What’s more fun than one lovable main character?
Five or six lovable main characters!
Of course, with each additional main character you add to your narrative, you’re adding another layer of complexity to your writing process. You don’t want to have extra characters just to have them, after all—each character needs to be unique, compelling, and contribute a story worth telling to the narrative as a whole.
Here are the primary characters in my ensemble cast of my Faith, Family, Frenzy! book series set in the small-town dominated Midwest:
Jackie Breeden – the traditional but spunky farmwife. I modeled her after my favorite Aunt which expedited my writing about her. My aunt’s favorite phrases, “Good gravy” and “Holy crap” – as euphemisms for cursing still ring in my ears. Meryl Streep could play her in the movie, though Jackie’d never act like the lonely lady in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Up-oN4NtvbM.
Steven Breeden -a rock-solid heartland farmer, who supplemented the family income by working a shift at GM. The economic downturn of 2009 caused massive layoffs. With Jackie’s support, he started a micro-dairy with his severance. A Vietnam Vet, he eschews the local VFW because of the heavy drinkers and knife fights His oft-used word is “Copacetic.” Clooney, before his hair greyed, could be tapped to play Steve in the movie, Stashes.
Brandon – the couple’s entitled only child. A collegiate football star who blew his opportunity to play in the NFL with an unfortunate dive in the pool of his honeymoon hotel when he tore his rotator cuff. He’s under-employed so he helps his father in the dairy business, He always wears Michigan State football jerseys with his quarterback number on the back and prizes his red Ford F-150 truck.
Amy – a Californian with a hard-scrabble past, who came to Michigan State with a partial scholarship. To supplement her income, she tutors Brandon and other football players. She stole him out from under the cheerleaders’ noses – he loved her because he got A’s. She married him because she wanted a normal life, but the banality of a small town imploded that dream. She wants to golden.
Fran – She’s the former school administrator who tried to keep Brandon in line by paddling his ass. Jackie and Steve know her well from visits to her office. She’s Jackie’s friend because they’re both altos and sing in the church choir, but Fran dominates their time together. Her signature phrase is “Hell’s bells!”.
Pastor Rankin – he connives for cash for his church’s coffers. My husband and I shared negative experiences with preachers, so I skewer this man and his motives in each book of my series.
Importantly, if you want to create compelling ensemble casts, they need to grow and change together as the story advances.
The power of the ensemble cast is like Voltron: The combined robot is far more powerful than the five adjoining robots on their own.
Cheesy comparison? MAYBE. But it’s true.
Only when your characters come together to impact one another deeply and profoundly will you be able to provide a compelling tale.