“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” -Phil Jackson
I’ve been “married to the Army” for twenty-five years and have witnessed my share of team dynamics throughout my husband’s career. Watching military members come together for a mission, military spouses united in supporting families, or the civilian community committed to encourage and provide for families who are separated by state lines and deployments, it has inspired me to build this dynamic into my own stories.
In my new book, Lights Out, creating my team for the SNAP Agency was one of best parts of writing this series. Here are some of the guidelines I follow when creating a team or community of characters withing a story:
Individuality: No two people are the same, so when creating your characters remember that their uniqueness is what’s going to make them shine and your scenes are that much better when you “force” them together. Whether they’re planning the next step to catch the villain or simply need to make a decision for dinner, every character should have an opinion…and opinions create tension. Speaking of tension—unique doesn’t always have to mean likeable. Nothing creates better tension in a story than awkward quirks that drive another character batty. Use those opportunities to show character development and up the tension throughout.
Commonality: What unites a team or community? Catching the bad guy and making the world a safer place or coming together to support the local shop owner, or church pastor, or single mom, the sharing of interests is what gives the team or community their best chance at success. However, don’t forget that even with a common interest, those unique personalities are going to bring added tension when they disagree—and they should disagree—making your readers worry, and that is the emotional investment you want.
Functionality: Whether it’s on a team or in the community, every character you bring on scene should have a purpose and I don’t just mean their external skillset. Is there a detail-oriented character who’s always pulling the reins on the impulsive character? Is there an encourager among the group that when things go badly, they’re the one who lifts the team’s spirits and reminds them to keep going? Each character should bring something to the story no one else does that can contribute in a functional way to develop the plot and the other characters.
No matter the genre, my favorite stories have a team or community who come together to support each other through the good, bad, and ugly. Similar to the experience I’ve had as a military spouse for nearly three decades, it’s a reminder of the best in humanity and that’s a story worth telling.
She loves connecting on social media, sharing her love of books, cooking, and traveling.
Natalie comes from a long line of military and law enforcement veterans and is passionate about supporting them through volunteer work, races, and writing stories that affirm no one is defined by their past.
Learn more at www.nataliewalterswriter.com.