When You Have a Large Cast of Characters

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(This post assumes these characters are banded together in at least one large group and must work toward a similar goal.)

Let’s look at the main components that are important in large cast stories:

Teams and Sub-groups

The larger the cast, the more teams and sub-groups there are (or at least, the more there should be). These characters can find themselves in groups through a number of ways: similar backgrounds, random circumstances, matching beliefs/moral compass, etc etc.

Sometimes you can group them into categories that work well with tension, humorous effect, and character development. Some categories include:

  • the selfish lone wolves that are forced to work together
  • nerds who don’t communicate well
  • the hero-types that can’t agree on anything
  • long-term friends and their ragtag bunch of new allies
  • honestly, just think about teams from the MCU

Sub-groups are typically a must for stories with a large cast, as it expands the plot, individual characterization/development, conflict, and clarification. It staggers introductions of each character, giving them proper significance within the story right off the bat.

POV

This is a tricky thing to carry out. Multiple points of view are necessary unless you are absolutely sure you only want to follow ONE character the entire story, which is a feat in itself and probably ill-advised (but you do you). However, if you decide to use multiple POVs, you then also have to choose whether you want to carry that out through alternating first-person narratives or use third-person. First-person is going to require a more in-depth understanding of the characters’ voice and more decisions of who within each sub-group gets to narrate (as well as how reliable and involved they are). Both can be used in different ways to interconnect each group’s storyline. All personal choice.

Communication

Communication, within any large group, sucks. So now imagine there has to be communication between individuals, sub-groups, and the overall group. Everyone is going to have their own style of communication (or lack thereof) and each subgroup is going to have a different dynamic for it as well. Learning how (mis)communication, lying, personal details, and rumors circulate through individuals, sub-groups, and the overall group is important to the realism and storyline. It sounds daunting, but just watch Guardians of the Galaxy or any Avengers movie with this in mind and you’ll understand how to do it easily in no time.

Loyalty and Relationships

Two things easily complicate a large group’s dynamic: loyalty and relationships.

These things can strain or strengthen sub-groups and/or the team as a whole. It depends on who is involved, what they could be jeopardizing, and a bunch of other factors.

They’re good things to consider the repercussions and effects of especially if you have love triangles, brokens hearts, lost friendships, secret histories, and trust issues floating around the team. 

Loyalty also directly corresponds with teamwork, another factor to consider. 

How to use all this

Team Profiles

Outlines of:

  • the members
  • teams and sub-groups
  • communication
  • loyalty
  • relationships within the group
  • teamwork and overall dynamic of the group
  • history 
  • etc etc

Adding Conflict

No matter what the main conflict is, having a large group that must work together provides an endless amount of other conflicts.

  • miscommunication
  • disloyalty
  • heartbreak
  • distrust
  • question of authority/leadership
  • conflicting personal interest
  • opposing beliefs
  • etc etc.

In the end, having a large cast of characters that work together is a daunting task, but hopefully this post broke down some of the trickier aspects in planning the story. Best of luck on your writing journey!

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