Group Dynamics: The Character and the Group

In Monday’s riff on the three types of character connections that go into group dynamics, the third connection I mentioned was the character-group connection: how the character views the group around her, both conceptually and as a collection of people. Unlike the others, this one is almost as much about the character’s identity as about the character’s relationships; often, it will serve as something of a mirror, showing the traits that the character most values, or the ones that she least respects in herself.

The interesting thing about the character-group connection is that it simultaneously operates separate from and dependent on the other characters. On the one hand, you’ve got the character’s idea of what the group is, what her duties are, and what it does for her. On the other hand, the group is also the people, and that means that who the people are are going to have an effect on what the character considers the group to be. Make sense?

If not, let’s start with the character’s image of the group. If she were to describe it, how might she do so? Does the name, or something about it, have additional meaning to her? Is the sense of belonging important? How well does she mesh with its stated ideals? (Note that many of these questions are a lot more applicable with a character joining an organization or a task force than a standard, run-of-the-mill motley crew brought together by who-knows-what.)

What about her role in the group? For some characters, this is a vitally important element to their participation, whether they admit it or not; they like to know that there’s something they’re there for, whether it’s because of a search for meaning or so they don’t have to worry about someone trying to ditch them for whatever reason. Others might consider being in the group their inherent right; still others might know they’re only there because of a certain set of circumstances. There’s a lot of room for interesting reactions here.

Adding the other characters creates situations that play off of the answers to our previous questions. What happens if a character who considers her position in the group important to her but tenuous to begin with runs up against someone who can do almost everything she can? How is a character who has to earn her way going to react to one who considers it his right to be there, and vice versa? If someone does something that runs counter to a member’s expectations of the group as a whole, how’s the character going to react?

It’s tricky and often ignored, but the character-group interaction can provide an interesting source of additional color for a thriving group.

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