As part of my author guest blog series I am proud to present another guest blog spot. Joseph Lallo the author of The Book of Deacon from the Lone Wolf Anthology I am very excited and
Lone Wolf Anthology
So go get your copy!
“The Lone Wolf” by Joseph Lallo
There are as many different character types as there are people in this world. If a storyteller was so inclined, and many storytellers are, he or she could populate his or her tales entirely with characters that cannot be neatly categorized into the neat little boxes that we might find on a site like TV-Tropes. But there is no arguing the fact that some characters seem to seize the mind and heart of a reader in a special way. These are the characters that earn instant fandoms, the characters who draw the eye and capture the imagination. And perhaps the most prominent among them is the fabled “lone wolf.”
If we are going to understand why the lone wolf is so compelling a character, we’ll need an example. Let’s say… oh… the Lou Ferrigno/Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk. At the beginning of every episode, David (not Bruce) Banner is alone, entering an unfamiliar place filled with strangers. This instantly puts him in a position of uncertainty and vulnerability. We all instinctively know that life is difficult enough even when you have friends, family, and familiarity to help you along. Knowing that this character has none of those things means two things to us—he’s got it rough, and he must be strong if he’s been able to make it this far alone. Thus, we have a connection to the Lone Wolf as simultaneously someone to be pitied and someone to be idolized—a pretty impressive stunt for a character we may only have known for a scene or two. Throw in the pathos of the “sad walking away song” at the end of every episode and we end up with a character who we want to hug and yet would run screaming from if things went wrong.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Back to the beginning of the episode. If we are just meeting this character, questions begin to arise in our heads. Why is he alone? Is it by choice? Does he simply prefer to separate himself from others? If so, this again speaks of strength, but also of complexity and even perhaps dysfunction. Or maybe he doesn’t prefer solitude. Maybe his solitude has been thrust upon him through rejection for being different, or persecution for a crime of which he’s been either falsefully or rightly accused. Now he’s got a history that makes him pitiful or dangerous, broken or awkward, standoffish or shy. In the case of David Banner, his isolation is both self-imposed due to the fear of the damage he might cause if he were to release the Hulk at the wrong time, and externally imposed by the constant pursuit of those who would expose or capture him. But initially we don’t know and, crucially, neither do the other characters.
This is where it can get really good. Whether our lone wolf likes it or not, the world is filled with other people. Few lone wolf stories are kind enough to leave our solitary star alone. The truth is, one way or another we all need someone else, and others need us. What can make the lone wolf such a fun character to explore is the unavoidable mystery surrounding them. They work alone. They have no friends that know their plight. And thus, everyone they meet, they meet for the first time. That most interesting part of character interaction happens again and again. People cautiously feel them out, decide to assign trust or fear, reach out or push away. The mystery of the loner lingers and slowly erodes. For most characters, you’ll only ever get a moment like this once. For a lone wolf, it happens again and again, and even those characters who have become reluctant or desperate allies may learn new things at the most inopportune of times. The reason for the solitude will assert itself, sometimes disastrously. Someone will make Dr. Banner angry.
Our hero wouldn’t be in this tale if there wasn’t something for them to do. Their unique—perhaps giant green anger monster—skills will be put to the test. This may be a grudging act of mercy to a group badly in need of help, or it may be an act of compassion from a character who so seldom gets a chance to show such a side. Either way, it’s a significant moment when from a team player it would have been just a matter of course. And so, the bad guy gets his comeuppance, the orphanage gets saved, and the final decision is made—to remain solitary or join the group.
Sad walking away song.
The Lone Wolf is a fun character no matter how it is applied. It is an archetype that accentuates and magnifies the mystery and discovery that makes a story engaging and a character fascinating. The lone wolf is perfectly suited to stories of emotional change and difficult decisions. It demands a character of unique skill and strength who can survive and thrive without help from anyone. And yet it is a character who can go in a thousand different directions while remaining true to its origins. The lone wolf as a character is here to stay, even if it is just passing through.