1. Sarah's scribbles
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    Sarah's scribbles Member

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    When your cast is too large?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Sarah's scribbles, Jul 26, 2015.

    I often have this problem. I try to think on new characters to fill a numerical need of mine stemming from my OCD. I am trying to address it as I have read various articles saying that larger casts for leading roles often cause to not being able to link in with them. Quite usually at the lead of my story is some team, some union of characters. In the one I am currently working on there is a group of four characters who have been brought together, from a young age mind you, but they have been brought together to fill a certain role in the universe of my story. I think four is an okay amount for the leading characters. it's a nice rounded number. these characters get separated or separate I'm not sure which direction to go with that yet but they split up. I now find myself adding more characters. they are not main characters but more so to give interaction with the leading roles. Is there a common point you guys think of to just say woe woe woe I need to do more with what I have rather than add more or do you think that a story can stand with a large cast and still have the audience not being thrown around from person to person. I have seen time and time again instances where characters are half haphazardly thrown in to fit a point or because they'll be important later so hey let's get you here now.

    Also, what do you think makes a character more.... emotionally connected to the audience I'm planning to have a love interest die at a much later point in the story and I do not want her to simply be someone we saw and now she's gone. I want it to really hit the audience.
     
  2. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    Four main characters is not to many as long is one of them is clearly the protagonist. Meaning, one of them has to be clearly identifiable as the one making stuff happen.

    To give an example, in my WIP I have two main characters who both get chapters in their POV. But only Miles is my protagonist. He's driving all the action forward. Unfortunately, Miles is not very perceptive, and he doesn't think things through very well. Furthermore, no one in my cast of characters really seems to understand another. Therefore, I needed Bridie. She's very perceptive, she's practical (important because Miles rushes headlong into things, and since she is good under pressure and excels at coming up with plans, she helps a lot), and she's the only truly reasonable character in the whole novel. Her viewpoint was necessary because she sees right through all the crap, so that the reader gets information Miles would not have noticed. But she's not the one driving the action.

    A large cast also needs to be very distinct from one another. If the characters all talk and behave more or less the same, the reader will get quickly and easily confused.

    I don't know what's considered large. In my book, I have seven characters that the action centres around. (I'm not counting walk-ons or characters who were only there very briefly). I like this number because it's big enough to give a lot of interesting dynamics, but it's not really possible to mistake one character for another.

    So choose a number that feels right for you. It's possible to pull of a larger cast, and in works such as Les Miserables the large scope of people is part of what makes it so darn good. But it's also a lot harder. If you're up for the challenge, go for it. If it's getting tricky, see which characters you could combine.

    Hope that helps!
     
  3. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    Didn't see that last part. I'm not great at emotional stuff, but I can convey a few tips I've heard before.

    For one thing, make her death sudden. It will have more of an impact that way than if we're expecting her to die eventually (like from an illness etc.) The suddenness will be upsetting.

    Make her death scene meaningful though. Show how it is affecting the other characters, without going overboard. What does she say? What does she do? What do they say or do? Avoid cliches.

    I almost forgot one of the most important: make us like her first. I can't stress this enough. I've read books where the character was just sort of there, so when they died it felt more like the author removing a tumour that was clogging up their story than the depth of a person we have come to know and love. Charles Hamilton dying near the beginning of Gone With the Wind? Not sad (of course, it wasn't really supposed to be, but an example). Augustus Waters dying at the end of The Fault in Our Stars? Nearly killed me. Because John Green took the time to make him real, to make us care, to make Hazel care. So take time.

    I've heard that it's good if they die leaving something unfinished. Is there some personal goal she was working toward? Were the other characters relying on her in some way? The fact that there wasn't closure in whatever she was working on is carries greater impact. And it could also help the plot (the plan involved her doing X task, now they have to think up a whole new plan while grieving).

    Above all I guess you just have to make it authentic. You've probably lost someone at some point. Draw from those feelings. Don't be afraid to let those feelings be raw and unpolished, contradictory even. That's authentic. That's what will resonate deep in the heart of the reader.
     
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  4. Sarah's scribbles
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    Sarah's scribbles Member

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    thank you for all the thought and effort you put into your reply for starters. I always make sure to thank people for taking the time to post on my threads and I found your advice most helpful. This gives me some thought for things to do with her. the character is a kind soul, very nice and friendly even to the villainous protagonist of the story. I was planning for him to just be getting attached to her and for him to really start to feel for her and want to change his ways. this leads to the antagonist killing her and using the protagonists appearance to do it. She of course will see through the deception, but he will return home to find her bloody corpse as the last hints of life drain from her. she's able to utter a few dying breathes but leave her words unfinished.
    part of the character is a yin to the main characters yang. she is meant for the protagonist to fall for her and want to reform his ways and begin to think of how his actions effect others. I only plot ahead though I never truly plan because I find that I end up trying to fix the beginning to fit into the end I have written in my head already if that makes any sense.

    You gave me some american examples. I don't know how much if at all you like manga, but there's one called bleach. in the beginning the author introduced new character after new character but gave some time or a chapter to each of them for us to find some information to the character and grow on them but now as it's growing towards the end and is in it's last arch the author has been throwing entire groups of characters into the story who pop up here and there and now he just killed off another wave of them and it's a jumbled mess.
    still a good manga in my eyes however it's fallen some as I really just... can't get into what's going on in all the insanity at the moment.

    As a side note if you feel up to answering one more question for me, if not it's perfectly alright. When do you decide your characters getting OP.
    In the story the protagonist has the ability to repeat things he's seen. he's like a copy cat and a muscle mimic. I plan for him to be strong, but of course the antagonist is stronger. I can think of a few instances where the protagonist and the antagonist fight and I think he will begin to grow stronger from the fights and learn some of the tricks the antagonist can do, however I don't want to just have him suddenly doing new thing out of the blue and like seeing a guy swing a sword so now he knows how to fight with a sword, even though that is kind of the basis of his powers. I want him to be able to grow and strengthen himself, but I don't want him to end up just.... boom I am awesome. if that makes any sense.
    something I may want to mention is it's the intent of the antagonist to make the protagonist stronger for selfish reasons
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I tend to have the opposite problem. Too few. :unsure:

    I don't write about teams or groups or anything that would tend to create a cast of that size. I have a lead, often a love-interest, a few other players who are clearly not leads. Sometimes I worry that this makes my story too thin, too... linear. Lacking in complexity and side-arcs. When I feel a character coming up out of the ancillary cast, clearly demanding a larger piece of the script, I have a hard time investing in that. It takes me a while to be ok with it and flesh this person out in brighter colors like the obvious leads.
     
  6. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    From what you've told me, I think that will pack a great emotional punch. You mention how she complements and balances the protag, so it might be interesting if, after her death, we see him kind of lose that emotional equilibrium for a bit. You know? It will increase the sense of loss, because maybe the protag has to struggle to regain that motivation that she gave him. Just an interesting concept to explore.

    Unfortunately, I'm not really familiar with manga, but the example you describe sounds like a great learning tool. You can see how the author's choice in that aspect threw you off as a reader and prevented you from connecting with the story, and use that to make yours even stronger. (By the way, adding in new characters towards the end of the novel is pretty much never a good idea. There are probably exceptions, but I think adding them just to kill them off is probably never necessary.)

    I'm always happy to answer questions! This one is a bit tough though, and since I deal mainly with historical fiction, I can't give the best advice about characters with special powers. But I'll take a stab at it because you're so nice. :-D

    First of all, make it very clear as early as possible that he has this power, and show the reader how it works (obviously I'm not suggesting that you use an infodump to explain it) That's probably the most important, because the reader needs to know that he has this power so they don't think you just created this perfect main character who can do everything.

    Maybe give him some kind of weakness or limitation on his powers? I don't know exactly what that would be or how it would work, but it's an idea. Also, maybe have some dramatic irony by showing the reader the antagonist's intention (unless that's supposed to be a big reveal later in the story). Then, when protag is fighting and thinking "Wow I'm so cool this is great etc." The reader will be like "Noooo you don't realise what's happening!!!"

    Maybe after seeing a guy swing a sword, he knows how to fight with a sword, but he still has to practise a little before he gets good at it. (Heck, I could probably swing a sword if I was strong enough to wield one, which, alas, I am not. :bigfrown:) So like, what I'm saying is, he already has better knowledge of sword fighting than your average person, but he has to practise before he's like a master at it.

    I hope that messy pile of ideas will at least spark some idea in your head. I wish you all the best with what sounds like a very challenging, but extremely interesting story. If there's any more I can do to help, feel free to ask!
     

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