1. Mister Addams
    Offline

    Mister Addams New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0

    How many characters are too few?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Mister Addams, Jul 19, 2013.

    I read the thread about too many characters and thought that my story might have the opposite problem. It's basically one character and his interactions with other temporary characters.

    Could it be an issue that the story only follows one person?
     
  2. erebh
    Offline

    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,620
    Likes Received:
    467
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    The Road has 2 in that case...
     
  3. Anthony Martin
    Offline

    Anthony Martin Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2013
    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    San Diego
    It depends on the length of the story. In the short story form, there is limited space for character development, maybe a handful and no more (in a recent short story that I wrote, for example, there are two principle characters). In longer (novella) or long (novel) forms, a dearth of characters such as you describe above might take the wind out of the story's sails, so to speak.

    That being said, there is no concrete minimum as far as I know.
     
  4. NigeTheHat
    Offline

    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2008
    Messages:
    762
    Likes Received:
    580
    Location:
    London
    Could it be an issue? Yes. Will it be? That will depend entirely on how you write it (you'll have seen similar answers from lots of people to lots of topics here. It's true, every time)

    If you're going to have just one character take your readers through the story, that character has got to really interest them. Whether or not they care about your protagonist is going to make or break it. They need layers. And on top of that, they've got to do all the plot-work. So given all that, if you're just starting out as a writer you'll probably find it harder to keep one character interesting and having only them drive the plot forward for a long length of time than you would to have a few of them to play with.
     
  5. archerfenris
    Offline

    archerfenris Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2013
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    67
    Location:
    Savannah, GA
    One of my favorite books as a child was "Hatchet." It had 1 character.

    Too many variable to answer this question. The answer is, "It depends."
     
  6. QuicksilverKite
    Offline

    QuicksilverKite New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2011
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    I've found that every story I've ever read has Three characters at its core, the Protagonist, The Antagonist, and the Motivator. The protagonist is the main subject of the story, the hero (or anti-hero). The antagonist then is the force working against the hero impeding his progress thus creating conflict which drives the story. The antagonist, though does not nessecarily need to be a "Person" it could be the eminent death awaiting the hero in a post-apocalyptic horror world. The Motivator is the force that drives the hero foreward, sometimes it is a person, often times not, but honestly it is a character in its own right.

    Can you have a book with only one person? Well, the short answer is "YES" but for a story to be compelling there must be motivation and conflict, the two "other" characters. So something to think about I guess.
     
  7. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Zero is usually too few.
     
  8. mbinks89
    Offline

    mbinks89 Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2012
    Messages:
    551
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Montreal
    That doesn't seem like too few.
     
  9. Thomas Kitchen
    Offline

    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2012
    Messages:
    1,258
    Likes Received:
    422
    Location:
    I'm Welsh - and proud!
    YES! It seems like I was the only one who read it, but I was wrong. ;)
     
  10. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    that!... successful novels have contained only the narrator... admittedly few, but in the hands of a masterful writer, it can be done... haven't you ever read 'the old man and the sea'? [i don't believe the fish = a 'character' though papa did sorta treat it as one]...
     
  11. AnonyMouse
    Offline

    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2008
    Messages:
    2,225
    Likes Received:
    337
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    I think calling these forces "characters" is a bit of a stretch. It is something of a gray area and depends heavily on how the author portrays these forces but, in most instances, plagues, natural disasters, death, and such aren't anthropomorphized enough to be called characters, IMO. They are antagonistic forces.

    For example, how many characters are in an episode of The Walking Dead? Do we count the zombies? They're (sort of) human. They do things. Their presence affects the flow of the plot. But are they characters? I would say no, they are an antagonistic force. They lack the development needed to be considered characters.

    I know this is somewhat subjective, but I chose to add it to the discussion, since this is a discussion about counting characters. When does something become a "character," instead of just a force?
     
  12. Kita
    Offline

    Kita Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2012
    Messages:
    126
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Northern Ireland
    I'd say that because your story is about his interactions with other characters, it should be fine though this depends on how it is written and the length.
     
  13. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    And that's why I said "usually". It is possible, albeit rare, even to create a story with no characters in the traditional sense. However, I am not sure it is possible to have a story with nothing filling the role of a character. Such a story could not have a plot, because a plot requires an actor, a goal, a motivation, and an opposition.
     
  14. ChaosReigns
    Offline

    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2013
    Messages:
    1,090
    Likes Received:
    455
    Location:
    Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom
    it depends, like most of the ones i write, i focus on one central character and scope others in somewhere, for me, no more that 3 characters at once, or it becomes difficult...
     
  15. mbinks89
    Offline

    mbinks89 Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2012
    Messages:
    551
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Montreal
    Although, there was the 'boy' in the Old Man and the Sea, although he was pretty minor.
     

Share This Page