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Thread: # of Characters

  1. #1
    Tara Allen
    Guest

    # of Characters

    Hi all

    I am brand new to this forum and to forums in general so please forgive any etiquette faux pas.

    I was wondering if there is limit to the number of characters that can be developed in a novel. I am writing a science fiction novel and started with a team of 4 people which grew to 6 as part of the storyline. I am finding it difficult to give each character the focus they need to be understood. Should I be focusing on one or two characters and let the rest of them just be support?



  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest

    Re: # of Characters

    Well think about it, in Star Trek you had Kirk, Spock, and McCoy who were the main characters who went on all the away missions and most of the time everyone else stayed on the ship to let the redshirts get killed. So just focus on your 2-3 main-est people and use the rest as support.

    Or if you like football it'd be like focusing on your quarterback, running back, and wide receiver and then not really so much on the offensive line because no one cares about them.

  3. #3
    jayce
    Guest

    Re: # of Characters

    Or you could do like M*A*S*H, with a slew of characters: Hawkeye Pierce, Father Mulcahy, Hot Lips, Klinger, Trapper, Col. Blake, Frank Burns, Radar O'Reilly, etc.

    There is no rule, but you'd be wise--as Rouge says--to focus on two or three main characters. I would add too, that there must a common theme running throughout the story that binds them all together.

    Good luck.

  4. #4
    leslee
    Guest

    Re: # of Characters

    There is no rule, but remember that the reader must find all of them compelling enough to keep reading. It's harder to do with a cast of thousands.

  5. #5
    Carl Purdon
    Guest

    Re: # of Characters

    If you're having difficulty giving them the focus they need (to be understood) then I'd say you have too many.

  6. #6
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest

    Re: # of Characters

    Or you could do like M*A*S*H, with a slew of characters: Hawkeye Pierce, Father Mulcahy, Hot Lips, Klinger, Trapper, Col. Blake, Frank Burns, Radar O'Reilly, etc.

    Yeah but still the show focused mostly on Hawkeye and Trapper/BJ and then Hot Lips and Frank/Winchester with a little less time and so on. Usually with an ensemble you have a couple stars and then other important characters who get a little less time--and probably aren't paid so well. Though maybe something like "Friends" or "Seinfeld" would be a better example of 4-6 characters getting more equal airtime.

  7. #7
    Tara Allen
    Guest

    Re: # of Characters

    Thank you all for your input. It has really helped.

  8. #8
    Jena Grace
    Guest

    Re: # of Characters

    Aren't TV shows often written by more than one person?

  9. #9
    Derek Wayne
    Guest

    Re: # of Characters

    Has anybody read Daniel Handler's Adverbs? Well written with dozens of main characters...But like Jayce said there is a distinct theme throughout.

    DW

  10. #10
    Cathy C
    Guest

    Re: # of Characters

    The trick with ensemble casts of shows is that viewers (readers) often got invested in a character when that episode featured that ONE person. Hotlips would have her own life featured, and then Trapper and then Radar, etc. etc. But with a one-off novel, it's harder because you're trying to also focus on the plot. If the book becomes a series, THEN you can focus on one or two of the other characters. A few novels have done a cast of characters well (Dune, for example, or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) but even then the story tended to follow one or two of the characters more closely.

    That's not to say that you can't memorable secondary characters that readers fall madly in love with. That's one of the things I like to do in our novels. Make every secondary character feel "real" through just a page (or even a paragraph) or two, and your work can only benefit. They're real and breathing and can add a key feature that the main character couldn't have otherwise done.

    I've found if you give the character a reason for being there, where that person solves a part of the plot that couldn't otherwise have been solved by ANYONE, then the book is much better off. JMHO, of course.

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