The Best Group Of Fictional Characters In The ‘Verse

The Best Group Of Fictional Characters In The ‘Verse

Which group of fictional characters is the best one in the universe? If you are writing about a group of characters working together for a common goal, there are 3 deadly sins you need to avoid.

  • They all look alike.
  • They all sound alike.
  • They all have the same skill set.

If you’re not careful, your main characters could all end up resembling the children in The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. Your characters may all be in one group, and all working towards a common goal, like the nuns and midwives in Call The Midwife, by Jennifer Worth, but they need to be as different from each other as possible.

The Best Group Of Fictional Characters In The ‘Verse


Serenity or Insanity?

What do you get when you have a crew of nine people, all completely different to each other, with totally different worldviews, skill sets, and temperaments? Serenity? Probably not. Compared to the mission-orientated, neatly uniformed, space-force trained crews of the USS Enterprise, the Serenity crew could be disastrous. Except that they are the best crew in the ‘Verse.

If you want a masterclass, (outside of Writers Write), in developing characters, writing truly memorable dialogue, and cross-genre world-building, the TV series, Firefly, the cult-phenomenon space-western delivers. In spades. What about the Guardians Of The Galaxy, I hear you cry. We’re sticking to crews made up of only humans this time.

If you’ve never watched Firefly, you’re in for a treat. There was only one season, but it was, in my opinion, the best TV show ever created. Let’s take a look at the crew and see just how different they are. (Possible spoilers ahead! And a PG warning if necessary.)

Who is the crew of Serenity?


  • Capt’n Mal is a Han Solo type. An uncomplicated, relatively honest man, on the wrong side of the law. He’s never gotten over losing the war with the Alliance which destroyed his army career and his faith in God. Now he values freedom above all else. Except maybe his crew. Seemingly grudgingly, he will go to any lengths to look after, and when necessary, save his crew, made up of misfits like himself, that he seems to have collected along the way. He has a strict moral code of his own. Like Han Solo, he’s the gruff rogue with a heart of gold, who’s not above shooting first. He also has a dry sense of humour.
    “Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle.”
  • His second in command is Zoe. More ‘soldier-like’ than Mal, she fought alongside him in the war as his corporal. Now, happily married to Wash, she’s put the war behind her, but is still Mal’s 2iC. A position, refreshingly, undisputed by the other men on the ship. She’s a highly experienced soldier who still calls Mal, ‘sir’. When more than sheer muscle but actual tactical intelligence, fighting skill, as well as a cool head may be required, Mal takes Zoe with him. Zoe is pragmatic, unflappable, combat-experienced, and not afraid to, respectfully, question Mal.
    “Sir, I think you may have a problem with your brain being missing.” 
  • Wash is Zoe’s husband. He’s relaxed, wacky, playful, a thousand percent in love with his wife, and collects dinosaur figurines and Hawaiian shirts. He’s no soldier, but when the fighting starts, and it involves flying, he’s a fast-thinker, calm under fire, and a superb pilot. Even though his character could be described as the ‘comic-relief’, Capt’n Mal clearly didn’t hire him for his wit.
    Oh my god. What can it be? We’re all doomed! WHO’S FLYING THIS THING!? Oh right, that would be me. Back to work!”
  • Kaylee is Serenity’s Cheerful, eternally optimistic, open-natured, sunny, loves mechanics and engines, she loves everyone and loves Simon. She also loves sex, ‘girly-stuff’, big, pink ballgowns, and strawberries. She hardly ever gets angry, doesn’t hold a grudge, and always looks for the good in people. She’s the ‘baby’ of the crew. Unless the solution to a crisis has to do with the innards of the ship, she’s useless in a fight. Everyone loves her, mostly as a little sister. If you threaten or hurt her, Mal, Zoe, and Jayne’s wrath will descend upon you painfully.“Yes, sir, Capt’n Tight Pants!”
  • Speaking of Jayne, the not-the-brightest-bulb-in the-ceiling, self-serving, and cynical mercenary with the girl’s name, is a character that could easily be a cardboard cut-out. He’s a ‘man’s man’ – if you interpret ‘man’ as someone who likes violence, gives his guns names, wears dumb hats, is more interested in profit over people, and is always spoiling for a fight. He seems to dislike everyone, except Kaylee. Jayne is the muscle on the ship. His loyalty is to himself. He’s not above selling out the crew to the Alliance if the money is worth it. After some painful lessons, he does grow over the seasons. Not a lot, but important baby steps. “Why’d you all order a dead guy?”
  • Simon is the complete opposite of Jayne. He’s an incredibly moral, highly intelligent (read ‘genius’), well-educated doctor. He’s impeccably dressed, respectful – otherwise known as cold and formal. He’s rich, doesn’t swear and, to Kaylee’s disappointment, doesn’t have casual sex. He gave up everything – his high-status family, a life of luxury, and a prestigious career – without a moment’s hesitation or regret – to save and protect his extremely traumatised and seemingly demented younger sister, River. Simon reveals a morality, courage and heroism that is completely different to that of Mal and Jayne.
    I’m your medic, and however little we may like or trust each other, we’re on the same crew… I don’t care what you’ve done, I don’t know what you’re planning on doing, but I’m trusting you. I think you should do the same. ‘Cause I don’t see this working any other way.”
  • River is Simon’s younger sister. Her level of genius is way above Simon’s which is why the government took her. In order to turn her into a weapon, they subjected her to truly horrific experiments. She’s an extremely unstable, 90-pound, 17-year-old, who is, as a result, the most dangerous person on the ship. On a geeky side note, it’s interesting that both Dr Who and Firefly have a pivotal, female character who is both ‘odd’ and highly trained by ‘government’ forces, who are both called River.
    “I can kill you with my mind.” and “No power in the ‘Verse can stop me.”
  • Shepherd Book is a celibate, devout, apparently Christian priest whose past becomes ever more mysterious as he, when occasion calls for it, displays more skills, knowledge of, and relationship with the Alliance than the average preacher who is ‘just wanting to walk the ‘Verse awhile’ should have. Alliance members take one look at him and know, ‘That ain’t a shepherd’, and either leap to his assistance, or give him a wide berth. He is a preacher who seems intimately acquainted with the use of weapons and the effect they can have on a body. Other knowledge and skills include engine room maintenance, some medical knowledge, and the preparation of explosives. He can also cook rather well. “(The Bible has) Quite specific (things to say about killing). It is, however, somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps.”
  • Inara, a wealthy member of the Companions’ Guild, is the only person on the ship who isn’t, technically, a member of the crew. She’s a passenger who rents one of the shuttles as living quarters and ‘a home office’ if you can call it that. Inara is a very sexually liberated, Buddhist, bi-sexual courtesan, known in the ‘Verse as a Companion. Or as Mal so charmingly puts it, ‘a lowly whore’. But woe betide if Mal hears anyone else insult her the same way. A Companion is highly respected in the ‘Verse. And, because of her Guild training, her education, wit, charm, stunning beauty, and elegance, Inara is highly sought after by diplomats, and the extremely wealthy. Her presence on Serenity gives the crew a level of respectability, opening doors for them that would otherwise remain closed. Her profession is legal, whereas Mal and his crew are basically pirates. As a Companion, Inara has no ‘pimp’, and accepts or rejects clients as and when, and whom, she chooses. Although the crew wouldn’t dare say so to Mal’s face, both they and the audience know that Mal and Inara love each other. As a result, among their sarcasm and bickering, there’s this constant will-they-won’t-they tension throughout the season. “Oh, do I ever (have some funny whoring stories). Funny and sexy. You have no idea. And you never will.”

Not one of the nine Serenity crew members are like the other. They each bring something unique to the ship and the story. If one was removed, the story would be the weaker for it. How unique are your novel’s characters? How deep are their backstories? Are any of them two-dimensional and predictable? If you took one of them away would your plot suffer?

The Last Word

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Elaine Dodge

by Elaine Dodge. Elaine is the author of The Harcourts of Canada series and The Device HunterElaine trained as a graphic designer, then worked in design, advertising, and broadcast television. She now creates content, mostly in written form, for clients across the globe, but would much rather be drafting her books and short stories.

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Posted on: 26th January 2024

1 thought on “The Best Group Of Fictional Characters In The ‘Verse”

  1. Couldn’t agree more with character analysis of Firefly. It truly was a show that was character driven story telling at it’s best. It’s too bad it just got one season and a tie-up the loose ends movie (which was outstanding).

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