For most of the first part of this week, I was down with the flu. Ick. I always seem to fall prey to the flu or a cold in late February/early March. I don’t know why, it’s a strange cycle for me. Even if I do my best to avoid sick people during that time frame, it finds me. Anyway, being sick meant lots of down time, and I thought to myself since being sick frees you of all obligations, maybe I’d get some writing done. Ha!
Instead, I binge-watched the first two seasons of Shameless on Netflix. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it’s a dark comedy about a seasoned, neglectful (and wholly irredeemable) alcoholic and his six children (ranging in ages from 21 to 2) who are left to fend for themselves since he and his ex-wife have essentially abandoned them. The oldest, 21 year-old Fiona, becomes her siblings’ surrogate mother and fights hard to make ends meet and keep them from ending up in the foster system. And the show is, in a word, hypnotic. It’s also very, very adult, if you’re considering watching it, so be warned!
The thing is, I LOVE ensemble casts. Whether it’s in TV, movies, or books, I like a big, robust roster of characters who interact with each other but also have their own storylines. From the Lord of the Rings trilogy, to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, to heck, Star Trek, I love a world populated with fleshed-out characters, not just background and side characters. My own Siren Song series is pretty much an ensemble cast, but I wish I had written it in third person omniscient, so I could have followed the lives of some of the other characters more closely. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll re-write it that way.
That’s not to say I don’t like stories that focus more tightly on just several characters, because I do. But a huge cast of characters feels like I get more bang for my buck, that I get many stories instead of just one.
How about you? Do you like lots of characters with lots of stories, or would you rather write/read a more tightly-focused character study?