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  1. #1
    Member Writers Choice's Avatar
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    Acceptable Number of Characters for a Novel

    What would you consider an acceptable number of characters for a full length novel of say 80K words or so?

    I may have to rewrite.

    MC: 3 (3 POV)
    BC: 5 (Goes in & out with one of the MC)

    Few minor or one time characters to make story flow, this is where I'm sure I over did it: 14.



  2. #2
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    What's a BC?

  3. #3
    Rogue Mutt
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    Short answer is as many characters as you need to tell the story.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jayce View Post
    What's a BC?
    Back up characters - I make up my own acronym as I go along.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Writers Choice View Post
    What would you consider an acceptable number of characters for a full length novel...?
    Rogue is right; there's no set number. (You didn't really expect a definitive answer, did you?) What matters more is the execution--how well you handle the POV, avoid head hopping, make each character different, allow only one POV character in a scene, the list goes on. My best advice is, reread your favorite novels, paying attention to how those authors stage manage the characters, the scenes, the POV.

    Or you can read Dwight Swain. (Just kidding.)

  6. #6
    Rogue Mutt
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    Quote Originally Posted by jayce View Post

    Or you can read Dwight Swain. (Just kidding.)
    From Swain's book: How many characters should you have in a story? No more than absolutely necessary.

    He also talks about consolidating characters, something I figured out without Swain's help. For instance in one story I had a character and a while back he fell in love with a woman and then later he meets another girl and her mother and I thought, hey what if the woman he fell in love with and the mother of the girl are the same person? Then you only have to come up with 1 character instead of 2, which is always good.

    Recently I read Lawrence Block's Writing the Novel, in which he talked about creating characters. It's a good read and it's free on Kindle Unlimited, I think. I bought it for only $1.30, which is about $16 cheaper than Dwight Swain, plus Block is a far more successful writer. Check it out.
    Last edited by Rogue Mutt; 12-04-2015 at 02:04 PM.

  7. #7
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    So much to learn.

    I'm gonna stick with a series of novella/novelette and maybe a few short stories until I get a grip on writing. I think I will put my novel in a drawer for a few months - maybe this time next year, I'll revisit. I put way too much money and time to let it die. It was a great learning experience and I really like the story line. I need to get better at telling it.

    Little off topic but from the reader's perspective have you found they care if a book is a short story vs novelette; novelette vs novella?
    If I knew then, what I know now, I wouldn't be me!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by jayce View Post
    Or you can read Dwight Swain. (Just kidding.)
    Is there something disagreeable about him now? I remember every amateur recommending his book on writing above all else last I looked.

  9. #9
    Rogue Mutt
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    Quote Originally Posted by DirtCoveRed View Post
    Is there something disagreeable about him now? I remember every amateur recommending his book on writing above all else last I looked.
    Ha, every amateur.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue Mutt View Post
    Ha, every amateur.
    Is there something disagreeable about him now?

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