1) A collection of wild and unusual animals, especially for exhibition.
2) An unusual and varied group of people
I have menageries in my books. Well, not animal menageries. Character menageries. And my favorites definitely fit the mold of “wild and unusual.”
I believe it’s essential to have a menagerie of characters in stories—do they have to be eccentric? No. But they should all be different. With distinguishing quirks, habits, physical traits, and backgrounds. Unless, of course, you write for the Bob Newhart Show, and you have three backwards brothers like Larry, Darryl, and Darryl.
But even if the brothers act the same and two of them talk once in a full moon - gosh. Look at them. They’re physically different. Distinguishable. Unique. They gave the show more character. More dimension. Richness.
And THAT should happen in books too.
In my first project, I wrote out several character analyses. In my head (and I know this is BAD), I had a movie poster of my five main characters—like this
I could picture each one of them because of that image in my head. And they were unique—from hair color to height to skin color. Different. Not only that, but they all had different powers (duh), and they all had extremely unique personalities, diverse backgrounds, and definitely dissimilar quirks.
For me, the menagerie was essential—two of my star players were named Brent and Bender—their names were so close, I had to make them extraordinarily different. But the variations added richness to my story. At times, I didn’t even need dialogue tags, because based on actions or manner of speaking, the speaker was crystal clear.
In my most recent project, I have to work a little harder at creating the menagerie. My mc isn’t a big guy, but his three buds are offensive linemen. They’re all about the same size and enjoy a lot of the same things so I dug a little deeper into their personalities to make them more distinguishable. And multi-dimensional. And frankly, more entertaining.
So menageries—I think it’s important to have them in your stories. They distinguish your players and add richness to the script. And while they may or may not be wild animals, I for one hope to one day see my collection caged up in a book and prominently displayed on many shelves.
How about YOU? Who are some of your favorite wild and unusual characters?