1. Kehlida

    Kehlida Member

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    How to Write a Cohesive Team

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Kehlida, Feb 4, 2021.

    So, instead of assuming I know everything and then some, I could use some advice on how to write a cohesive team for my story. It's set up similar to a novel but will be on the shorter side. It will probably end around 50k as a stand-alone but I'm open to turning it into a series. Limited third person PoV, and the focus holds to one team member throughout a chapter. When PoV changes happen it's evident within the first few sentences. It's written in an old-world style fantasy world containing a few different races though all 5 team members are humans, originating from 3 different cultures.

    Not all members get along with one another due to past dealings, but they're all brought together by the "leader" to storm an arcane laboratory following an accident which mutated the inhabitants. All 5 are motivated in their own interests, but they must work as a team to defeat powerful creatures and sort out the mystery.

    I'd love to go on about them but I'm not sure if it's relevant enough to justify that much detail but if anyone would be willing to talk to me more in depth (below or through DM) to help analyze my characters that would be nice.

    How does one recommend handling dialogue between 2 to 5 people? How much dialogue is too much? Does this story plot sound reasonable and worthy of 5 individuals? Personally, what dynamics do you like to see between group members? Any tips about writing a strong team would be helpful.
     
  2. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Is their leader a bald man in a wheelchair who's a powerful telepath? :D

    Sorry, couldn't resist. From the description, it could be a lot like the X Men, but probably isn't. I'm assuming they don't wear skin tight costumes and leap around sticking to walls and such (I know, that's more Spiderman, but whatever). Well, maybe rather than assume, I ought to ask. Are they anything like a superhero team? Or what?

    Also, one more question I've always wondered about, not at all relevant to your story. What does DM stand for? I know it's the same as what I call a PM (private message), but what does the D stand for?

    Wait... Direct maybe? :superconfused:

    Honestly, at this point my best advice would be to write a scene or 2 and post it in the workshop for critique. Or just write it, keeping in mind that you can keep changing it as much as you want to afterwards, nothing is ever set in stone (until you publish it). (Unless you're George Lucas, in which case there's no limit to when you can make changes, even to books people have already bought and read, probably changing it in their memories as well).
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2021
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  3. Kehlida

    Kehlida Member

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    I love X-Men comics with a passion and cherish this comment. Also, yes! DM as in direct message.

    Since it's set in an old-style fantasy world I could probably sum up their roles more like "classes," in fact the whole premise of the story is for them to complete their mission and storm the lab like it's a dungeon in an RPG. But basically, they're a lovely, not-so-merry band of misfits.

    Our "leader" Pieros is a mid-20s master scribe and amateur mage. He's prideful and intelligent yet struggles to connect with his power. He basically commissions the rest of the team under the guise it's a great task when he's not totally sure how extensive the issue is, but he's certain it's beyond him. He also has first-aid knowledge.

    Baudekin is a 40-something retired member of the royal army and son of a high-ranking officer. He's got a bit of a physical limit due to an old injury, but he's searching for that last adventure "worthy of a hero." I'd classify him as a knight or refined warrior.

    Meridia (30's) is a refugee from a small war-torn city set in the southern swampland. She lost her father, brothers, and namely her husband in the invasion. She led a few family members, women and children (including her young son) to safety, and took refuge in the port town most of this story is set near. Most of her skill comes from self-defense which she uses regularly as her family manages a tavern and brothel. I'd say she's similar to a thief rogue but with the benefit of having some medicinal knowledge.

    Jector is a young man whose father taught him basic combat skills to protect livestock which he used against his friends, and took to causing trouble in the city. He eventually runs away from his "boring" life on the family's farm and becomes a full-time scoundrel with a side of piracy. Despite coming across as aloof or awkward, he manages to surprise as our resident swashbuckler.

    Aelynor (early to mid 20's) is a bit of good chaos. Raised by road bandits, she had been "rescued" by the royal army during a failed robbery in which they killed her clan. She'd been sold to a renowned church group within the city and though they tried to turn her into a faith healer, ideal bride, or midwife, she failed at almost everything and they abandoned her. Aelynor returned to what she knew, took some commissions for pay, and though it's not her main hobby, she does delight in interfering with the royal guards. She's our troubled ranger (and probably the last person you'd ask to patch up your wounds.)
     
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  4. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Ok, I have a much better fix on the characters and the team now, and the story setting. Oh, and I also am a long-time X-Men fan, from way back in the days when there were no movies about them. That plus Wolverine were my favorite comics in the early 80's.

    Have you tried writing scenes with so many characters yet? I surprised myself when I tried it. I thought it would be a horrible mess, but for the most part it worked itself out pretty well. But by that point I had been writing for many years and gotten fairly good at it, developed a nice flow through action, dialogue, narration and description and a rhythm through the scenes and the paragraphs. If you have that stuff down for scenes with only a couple of characters, you should be able to handle larger teams.

    Your writing here on the board, and your familiarity with terms, some of which I didn't know until I got here, indicates you have a lot of knowledge and I'm guessing experience at writing. But it's hard to tell, there are too many—dare I say—X factors involved? :supercheeky:
     
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  5. Kehlida

    Kehlida Member

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    I appreciate this so much! I consider myself a novice at best really. I've spent hundreds of hours listening to videos full of writing advice, but it's come naturally to me as far back as I can remember. I think I underestimate myself unfortunately, so I complex ideas and pour thousands of words into a piece just to turn around and scrap it.
     
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  6. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    • For today's expeditions, in space, and wherever small groups of people sit on each other for prolonged times, you need to have compatible personalities. If the timescale involves more than a few weeks, if you don't want the group to break up, you need a catalyst, someone who can break tension with a good joke, and someone who makes sure that the individuals don't run roughshod over each other. If you don't have these two individuals, you get breakup and heartbreak.
      There are scores of possible roles people can take on in a group, and if you only have a limited number of spots to fill you can combine roles. i.e. the doctor who patches people up when they get hurt and keeps their spirits up with a good joke. Things like that. Get creative.
    • Give each of them a unique personality and individual goals, conscious and unconscious, despite their common obvious goal. They all had a life before becoming a group. Where do they come from, what made them form into the group they are—no, don't answer here in this thread but in your story!
    • There is bound to be friction between a few. Use that to create tension for the reader: Not only must he be asking himself if the group will reach the goal, but also... will they still be together? Make the reader care about them as a group, and then question their coherency.
    And then sit back and watch the mayhem unfold :D
     
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  7. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    My advice is always learn as much as you can, absorb it, and then work largely intuitively (with whatever level of planning and plotting the story requires, but be flexible about it). Then in revisions patch it up, prop it where needed with some more plot or characterization or whatever it needs. Don't scrap it, change it until it gets better. And keep in mind that a first draft is just a very rough approximation, where you get your first thoughts down. At that stage you can get a feel for what the story is looking like and start to re-shape it into something closer to finished form. You'll need to do this many times before you end up with a good story, it doesn't happen the first time through.
     
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  8. Kehlida

    Kehlida Member

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    Thank you @Lifeline for your advice! It's inspired me to go back and have another look at my team's inner workings; who gets along and who has differences and how their bonds may be strengthened or put to the test.

    @Xoic Definitely a good way to look at things. I wish I'd kept more of my old work and just revived the core ideas and revised. I want to push through and complete this story for sure.
     
  9. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Contributor Contributor

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    There's one important point I would like to stress that hasn't been mentioned. "Prometheus" syndrome, as I like to call it.
    It's great to give your characters flaws, so others in the team can make up for their weaknesses, highlighting they wouldn't get the job done without each other.
    However, the movie Prometheus goes beyond that in an attempt to create drama, by making team members so bad at their jobs or play so terribly in a team that you, as a viewer, are then taken out of the action because you're asking yourself "You're telling me someone HIRED this person?? ...For a multi-billion dollar space mission that could be critical to humanity and the billionaire's life? Who formed this team, an idiot? Did they pull a name out of a hat? This guy's moronic."
    The sequel, Covenant, also has elements of this. A biologically diverse world is discovered and - without any testing - they all stupidly take their helmets off so that the movie can happen.

    Even if your team is assembled and not hired, if someone performs actions so stupidly or acts so badly that you question why the team leader brought them onto the team in the first place, then it will bring the reader's opinion of the enterprise and the team leader down. Readers love *competency.* The characters dont have to be the best at their jobs; the reader doesnt mind if the characters fail, they dont mind if they have flaws, either. That's what they love, in fact. But they will get tired of stupidness and ineptitude, especially when it could have been avoided in the hiring stage.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2021
  10. Kehlida

    Kehlida Member

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    @Steve Rivers I've definitely seen that used before, but never heard it explained so well. Thank you! I aim to write compelling and competent characters who may falter in some areas, but generally excel at their specialties considering they've all proven successful or at least resilient on their own.
     
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  11. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, those dudes did kind of suck at their jobs, huh? Never thought of it that way before.

    As for the OP, I think the whole team thing is super overrated. Particularly in film. I mean, most people have to accomplish things in groups anyway. And just because a group happens to be present, it doesn't mean they're all whiz-bang, super duper specialists that compliment/compensate this person or that person. It can sound very forced when framed as such. Like the story only exists as an excuse to get characters X, Y, Z, et all in a room together.
     
  12. Storysmith

    Storysmith Senior Member

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    Unequally. I wouldn't try to have all 5 people speak the same amount or the same way. The loudmouthed one who always tries to get his/her way should talk a lot. The sarcastic one should only interrupt every now and again. The shy one should rarely speak. I'd suggest a range of personalities and using the dialogue to bring that out.

    The Last Jedi one-upped that. There's a bit near the end where they're on an alien planet covered in something white. One of the soldiers puts some in his mouth then spits it out and declares that it's salt. Watching it, I thought to myself So it's not cyanide then?
     
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  13. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    [​IMG]
    I like to use a good even coat to adhere the band of merry adventurers
    together, that is a the 100% Scientific proven (TM) method to keeping
    a team from disbanding guaranteed. Or your money back. See terms and
    services for more info. :p

    I generally work off a looser sense of camaraderie, where the character has
    enough charisma to pull a lot of loyal persons together on short notice.
    The ways they work together in the dynamic and how they solve problems
    that come before them, build their spots with their individual voices, thoughts,
    and opinions in an approach to a given sitch. While taking into account that
    at times they will have to work with others that simply don't get along with
    the character in question, but still manage to get the job done (or not).

    But I think the main point has been stated a few times already, that each member
    creates the whole, and the team would be hindered without them. Unless they are
    like Tyranids and can evolve and adapt to better conquer the planet they wish to
    slurp up all that sweet sweet biomatter to do the whole process again on a new
    planet.
    In short specialist in there set key roles can't effectively pick up the slack when
    one or more members is out of commission. Say for instance your hacker is
    stuck playing medic after the medic gets taken out. Sure he could do limited
    first aid (apply bandaids, ointments, and hand out tylenol), but will be less than
    useless at pulling a tracking bullet from another members backside, and having
    them survive the affair without extensive luck that they don't get an infection or
    bleed out cause a major bloodvessl got nicked.
    Teams are best when all the parts work, and things get alot more sticky when
    they break up.
     
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  14. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Think about times when you've had to work with people. Think about as many of these as you can. Try to work your own real-life feelings and situations in where you can. Not the specifics of the scene, but the underlying emotional truth of it. The dynamics of how people actually do things when stuck together (with or without Acme products :p :cool:) . Base situations and characters more on real life when you can, rather than on other stories. Copies of copies aren't as sharp as the originals. Just ask Michael Keaton from Multiplicity:

    [​IMG]

    And when people base stories on other stories, that's what you start to get.
     
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  15. rick roll rice

    rick roll rice Member

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    If the team cohesion is the story's main issue you can try to cast the whole team as a singular character. Use third person impersonal for a test drive, cinematic or not that's your call. That way you can externalize the inner conflict and see whether or not it works without investing emotional driver too much. Plus it's much fun to write, at least in my estimation. I could be wrong though.
     
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