11.49: Elemental Ensemble, with Michael Damien Thomas

Michael Damien Thomas, co-publisher and co-editor-in-chief of Uncanny Magazine, joined us for a discussion of the elemental genre that contains most of the stories we refer to as “heists.” It’s all about a well-rounded cast in which the group relationship is what’s pulling us forward.

Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.


Look at professions with a front-person, and with behind-the-scenes staff. Create a story that focuses on the behind-the-scenes folks.

Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damien Thomas

7 thoughts on “11.49: Elemental Ensemble, with Michael Damien Thomas”

  1. Suggestion: Cabin Pressure, BBC Radio play series (available on Audible)
    -Ensemble cast, non-heist
    -About different career (aviation)
    -Has several lead cast members (CEO, airplane pilot, actually good pilot)
    -Great exercises in dialogue (everything but sound effects is dialogue, there is no narration)
    -Highly amusing
    -Cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch
    -Will teach you great games for long car trips

    -Only 26/27 episodes long
    -Not fantasy/sci-fi
    -….I guess some people don’t like the type of humor, but you can’t please all the people some of the… wait, how did that go?

    1. I love Cabin Pressure. It taught me so much about building story after story with a very small cast (it’s often just the main four plus a supporting character or two), and it’s been a big influence on the audio series I’ve been working on.

  2. I really liked this episode.

    What’s the minimum, optimal and upper limits on number of characters in an ensemble?

    Is 4 podcasters an ensemble? :)

  3. Listening to this made me think how useful some research into the psychology of teamwork would be to writing this kind of story.

    Example: there’s a model that says teams come together in 4 phases – Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing.

    Forming – people are working mostly independently, often cautious and tentative with each other

    Storming – they come closer together but that means they start to tread on each other’s toes and come into conflict

    Norming – the “unwritten rules” of the team get written. This is my space, that’s yours, but the other bit is *ours*.

    Performing – getting stuff done

    That’s a story structure right there, I think

  4. Sometimes it takes a team to tango? Well, when the friendly foursome sat down with Michael Damian Thomas to talk about ensembles, they quickly got beyond heists, into cooking and other wonderful team pursuits. On the silver screen and off. So when you want to write something besides the lone hero, doing it all by themselves, it may be time to get your ensemble together. Read all about it in the transcript, available now in the archives and over here


  5. What would an ensemble-driven family-story look like? Are there any examples for family-ensembles?

    My guess is it is almost automatically a different elemental driving force with family plots. Like drama.

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