The Key to a Great Story – Crowds are Characters Too!

E. S. Lowry - Daisy Nook Fair. The crowd populating this painting adds to the atmoshpere.

E. S. Lowry – Daisy Nook Fair. The crowd populating this painting adds to the atmoshpere.

I’ve reached the point with characters where I can’t really discuss them and their development any more until I’ve discussed plot. One final note on character development before I move onto plot development though is to talk about crowds as characters. I know that in my own work the reaction of a crowd in a book adds a lot of atmosphere to a story. In a way the crowd is a character in its own right.

Firstly, the inclusion of a crowd in a scene adds depth. If your characters are in a middle of a battle or simply sat eating lunch in a canteen they are unlikely to be there alone. In Maria V. Snyder’s ‘Inside Out’ the packed corridors of the lower levels of the ‘In’, make the main character feel trapped and she seeks solitude to escape the masses.

The reactions of a crowd can also add depth to your story world and is a great plot device for conveying the general attitudes of the your world. For example, in a court room scene I’ve written, the crowd is multi-national. Their reactions to various events relate directly to the attitudes of their nation, and convey a great deal of information about the wider world I’ve created for my fantasy series.

Some of the crowd for example are from the former nation who was in charge of the old empire, who feel as if their superiority is being questioned by people unworthy of making such remarks. Others in the crowd are outraged at how the Accused is being treated because they are of their nation and they dislike the remarks being made as they feel as if they are also being insulted alongside the Accused.

Crowds can hinder or help a protagonist and they can convey a lot of information to the audience while adding depth to your story. You don’t need to go into too much detail about what they look like, the strength of their reactions or even mention them all the time. The focus of your story should be the protagonist, their companions and their struggles against the antagonist, but the character of the crowd can help convey a lot of information without much effort on your part as the writer.


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