Dec
29
2014

The Power of the Posse

Though most people develop hundreds of interpersonal connections throughout their lives, we typically only rely on a small group of trusted friends and allies to solve problems. Though a corporate cliché, it is through the synergy of diverse backgrounds, knowledge, and skills that truly awesome accomplishments are achieved. In fiction, this translates to having a Band of Adventurers to support the protagonists through their trials.

In the initial installments of a series, the protagonist will often either work mostly alone, or with a handful of supporting characters. This allows the author’s focus to be on developing protagonist sympathy. Given time, characters can be added to the roster as the protagonist develops contacts throughout their adventures. However, an author will often choose to allow characters to rest on the back burner for a time. With sufficient authorial skill and word count, more allies can be called to service in a single volume, but by limiting the head count the author avoids crowding the reader’s attention.

By overlapping the skills of the Band of Adventurers, we make up for the gaps in our protagonist’s abilities and ensure that the group has the abilities and resources needed to succeed. However it is essential to ensure that each member of the Band is sufficiently awesome and charismatic in their own right to avoid washing out their contributions and personalities. After all, our protagonist is the standard by which readers measure all the other characters in a story.

However, support characters need not only provide assistance. They also represent an invaluable opportunity for character growth. Often, only those closest to us are able to spot our areas of improvement and force us to work on them. In addition, forcing people to face hardship together places them in a literary crucible. When we turn up the heat, the flaws of each character will exacerbate the problems they face and elevate tempers. This too is a mechanism for forcing change.

As authors, we intentionally force our characters to face fantastic odds. Having a protagonist who is universally skilled grinds on the reader’s suspension of disbelief and degrades story tension. Therefore, it only makes sense that we also develop a support group, a Band of Adventurers, to help them in their struggles. As I create a story, I like to think of the people my protagonist would meet and interact with as part of their back story. By developing these individuals and relationships, I am able to both fill in gaps in my protagonist’s competencies and force them to keep growing. Thoughtfully conceived and balanced, a Band of Adventurers is a powerful tool.

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