No Stars- The ensemble cast dilemma

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linguista
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No Stars- The ensemble cast dilemma

Post by linguista » January 27th, 2010, 1:43 am

Recently I went on an ensemble cast binge. Ensemble casts are groups of characters from plays of movies where there isn't technically one star or protagonist. Think of the movies, Crash, Snatch and Love Actually and the series Friends. The thing is, while it's fairly well established in MG- Hardy Boys, Famous Five, Babysitters Club etc, I can't think of any adult books which do this. The last first draft I wrote was an ensemble cast. Is this a bad thing?

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Dankrubis
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Re: No Stars- The ensemble cast dilemma

Post by Dankrubis » January 27th, 2010, 3:36 am

Coincidently, I'm reading Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard (Tarantino made it into Jackie Brown). Totally ensemble. I'd venture to say it's a little more difficult than the regular one protagonist, but 'if it works it works.'

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J Koyanagi
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Re: No Stars- The ensemble cast dilemma

Post by J Koyanagi » January 27th, 2010, 11:48 pm

With questions like this, I always think, "Well, if it works for the book and the writing is solid, then go for it."

Nick
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Re: No Stars- The ensemble cast dilemma

Post by Nick » January 28th, 2010, 12:21 pm

I fail to see the problem with having an ensemble, as long as it's a strong ensemble and you actually give them things to do. Can't have twenty characters walk into a room on page 5 and only one of them has any sort of interaction until someone else pops up out of the blue on page 40. But, y'know, if you can make it work, by all means. It's your story after all.

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CharleeVale
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Re: No Stars- The ensemble cast dilemma

Post by CharleeVale » January 28th, 2010, 2:46 pm

My WIP is an ensemble cast. Rotating POV of four interacting characters. It's fun. *Smile*

CV

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polymath
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Re: No Stars- The ensemble cast dilemma

Post by polymath » January 28th, 2010, 3:48 pm

Ensemble cast stories that I've enjoyed invariably have a "star," just not a character star, per se. Sometimes it's a milieu that's the star, or an idea, or an event, sometimes an object that's actually a personified character. Kudos to Orson Scott Card for introducing and delineating MICE, milieu, idea, character, or event emphasized stories. Though Card's several writing rhetoric tomes explain and elaborate on MICE and how they are realized in stories, I've also noted that an irrevocable, unequivocable transformation related to a focal MICE attribute occurs in a story's resolution. For example, an alteration of a milieu without necessarily any character transformation, what's known as static characters who are not appreciably altered in any appreciable way by a story's circumstances. Dynamic characters are not impossible in a milieu, idea, or event oriented story, where characters experience life defining alterations to their internal and/or external characteristics. In fact, dynamic characters, dynamic milieus, dynamic ideas, and dynamic events combined make for subtle and complex stories that are highly rewarding and entertaining, if challenging to write.
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Scott
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Re: No Stars- The ensemble cast dilemma

Post by Scott » January 28th, 2010, 4:41 pm

Donald Ray Pollock's Knockemstiff is a fantastic ensemble cast story set in the town of Knockemstiff, Ohio. What he did, though, was make little short stories that have interconnecting characters and events, so each story had a clear MC.

My book has an ensemble (family vs. unusual, surrogate family) but there's a clear MC who's POV dominates the book, and a minor MC from the other side who's POV is central. I made the decision to have someone take the lead in two cases and one overall leader. It just felt right to give the reader of compass center, and it sure made it easier to query it and blurb it.

linguista
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Re: No Stars- The ensemble cast dilemma

Post by linguista » January 29th, 2010, 9:24 am

Thanks everyone! The story is about a people's revolution, so it works to follow each group of characters.

It's going to be interesting writing query letters though... :)

r louis scott
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Re: No Stars- The ensemble cast dilemma

Post by r louis scott » January 29th, 2010, 8:31 pm

J Koyanagi sums it up pretty well. I have a big pile of paper that will someday become my third book (OK, it's actually a flash drive about 10% full of ones and zeros, but you know what I mean). So far, each of my Beta readers has chosen a different favorite character. I therefore look to the pie in the sky and figure that they all must be stars.

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