1. FestivalDays
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    FestivalDays New Member

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    Managing many characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by FestivalDays, May 27, 2012.

    Hi everyone, this is my first post, so don't be too hard on me :D,
    Anyhow, I've begun writing a story about a bunch of young-adults who get onto a game show. The problem I have with this is how I'm going to manage the large expanse of characters, while still allowing the audience to feel a connection.
    The story will be written in first person, in the view of a teenage girl.
    Any ideas on how to manage a large(r) amount of characters? I'm thinkign about 12-16 contestants on the ame show, and the host.
    Thanks in advance! :)
     
  2. koal4e
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    koal4e Member

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    I have done two things, first an outline of each character then I did a bubble diagram about characters...this will be a bubble with their name and a short outline on who they are...then arrows to other bubbles of other characters to show their association with other characters (on the line I put their association such as wife/friend/foe etc).

    I put this in a seperate word doc and keep it open whilst writing, I also did the same for the locations in the story I had created too as mine involves a whole island so characters with arrows to locations as their home areas etc.
     
  3. gypsytrails
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    gypsytrails New Member

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    Something a lot of writers suggest doing is write a separate biography for each character. For each of my characters I have a template that I fill out: birthdays, family, friends, likes, dislike, hobbies, personality quirks, etc, etc. Sometimes I spend hours on one character, getting all the intricacies of their personality out. I feel a character writes the story themselves. Maybe instead of starting with all twelve or sixteen, start with three or four profiles and work your way out from there. You may find that you have fewer core characters and several supporting characters. It'll make it easier to get the characters out of your head and onto paper. Another piece of advice: if you have two characters that are really similar, either drop one or merge them together. You want a distinct flavor for each personality otherwise people will get confused. To keep them all sorted, use a binder with dividers. As much as I love computers, I find it easier to use pen and paper and a binder to keep track of my character profiles.
     
  4. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I would question the need for that many characters in the first place. Ask yourself if you could merge two characters into one... would it make a difference? I bet you that you could take a few of the characters, change their names/descriptions so that they are all the same person and it wouldn't make a difference in the story.

    Now, sometimes you NEED to have a lot of people in a specific scene just because the situation calls for it. If that is the case, maybe you don't need to give a full blown description of every character or even a name. Especially if you are writing this in first person perspective... think about the last time you went to like a party where there were 12+ people there, did you know all of their names? Maybe not... and even if you did, that might've been the only thing you knew. And how you would describe them would be based off of first impressions. So it would be like "that guy is drunk" "that guy was very rude and short tempered" "that guy is quiet" "that guy looks like he goes to the gym a lot". You could do the same type of thing for the gameshow... only having 3-4 "real" core characters. The rest of them are just people that are there that might say a thing or two every now and then.
     
  5. kingzilla
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    kingzilla Senior Member

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    Agentkirb makes an excellent point. For my first draft of my YA fantasy, I had nine kids on a quest. I realized that if combined some of them, I could reduce the number of characters in the quest to 6. This made it easier to show my scene rather then telling more then I should. Look to see if to personalities are close to the same or even mix some to make an orthodox character.
     
  6. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    I am with Agentkrib. Everything should be limited to what the viewpoint character, the teenage girl, knows, sees, feels...etc. about the other characters, else there will be POV confusion which is a sin for fiction writing :) Also, I don't think the readers need to connect with all the characters all at once. And some characters may be simply there as props in the contest setting, in which case all you have to worry about is that you don't confuse the readers with many names. So, identify such characters props and don't even name them. "the guy with the yellow shirt" or "the girl with the ponytail" should be enough. This is in keeping with the 1st person POV because the girl may not know every contestant names and also it will be a signal to the readers that characters with names are the important ones. As for important characters, develop scenes before, during, and after the contest to go deeper into who they are... one at a time.
     
  7. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Not only do I have a biography of each character, but I'm thinking of using the attributes of the computer to ease the problem.

    For example, sometimes I'm having problems with Chapter A. I just scroll down and work on Chapter B, the one I want to write. When they both fit together, I cut and paste.

    I plan to do this with dialogue.

    I'll make a list of everyone in the room, and decide where the scene is going. I'll write each statement and response separately to work out the kinks, giving each character my full attention as I write for him/her.

    Then when it comes time to 'write' the exchange, I'll cut and paste each polished response to fit with the others.

    Yeah, I know, I know. But having been through ripping apart a complete chapter, and facing another round of that introducing another major player, it seems simpler to do it this way.
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    First, consider how many characters you need to tell your story.
    Next, flesh out these characters. Not all of them would have the same amount of importance, not all of them would be noticed by your POV character.
    Give the characters something distinct so that your readers can tell them apart.

    I'd say the key is to make your many characters distinct, and to serve a very specific role in your story, otherwise your readers will start confusing one character for another or forget who's who. I had that problem with the Hunger Games actually - now I loved the books, but I wish the author reminded the reader who's who a little more often. The characters were introduced in a "scattered" kinda way, here and there, vague details, and I found it hard to follow some of the more minor characters.
     
  9. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    How integral are these characters to your story?

    You're going to have some characters that bond with your MC (best friends, boyfriends, enemy etc.) but there will also be other side line characters that aren't THAT important. For the sideline characters, I create a separate document to keep track of them with their names & key features (i.e. blue eyed, blonde or looks like a body builder or what their profession is). The I have for more central characters more fleshed out character descriptions. I always keep these documents handy as I am writing so that if I forget who so and so is, I can quickly remind myself.

    I had a very difficult time with this because my MC has same-sex parents -- she has her mama and mommy. And I was confusing myself when I was trying to differentiate between the two. Normally I just say, "my parents," but some situations necessitated a distinguishing and it got really confusing for me LOL
     
  10. Fivvle
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    Fivvle Contributing Member

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    Having that many characters from 1st person POV is probably very smart. Don't do what Robert Jordan did with the Wheel of Time series, that is, give the names and descriptions of every single character ever to the reader and expect them to remember any of it. From 1st person, you could give a much more realistic view of all those characters- some of them the main character may get to know, while others never really matter at all to her. People will normally forget the names of people whom they have little or no contact with.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    First person is best used for a single POV. The very nature of it is centered around one person's evolving perception of the events of the story, so giving multiple such personal views muddies the most powerful aspect of this POV.

    That being been said, I have on occasion seen two first person POVs used to good effect in novels. However, there is still one principal POV in these cases, and the second first person POV is that of the antagonist. That second first person POV allows the reader to see how the antagonist views the same events as the principal POV, and is NOT used to reveal events the main POV would not uncover.

    An excellent use of this dual first person POV is Sue Grafton's T is for Trespass.

    But if you are building a composite collection of events by switching among several POVs, none of whom observe ALL the relevant events, you are better off sticking with third person.
     
  12. Pyraeus
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    Pyraeus Member

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    Look up George R.R. Martin, his A Song of Ice and Fire books have a lot of characters in them, yet he's managed to give everyone their own story within the whole picture. I have the first two books, finished the first and part way into the second.
     
  13. FestivalDays
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    FestivalDays New Member

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    Alright, thank you all for your ideas!
    I have a more clear idea on what I'm going to do now, I had never really considered that the character just introduce some people as, 'The girl with the blonde hair', etc. Then I could just develop the characters I needed for the story, and let all other character be referenced back to a time where they may have played a slightly bigger role, or a point the reader will remmeber them from! Thank you!
    Is there any other tips you would issue in terms of writing with many characters, or should I be pretty sound with this?
    Also, to Cogito, I considered writing the novel from the view point of a few characters, or even all of them!, and then decided agaisnt it as I then would have to weave in extra sub plots and it may become quite confusing, not only for the reader but for myself as I think I need a little more experience working with characters and taking their various plots from point A to point B!
    Again thank you so much! I read every comment and it really has helped!
     
  14. koyelevergreen
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    koyelevergreen Member

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  15. koyelevergreen
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    koyelevergreen Member

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    How many characters have you chosen in your young adult story? I think 3-4 main characters would do a pretty job.
     

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