Choose: Lone Wolf or Team Player?

My company had our annual Employee Barbeque yesterday.

Last year at this time, I’d been working there for mere weeks. I listened to everyone talk up the event, getting hyped with them over descriptions of bouncy houses and facepainting, grilled food and cotton candy.

When the time came to join last year’s event, though, I found it massively disappointing. I wandered around the parking lot looking for familiar faces and trying not to let on how lost and lonely I was.

This year it was completely different. I went on a bouncy house (avoided the mechanical bull, though), ate sno-cones and popcorn, piled a plate with grilled veggies, chatted with coworkers and met new family members.

The difference?

Community. I now knew these people. I knew people from other branches. I’ve been in the trenches with them for the past year. Some of my coworkers have moved on to other departments, making an event like this a great time to catch up with them.

It made me think about the importance of community in writing. Some of the best stories include vibrant, connected community–think of Harry Potter with his stalwart friends, the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, the X-Men, almost anyone in any Charles de Lint story, Thursday Next’s circles of Spec-Ops and literary cohorts, or Mal’s crew on Serenity.

And then there are the iconic loners.

Community, or lack of it, plays a huge role not only in the tone of the story but in the formation of the characters in it.

Saturday’s challenge: come up with an existing character and flip his or her community around. Some examples could be setting the Doctor set into a group of (healthy, functioning) Timelords, or watching one of Snow White’s dwarves making his way in the world alone. What does this character’s world (and internal landscape) look like now? How would this character’s life and personality have been different if they’d had or lacked this all along?

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