Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday Tropes: The Last Of Their Kind

  
Survival of the fittest - I'm sure you heard it in biology class. It's a sound theory, maybe even necessary. But sometimes, nature doesn't always favor us, or maybe another nation has it in for us. If someone manages to escape their fate, becoming the sole survivor, they will become bound by a greater calling than all of their supporting characters combined.

The Last of Their Kind - A character who is the only existing entity of their species, race, culture, or faith, caused by a great catastrophe, evolution, or genocide.

Avatar: The Last Airbender (pictured above) is a most recognizable series to demonstrate this trope. Not only is Aang the only person capable of controlling air, but he's the next in a line of Avatars, sentient guardians who control all elements. Double stakes; if he dies, so does airbending, and the baddies take over the world!

To be honest, this trope happens to guys all the time!

Err ... with exceptions, of course ...
 
This role is not limited to humans. Freaky humanoid-looking characters (or otherwise) can work just fine.

And people think Motion Capture is creepy

Some characters become the last of their kind simply because no one bothered to check the hyperspace routes in the planning offices of Alpha Centauri.

"You have a lovely towel ..."

In the famous The Dark Tower series, Roland Deschain isn't the last human around, but the last gunslinger.

"Feeling lucky, Crimson King?"

On rare occasions, humans are the perpetrators of annihilation, laying waist to alien civilizations across the galaxy. It's a good thing that not all human beings are heartless jerks. Take Ender Wiggin, for example. Take a big guess at what "last" character he's vowed to protect?

The Last of Their Kind is widely predominate in fiction literature and film, even though real life occurrences of this has and is happening in our world, right now (endangered plants and animals, for the most part). With the aid of friends and mentors, the most unlikely of survivors may right the wrongs of the world and begin anew - if anyone's willing to hook up.

Do you have a The Last of Their Kind character in your writings? What other examples can you name?

I'm David, and there is ... another ... Sky ... walker ...


(Skip to 4:10, if you'd like)

42 comments:

  1. Very interesting topic! I think this trope just automatically guarantees you a "unique" character! I don't have any last-of-their-kind beings in my current WIP, but I just might in my upcoming story.

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  2. Great post! In my Armorian Empires series I start off with Maloree, who seems to be the last of her kind, but maybe I am still one of those glass half full kind of gals, because as the story progresses the progenitors of her kind show up on the scene again. She doesn't like them very much and to be truthful they don't like her very much either. She single-handedly almost annihilates them, but a few survive and soon her kind is alive and thriving again.

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  3. I have this trope in my last MS. She is not only the last of her kind, but also the first of her kind. Hard to wrap my head around when writing, but made for an interesting character.

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  4. Superb post! I love your examples, and the only "last of their kind" I have in my current WIP is my villainess . . . but I haven't fully exploited . . .err, explored . . . that aspect of her character.
    Thanks for this great post, and I just had to watch the whole Star Wars clip, and say the lines with it . . .my kids would be embarassed.

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  5. Oh . . and Ender's carrying the Queen of the "buggers" impregnated already with the seeds of her race so that they can live again under his care.

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  6. Love, love, love Avatar. I'm having a great time watching it with my two your old son.

    I don't have a last of their kind in my current WIP but I do have a one of a kind.

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  7. Great post. I am not doing this in my current WIP, but it is definitely something to think about for later.

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  8. Obviously, The Last of the Mohicans comes instantly to mind.

    I haven't planned anything like this yet for any of my works, but I wouldn't rule it out. It's a very emotionally stirring trope.

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  9. In Young Guns, Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips) is the last of his tribe.

    Isn't King Kong the last of his kind? Maybe Godzilla, but then she has a baby later.

    Oh, and Gonzo from the Muppets thought he was the last of his kind, until he figured out what the heck he was.

    And the Doctor of Doctor Who becomes the last of the Time Lords.

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  10. The Last Airbender is the one that sticks out in my head the most. TLA is like, THE BEST to me.

    In my current WiP, I don't have a last of it's kind but more of a one-of-a-kind.

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  11. So many movies and shows I love (many of which you pictured above) have this Trope! I don't have a "single" last of their kind, but some of the worlds I've built in writing do deal with small groups like this.

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  12. Last of the Mohicans, Last of the Samurai, Last of the Cookies in the Cookie Jar.

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  13. Gelflings were odd, weren't they?
    I almost ended up with a one-of-a-kind character in my upcoming book but... Wait, can't give away any more.

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  14. I don't have that in my books. But that give me something to think about! Hmmmm.

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  15. No mention of Dr. Who? The longest running science-fiction series ever?! OMG!!! 'splodes because you missed your TARDIS posting opportunity.

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  16. No I don't, but one of my CP's books does and she does it a very cool way.

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  17. Reminds me of Obi Wan, and is definitely a good tool in any fiction storyline.

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  18. I suppose in my current WIP, the main guy the narrator is talking about could be considered the last of his kind. He was imprisoned and upon release, found that 400 years had passed. So, in a sense, he's the only person from his time left. Or so he thinks.

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  19. I like this device too. It is exciting to feel involved with THE VERY LAST of something. I don't have it in a WIP now, but it is a plot point I would consider in the future. A recent example I would use is FIRE by Kristin Cashore, where the title character is the last human monster. And that book is amazing!

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  20. Ah, this trope is close to my heart. There are two 'the last of their kinds' in my WIP, though one is more last than the other. And boy, do I exploit the heck out of it.

    Another example: I Am Legend. Being the sole survivor of a creepy pandemic? Not fun.

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  21. I have a last of its kind in my short story DARK WATERS. My heroes, Samuel McCord and Victor Standish, are both Only of Their Kinds in a sense. And Victor's mother, the being called Death, is, of course, the only of her kind as well! Great imaginative post, Roland

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  22. Um, a few one-of-kinds when it comes to blood, but not something that makes them the last.

    Uh ... I've one MC who's the last of his clan. Does that count?

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  23. Love this trope. And Avatar- The Last Airbender is a fun cartoon. I didn't like the movie as much, but I like the cartoon.

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  24. Poor Ender, forced to destroy a race, only to save them in the end. Sad story, but great plot twist!

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  25. In one of my WIPs, I have a girl who is the only one of her kind. Not the last, not really the first either because there aren't going to be more.

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  26. I've never used it in my writing, but I love it in so many books and movies. And Ender had a great twist. I love it when a writer takes a trope and turns out something new and surprising.

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  27. In Homecoming I have a race that was one of the progenitors of the human race but is now almost extinct due to inbreeding, a very low reproductive rate, and disease.

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  28. I don't have a "last of his kind" character in my writing... my characters have community structures they have to contend with... but! I immediately thought of Time Lord when I read your post. Doctor Who anyone???

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  29. I love the last of his kind trope, and I use an idea of it in my writing because it is so compelling. I'm more a fan of the theme that it often allows you to explore. In the case of the Airbenders, the Jedi, and the American indian we see the exploration of the theme of genocide. I just wish that the reasonings behind it were sometimes less than "I want to take over the entire world." Mwa ha ha ha ha ha... wait I'm not an evil overload who wants to take over the world. Sorry.

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  30. Interesting concept. Maybe I'll work with it someday.

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  31. Interesting DPK! I never really thought about Airbender that way...and some of the other movies (Lord of the Rings) I never saw...ha ha...sorry. I'm lame.

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  32. Nice post. I actually have two of a kind in Two Halves. There's no one else like them in the world and they exist to stop the extinction of two different species (humans and vampires).

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  33. There is something powerfully sad about someone being the last of their kind. I think it makes for the beginnings a wonderfully damaged character.

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  34. Yup...I've got a last of their kind. Kinda a big plot point for my MS actually.

    Great post!

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  35. When I read the title, the first person that came to mind was Roland the Gunslinger. Dude, (the other, less blogable) King nailed it with *that* series... phew:)

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  36. A quick way to mark someone out as special I guess. It does get used an awful lot.

    mood
    Moody Writing
    @mooderino
    The Funnily Enough

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  37. What about the first of their kind?

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  38. There's Daenerys as the last heir to the Targaryen throne. She's the last "dragon rider" and has the last dragons.

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  39. Yep - I've got a last of their kind. I think the trope frequents storytelling because it's so effective at creating tension - the stakes are obvious. It also makes a character sympathetic, since we all have a hard time seeing something go extinct. It kind of has that gut-wrenching effect.

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  40. I have a "next to last" character in my story. I really like this set-up because the character's skills or what-have-you are already rare enough to create concerns about the future, but you ALSO know the stakes will rise immensely if they ever DO become truly the last of their kind.

    Last of the Mohicans is a great example of this. (at least the movie version is) The father is technically the "last," but he lives...the tension and emotion come from the son's death, and the fact that there WERE two and now only one remains.

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