Fear in Writing: Strange Combinations

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Strange Combinations

So Snow White Barbie was riding in a Transformer dump truck...
Yep.  That's how my morning began.  An interesting combination, don't you think?

In literature, sometimes the most compelling partnerships are the ones that seem mismatched.  Think The Da Vinci Code--dead bodies among some of the most precious, highly protected art in the world.  Or Christopher Fowler's detectives, Bryant & May--Bryant dabbling in the strange and the occult to solve crimes, May following logic, reasoning, and more traditional methods.  Or even Holmes and Watson--their talents certainly complemented each other, but they were very different in character and approach.

My husband and I watched a new show the other night--'The Good Guys' with Tom Hanks' son, Colin Hanks, and Bradley Whitford of 'The West Wing' fame.  In summary, an old-school, drunk of a cop (Whitford) gets young, preppy (Hanks) into crazy action to solve petty crimes-that-turn-big.  The villains were comical when need-be, the storyline was interesting, and the conflict between the detectives was definitely ON.
These characters worked because of their opposite traits.  They played off each others' weaknesses, and ended up forming a bond of crazy partnership.  (The show is not Emmy material, but it's entertaining, especially where Whitford is concerned.)

You may not have a team of detectives at the helm of your book, but you probably have two characters who interact and conflict.  Did you intentionally make them alike or very, very different?  Do you count on strange combinations like Snow White Barbie and Transformer Dump Truck to entice your readers?

*Sorry, I couldn't find a picture of my son't Transformer dump truck.  The above is a substitution, Optimus Prime Battle Blaster. I know you all care about accuracy. :)


  1. It's true, great combination characters and opposites are the best. I haven't see the show but I want to now.


  2. True. I think that was what was so appealing about that sitcom years ago - The Odd Couple.

  3. Yes, Barbie on a transformer truck looks cool. But what would Ken say about that >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  4. Clarissa- It's a great summer show--funny, new, people you recognize.

    JL- I thought of them, too! I love me some Jack Lemmon.

    Cold- Good point. Or, in this case, the Prince-Without-A-Name.

  5. One of my favorite mystery-solving odd couples is Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin -- not only do their personalities clash, but the characters themselves come from two separate traditions in mystery fiction. (I'm also a huge fan of Bryan & May, thanks for including them!)


  6. My two main characters possess some major differences, but what brings them together is their similarities.

    The Good Guys reminds me of Dragnet.

    And what's wrong with putting Barbie in a dumptruck?

  7. Strange bedfellows always make for the most interesting stories...so that's the way I lean.

  8. Strange combinations make for unpredictability, which is great. All my favorite cop movies have mismatched partners--Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, and Hot Fuzz. That one is truly hilarious.

  9. Yes. Think of Jerry Seinfeld and George Castanza. Jerry was Mr. Cool and George was, well, George. The relationship between my protagonist Chase and his best friend Bennie are somewhat similar. And they are able to play off each other.

    Stephen tremp

  10. Yep, definitely. And I didn't do it on purpose. It's as if one character filled in the holes of the other - like they knew to move together to create something more balanced. Our characters are ourselves, I reckon. So likely we create in characters who we want to be - and who we really are.

    - Corra

    from the desk of a historical writer

  11. Opposites make for plenty of conflict! I'm sure Snow White would be trying to clean up the dump truck while the Transformer is trying to save the world. Loads of conflict there! :)

  12. Chris- I just read my first Bryant & May book and, though I was a little underwhelmed by the two characters, the author came on here and politely encouraged me to read further. I was impressed with his writing and will definitely do so! Sadly, I have yet to read a Nero Wolfe--crazy, huh?

    Alex- Putting Barbie in a dump truck is perfect! That strange combination is exactly what I'm talking about. I'm sure the conflict between your characters adds something to the book...

    DL- What are you saying about your wife? :P

    Lorel- Definitely makes for great humor. Always cops...interesting.

    Stephen- Similar to no good without evil, one character's bad traits can highlight the good of another, and so on.

    Corra- I've thought about that, characters being ourselves. In fact, I left a plotline and characterization b/c I was making it too much like myself. But do we slip in subconsciously? Probably. Another great post idea here, I think.

    Elizabeth- And in the end, the cleanliness of the truck would be the saving trait! Love it.

  13. That is very true about the success of unlikely combinations. I haven't actually thought about it but it's something I should probably consider in fiction. Hmm Snow White in the dump truck doesn't seem so bad.. :P

  14. Culture- Of course, one doesn't want to write it just to write it...it has to fit. But definitely worth watching out for while reading and creating characters!