For those of you who have read The Single Feather, you’ll know that Rachel wants acceptance after being in a traumatic situation. To help with this, she joins an amateur art group.
Groups for a writer need special attention. Whether they are formal or informal groups, Linda N Endlestein (A Writers Guide to Character Traits) said they generally follow this pattern of development
Phase 1) Coming Together
Phase 2) Defining the Task
Phase 3) Unrest
Phase 4) Cohesion
Phase 5) Interdependence
The Single Feather follows this pattern, with phase 3 providing the conflict, which then triggers other more subtle consequences.
Endelstein states: “When groups are good, they are creative, and can generate more ideas than an individual. When groups are bad, people may behave less competently, make strange alliances (often unconsciously allow projections to take over, and practice scapegoating.”
So if you want to put in some ready made conflict, create a group, whether it be an art group, knitting group, or simply a group of women who often meet up in the park, or men who sit at the same table in the pub etc.
When joining a group, Endlestein says there is a basic conflict in “How much of myself do I surrender”
“If a person surrenders all, then she belongs wholeheartedly but gives up individuality. If a person gives little of themself, they retain individuality but never fully belongs to the group…Members want to participate and belong, but preserve their own identities. The conflict of self vs other is not static it shifts over time, depending on many factors, such as time of life, other commitments etc.”
When Rachel first joins the group, she is very guarded and gives little away, but when that phase 3) unrest/conflict comes into play, there is a shift.
The other factor you have to deal with if writing about a group is not confusing the reader with introducing all the members of the group at the same time. In The Single Feather, I introduce each member individually, sometimes in pairs (if they are a couple) so by the time you meet them all together you know who they are. You need to give them distinct personalities, and make sure their actions and behaviour matches their back story and experiences in life. This will help the reader in identifying each character. You may want to try to focus in on a sub group for key scenes.
Group dynamics are a great way of creating allegiances and factions amongst your characters. You could have cliques, jealousy, competitiveness and all manner of minor to major conflicts, as well as friendships, relationships and a sense of community.