re ensemble casts.
I was hired a while back to rewrite a feature film
which is an ensemble piece. It's got eight major characters, all of whom are equally important to the plot (it's s heist movie with a team of six thieves versus a detective and his client). What I settled on was basically four threads.
Main plot: figure out what unique element each character brought to the story (their skill) and then figure out how it impacted the main plot (the heist), and then...
Subplot A: create a dramatic conflict between the two characters who have a past relationship to the MacGuffin, which creates tension between them but buttresses the main plot (adds significance to the heist attempt)
Subplot B: create tension between the thieves and explore their reasons for being involved in the heist, again supporting the main plot by their conflicts being a "complication"
Subplot C: made one character a wildcard in order to add a chaos element into the story which none of the other main characters were aware of, but which could subvert all the other plots.
Or, in a more general sense, something like:
- Figure out what the main plot is (goal)
- Figure out what the theme is (what does the story mean)
- Figure out what each character has at stake (what do they want, and what are they willing to get it, and what is the line they won't cross)
- Figure out which characters have conflicting needs, especially if they're on the same side, because that's where you'll find the drama
- Hold up the main theme and figure out how you can use the character conflicts to support, explore or counterpoint it.