick generally to that 5-8 rule. That doesn't mean it's hard and fast, but it seems to work for the big names--why not give it a try?

  2. The Skills: Not only are all of the characters unique in their personalities, but they always bring something to the team that the other members don't. Sometimes it's completely idiotic and shallow, as in the Power Rangers (different major weapons), but sometimes it's actually useful, as in the dynamic differences in "Ouran High School Host Club". Their goal (see below) is to please their customers, and each one of them brings something different to the plate. One is strong and manly, one is calculating, one is traditionally handsome, one is just adorable, the twins are mischiveous, and they have one natural rookie. Again, though, this isn't an absolute. Look at "Seven Samurai". Several of them are nothing more than good swords, they have one archer, a strategist, and one guy that's impulsive about the things he does. But, you have to have some variance, either in skill or personality.

  3. The Personalities: You thought I forgot, didn't you? Yes, there are certain personalities that seem to pop up fairly regularly throughout this sort of team dynamic. You often have said impulsive character, who is usually naive, and someone more intelligent to temper that passion with logic. Someone rebellious and someone that adheres to the rules. You often have someone with a completely self-serving set of actions, which may or may not end up benifiting the team as a whole. A loner, a sweetheart, a flirt, a vixen--and all of these can be combined into any number of characters...though I don't reccomend having a flirty, logical, impulsive, strict, rebellious, self-serving, loner-sweetheart-vixen--that just makes you look like a bad writer.

  4. The Goal: This is why your team has been brought (or forced) together. Our Host Club friends are together to serve as escorts for youg ladies. The Seven Samurai are there to fend off the barbarians from the village. The Thundercats and the Power Rangers are both there to protect the world from evil and destruction in whichever form it's decided to take this time around. Whatever this goal is, they all have to be behind it, at least to some extent, at some point in the story.

  5. The Relationships: This is the easiest part--or the hardest. Why do these people get along or not? How do they get along? What about your loner? What's the deal there? I'd worry about leaving someone alone too long in a group--you might not wake up the next morning if they feel excluded. Who wants to go out? Who is going out? Who's married? Who's related? Who does the horizontal mambo? Who used to do the horizontal mambo, but doesn't do it anymore? And on and on and on. Look at "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". Allan Quatermain uses Tom Sawyer as a replacement for his son, and views Mina Harker as more or less in the way. At the same time, Captain Nemo is his equal. Dorian Gray and Mina Harker used to tangle the sheets. Dr. Jekyll has to deal with Mr. Hyde...which is another thing entirely. Sawyer wants to get it on with Mina, and everyone loves our resident Invisible Man--most of the time.

That's all it is. Take it or leave it, but that's the formula I've discovered through research and observation. If nothing else, I hope it was interesting to read.


Voss

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