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A story is usually made up of more characters than just a hero and a foe. There needs to be a supporting casts, with different amounts of value to the story. How they all interact with each other is what gives the story depth and helps you to build up your character in your reader’s mind. Aaron Miles at Fantasy Faction discusses the importance of group dynamics.
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Character Group Dynamics
by Aaron Miles
June 18, 2016
One of the most important tasks of a writer is to get the reader to engage with their characters, but almost as important is how your characters engage with each other. Their interactions are what make up the narrative and drama of the book, bringing the story to life. How can your hero show off his quick wit if there’s no one around to impress, how can your villain be cruel if there’s nobody to terrorise? It’s only in concert with each other that the characters really start to shine.
There are a number of memorable partnerships and groupings throughout fiction, think of Sherlock and Watson, Han and Chewie, or the entire Fellowship of the ring. The success of these characters isn’t just down to the individual protagonists, but also to how well they work together, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. They play off each other in ways that allow the characters to shine, following classic writing patterns in order to get the maximum entertainment value. The nature of these groupings isn’t random, the author will choose the best mix that makes use of each character’s strengths and engineer matchups that will lead to great action.
If you think back to some of your favourite books it’s relatively easy to spot the formulas which lead to success. Whether in a partnership or group there are specific archetypes and forms that just fit better. Looking at partnerships first, there are a number of traditional groupings commonly used in fiction, for instance the pairing of a protagonist with a foil. The foil is a supporting character that will usually serve as a counter to the protagonist, someone to banter with and who will often have a wildly different personality type.
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