Ensemble Essentials: The Dissenter and the Mouthpiece

Remember when I said I posted on a schedule? HA. Currently, I laugh. You’re all going to have to live with some off-schedule posts until I get a schedule back again. Today I want to talk about two types of characters  – characters who, in my opinion, add a great deal to any ensemble cast.

CHARACTER ONE: The Dissenter

Example: Leonard Snart (Legends of Tomorrow)

There’s one in every crowd – or at least, there should be. We can probably each think of a character in a group setting who usually disagrees with the rest of the cast. Everyone says ‘go right,’ this character says ‘go left.’ Everyone loves an idea, the Dissenter hates it. The Dissenter is often my favorite character in any ensemble cast. Not only does the Dissenter spice things up and keep the group mentality from feeling bland, but the Dissenter is often the one who sees what everyone else can’t. Often, the Dissenter character isn’t as ‘ethically hampered’ as the rest of the cast and is willing to make sketchier, harder decisions, or at least speak up about them. Also, the Dissenter is unafraid to speak up because chances are, they don’t get along with everyone else anyway.

The Dissenter is useful because they carry an element of surprise. The times they actually agree with everyone else are few and far between, making them special occasions. The Dissenter also provides a strong voice for good – they don’t go with the flow and sometimes because they’re on the fringe of a group, they perceive the whole situation better than the others.

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When writing a Dissenter, it’s hugely important to give them a moral code, even if it doesn’t match everyone else’s. Many authors try to write Dissenters who don’t seem to have any real opinion or stance – they disagree just for the sake of disagreeing, and that’s a surefire way to wreck this character. The Dissenter isn’t a Trickster, causing chaos just because – he believes in his opinions and isn’t keen on going along with opposing viewpoints.The Dissenter doesn’t have many friends, but if they do bond with someone, it will most likely be a character who takes the middle ground; someone who disagrees with the majority as often as not. For example, Snart and Sara get along swimmingly despite disagreeing half the time, simply because they can see where the other person is coming from, and they aren’t interested in drama.

CHARACTER TWO: The Mouthpiece

Example: Jayne (Firefly)

Oh, I love a good Mouthpiece. They fall under the umbrella of ‘outlying team member’ in that they usually keep to themselves or are ostracized to an extent due to their strong personalities, but that’s where the similarities to the Dissenter end. The Dissenter opposes, whereas the Mouthpiece says what everyone else is thinking. They’re often viewed as rude or stupid, simply because they have no filter. They state their opinion without wondering whether or not they should, which tends to make the rest of the cast feel uncomfortable – after all, there’s a reason we keep some things to ourselves.

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The Mouthpiece doesn’t have to be a stupid character, but they do tend to lack people skills and any kind of diplomacy. Their sheer, blunt honesty is frequently callous and tends to cause hurt feelings, which makes it hard for them to connect with people. However, when they do connect with someone, it tends to make a special relationship in which I’m ready to invest.

Often, if they do connect with someone, it will be with an opposite personality – someone sweet and thoughtful who provides balance.For example, Jayne rarely listens to anyone on the Firefly crew and rarely seems to care about them to any great extent, but he does have something of a bond with Kaylee.

Do you have either of these characters in your ensemble casts? Which do you prefer?

 

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