Happy Sunday, everyone!
This time around, I’d like to talk about Found Families. You’re probably already aware of what these are, but for those of you that don’t know, let me take a few moments to define what I mean here.
A found Family is made up of individuals that are not related by blood, marriage, or adoption, that come together to form a cohesive, tight-knit group.
You want examples? I got em:
The crew of the Serenity,* The Avengers, Any non-villain that survives more than three episodes of Supernatural,** both Scooby Gangs, The folk that share this blog with me.
Why is this a thing?
Well, you know that old saying: “Home is the place where, if you have to go there, they have to take you in?*** Well, sometimes, that’s bullshit, or impossible for any number of reasons.
What makes the Found Family work so well is that the members of the Family choose to stay with one another, despite any opportunities to move on. In the end, they want to be there, despite the circumstances that brought them together in the first place, which can be varied.
Additionally, the skills, knowledge, and abilities that each member of the Family, compliments the other members, of fills in a gap that the Familial Unit lacks.
I write a lot of Found Families. The core unit of both of my novels is the Found Family. I’m not going to try and unpack the reasons for that here, suffice it to say that, for me, the Found Family is a comfortable trope to play with.
And play with it you can. You can go in one direction that send the entire group on a quest/mission where all of their individual skills are showcased. One of my favorite examples of this is the Firefly episode, “Ariel.” This episode shows every member of the crew doing what they do best. I think this quote from Kaylee sums it up pretty well:
“Figures, first time on the Core, and what do I get to do? Dig through trash. Couldn’t he send me shoppin’ at the Tri-plex, or… Ooh! Synchronizers!”
Despite saying that she’d rather be out shopping, Kaylee is doing what she does best, working with machines. You can tell that by her last line. It totally derails her train of thought.
At the end of the episode, in the face of Jayne’s sudden but inevitable betrayal, Mal encapsulates the idea of the Found Family perfectly:
Jayne: What are you taking this so personal for? It ain’t like I ratted you out to the feds!
Mal: Oh, but you did. You turn on any of my crew, you turn on me! But since that’s a concept you can’t seem to wrap your head around then you got no place here! You did it to me, Jayne, and that’s a fact.
Mal is talking about his family. About how the actions of one member can have an impact on the Family as a whole.
Speaking of which, how about we inject some conflict between two members of a family? You can get conflict for ages out of this. There can be tension among members because they like both person A and person B on either side of the conflict and don’t want to hurt either. You could also go as far as making whatever it is that person A ad person B are arguing abotu so divisive, that the Family Unit breaks into sides, and you’ve got Captain America: Civil War.
Tony Stark: [shouts] I’m trying to keep…[calms himself]…I’m trying to keep you from tearing the Avengers apart.
Steve Rogers: You did that when you signed (the accords).
I’m not going to dig too deeply into the plot, but it all boils down to this one point upon which Iron Man and Captain America cannot come to an agreement, and it splits the Avengers into dueling sides.
There’s a lot of pain and frustration in this movie, and rightly so.
So when you sit down to write, take a look at your characters. Remember what brought them together, consider what it is that keeps them together, and think about what might have to happen that would cause them to split up.
You may not use this information, but once you’ve got it, you’ll have a deeper understanding of your characters, and you can certainly use that.
*Loophole: Zoe and Wash joined the group before they got married.
**Additional Loopholery: Yes, Sam and Dean are brothers, but for the purposes of the Found Family within the show, they are considered a single entity, along with the impala – fight me.
***Robert Frost, by the way. You’re welcome.