1. Acer
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    Acer Member

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    A few character questions

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Acer, Aug 24, 2010.

    One thing that I picked up from reading other writers is that 1) don't write too many and 2) make each character in the group as different from the others as possible, for clarity between people and making each one interesting.
    I'm also guilty of not being able to do this very well, especially in one of my series where I inevitably have a main character that has a different set of people around her in each book...

    In your opinion, how many characters in a book/series are too many?

    How easy do you find it to make your characters separate from each other and how do you go about making sure they are as diverse as possible?

    I think I had some more questions but I've forgotten them for the moment.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My first book has about thirteen characters, some die off very early on, others only get a main mention. But I have quite a lot major characters.

    My second book has about six characters total (unless you count the soldiers).

    I think you just use as many as your story needs to be told.

    I use the following to help vary them
    1) Meditation, I use it to visualise them
    2) Dialogue box, my books are very dialogue driven. Its first person so the other characters are drawn through it. I put words I wouldn't use but they would in a box and pull them out and try and use them in the dialogue lol Works well.
    3) I used an idea from here to give them psychological tests on the internet.
     
  3. Acer
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    Acer Member

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    Interesting. Thanks :)
     
  4. John Bender
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    John Bender Banned

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    I agree with Elgaisma, you have to create as many characters as you need to drive the story forward. Still, you can try to avoid creating random additional characters by checking whether the ones you already have and need can be/do/say this and that as well as a new character. For example: if you need a scene at a party and it don't really matter where it is you can either make up a random character we've never seen before and will never see again. Or you can have the party thrown by a character you've already introduced and probably will use again. That might help avoid character overload and randomness.

    And when it comes to kind of a central character goup I always get the feeling that uneven numbers are better than even and that five is ideal because it's enough to provide variation and not enough to be confusing. Three is ok if that's all you need. Seven to me feels lik the upper limit, where I start having trouble keeping the characters in mind and/or apart.
    Everything over seven simply doesn't really work for me. Like ´Ocean's eleven`. Watching this crap is like a constant ´wait, who was this?` and ´what's his name` and ´is this him or him?`

    Don't know if that is of any help but I hope so
     
  5. Acer
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    Acer Member

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    ty :)
     
  6. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    How many character people can handle depends on how well you write them. If you are a master of characters like GGR Martin and can paint them vividly you get away with a lot more.

    If you want them as diverse as possibly and this don't come naturally to you, you could use tools at the Briggs Myers type indicator.
     
  7. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    Names can provide a bit of diversity. Even though J.K. Rowling sprinkled many characters throughout her series, I never mistook one for another because of the... creative naming. Have your naming make some sense, though.

    As for numbers, it depends on your story. As long as each of thm have a purpose, they can stay in the story. When you think it's becoming too much but you want to keep a character, start melding character traits and purposes together where it won't matter too much. This isn't very good example, but in the movie adaption of Twilight, the director compiled Ben's purpose as Angela's love interest into Eric, and it worked out pretty well.
     
  8. Zane
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    Zane Contributing Member

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    In my opinion there is not a fixed number for how many characters a story should possess.

    I believe you can only say "this story has too many characters" when the story starts introducing characters that have nothing to do with the main-plot [and sometimes they also have nothing to do with a sub-plot either] of the story. Character´s that are nothing but fillers to the story. For me that´s the only circunstance where I always say "This story has too many characters"
     
  9. razcox
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    razcox Member

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    Have to agree here the number of characters doesn't really matter its the weight of the character and what they have to offer. A good example of a huge number of characters is the disc world series, it works well and each character adds something to each book they are in. A example of where its gotten a little lost is the wheel of time series, for me there are now too many characters and I get a little lost reading the later ones which is a shame because I was really enjoying the story.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I recently finished waded through Stephen King's Under the Tome Dome. He introduces so many characters he has to post a cast of characters (incomplete) at the beginning of the book, and I constantly had to refer back to it to keep them straight. They all contribute to the tangled network of plots, but many of those plots could be omitted from the book without harming the flow. In fact, some drastic pruning would undoubtedly improve the story.

    Under the Dome is intended to be character driven. Instead, it is drowned in a sea of excess characters.
     
  11. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I drowned a whole heap of my unncessary characters at the beginning of my final draft of the first one lol it was very satisfying:)

    Instead of like in the original version of a boat sinking where nearly everyone survived, I decided everyone should die:)
     
  12. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    I'd suggest avoiding "La colmena" (The hive)

    :D
     
  13. razcox
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    How very titanic of you!

    Killing off a lot of characters can really add the dramtic and liven it up though. Hey it worked for Emmerdale! :D

    I feel that Mr king tends to like the sound of his own voice sometimes in his writing. I got a bit lost reading William Horwoods books, the ones with the crazy moles because of too many characters.
     
  14. Acer
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    Acer Member

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    I have an unfortunate habit of killing at least one person in every book at the moment, I'm trying to break that! lol
     
  15. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I try to keep my characters fairly manageable in number. While over the course of the story, I may have as many as 20 characters, many are secondary and often die off easily. In terms of main characters, I try to stay to a manageable amount.

    I also don't mind characters with some similarities, as long as people can tell them apart.
     

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