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  1. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Story with a lot of characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by BillyxRansom, Jul 13, 2008.

    Do you write down a bunch of names that sound good, and then try to come up with an occupation in relation to the world you have created? Do you just decide 'Well my MC is going to come HERE, and meet someone. And THIS is who they are...'

    What is your method, if you have a lot of characters? How do you keep track?
     
  2. FantasyWitch
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    FantasyWitch Contributing Member

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    I used to write profiles on them, but then realised I had far too many characters to deal with and din't like the restrictions of having a profile set for each character.
    I think when t comes to cook there should be 1-3 main character and 5-10 other important characters but no more.
    It takes a great amount of skill to write a book with a number of characters and keep the reader familiar with them all.
     
  3. LibbyAnn
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    LibbyAnn Contributing Member

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    I totally agree with FW. The story I'm working on right now has two characters and two very strong supporting characters. There are a bunch of other minor characters, but they appear for a scene now and then and don't have a whole lot of backstory given to them.

    As far as creating the characters...some of the characters I had an idea of who they were before my MC met them. But others I'm learning about as they go along. I really don't like doing character profiles before I've written the character though. But I do go back and jot down important information that I'll need to remember about my character (ex: eye color, hair color, hometown, etc.)
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    BillyxRansom,
    Characters are introduced only when needed to move the plot forward.

    As an author of a piece, you'll know and understand the connection of each character introduced/added to the mix. Remember, the reader doesn't have that luxury, and probably will not remember every character and the 'important' part they are supposed to play. In the end the author risks losing the reader's interest and attention with a story/novel that does not require them.

    As such, me, as the writer 'keeping track' of characters isn't difficult, as there are not very many.

    Sure there are characters that come and go but those are stock characters, ones easily recognizable and really takes little effort for the writer to develop and the reader to envision and remember. There, names that reinforce the image help. If, for example, the main character is a young teenager, and an elderly local storekeeper is in the story, if he is named, 'Old Mr. Meyers', an image begins to form. That as opposed to being referred to as Jimmy Meyers.

    I know, a long answer for the question maybe. But it all depends on the purpose of the character in the plot of the story (why they're there), that would be even longer to explain. Here is an article I wrote that will maybe clarify if anyone coming across this thread is interested:
    Seven Common Character Types

    Terry
     
  5. Daisy
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    Daisy New Member

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    I have to agree with Fantasy Witch as far as having too many main characters. Unless its an ensemble piece like Oceans Eleven or such, it distracts from the story in my opinion.

    I write my chapters in individual Word documents and use the Properties function of the MS Word Program to note info about that Chapter and the characters who appear in it.

    If it is a passing character who just comes in and out of the story to support what is going on, I might list anything interesting, quirks, descriptions, etc. so I can check it later and not have to go back and read the whole chapter to remember what I said about them.

    For MC I can pretty much remember them since I usually create them in my mind and sort of get to know them as well as I can before I start to write the story.

    One other thing, on names, this is probably strange, but I usually just name them all Jack or Jill or John Smith, etc. until 'they" tell me who they are and what their name is after a few chapters. Once they let me know their name I just use the word programs replace function and in an instant they've got their real name.
     
  6. Marloy
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    Marloy Contributing Member

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    Well, I'm not sure of what you do, but I usually don't jump into a project and say 'okay, I've gotta have x many characters and I've gotta make them all up right now' - way to difficult and confusing.

    It's really hard to create characters in stories sometimes, but the truth is you don't have to have an entirely huge cast of characters before you write the first word. The two options I've pretty much come across are one or two:

    - One, you create the setting, the plot, etc., then you create your basic characters to fit around that and create others as you go

    - Or two: You create your basic characters and build the plot and setting, etc. around them.

    Number one I find to be an easier bet, because if you are going for a certain type of story, say, historical fiction, you can't name your character McGoogles or something if he had an entire different name in history.

    Again, you don't need them all to start. On my current story, I started with the MC and her immediate family. I wrote what happened to them in the beginning and built on that. Also, give yourself and your characters a break! It took me two years to really get to know my MC. One of the most (if not the most) important people she meets along the way actually has an entire crew of sailors, and even by now I know about ten of them (I also write short narratives for many to make them more definitive). Know the characters you need, and when you need more to advance the plot, like, give your MC directions even, you can always create disposable characters and move your story along.
     
  7. The Dark Writer
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    The Dark Writer Member

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    I just keep track of everything in my head, or I might just Type it on a word document. Honestly, It's not too hard!
     
  8. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I never, ever use the method you described; that would never work for me. They'd all be cardboard characters.

    It's easy to keep track of my characters (and I have LOTS of them...I bet I confuse other people!) because each of them is an individual personality in my head. To confuse two of them would be like confusing two friends in real life. I know them well enough (for the most part) that I can keep them separate. I do need help keeping track of smaller characteristics, though, like eye color or certain events that happened in the past, for example. But as for their personalities, they're all unique and easy to keep track of.

    As for how I create them, for the most part it's an organic process; they just gradually come into being on their own. Sometimes something specific will spark a character's creation, but there's still a long development process during which I get to know them. I almost never create a character just for a specific story (maybe because I write in series stories), but even when I do, there's a lot of development.

    I can't just create a character and BAM, write about them like I know them. I have to get to know them first.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    First off, I agree with everything Terry said - create characters as you need them. Don't try to establish a dramatis personae up front.

    Second, be careful not to introduce too many at once. Even if you can keep track of them all (after all, it took time to write your story, by the time it's all written and revised, they are "old friends"), your reader will be overwhelmed.

    This may require rethinking some scenes, especially in the opening. If you planned to begin with your entire troupe plunging into action and having a nice round-table of dialogue, your poor reader will be drowning in a sea of mingled faces. Give the writer time to get to know one, or possibly two, characters, long enough to bond with them. Don't put too much description into situational characters (e.g. the gang of thugs your MC must defeat on the first page), or you will muddy the image of your protagonist.

    Focus clearly on one character at a time when a durable character is introduced, and your readers will be more likely to love (or hate) your character as intended.
     
  10. Ore-Sama
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    Ore-Sama Senior Member

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    Anna Karenina
    The Count of Monte Cristo
    War and Peace
    The Idiot
    Lord of the Rings(all the books)
    Harry Potter(especially the later books)
    The Godfather

    These books have HUGE casts of characters, Monte Cristo in particular having about two dozen characters(10 at least introduced at once), and several with different names/identities, and their reputations speak for themselves. A large cast of characters is really no problem at all as long as:

    A:The writer can keep track of them
    B:They are kept active
    C:Some are eventually killed or otherwise written out if they no longer serve a purpose to the plot.
     
  11. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    A Song of Ice and Fire

    If you haven't read those books, then you don't know how well George R.R. Martin does at having huge casts of characters. There are an IMMENSE amount of characters, and for the most part, they are easy to remember. Each novel has about 12 viewpoint characters.

    My book I'm writing has 4 viewpoint characters now, but I'm planning on adding more.
     
  12. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    My novel is told from the veiwpoints of many different characters. I have loads, but it's Epic Fantasy, so that's the point. I dont have any method really for remembering them, I just do. And I don't write down a biography for them, as I don't have a plot when I start writing. It would be a waste of time for me if I had sat down and written a whole personality/ backstory for one of my characters because when I got to introducing him properly I decided that the story worked best if I just killed him off straight away!
     

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