Story Tropes – Building a Team


Some of my favorite stories revolve around establishing a team of misfits that come together to accomplish an impossible task. Whether that goal is to pull off the biggest heist in Vegas history (Ocean’s 11), or you want to win the Battle of the Bands (School of Rock), finding the right person to fill each role is important.

One of my latest “favorite-movies-of-all-time” is the recent rendition of The Magnificent Seven. It stars a couple of my favorite actors: Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. Washington is a duly-sworn warrant officer, looking to take out the trash of the Wild West, and Pratt is a gambler, gun-slinger, and self-proclaimed “World’s greatest lover.” They’re hired on to fight a villainous land grabber, who is driven by wealth and power.

Another of my “favorite-movies-of-all-time” is the 13th Warrior with Antonio Banderas. Banderas is a first century Arabic liaison to the northern tribes of Europe. While attending the funeral of a king, news arrives from the Viking homeland detailing the need for warriors. When an oracle proclaims that the thirteenth warrior for this voyage will be no Norseman, Banderas’ ill-equipped ambassador is thrown into the fight. It also has a sweet Norse death prayer. If you haven’t seen it: find it, watch it, love it!

The story-piece that attracts me to these kind of stories is two-fold: First off, I love a story about answering a call to action. I love seeing a character who has never held a sword, not yet mastered his Defense Against the Dark Arts class, or won’t touch a gun because “bad things happen”, these characters touch their destiny when they realize they are the solution and they rise up to make it happen. In most of these “team” stories, the likelihood of survival is pretty much nothing, but they push on in spite of the odds. It really stirs something inside me.

The second thing that I love about the “team-building” story type, is seeing characters from conflicting walks of life interact. It’s messy, and doesn’t always work. Most of the characters in The Magnificent Seven would shoot each other on sight if it wasn’t for their goal of protecting those who needed them. One character jokes about his grandfather dying to defend the Alamo, while the other jokes that maybe his own grandfather is the one who shot him. When a Native American in full war paint rides into a campsite full of cowboys, everyone is on edge.

The Gospels in the Bible feature a team building story that takes on several of these team building characteristics. Jesus has a mission, and He knew He needed a team to help him accomplish his goals. He grabs a bunch of misfits who believe in the mission, and establishes the Twelve Disciples. You can see several times in the Bible where these men probably didn’t get along all the time. They were fishermen, zealots, tax collectors, and thieves. The Good News of Jesus’ mission is that anyone can accept His Grace and Forgiveness. He chose a perfect band of characters to prove His point.

Whether our mission is as grandiose as spreading the Good News, or we’re just helping out a concession stand at a sporting event, we will always deal with people who may not immediately get along with. A lesson we can take from stories like The Magnificent Seven, A Bug’s Life, and Voltron: Legendary Defender is that when we keep our goal in mind and strive to be understanding of our team, we can accomplish anything.

Do you have a favorite movie/book/story that involves gathering a team of misfits to accomplish an impossible task? Leave it below. I’d love to hear from you.

2 comments on “Story Tropes – Building a Team

  1. Yes! My favorite kind of story. Fellowship of the Ring, of course. And we also watched The 13th Warrior more than once, back in the day. The Help also does this, bringing the reporter into the secret world of the maids. She becomes their voice as they accept her into their circle.

  2. The first one that comes to mind is “Guardians of the Galaxy”. The differences between them all is so fun.

    The TV show “Stargate SG-1” was fun, too, because of the mix of scientists, military and aliens on the team.

    “Farscape” was quite the misfit crew. And I suppose “Firefly” was, too. Oh, and “Dark Matter”.

    So I’ve probably bonded with more misfit groups that aren’t specifically after a single goal than otherwise (that is, more TV shows or book series than movies).

    I’m drawing a blank on a bunch of ones that I love, I’m sure, because I like this trope, too. If I think of them, I’ll be back to add them to the comments!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: