Any configuration of characters past four is an ensemble cast. Discworld is an excellent example of an extended ensemble cast. The Studio Ghibli movie Pom Poko (1994) also uses the ensemble cast to comedic effect.
Ensembles aren’t just for comedies, either. You don’t have to tell an ensemble story in a certain way. With numerous characters whose viewpoints you can look through, you can write any kind of story. For example, the Lord of the Rings series features multiple adventures with several ensembles. X-Men and Star Trek both explore dystopia and utopia with ensemble casts.
The ensemble is best suited to exploring a huge world, as you can have multiple vantage points with the large cast of characters. This works particularly well when paired together with omniscience to create a god-level view of a world, or when paired with limited or stream-of-consciousness techniques to create a highly stylized experience of a secondary world.
Although there are many characters in Star Wars, its narrative structure is more like that of the solo journey. Solo journeys can also be interwoven to mimic the story structure of the higher-order narrative styles.
Reading comprehension exercises
- Define the difference between an ensemble cast narrative and a solo journey narrative. Identify where they may appear similar.
- Give an example of an ensemble cast narrative.
- Identify all main characters in the ensemble.
- Articulate why a character is part of the ensemble.
- Explain why you left characters out of the ensemble (if you did).
- Provide your rationale for why no one character in the ensemble can be called the sole protagonist.
- Identify any characters that could be combined to streamline the storytelling.
- Identify any gaps where there might need to be another character to clarify the storytelling.
- Explain each character’s relevance to the plot and narrative.