3 Tips for Writing an Ensemble Cast

3 Tips for Writing an Ensemble Cast

I personally really enjoy an ensemble cast in a story, and they get bonus points in my book if they’re pushed together by circumstances rather than by choice. One of my favorite things about the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie is seeing how the Guardians come together and how utterly dysfunctional they are in the beginning.

The question is: how do we write such dynamic groupings in our own work? How do we engage our readers with mismatched casts without just annoying them or coming up short?

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How to Write a Good Monarch

Last week I wrote about how to write a tyrant. This week I will write about what makes a good monarch or leader.

Level Headed

The ideal monarch is calm and focussed. He or she does not allow emotions to easily sway them.

Good War Strategist

This in of itself does not make a good leader or monarch. Robert Baratheon was a great soldier in his day, but he made a terrible king. He drank and whored himself to an early-ish grave. (Let’s face it he wasn’t young, but he could have easily reigned for another decade if he had been a bit more clever.) Another great war strategist was Robb Stark, also from Game of Thrones. He won every battle he faced but it was his personal choices that undid him. If you don’t already know about the Red Wedding then I have to ask, have you been hiding under a rock these past 6 years?

Honourable

Ned Stark from Game of Thrones was a paragon of honour, but it led to his death. A good monarch should know when to be honest and when to lie, but they ought to always keep their vows. Without honour how can you subjects or other kings and queens trust you?

A Sense of Justice

A pessimist (or a realist, depending how you look at it) may say there is no justice in the world. So it’s up to the monarch to ensure that the laws are just and that the weak are protected. This is not always easy as justice can look different to different people. It is up to the monarch to ensure that the evil are punished and victims are compensated.

Does What is Necessary

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr book cover

A good monarch cares about their subjects and does what they can to protect them, even when such choices are difficult.

Of course a monarch can still do this and be a villain if they do not care for others outside of their own country. Irial from Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series is a good example of this. In Marr’s series faeries exist and each court is often at odds with each other. As King of the Dark Court, Irial is at odds with the Summer Court in Ink Exchange — the second book of the series. The Dark Court are known for their dark appetites and their cruelty. In order to keep his court strong Irial created the curse that bound the Summer King’s powers. On one hand this clearly makes Irial an antagonist to the Summer King, but as the novel is in 3rd person POV with 3 characters, including Irial, he is actually a protagonist and we’re given insight into the fact that he only cursed the Summer King for the sake of his own subjects, who needed the Summer Court weak in order to thrive.

Kindness

A Good Monarch is Kind
King Arthur from Fate/Zero, a Japanese anime

A good monarch is kind, not only to their own subjects, but to people form other kingdoms. A good example of this is King Harrow from The Dragon Prince. In Season 2 of the animated TV show, the two queens of Duren, Annika and Neha, make a supplication to King Harrow of Katolis, asking for food due to their own country’s lack of resources. Rather than turn them away, King Harrow proposes to share his food, and in their suffering as Katolis does not have enough food to feed both kingdoms. One might consider this a bad thing, as Harrow has sentenced thousands of his own kingdom to die slowly from hunger, but the act of humanity he shows in sharing makes him a good monarch in my opinion. For those who have seen The Dragon Prince you know that is not the end of the story, and they do indeed find a way of getting more food, though at great cost.

Who is your favourite monarch from fiction, or history, and why? Let me know in the comments below.