Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Quite the Character: The Best Bud in YA/Teen Lit (and other stories)

Quick Update: C for Characters! Woot! On a roll.

Song Stuck In My Head: Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye. Will explain later.

Here’s the first of one of the new features I’m hoping to try out, exploring archetype characters and the best of the bunch. Obviously, this is more YA but it can apply for any genre when you think about it.


YA, romantic comedies, action movies, even horror tend to have these. A best friend who’s mostly there to make jokes, be un-serious, be a comical voice of reason, be outrageously perverted, whatever you want.

Sometimes this doesn’t work. The best buddy might be completely unnecessary in a story. Not that your main character shouldn’t have friends (Don’t be a Bella Swan: there’s nothing wrong with a social life for a teenage character).When do best buddies work? There’s a lot of ways, actually. Here are some of who I think are the best ones out there.

Youth In Revolt’s Nick Twisp and Lefty (movie version). Lefty is Nick, or Michael Cera’s, equally loser/virgin best friend that he leaves behind when he falls in love with his poetic soul mate Sheeni. While Nick talks about how amazing it is to be in love, Lefty still awkwardly obsesses over his lifetime crush (who doesn’t seem to know he exists, though he already reads up on how to seduce and be with women, just in case).

As a result, Lefty acts as both a best bud and WORLD MAIN CHARACTER LEAVES BEHIND. Most MC’s have a routine life or situation at the beginning of a story. Maybe the best bud is part of it.

Inception’s Don Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph-Gordon Levitt). Both are top-notch spies/dream architects and experts. However, they’re completely different. As another character puts it, Arthur has no imagination and is way more logical about their approach to inception/deception than creative. Meanwhile, Cobb is a little too outside the box. They balance each other out. Arthur is both Cobb’s good friend, equally talented dream worker, and DIFFERENT POINT-OF-VIEW throughout the thriller.

Juno’s Juno MacGuff and Leah. From a glance, raunchy cheerleader Lea who has crushes on teachers and slurps blue slushies with Juno doesn’t have too much relevance in the story of a pregnant teenager. Then you see the moments where she suggests that Juno find a couple “desperately seeking spawn” when Juno chickens out on her abortion, leading to them going to the classified ads. Or when she teases Juno about being jealous of Paulie Bleeker’s new girlfriend, making Juno realize she kinda has a thing for the track star geek that knocked her up. Lea constantly PROVIDES PERSPECTIVE or IDEAS, usually ones Juno couldn’t come up with on her own.

Talledega Night’s Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton Jr. (Or should I say… “Shake and Bake”?) Though both are equally idiotic, perverted, and obsessed with racecar driving, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly’s characters also have a bond beyond their dimwittedness.

Even though half the comedy’s conflict is Ricky Bobby’s wife leaving him for the more successful Cal Naughton, the two still support each other in the end when Cal helps Ricky Bobby defeat an evil French race car driver, giving up his own chance to be the winner. During the movie, the two always have each other’s backs. Thus, Cal is the ULTIMATE TEAMMATE.

Morganville Vampire’s Claire Danvers and Eve Rosser. Everyone’s favorite Nerd Girl/Goth Girl Duo are best friends, sisters from other mister’s, roommates, and partners in crime when it comes to fighting and rebelling against a town run by vampires.

Despite her constant vampire sex jokes though, Eve also has the uniqueness of her own storylines. Her murdering brother. Her bad experiences with vampires and family. Her gloomy romance with good vampire Michael. Her job as a coffee shop clerk who deals with immature college students everyday. While she helps out the vampire-killing and dishes out advice to little Claire, Eve also CARRIES OWN SUBPLOTS like a boss.

And lastly, everyone’s favorite….

Harry Potter series’ Harry and Ron. Throughout the seven-book series, we come to love the redheaded, proud and emotionally-challenged Ron Weasley. He is the ultimate teammate, he provides his own ideas, carries his own subplots. But there’s a lot of qualities that make him the best Bestest Bud out there. Not just explaining parts of the magical world to Harry. Or being supportive or excited about all the good things that happen to his friend. Not even hating on Voldemort when the time is right.

He does the most important thing of all in a fantasy book - he KEEPS THE HERO SANE/NORMAL. With a teen book that delves so deep into the magical and impossible, it’s easy to get lost in the world building and forget that the character is indeed a teenager. If we didn’t have Ron and Harry debating Quidditch or talking about how complicated girls are, Harry wouldn’t be your average teenage boy. His hero’s story wouldn’t be as dramatic.

Your turn now - who have been some of your favorite Best Buds in YA, movies, or even TV shows? What do you think worked about them?

Later! (Translation: Tomorrow, D-Day in the A-Z challenge. Ha!)

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