Note: Song of Ice and Fire, Sword Art Online spoilers. Also Die Hard, but if you haven’t seen it by now, that’s your problem.
Dear Mr. Critical,
I wander around the world by myself, taking out vast armies on my own and walking away from explosions. Because no one looks at their own explosions. That’s just not cool.
I wear sunglasses at all hours, rarely talk, but when I do, I’m cool. Like an iceberg. Because those are cool.
My problem is sometimes I struggle to fit in with groups. They think I’m too cool for them, or something, and so they won’t let me play with them. Can you please advise?
Dear L. Wolf,
Good news! You’re more salvageable than Mary Sue. Why? Because you’re a character we can sometimes relate to, you have mystery as well as purpose, and there are a dozen different uses for your archetype.
Oberyn Martell, from Song of Ice and Fire, may be one of my favorites that currently comes to mind. You have Cloud, from Final Fantasy VII. There’s John McClane of Die Hard. Or any other Bruce Willis or Clint Eastwood flick before 2000. The Lone Wolf is a beloved character, so don’t worry too much.
First, embrace the fact others don’t like you. Your advantages are numerous. If you need to travel, you just go. This is excellent for adventure or sojourner stories. You are also generally an outsider. Every culture looks unique to you, giving you the ability to see it for what it is, for what the reader would see it as. Think Gulliver’s Travels.
If the story is going to have a revolving door cast, this is perfect. You hop in and out of numerous lives, showing snapshots of the world. This can happen even if you know the culture. Sword Art Online does this form of storytelling, where Kirito moves around the game meeting new people and helping them, but never sticking around with the same folks more than an episode or two. Aside from Asuna, but those two need to make babies.
There is also a beautiful opportunity for character growth. Looking back at SAO, we were able to watch Kirito. While many saw him as a jerk, we were able to see the kind and caring spirit that went into all his interactions. His apathy and feigned malignance towards others was just an attempt to keep from watching others die.
McClane didn’t really change. I mean, does a man as perfect as Bruce Willis require changing? In Song of Ice and Fire, Oberyn’s inability to change his course is what led to his demise, where his character flaw, not being rectified, led him to make poor life choices. If we are allowed to see through the eyes of the Lone Wolf, we are able to see someone who is usually going through intense personal struggles. You can show this through keen observers with a lot of empathy as well.
The potential for you to be a fully rounded, fascinating, more than sexy and mysterious character is unlimited. But there are pitfalls, friend, and they are as riddled as Swiss cheese.
What people have a tendency of doing is making you a caricature. I know, it hurts to read that, but I’m giving it to you straight, LW. They make it so you don’t care about people, you do what you want, and every now and then you steal candy from a baby. Why did you steal the candy from a baby? I’m sure you’re wondering that. It doesn’t jive with who you are, there was no reason, and what happened is your writer just wanted to make you seem like a maverick.
Other times you just don’t talk. You grunt a few times, as if an orc with his tongue cut out, but you don’t say anything. Even Michonne of The Walking Dead talks when she likes someone. Yes, Michonne is a Lone Wolf, she’s a little towards the caricature side, but just short. I mean really just short. But she’s awesome with her zombie mules, so we forgive her. You can make up some ground by being that epic.
In short, rejoice in your loneliness. It is your fault. Embrace your pain. The self-inflicted misery is what makes us like you. Your attempts to get beyond it and find love in any of its forms is why we love you. So if you have no friends and you’re well written, just keep in mind, you have our hearts. If you have no friends because you’re pointlessly stealing candy from babies, kick your writer and buy them a book on how to create good characters.