1. Kacoshi Ajewl
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    Kacoshi Ajewl Member

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    How Many Characters are Too Many?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Kacoshi Ajewl, Aug 6, 2009.

    I have a book I am working on that I have been told has to many characters but, in my opinion all of them are needed. Now when I say to many characters I don't mean there all Main characters most of them are maybe only mentioned only a handful are actually seen. They are there in my story to flesh out the world. In total there are 50 something minor and major characters. I was just wondering is that to many? Should I try to cut the number even if it means sacrificing a feeling of a rich world? I mean most if not all have there purpose for being mentioned ,but can there be such a thing as to many background characters?
     
  2. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    My book has a lot of characters. If they are essential to the story and are different to the others, then it's fine, as long as you know what's needed, what's wanted, and what is completely useless.
     
  3. Kathryn
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    Kathryn New Member

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    if they are all necessary, leave them in. bearing that in mind though, dont let your minor characters take over the story with their story
     
  4. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Look at credit lists of movies. You'll be surprised how many actors were actually in any given film.
     
  5. Operaghost
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    Operaghost Contributing Member

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    As long as they are needed in the story in any capacity then it is fine, what can cause issues however is if you need to refer back to these particular characters at later points as too many charcaters liek this could alienate the audience, As good as the novel is, The Count of Monte Cristo is a fine example of this as it requires you to remember a lot of character names in order to follow the story completely, which could easily put off casual readers
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    How Many Characters are to Much?

    ...1 more than you need to tell the story...
     
  7. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    Assuming they fit, fifty is perfectly fine as long as the story isn't so short that the character:content ratio is confusing for the reader. Look at Steven Erikson.
     
  8. scubadiver
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    scubadiver New Member

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    I am in the process of reading "The Count" at the moment. Good read so far.

    When it comes to conflict you really need three or four essential characters who are in conflict with each other and helps drive the story.

    A diad is boring and dull while having 4 characters requires 6 different pairings and that is too complicated for a story at any one time.

    There are many sitcoms and films where you can easily identify the triangular relationship. "Star Wars", "Indiana Jones" and, for the british folks on here, a good example is the classic sitcom "Only Fools and Horses".

    For my novel, I have two sets of triads that pop up at different points of the story. I think it strengthens the story line and the characterisation.
     
  9. Seppuku
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    Seppuku Member

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    'Too many' depends entirely on the narrative. Do the characters get in the way of the narrative? Is it boring keep meeting new characters? Or do each of their character add a bit that you think works?

    So it's difficult for us to actually say. 50 different characters would make anything by Kazuo Ishiguro boring (or at least in my opinion), yet perhaps in something similar to the Lord of The Rings it'd be more likely.
     
  10. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    No limits, as long as you keep their purpose clear and their significance consistent.

    Take a look at epic pieces like the Lord of the Rings (and the number of wikis, good Christ) for an example of something that really swings for the fences regarding cast size.

    I'm working on two stories (not posted here) that feature a small number of protagonists, a larger number of antagonists, an even larger number of support characters and an even larger number of "fodder" characters, but I believe it can be done.

    It's just going to take a lot of effort²

    Come to think of it, check out a few manga as well - massive casts seem to crop up in the larger stories like Fullmetal Alchemist and Shaman King while still maintaining strong characterisation and without stretching things too far.

    BIG CASTS MAKE EPIC FINALES[/optimism]
     
  11. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I think if your stories don't completely revolve around the characters a large cast shouldn't be a problem.

    I myself though try to limit my cast because my stories are generally told through a handful of third person perspectives. My stories center completely around character development and their relevance to the main plot. So I try to avoid characters that will be in and out of the story real fast so it doesn't look like I was two lazy to develop that character.
     
  12. kyle777
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    kyle777 Member

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    If they're all supporting characters, it's fine. Just don't make their plot lines any more important than the main character. Now, on the subject of MCs....having more than two or three can lessen the emotional bond between the reader and the character. Of course, it all depends if you can pull it off. A question like this is almost entirely dependent upon the writer's ability.
     
  13. Lijde
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    Lijde Member

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    As long as they don't have complicated or similar names to one another (confuses people), are actually vital to the plot, and don't get in the way of the story, it's fine to have a large cast.

    I myself keep a small named group, and then refer to any oneshot minors as "the sales clerk" or "the baker," or just thier titles.
     
  14. Kacoshi Ajewl
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    Kacoshi Ajewl Member

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    Well thank you guys for your inputs I really appreciate it and am glade I'm not making to big of a mistake with having so many characters. the story it's self is an epic on the scale of 'Lord of the Rings' and such that's why I thought that it wasn't going to over board.

    As far as MC's there two really possibly three if you count one of the characters who makes a huge appearance throughout the book. however, most of the book is told through the eyes of two people so I think that may be ok ^.^
     
  15. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    How many characters are too much?

    Depends. How many muses can dance on a pinhead?
     
  16. Invincible
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    Invincible Member

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    I agree with whoever said to check out Fullmetal Alchemist. A large cast of characters have never been handled as wonderfully.
     
  17. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    "...too much..." not "to much"!!!!

    That has been driving my nuts every time I see it on this forum.

    Anyways, I am discovering that it's more difficult when you've got lots of characters all in the same place. It's easier when there's only 2 or 3 characters talking at once.
     
  18. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you.
     
  19. Kacoshi Ajewl
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    Kacoshi Ajewl Member

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    uhh...sorry...I have terrible problems with grammar and spelling...as for FMA I have read it and personally I don't like the cast or the way it was handled...but that is a personal opinion.
     
  20. JoeMusings
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    As long as the number of characters does not confuse the reader, you should be fine.

    Hell, Thomas Pynchon is famous for writing hundreds of characters into his novels, and he's celebrated! Same thing goes for David Foster Wallace and a plethora of other postmodernists.

    In short, think of the reader. Does it work for him or her? If so, you're fine.
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    actually, in this case, it should be 'too many'!
     
  22. Far Away
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    Far Away Member

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    In my story I've got two major characters. They are in love with each other, and the story plays off of their experiences. There are four more essential, but not major characters. So about six characters that require development.
     
  23. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    If they all have a purpose that is to be served within the story, do not cut them.
     
  24. Sharajj
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    Sharajj New Member

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    Only you know the answer to this. If you have the talent to wrangle so many characters and feel they are all adding something to the story - go for it!

    One of my favourite books Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry has 11 major characters and I don't even know how many minor ones. It's a well-crafted novel and I think all the characters were critical.

    Personally, I am not confident in juggling a lot of characters. I just don't think I have the talent yet to really make it work.
     
  25. Kacoshi Ajewl
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    Kacoshi Ajewl Member

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    Well I use to run an RPG so I played all of the NPC's plus my own characters so I got use to having a lot of characters to work with when I create storyline ^.^ that's why my novels tend to have a massive cast lists and looking over my list of names lately I have relized that although they are all needed to make the world full and complete. I think only a handful will even be mentioned unless I decide to make my storylines encompass a wider range of the world then it does right now. XD so there we go!
     

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