This week’s video goes over a few of the problems of too many characters and how you can decide the right number for your story.
Video Transcript: For most of us, our characters are the reason we start writing. There’s a voice or a face in our heads and we have to get it out on paper just to discover what it’s all about. So we start writing, and every time the plot takes a new turn, we add another character. And sometimes that character leads to another and another and another. But how do you know when enough’s enough? In short, how many characters are too many?
It would be nice if I could tell you every book should have twenty-seven characters, no more, no less. But, of course, that’s not the way it works. Every author has to make decisions about the number of characters needed for his story. But, in making that decision, it’s important you understand why too many characters can be a bad thing. Real quick, let’s go over just a couple of the problems of too many characters. To begin with, we have the simple fact of reader confusion, which we’ve talked about quite a bit in recent posts. The more characters you have, the more likely readers will forget who’s who and get confused. Likewise, the more characters you have, the less likely you’ll be able to appropriately flesh them all out. Then there’s all the issue of fragmenting your plot. If you try to juggle your plot, subplots, and themes among too many characters, you can end up stretching all three way too thin.
So take a look at your cast of characters and evaluate the purpose of each person in your story. How many of these characters are going play a part in the climax? And, conversely, how many are going to end up as loose ends to be tied off? With that in mind, are there any characters you can combine? Maybe the wise uncle and the cop next door could be the same person. There’s also the painful matter of realizing some characters serve no useful purpose and should be deleted altogether for the good of the book. Lush casts are fun for both authors and readers, but the more streamlined your cast, the tighter and more powerful your story is likely to be.
Tell me your opinion: Have you evaluated the number of characters in your story lately?
Related Posts: Don't Let Multiple Character Scenes Run Away With You
The Dangers of Character Overload
Make Minor Characters Count
Story by K.M. Weiland