Group Dynamics

by Ash
(Los Angeles)

Hi! I was wondering how I could go about creating interesting relationships between a group of characters. I find that I struggle with giving everyone a distinct role without it feeling forced or cliched. How can I create interesting group dynamics?

Answer: I think you have to start by knowing the individual characters well and making them distinct from each other.

Characters who are very different from each other will interact in interesting ways. Each character will form a different sort of relationship with each of the others when their personalities are distinct. Each character may have different allies, enemies, rivals, leaders, or subordinates within a group, and these relationships will play out in a group scene. (Group scenes fail mostly when the characters are so similar to each other that they all react the same way, or when some characters' are left out of the discussion.)

Of course, crafting a great group scene is challenging for the writer because you have a need to imagine what's going on from each character's perspective in order to know how each character feels/thinks about everything that happens and how they respond both internally and externally.

If you are having trouble keeping everything straight, it can help to make little notes about what's going on in everyone's head at various points in the scene. Obviously you wouldn't do this for every scene. Sometimes, it's easy to know what everyone is thinking.

But in a situation where, for example, a group of characters is having to make a decision or figure out what they all think about something, you want each of them to have a slightly different opinion or reaction depending on who they are and their relationships.

(Incidentally, if you are familiar with the TV series Firefly, there are some group scenes in that series worth studying. I'm thinking particularly of the scenes where everyone is sitting around the dining table discussing how they are going to deal with a problem as a community. Pay attention to how everyone expresses their point of view and how they see the others.)

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