1. Mans
    Offline

    Mans Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2012
    Messages:
    673
    Likes Received:
    193
    Location:
    Iran

    Usually, you choose how many characters for your story?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Mans, Apr 29, 2014.

    I don't know, if you are a writer that you chooses the limited number of characters for your story or the large number? This is what I am interested to know.
     
  2. nhope
    Offline

    nhope Contributing Member Reviewer

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2008
    Messages:
    242
    Likes Received:
    61
    Location:
    NH Seacoast
    I start with two, then see what happens. I don't have a number because some stroll in then quietly leave and some end up staying. Each major, or contributor, has to have a strong, distinct character, and any more than 5 or 6 exhausts me.
     
    Mans likes this.
  3. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    I start with one and add as many as I need. How many characters I end up using really depends on the individual piece.
     
    Mans likes this.
  4. AndyC
    Offline

    AndyC Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2014
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    39
    I think this is a "Quality over Quantity" sort of thing. I'd say it's better to have a few characters with deep, strong and developed personalities than a bunch of people you can't really differentiate from one another.
    Personally, I think it depends on the story, but I always end up with about 1 or 2 main characters, and about 5 or 6 other primal characters, who aren't important as the main ones, but they still have an important role.
     
    Mans likes this.
  5. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,828
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Depends on the story. I have a novel with over 300 name drops and like six main characters with intersecting stories but that things a behemoth.

    Most the time I don't choose the amount the story just evolves and with each new scene or conflict it demands a friend or a family member or an antagonist.
     
    Catrin Lewis and Mans like this.
  6. Renee J
    Offline

    Renee J Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2013
    Messages:
    463
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    Reston, VA
    I add characters as I go. Then, I cut characters if I decide they aren't needed. Right now, I have two main, five supporting, and six minor characters. And, I have some small ones who are more named background.

    Wow. That's a lot.
     
    Mans likes this.
  7. thewordsmith
    Offline

    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2009
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    124
    Location:
    State of Confusion
    I start with my main character and populate their world as needed to move the story. Like Renee, I sometimes find a character who, as cool and interesting as he or she may be, is just not necessary in this story, in which case, they are summarily ripped from the world. Well, okay, that's only happened once and the guy was so cool, I keep him around in hopes of being able to use him in some other story - Maybe even one of his own!

    But I don't count characters I only track progression (of the story).
     
    Mans likes this.
  8. ChaosReigns
    Offline

    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2013
    Messages:
    1,090
    Likes Received:
    455
    Location:
    Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom
    I add as i see fit, i start with 2 possibly 3 main characters and run with that, at the moment i have, 2 main characters, 2/3 supporting characters (one goes between supporting and minor through the lot) 1 named minor character (other than the one that goes between supporting and minor) 3 now deceased antagonists (i need a fourth later in the book but i will get there in the end) 1 character in limbo (who is named and was a supporting character in the first book) and a load of unnamed background characters that populate the background....

    and i almost forgot 1 x dire wolf that follows one of the main characters around.
     
    Mans likes this.
  9. Curupira22
    Offline

    Curupira22 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    Dorset, UK
    I don't believe there is any hard and fast rule; just add as you see fit.

    As mentioned, it can be next to impossible to define outright how many characters you have beyond the key characters you defined when you came up with the idea in the first place. It's about giving the main characters as many avenues as necessary to explore all the aspects of your story.

    this is the method I use but in scenarios where there are multiple story threads occurring at once, I try to maintain at least one primary and a secondary/tertiary character to keep dialogue flowing whilst adding as necessary to fill in gaps. For example, it just seems a bit.... implausible to have your main, secondary, or even tertiary characters involved in everything, every time. Sometimes you need a new character, even it their purpose is to simply vanish after a chapter. You might not provide a full background each and every time for these random characters but if you give them a name, I feel it is only right to at least to give them a presence.

    The nice thing with this method is that later, you can bring a peripheral character forward if you feel the need to remove a secondary or even primary character since you've already introduced them. For example, I started with a named character in one novel (wasn't even quaternary) who had a presence but no real 'bones' but by novel 3 and 4, the character is critical and has practically replaced one key character who became next to irrelevant.

    No idea if that helps but good luck! :)
     
    Mans likes this.
  10. Acanthophis
    Offline

    Acanthophis ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2011
    Messages:
    598
    Likes Received:
    330
    Location:
    Canada
    I don't really have a set amount; I just add and subtract characters as needed. :p

    Of course, it really depends on the setting. If you're writing a short story taking place in a house, you wouldn't need many characters (unless it was a party or something). Longer stories tend to have more characters due to their length, or maybe those are just the ones I have read. Stories like A Song of Ice and Fire are quite long and are constantly going through different characters. It really depends on the type of story you're telling. Make sure your characters are interesting though, there is no fun in having one boring person speaking to another!
     
    Mans likes this.
  11. Mans
    Offline

    Mans Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2012
    Messages:
    673
    Likes Received:
    193
    Location:
    Iran
    Thank you all so far. What you opined based on your knowledge and experience, was very interesting and useful for me.
     
  12. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i never 'choose' a number of characters for any story, mans... and i strongly advise against doing so...

    the story itself will determine how many are needed to tell it... some first person short stories need only one, while many novels require a huge cast of major, minor and peripheral characters, plus countless 'extras'...
     
    Catrin Lewis and Mans like this.
  13. Veo
    Offline

    Veo Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2014
    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    8
    A large number of characters helps a lot. E.g. Harry Potter. There are a lot of characters, which seems to enrich the novel. I, personally have three main characters and a lot of background, minor, helping characters. (50 or more)
     
  14. ToeKneeBlack
    Offline

    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2014
    Messages:
    592
    Likes Received:
    207
    So far I've got: 1 main protagonist, her sidekick, her sidekick's A.I. assistant, her mother, father and brother, an antagonist, his hired gang of about 60 thugs, a doctor, 2 nurses, 4 police officers, 6 military personnel, various helicopter pilots, news readers, receptionists and background characters - at least 80 so far, but fewer than 20 have any prominent dialogue and about 5 or 6 of those qualify as main characters.

    I'll probably add a few more before I've finished.
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2014
  15. xanadu
    Offline

    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
    Messages:
    552
    Likes Received:
    407
    Location:
    Cave of Ice
    I usually stick to 5-6, as that's about what I can manage while still making each one be memorable and well-developed. I'll have either one or two POV characters (I'm just starting to use two on my new projects), and the rest will be supporting cast (antagonist, love interest, sibling, best friend, mentor, child, etc). Then there are the others, like the MC's boss or the owner of the record store who exist in the background but may only make a few appearances throughout the piece.
     
  16. Bryan Romer
    Offline

    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2014
    Messages:
    891
    Likes Received:
    381
    It really depends on the story. I have as many characters as needed to handle all the parts. Nothing else makes sense.
     
  17. Commandante Lemming
    Offline

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,241
    Likes Received:
    1,000
    I can't help but keep inventing them - they pop up in my mind randomly - sometimes as a consequence of the story, sometimes just the thought of wanting to write certain types of people. Then again I'm pretty new to doing this so I'm just trying to keep my cast from expanding too much. That said I have five characters I class as "main foreground" characters in what I'm working on now. Plus one "main background" and at least two "supporting cast" (not counting all of the people I've made up for "later" in the story, assuming I finish the "first" book - at least one of whom is now going to get her own short stories)
     
  18. Fullmetal Xeno
    Offline

    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,364
    Likes Received:
    141
    Location:
    Kingdom of Austniad
    I don't have a restricted number. I usually create one character and go from there. It could be up to twenty or just five. I never usually know firsthand.
     
  19. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    As many as I need to tell it! :)
     
    Catrin Lewis likes this.
  20. Chad Lutzke
    Offline

    Chad Lutzke Member

    Joined:
    May 31, 2014
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    34
    Location:
    Battle Creek, MI.
    Personally, I enjoy fewer characters when I read unless they are introduced slowly so I can get to know each one before the next; otherwise I can get confused and have to back track, so I think this probably comes off in my writing, because we write what we would like to read ourselves. I've had experiences with fantasy books where I get turned off right away because too many characters are named too early with names I can't pronounce who come from kingdoms that look like a genus/species; again, unpronounceable. It's a bit of a turn off.

    ~Chad Lutzke
     
  21. Catrin Lewis
    Offline

    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2014
    Messages:
    1,671
    Likes Received:
    1,067
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    The novella I'm revising originally had three main characters (female protag, male protag, and a male villain), a small handful of clients, a couple of temporary employees, and an ex-girlfriend for my male prot, a minion or two for the villain, another baddie who was the villain's rival, a brace of cops, and that was about it for speaking roles. Several other people were mentioned (including the villain's following) but didn't do much even if they appeared in a scene.

    But then I started developing my main characters. And I took the advice of some on-line how-to-write author who said well-developed characters have families and friends and don't operate in a vacuum (as my protags had been). And my, how the population in my novel has boomed. I have as many characters as needed to interact with my protags and make their world real, and I'm considering how I can reuse a few of them later on in the book. I don't want to get too Dickensian about it, though, if you know what I mean.
     
  22. Annalise_Azevedo
    Offline

    Annalise_Azevedo Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2014
    Messages:
    60
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    Australia
    I like to use four or five main characters, while I will have a few more in the POV. In my first book, there's only a few character POV so that I can finish off the other plots and once their together its the bigger plots. If a main character dies, or doesn't get mentioned in the next book I just add another to the main character list :D

    But in the case of George R.R Martin, I can handle learning the countless characters since it revolves around more than one character. I won't have many bonds with them, but I would still know about them.
     
  23. Siena
    Offline

    Siena Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2012
    Messages:
    249
    Likes Received:
    51
    I start with the main character and then create characters as needed. I try to create as few characters as possible - it's easy to drift off with character creation rather than deal with and complete the main character's journey.
     
  24. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    My short stories have a limited number of characters. Just not enough time (or plot-related reasons) to have a lot.

    My novels all have had quite a few characters, with my fantasy series many of them are recurring, and as I'm writing a sequel to my SF novel, some are recurring as well.

    The 'trick' is to introduced each new character appropriately and within the context of the story, and if a character has been 'off stage' for a while, some reminder to the reader when they return. This can be a title/relationship/individual characteristic/action or something similar. This, of course, will point out when there are too many characters by the fact that they have duplicating or too much overlapping reasons for being in the story.

    Also, when introducing characters, being too detailed (or controlling) can be detrimental. Allowing the reader to 'own' who the character is in their creative mind's eye has benefits.
     

Share This Page