This is a big challenge when it comes to ensemble cast stories. Yes, there are those that take the reins of the story and others that float into supporting cast. Yet, each player is important to the overall story. Unfortunately, you can’t have them be in the spotlight for every volume. That could result in 20 plots competing for attention if everyone has their own journey. At best, you can put them into groups of 2 and 3 to give them more time in scenes, but that’s not perfect. War of Nytefall: Ravenous ran into this problem and the next volume has it as well. Is this really a bad thing?
For those who love the characters that take a step back, it will be a disaster. Their favorites aren’t getting the attention they deserve. Doesn’t matter that they already had at least one volume where they got to shine. Anger might be aimed at the characters that maintain their status because they have claimed the ‘main’ cast moniker. You hope this isn’t the case, but people are funny and unpredictable. Some can turn on a series if you don’t cater to their whims, which you can’t avoid. There’s a reason characters are rotating in and out of the spotlight over the course of a series. It helps to keep things fresh and opens for more stories. People don’t always realize that characters may have a specialty instead of being a Jack-of-all-Trades. This means that there are adventures when they aren’t going to be as useful.
Aside from keeping a series fresh and moving, you get another big benefit. These characters that are stepping out of their limited roles can be flushed out and gain their own fan-bases. My goal is always to create a variety of characters, so that readers can connect to at least one of them. There’s no rule that you can’t have multiple favorites or switch to a new one. Kai Stavros was a minor character to me until Eradication and now he has a really interesting story arch that will go on for a bit. Decker is getting some attention in Ravenous and I’m enjoying doing that. From the hero side, Titus and Bob get to shine a bit more. They’ve really been in the shadow of Lost, Mab, and Clyde for much of the series. It’s a more difficult balancing act than with Legends of Windemere because I have a bigger cast and no ‘destiny’ storyline.
I’m laying the groundwork for bigger jumps in this volume because I need a lot of heavy hitters for the finale. That is the ultimate goal for an ensemble series. By the end, you want every character to have changed in some respect. If they were around for everything and remain the same then you missed an opportunity. That or they’re really a statue and you never realized another character was lugging the thing around. By the end of even a small series, you need your heroes and villains to be at the final stages of their journey. If you had to phase them in and out of importance throughout the volumes then that shows you gave them the proper amount of attention. As an author, we do need to focus on only a handful of plots or we end up with a muddled mess. At best, we get a book that is thousands of pages long in order to cover everyone from the protagonist to the antagonist to the janitor who cleans up after the battle in chapter 4. Poor guy wasn’t even supposed to be at work that day.
My point here is that you have to pick and choose when and where to progress with a character. It’s a challenge because we have our own favorites. It’s hard to push Lost into the background because I enjoy writing her, but Desirae sure as hell wasn’t going to let that loose cannon run around for long. I guess you can make your choices depending on the actions of the villain too. Who would they target or who would be the best choices to get in their way? It depends on the story. This is a personal balancing act that I could continue writing about for hours. Yet, in the end, it comes down to what the author wants and the story needs.