One of the aspects of storytelling that makes teams popular is the fun you can have with them once the characters are established and the team is really working as a team. If you’ve written the characters as strong, contrasting individuals, putting them together in different pairings in different situations can create some great expectations (see Ray and Mick in a Russian prison, for example) and surprising reversals. And once the team has finally bonded, sending them out against a powerful adversary is more than fun, it’s like watching a Rube Goldberg machine in action, the individual moves of the team as exciting as the final outcome of them working together. Continue reading
If you think of a TV season as a novel, the episodes as chapters, you can take apart a season and see where the plot stumbled and where it hit its marks. After “Marooned,” Legends had completed six episodes of a sixteen-episode season and it was way past time for a turning point.
And now we pause for a diagram about story acts and turning points: Continue reading
The Legends team did pretty well in Russia, and they were coming together nicely when they crash-landed in 2065, and Mick wanted to stay, and Snart pressganged him back onto the ship. That’s going to be a test of character-in-action in this episode as the two most dangerous team members face a break in their long-term partnership that endangers the entire team–
Oh, look, a flashback. Continue reading
This double episode is a good team story that’s mostly a lot of fun, but before we get into why, let’s talk about plot and subplot in team stories.
Team stories are naturals for subplots because the supporting characters of the team (assuming the team leader is the protagonist) are naturals for protagonists of smaller plots that support the main conflict. The key is “support the main plot.” The main plot of Legends is about saving family, changing the past and future, risking everything for an outcome that’s worth dying for. So any subplot should echo that to reinforce it, reverse it to act as a foil or contrast, or play off of it in some other way that enhances and deepens it. Let’s look at those potential subplots, taking one team member at a time. Continue reading
I don’t know when I decided I wanted to write a team story, but it was probably somewhere during my first watch of Leverage. And then the Nita story came along and it was clearly a team story in tandem with a romance, and I realized that I didn’t know how to write teams, and then I started watching Legends of Tomorrow . . .
The thing about Legends is that its flaws are so egregious that I can easily see what not to do, but once I peel those things away, its successes are so beautifully done that I can see how they work in contrast. So while I’ll be bashing the show a lot in these posts, I’m pretty sure I’ll always love the things it does brilliantly. It turns out, it’s well worth watching if you know what to look for.
So let’s start with the pilot. It’s mostly awful. Continue reading
Have I mentioned here how important an antagonist is to shaping a plot and the protagonist’s arc? I have? Huh.
Wonder why I never remember that.
AG made me look at the Legends of Tomorrow dynamics more closely, and now I want to do a one-week binge watch. (That’s Killer, Klepto, Pryo over there in the logo.) The first season is on Netflix so if you want to watch along and you have that, you’re good. Expect a lot of bitching from me about Hawks and a truly awful antagonist, plus Rip Hunter, Worst Team Leader Ever. So why do I want to do this? I think this is a great series to look at because it fails so badly at team-building in some aspects and succeeds so brilliantly in others. Leverage is the gold standard in team story-telling, but I think I’m learning more from Legends.
So here’s the plan: Continue reading
My reference points for this story team analysis have been many and varied, but the three I’ll hit the most often in these discussions are Person of Interest, Leverage, and Legends of Tomorrow. Since we’ve binge-watched the first two here, I’m going to assume most regular readers have at least a general idea of how those teams work even if they haven’t seen the series; I’m using Legends because it’s such a sterling example of what not to do coupled with a great team hidden inside the dysfunctional larger team; I can often learn a lot more by figuring out what didn’t work than what did. Think of the following as my practice jumps before turning to Nita’s team.
Needless to say there are MASSIVE SPOILERS IN THIS ESSAY. And the shows I’m talking about are really good; you should watch first. The post isn’t that great and it’s really long and probably redundant, which is what happens when I think out loud on paper. You’re not missing anything. Go watch good story. Continue reading
If you want to know how to build a story community that’s also a team, the gold standard is Leverage.
I often learn more from failed stories than from successful ones, but I wasn’t thinking of that when I binge-watched the first season of Legends of Tomorrow this past weekend, I just wanted to catch up to Season Two. What I discovered was that there’s an excellent team buried in the character-and-plot-salad of this show. SPOILERS AHEAD.