1. cynthia_1968
    Offline

    cynthia_1968 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2014
    Messages:
    162
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Amsterdam, the Netherlands

    How many main characters do you have?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by cynthia_1968, Jun 19, 2014.

    Hello,

    I've six main characters (male and female) in my story - which is 246 pages long - and takes place in London and Boston. The characters come and go in various chapters and in the end, they all come together in a grand finale to safe the world (or end it).

    All the characters are written in third person only, but sometimes I write about their inner thoughts too...

    I'm just wondering how many main characters do you have?
     
  2. Andrae Smith
    Offline

    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2012
    Messages:
    2,506
    Likes Received:
    1,404
    Location:
    Wandering
    Well, a story can have a handful of main characters usually only a few protagonists (at most) though--from my experience. The thing about main characters is that they play important roles in carrying and driving the story. They have significant "screen time" and are important to the plot or how the readers perceive the plot. However, some of those "main" may naturally take on a supporting role.

    Whether it works or not depends on how you write it. From what you've said here, I can imagine this working. It's not unheard of. Just look at Marvel's The Avengers. It was largely successful and was split between a host of main characters. I have been unsuccessful at telling a good story, so I've been unsuccessful at balancing multiple main characters.
     
  3. Ulramar
    Offline

    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 6, 2014
    Messages:
    799
    Likes Received:
    243
    Location:
    My own fantasy world, living the good life
    I have six main characters but it focuses around two in particular. One is the antagonist and the other is a secondary protagonist.
     
  4. Eedjii
    Offline

    Eedjii Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2014
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    Texas, Tx
    I have about three main characters that I'm rolling with at the moment, two of them are protagonists with acts in their own POV.

    Having a big cast can certainly work, look at @Andrae Smith 's example.
     
    Andrae Smith likes this.
  5. 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!
    I was thinking more along the examples of A song of Ice and Fire and The Lord of the Rings.
     
    Andrae Smith likes this.
  6. Andrae Smith
    Offline

    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2012
    Messages:
    2,506
    Likes Received:
    1,404
    Location:
    Wandering
    I thought of those too, but Avengers just seemed so much more mainstream. ;)
     
    Thomas Kitchen likes this.
  7. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    I think War and Peace has something like 550 characters. It's complete madness.

    To answer the OP's question, I have as many characters as I need. That may sound like a vague answer, but it's the truth.
     
  8. daemon
    Offline

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    982
    Just one. And she tells the story in first person. She interacts with many characters (it might grow into the hundreds), but the purpose of the story is to examine the world from her eyes.
     
  9. Renee J
    Offline

    Renee J Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2013
    Messages:
    463
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    Reston, VA
    I have two main, POV characters.
     
  10. Andrae Smith
    Offline

    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2012
    Messages:
    2,506
    Likes Received:
    1,404
    Location:
    Wandering
    Woah! :eek:
     
  11. 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!
    I looked at the wiki page and counted them all. 135, apparently. Still a huge number! o_O
     
  12. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Those are just the ones that are listed. There are hundreds of minor characters.
     
  13. Eedjii
    Offline

    Eedjii Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2014
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    Texas, Tx
    Oh god, I can just imagine myself going "Who's that guy again?" :p
     
    Thomas Kitchen and thirdwind like this.
  14. EllBeEss
    Offline

    EllBeEss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Perth
    I have four although I don't know if I'd really count two of them are kind of borderline main characters. The story is written in the first person POV of only one of these characters, one of her friends is pretty much always with her but the other two come and go and fade from the story half way through. The two characters who vanish/die are still very important to the story and driving it forwards but it doesn't look like they'll be getting enough screen time to be called main characters.

    Wasn't the OP's question how many main characters?
     
    123456789 likes this.
  15. Man in the Box
    Offline

    Man in the Box Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2011
    Messages:
    254
    Likes Received:
    41
    Location:
    Brazil
    Technically, one, but her love interest is also very developed so he's an MC too. This may change depending on what I do to the manuscript.
     
  16. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    True, but does anyone really know where the line between main and minor is? ;)
     
  17. EllBeEss
    Offline

    EllBeEss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Perth
    Personally I'd say somewhere before you have several hundred main characters :) but you're right it's very open ended.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,967
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    I have to nitpick and say there's nothing "but" about this--it's perfectly legitimate to write about a character's inner thoughts when you're writing in third person.
     
    Renee J and cynthia_1968 like this.
  19. daemon
    Offline

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    982
    Few things irritate me more than third person exposition of a character's thoughts.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,967
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    That puzzles me. I have trouble thinking of novels that don't include those thoughts. Maybe we're not agreeing on what "thoughts" are? I don't mean specific, word-for-word, thoughts in quotes or italics.
     
    Renee J likes this.
  21. daemon
    Offline

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    982
    I mostly referred to word-for-word thoughts. I elaborate on it more in my post on first person vs. third person.
     
  22. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,723
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    My "big" novel has two main characters (meaning that they alternate as POV characters - third person, but still POV characters). There's a fair sized supporting cast.

    My "small" novel has one main character and a dozen or so significant supporting characters.

    My short stories and novelettes all have one main character.
     
  23. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,786
    Likes Received:
    7,299
    Location:
    Scotland
    I think a few other people on this thread have mentioned this, but I'll put in my two cents' worth as well. There is nothing about a third person POV that excludes thoughts. The danger is that the writer can become dictatorial when writing in Third Person, and start telling the reader what every thought means. It's better to show the reader exactly what the characters' thoughts are, and let the reader decide for themselves about the meaning.

    The trick is to make these thoughts interesting, and to allow the reader to interpret them. If you write that your character thinks her teacher looks like Bugs Bunny, that's interesting—and open to interpretation. If you write that your character thinks her teacher looks silly, then that doesn't leave much to the imagination. It's the difference between showing (Bugs), which allows us to draw our own conclusions, and telling (silly), which orders us to interpret the teacher's appearance in a specific way.

    That doesn't mean you can't use telling on occasion. But when you create visuals or other effects for the reader to interpret their own way, you have drawn them into the process. The reader can then decide whether to agree with your character or not, and what your character's thought might mean.

    This trick works well in Third Person POV. It works equally well in First Person. There is really no difference.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2014
    cynthia_1968 likes this.
  24. cynthia_1968
    Offline

    cynthia_1968 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2014
    Messages:
    162
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Amsterdam, the Netherlands
    Yes, you're absolutely right jannert. When I was referring to inner thoughts, I meant that I use it to display their deepest fear and emotions during an event. Indeed, something like your Bugs Bunny example ;)
     
    jannert likes this.
  25. FallenShandeh
    Offline

    FallenShandeh Member

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2014
    Messages:
    93
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Australia
    I've had twenty main characters in one story before...

    I do try to stick to one or two main, up to ten major supporting, and then the hundreds upon hundreds of incidentals you kind of need when you're writing a story set in a busy city.
     

Share This Page