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I want to build a team.

This team consists of people with diverse powers. Each of them has a different power, and some number of them are spies (one or more, I haven't decided), so they have a different actual power than they say they do. There are also several powers which none of the team members have.

I'm thinking about six characters on the team. There's only one POV (this person is also on the team), but five supporting characters with different powers, as well as one person without any powers. The relationships between the POV person and the rest of the people differ. The physical and behavioral characteristics of the team members differ.

Is this too many people? Will it get confusing? If it's too many people, how do I cut it down without losing some of my favorite characteristics?

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2 Answers 2

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I admit, reading this description I am a little confused.

But if I follow your POV character, and he meets these people over time, bonds with them and learns their names, discovers their powers individually, and forms a team with the usual Five-Man Band dynamics (+1 for the odd spy), this is a well-known formula for teams.

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The Overly Sarcastic Productions video breaks the Five-Man Band into 5 types:

  1. Leader – generic Hero with a balance of abilities and character
  2. Lancer – complicated hero, lots of power but a flawed character
  3. Heart – mediates between the two, under-powered but perfect character
  4. Big Guy – is defined by a physical trait: size. Power is defensive (indestructible), not much character.
  5. Smart Guy – also defined by a single trait: mental ability. May not have any power (might be physically vulnerable, like a child or elder, or a small animal), might be grumpy or aloof. Might be a computer.

These traits are supposedly designed to compliment each other, but you can also see they are simple variations of two aspects: the "strength" of their superpower, and the "goodness" of their character.

The Odd-Man-Out, #6 the Spy will likely have a very strong power (or several) but ultimately have the worst character allowing him to betray the team. #6 may be able to beat any other team member in power, even the leader, even the brains. He is arguably so powerful he should be the leader, in fact this may be a source of conflict if the Lancer respects abilities more than character. Heart will see his flaws immediately, but being underpowered would be an excuse to discount her (or drop her from the team). In the end, his character flaws prevent him being a true leader. It will take the entire team to defeat him, or he might leave on his own rather than admit he can't hold the team together.

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  • Funnily enough, without knowing anything about the 5-Man Band, I've already basically developed a 5-Man Band. Huh.
    – Ian Ng
    Jul 18, 2018 at 16:33
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Six or seven is not too many on a team, for a story.

The problem is making sure you can make them distinct and don't have two or more people doing basically the same job in the plot.

The problem with big teams is writing them; it is a lot of people to introduce and make unique and that puts a lot of pressure on the author to make that happen and NOT seem like an info-dump.

To me, Stephen King in The Stand has the best way of introducing a large team (in a long book), his "leader" starts alone, undertakes a quest (due to a dream), and meets his team one by one on this quest, a scene for each of them. It makes sense, they are all having the same dream quest and headed to the same place, etc.

That way, the reader is 'naturally' introduced to each character doing something (meeting the team-so-far for one) and this provides tension or conflict in coming to trust each other (you never know when you might be meeting a murderous gang or bad guy), etc.

But those are all story mechanics. The answer is, your team isn't too large, but definitely avoid early info-dumps trying to introduce that many people at once. It demands far too much telling and thus demands too much memorization from the reader; which they absolutely will not do. That means they will become confused by who-is-who on the team, that leads to boredom and putting down the book.

The antidote to that is slow introduction, lengthening the first ACT of the novel.

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  • Would slowly integrating them still work if my POV character is joining the team, but meets them one by one?
    – Ian Ng
    Jul 18, 2018 at 16:07
  • I should think so; it is only the pace of introduction that counts. The big issue is you (the author) controlling the amount of information you are asking the reader to remember. The best way to convey info is through a scene; and the best way to build character is through a scene where the character is doing something (including talking to somebody, interacting with another character). So make these scenes interesting, not just "tell me about yourself," followed by a soliloquy on the new chars history, skills, etc. That's unnatural, don't try to dump too much at once. Just like IRL (cont)
    – Amadeus
    Jul 18, 2018 at 16:30
  • we learn about new acquaintances a little at a time, including their skills or quirks or whatever. Sometimes you can shortcut that, char B happens to know char C and tells your MC "best swordsman I've ever seen," or stuff like that.
    – Amadeus
    Jul 18, 2018 at 16:31

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