Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why you should start your own gang

Fictional gang, that is. Like these famous ones: the nine members of the fellowship of the Ring in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Luke Skywalker's allies in Star Wars. Or, a more recent example, the gang of superheros in the Avengers movie.

Many famous books/movies feature a "gang". Three Musketeers, the Outsiders, Robin Hood, even Twilight. Just about any sitcom. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, features an unusual threesome gang. The gang has a broad appeal because we get to see different strengths work together, and see different personalities clash.

I think another reason why we like gangs is that if you have four or five characters thrown together in an adventure, there's a real variety of personalities, and with that variety, a greater chance of us identifying (seeing ourselves) in one or more of the members.

Most of us love archetypes: the hero (Luke Skywalker), his wise mentor (Obi-Wan), his side-kicks (Han Solo and Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO), the damsel in distress (Princess Leia in the first movie). With a gang, you get all the archetypes in close proximity, playing off each other - it adds to the fun!

I recently read Scarlet, by A.C. Gaughen, a young adult version of the Robin Hood legend - with an interesting twist. Here's the "gang" members in this version:

You've got Robin - the leader, with a background of tragedy and mystery
Little John - his boisterous, brawling side kick
Friar Tuck - the irresponsible fun seeker or prankster (he was expelled from his order for being disrespectful)
Much - the trustworthy confidante
Maid Marian -  she's kind of the wild card - appears different in every new rendition of the legend
Will Scarlet - the fixer, the worrier - in this case, the twist is Scarlet is a girl and adds a whole new dynamic to Robin Hood's gang

This book really opened my eyes to how useful a gang can be to creating a memorable story. A lively banter can make you feel like you are part of the gang, and that's just what Scarlet excelled at. Here's a great example:
[John] looked at me with a smile. "So, you're back." 
I laughed. "Not for you, John Little." 
He looked like I slapped him. 
"Just because you kissed me don't mean I'm your girl none," I told him. 
I heard Much chuckle, and John stepped closer to me. "Maybe I wasn't asking you to be my girl." 
"I'm nobody's bit of fun either," I told him, right serious 'bout that. I went toward the fire, and John threw up his arms.  
"What does that mean, Scar?" he asked me. 
"I guess we'll have to see." 
Rob and Much both laughed at this, and John glared at them. "Will one of you talk to her?" 
Rob shook his head. "I don't get on the wrong side of a lady thief." 
"Well, how am I supposed to get on the right side of her?"

Besides the interesting twist to Robin Hood's gang, and the great banter, there'a lot of other reasons why I recommend this book (see my full Goodreads review). 

What's your favorite fictional "gang"?  And oh - here's a chance to win your choice of any fictional gang you want - or any book at all, for that matter. My friend Miss Jack Lewis Baillot is giving away a $20 gift card to Barnes and Noble (extended to May 18th), just leave a comment here.

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