Background/Group characters used as an obstacle.
Question: I am currently writing a sci-fi novel. When using large quantities of enemy forces as obstacles, how do you keep things from getting boring? And, when using these characters, how do you keep the reader from getting confused about what character is doing what? Enemy forces are, in my mind, a grouping of the same character. Are interesting combat situations the only way to keep them becoming a bore?
Sometimes a character function can be performed by a group - such as occasions when an entire army collectively is the antagonist. Though to be honest, as with the Borg in Star Trek
who started out as a collective and later were found to have a Queen, writers have a natural pull to create a leader who serves as the face, voice, and guiding intelligence of these groups.
I think the way you make a battle scene interesting is to make it personal. If you are telling the story through the eyes of a particular character, then his personal experience, his limited perspective, prevents the enemy from becoming a blur, except when it doesn't matter. Your main or POV character can only see what a limited number of enemy soldiers are doing - just the ones he encounters in his personal journey through the battlefield.
True, he may get confused, especially if the enemy soldiers, at a distance, seem very similar in appearance. But that only adds a touch of realism. I think if you keep the focus on your character's perspective, what he does to cope with the situation, rather than try to give a bird's eye view that includes everyone, you can simply cut the boring parts that don't pertain to your character's experience.
If anything happens on the battle field which your character doesn't see but really needs to know about, sometimes he can simply find out what happened later from someone else who was there - a line or two of dialogue or exposition.