chapter  8
Managing multiple-protagonist syndrome or ensembles
WithDavid Landau, David Bennett Carren
Pages 19

Most stories are told through a central protagonist who, faced with conflict, reverses, and obstacles, eventually experiences some kind of personal or emotional change that allows them to fail or succeed in reaching their goal. However, navigating a story with multiple characters while efficiently managing their individual conflicts, reverses, obstacles, and goals can be a daunting challenge for an experienced writer, let alone a novice. In this chapter, we will see how ensemble characters were successfully employed in features as diverse as American Graffiti and Babel. We’ll examine how, in the film Big Trouble, the recurring use of a location can be a simple way to help the audience keep track of colliding plotlines and multiple characters. We will also study how selecting one of the many personalities of Fargo to anchor its sea of stories was highly effective. An analysis of This is Us and Billions will illustrate how the ensemble technique is being successfully utilized in television. Conversely we’ll show how even the great Alfred Hitchcock could not make an ensemble story work in his feature The Trouble with Harry.