Friday, March 04, 2011

Character Archetypes: The X-Files had them

by Jamie Freveletti

I was unable to write today due to the need to allow workmen in to replace our water heater. Bored and in a wish to drown out the banging from the lower level, I flipped on the television and found an old rerun of an X-files episode. I used to watch this show religiously back when it was new and I was working as a lawyer. Now, as a writer, I was struck by the broad, but classic, archetypes used by the creators.

There's Mulder, who believes in supernatural and alien forces, and who's mind is always open to the impossible and unique.

Scully, who's scientific and has an earthly explanation that not only makes sense, but is designed to give Mulder the opportunity to shine with his own, eccentric view.

And there are the evil forces. The Smoking Man, nameless government forces, and of course, the aliens.

What I loved about watching this show again was the character of Scully. She ushered in a series of smart women on television. She was pretty, worked hard, tough when she needed to be, but not shrill. She had a lot of sympathy for Mulder, and ends up loving him toward the end of the series.

The relationship between Scully and Mulder, before they hooked up, was one that I imagine most working men and women recognize. Friends, but not really, business colleagues, but a bit more, caring but not family in the traditional sense. They pulled together to get the job done.

This dynamic is present in a lot of buddy teams--Holmes/Watson comes to mind, but I'm sure there are more--the names are escaping me at the moment. I have teams in my thrillers also, although the main character acts alone, which is a key difference. A team with diametrically opposed characters provide built in conflict. It must have been a lot easier for the writers on the show to write the episodes week after week because they could count on a few minutes of Scully and Mulder battling it out over his, (to her) absurd take on the latest mystery. In fact, I found myself eagerly awaiting the moment when Mulder would go on an alien tear and Scully would start ripping apart his theory with scientific knowledge.

Great stuff, and I'm reminded to put this in my own writing.

Now if I could just remember those other teams in literature!

16 comments:

Dana King said...

The relationship between Ed Loy and Tommy Owen in Declan Hughes's books is fascinating. Far from the killer sidekick, Tommy is a leaky vessel Ed is often forced to rely on. The results can be funny, frustrating, or terrifying, but never formulaic.

Another fascinating due can be found right here in the Outfit: Ray Didgeon and Gravedigger Peace. Nothing formulaic about them, but you never quite know how a meeting is going to come out.

Not that there's anything wrong with the borderline psycho sidekick. There a lot of mileage to be had from Soenser and Hawk, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, Charlie Parker and Louis, and Patrick Kenzie and Bubba.

Jamie Freveletti said...

Patrick Kenzie and bubba? Do tell!

nike free run 2 said...

The results can be funny, frustrating, or terrifying,

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