[REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #45 - September 2007 [spoilers]

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Fri Nov 9 10:20:17 PST 2007

On Nov 9, 3:11 am, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at yahoo.com> wrote:
> On Nov 9, 3:07 pm, Tom Russell <milos_par... at yahoo.com> wrote:
> > On Nov 8, 1:59 pm, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at yahoo.com> wrote:
> > > Anyway, I personally prefer writing ensemble pieces, but there's
> > > always the danger of course that a couple of characters are going to
> > > get short shifted in terms of development and somebody is going to
> > > accuse them of being "interchangable". :)
> > :-P
> > I think actually that's more of a danger with a heavily plot-based
> > ensemble piece.  My general feelings about ensembles have been largely
> > negative because they so often undercut suspense, certain characters
> > are poorly-developed, and, especially in filmmaking, they're an easy
> > way out-- it's a lot easier to fill up ninety minutes if you're
> > telling ten people's stories rather than just telling one's.
> What I saw of the movie "Love Actually" was entertaining.

And some of my favourite films-- Nashville, Magnolia, Faces-- are
ensemble pieces.  But I think I still prefer the sort of clarity of
focus you get with smaller casts.  Part of it is also my own work as a
writer and filmmaker; I know it's much harder to sustain interest (and
suspense) with one plotline following basically one character.

I also think that, in general, more intensely focused works of art
tend to have more power and be more satisfying, at least to me; I've
spent two whole hours with someone, instead of bits and pieces of two
hours.  I've become more deeply invested, I know the character
extremely well, I've shared an experience with them, and the payoff is
that much more intense.

With an ensemble, there's more of a liklihood of what I guess one
could call "cheating".  For example, you can get away with not having
anything happen in this story or that one because you're always
cutting away to someone else's story.  In a focused piece, you don't
have that luxury, and so it better damn well be interesting.

And, in serial fiction, an ensemble piece is more likely to not be as
well-plotted; a few subplots can fill up an installment nicely and
gives the impression that something has happened.  (I was guilty of
this myself many, many times in my team books, and I think my more
"focused" approach of the last couple years has been an attempt to
train me out of bad habits.)

At the same time, an ensemble gives you a vital tool: contrast.  Look
at THE GODFATHER PART II and the way in contrasts Michael with his
father; look at the parallel plotlines in KING LEAR.

Ensemble fiction has its uses, its pros and cons, as done more focused

I guess we'll have to see how I do when JOLT CITY returns...


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