1. Ryo-Heart
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    Ryo-Heart Member

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    Can there be too many Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ryo-Heart, Sep 20, 2008.

    What is the limit of Characters 6-10? I mean Main not all in the book I know there can be alot of people you encounter in your book but I mean what is the limit for main Characters. I know its hard to focus on more then one character but sometimes you need more then one main to get the story right. So what do you think is the limit?
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    There isn't a limit as such. But you can have too many. Personally, I think Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series has far too many. But since you're the writer, so really, it's up to you.
     
  3. Ryo-Heart
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    Ryo-Heart Member

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    yes but if you have to many characters people can't keep up with them I know how hard it is on me to keep up on all them.
     
  4. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    You can have as many characters as you can handle and/or the plots need.
     
  5. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    Yeah, Wheel of Time (I've read books 1-6) is awesome, but has WAY too many characters/places/terms....

    I find it depends on the reader. I personally can handle a large amount of characters if they are memorable, and if there's an easy-to-read glossary or character list in the book.
     
  6. Kirby Tails
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    Kirby Tails Member

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    My story has a ton of characters, really. Off hand, I think this part of the story involves...nine people alone. I guess that in itself isn't much, but my story takes place over like 200 years...But if you can make it work, go for it.
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    No such thing as too many characters as long as you keep track of who's who. I have seen a novel with over 2000 characters. Yes, you read that right. Over 2000. Of course, they don't all appear at the same time, and a lot of them are introduced, talked about for a few pages, then never heard from again, but it's still quite a feat creating over 2000 unique characters.
     
  8. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Create as many mcs as you want. Just ensure you do this.
    Make them distinct and make them memorable.

    You should be able to recall them and their specific traits at the end of book two,when you last heard from them at the beginning of book one. I wasn't able to do that with Jordan's books sometimes. Probably why I too quit after book six, that and the repetitiveness of the series.
     
  9. Becca D
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    Becca D Member

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    Pretty much it's all been said: you can't really have too many characters.
    However, remember that your reader has to keep track of them all. If it's really difficult for them to remember who's who, you may have a problem, since if a storyline is too confusing and hard to follow, many people will lose interest. If you're writing for yourself, it doesn't matter. But if you're writing with the intent to get published, you should think about how easy/hard it is to keep track of your characters. (This is especially important if you're writing a fantasy, as many names may sound similar at first to your readers, so keeping track of them is doubly hard.)

    One thing you can do if you want/need a lot of MC's is to introduce them only one or two at a time. Give your readers time to get to know a certain character or two, then introduce them to another. Don't have really long gaps where some characters aren't mentioned at all and then suddenly bring them up out of the blue to play an integral role to the plot and then expect your readers to remember who they are and why they're important.
    That's just my perspective of what would make it easier for me to remember a lot of characters as a reader. :)
     
  10. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I'm a many-character kind of person. I use a lot myself, and have little trouble keeping up with many of them in someone else's story IF the writer is good enough at making each one of them a memorable individual (and if they actually belong in the story).

    It's a highly subjective thing, as the other replies here have made clear.
     
  11. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    The Limit is based on your skill as a writer, your ability to bring them to life and make them special in their own right.

    There is no arbitrary number.

    Here is a helping guideline. IF you THINK you have too many, then YOU DO.

    That is just the way it is.

    I would say however for the Prime Protagonists, 1 MC and around 1 - 4 direct helpers might be where you want to cap.

    Main "Good" Supporting Staff (Main players but not Prime players) around 2 - 6 is a good cap.

    Prime Antagonist should be 1 Main, with 1 - 3 notable right hand people to help them.

    Main "Evil" Supporting Cast: between 2 - 5 to keep things simple.

    So you should have roughly no less then 4 prime players in your story (2 Protagonist & 2 Antagonist), with 4 more Main players in your story (2 on he "good" side & 2 on the "evil" side). For a total of 8 players.

    Hope this helps.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I've certainly encountered novels with too many characters to keep straight. Of course, walk on characters aren't meant to be remembered, and sometimes can be misdirection so the reader doesn't pay TOO close attention to an important character that you want to make appear minor.

    Just be aware that lots and lots of characters will make it harder for the reader to keep track of them all. If that's what you want, though, use it, but know that you will pay for it with some degree of reader frustration.

    That sounds pretty arbitrary to me! :)
     
  13. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tried reading (not sure of the name), i think it was Kate Elliot who wrote Spitit Gate/Shadow Gate (was a present), and for me i had to put it down... just when you think the plot might be picking up a little another characer was introduced (and considering her chapters were somewhat lengthy you could easily forget who was who and what was going on)... but that was my choice (as a reader).

    Whoever said if it feels good for you (or if it feels odd/wrong) than you might be on the right path, as long as you know whats going on (hoping others might be picking up the same feeling). And if you have the ability to pull it off.
     
  14. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    It was listing a rough idea of the Minimum not Maximum number of players based on what I have seen in my limited exposure has been done already, nothing arbitrary about it. :)

    and Arbitrary means with out restriction based purely on personal whim or unsupported ;)

    I supported my numbers based on what has been done with the current popular novels. (prime example would be the cast of Harry Potter) :p

    Short Stories, Flash, Novella, Poetry, Etc, Etc.. will of course follow different rules based on what has been done already regarding them.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    How about Robinson Crusoe - two significant characters.
    I'm sure you could find examples with only a single character of any importance.
     
  16. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    What part of "Rough Idea" did I not express? :rolleyes:

    and the OP asked about Maximum not minimum, so I am at a lost as to why you are even bringing this up? Just feeling a bit argumentative tonight? Anyway, this is not a debate forum, so I am not going to treat it as such.

    The objective here is to help put people that have questions and concerns so, Cogito, do you have anything that might help poor Ryo-Heart get a feel for when she has written too many players into the Mix?

    She asked: What is the limit of Characters 6-10? I mean Main not all in the book I know there can be alot of people you encounter in your book but I mean what is the limit for main Characters.

    Her other Question is: So what do you think is the limit?

    This is a great question, don't you think Cogito?

    What is the limit?

    I gave my feelings on this, which is seems you disagree with, so why don't you offer some insight into answering that question as opposed to just disagreeing with what I have put out.

    Where in your vast knowledge would you say the Limit is?

    Perhaps you might want to share some of your insight into this and give her a far better answer then then I have, after all if you thought I was valid in my presentation you would not be so driven to continually disagree with me about it.

    It would really help if you provided examples, novel titles, short stories examples, and the like along with numbers of the cast, even exact names would not hurt. So that Ryo-Heart (and myself apparently) can know where is the Limit is.

    With that said, I hand the floor over to you to give a solid valid answer to this question.

    I'll look forward to your response.
     
  17. CommonGoods
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    CommonGoods Senior Member

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    I guess an important question here is; what is a character? Is it a protagonist? Then 3 is often quiet steep, and any more then 4 is usually overkill. Is it a person with a name and some significance? That case, The Wheel of Time is probably the limit (First 4 books and over 32 characters who's names and significances I need to remember).

    However, if every person that appears in your story is counted as a character, the sky's the limit I guess.

    My current project will have 3 protagonists, about 10 or 12 important side characters and a whole crowd of other people (evil villain nr. 1, farmer boy nr. 6, etc), and already I find it quiet hard to place them all. Try not to make too epic. The reader will have a harder time remembering the characters then you. Also, like said before;

    Make them memorable.
    You can't "really" have "too" many characters.
     
  18. Kylie
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    Kylie Contributing Member

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    Include however many is necessary.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ungood, I believe I answered that in post #12 of this thread. I didn't give a precise number, because it would be, in my opinion, quite arbitrary.

    You suggested a minimum limit, and because it seemed quite arbitrary, I gave a counterexample. Two responses in a thread hardly constitute "continual disagreement".

    You may want to switch to decaf. Chillax.
     
  20. Ommonite
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    Ommonite Senior Member

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    Have as many as you want as long as you can manage them and they are required. You can always incorporate ideas into one character. Sometimes main characters themselves aren't even needed or don't contribute to the blot, like Legolas and Gimli who are responsible for 6% of the happenings in Lord of the rings (and 5% of that is Gimli)
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'd disagree with that. Their role is pretty importantm even if you consider the simple matter of the friendship that developed between them.

    Still, even if a character is important for only a single crucial point in the plot, that alone justifies their presence. Whether they also are present earlier and later in the story is a matter for the writer to decide.
     
  22. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    How much is the number of characters infleunced by the intended market?

    I would think different reader groups would have preferences that an author should take into consideration.
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'd agree that a Romance novel needs at least two characters. :)
     
  24. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know bout that . . . have you read "Chronicles of a Narcissist"? LOL
     
  25. Ashley868
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    Ashley868 New Member

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    Right now I am writing a story with six characters who basically main. The girl is the main character than she has five friends. There are two more girls and three boys. Though the three girls are in the story more than the boys are. The boys just show up when they all hang out as a group. It's a story about a reunion. It has other characters that the main character encounters through out her school life. I don't think I could write more than six mains though. It took a long time to write out all their biographies.
     

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