Lesson #2: Every character is unique and important
Firefly uses an ensemble cast, which means there is more than one character for you to follow and pay attention to. This can be something of a challenge for a writer, having to see through so many eyes and speak in so many voices. While the focus of the story might be on only one individual protagonist—Malcolm Reynolds in this instance—everyone on board Serenity is just as important and equally deserving of screen time.
If all of the characters in an ensemble cast are too similar storylines get confusing. If they all dress the same, act the same, and speak in a similar voice, it can be difficult to figure out what is going on and who’s story you’re trying to follow. In the end, you just don’t care, and that is death to any tale.
All of the characters on Firefly have distinctive traits and characteristics that set them apart from the others; male, female, clothing, hair style, ethnic background, sexual orientation, mood, religious beliefs, and so on. While some of the characters may share one or two traits, they have myriad others that set them apart. They all have their own backstories, their own beliefs, their own problems and their own goals. Some of these inevitably don’t line up, which leads to conflict and, ultimately, a much better story.
The other thing Mr. Whedon and his writing staff do so well is to present us with characters we can identify with no matter who we are or where we come from. We can see something of ourselves in at least one of these characters, if not all. We genuinely care about them and want them to succeed. If you took any character from Firefly and put them in their own show, I would watch that show. They’re all unique, interesting, well-rounded people and I love each and every one of them; even Jayne.
Who is your favorite Firefly character, and what is it about that person that speaks to you keeps you coming back for more?