1. Lucy E.

    Lucy E. Member

    May 25, 2008
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    Too Many Characters? Help!

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lucy E., Aug 28, 2008.

    Okay, I have a major issue. I'm pretty sure I have too many characters, but they're all absolutely necessary to the plot!
    I have:
    Melvin (the name - don't ask)
    Samantha Bryant
    The M.C.

    All these characters are in the story together at some points, and I find myself reeling off lists of names so that the reader can keep track of the characters. For example...

    'Where'd she go?' Leo asked, wheeling around to face the empty corridor behind him. He strode towards the window, with his parents, the Leeds, the Harpers, Nora, Melvin, Jayden, Sharon, Samantha, the M.C., and Samischa at his heels.

    Get my point?
    It's also pretty difficult for me to keep track of the characters.
    Any suggestions?
  2. ciavyn

    ciavyn New Member

    Aug 25, 2008
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    Harrisburg, PA
    Hm....I've thought that a few times.

    First - create a working outline for your story, to keep it clear in your head - and it does not have to be I. II. III. A. B. C. format. Just get something that lays your story out.

    Second - make a "character tree," so you can see how everyone relates. How is related directly to you main character? Is there more than one main character? Then right the ones that relate to each separately, each jointly, etc.

    Three - make sure you have a character sketch for each character - even if he or she is minor player. Details will make them more individual and strengthen their role in your story.

    Four - just keep going! No matter how unsure you are - don't doubt yourself. Put it out there for review, take what people say in stride, and keep up your momentum.

    That's what works for me. Hope it's helful.
  3. Last1Left

    Last1Left Active Member

    Jul 7, 2008
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    You know that box next to the Wendy's?
    You could add the names of who's in the scene as they come in. Then make subtle references to individual characters to remind the reader of who's there.

    Example: The door flew open with a resounding crack. Peter flinched and took a half step back, but Rob hardly noticed.

    For when no individual character is important besides a few, then refer to them as a group.

    So, for what you posted: 'Where'd she go?' Leo asked, wheeling around to face the empty corridor behind him. He strode towards the window, with the rest at his heels.

    Hope that helps.
  4. Nilfiry

    Nilfiry Senior Member

    Aug 4, 2008
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    Eternal Stream
    It really just depends on your organizing skill. Some writers forget about a character because he/she wrote in too many. For that reason, alot of characters together simultaneously isn't recommended, but this can easily be remedied if you find yourself some way to keep everything organized. You can use an outline, chart, memo, footnotes, etc. Just make sure you don't forget them.

    Also.... Alot of characters? I don't think so. How about 25 characters together at one point for ya?
  5. NaCl

    NaCl Contributor Contributor

    Apr 30, 2008
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    A few thoughts come to mind:

    The first question that comes to mind is, are they ALL necessary to the story?

    Next, are they ALL necessary at the same time or can they be introduced at different points in the story, rather than all at once?

    If they are all needed at the same time (members of a gang, sorority, large family, etc.), then limit the story line to just the key characters while you establish the beginning elements of the plot. Then, gradually upgrade other "names" to the level of a "key" person, but only as they become truly necessary for the story line.

    From a simple grammatical perspective, instead of listing all the people repetitively, list them once and then refer to them by general reference such as "they", the "group", the "others", my "friends", the "busybodies", etc. in following paragraphs.

    You might also explore dividing the larger group into two or three smaller groups who develop in parallel story lines that will merge later. One chapter features the experiences associated with one group while the other group comes into the next chapter. When I do this, I like to build a common story element that demonstrates that the two chapters actually happened at the same time. For example, one group is caught in a thunderstorm while running between buildings at school. A large clap of lightning startles them and a bright flash marks its travel to ground in the distance. As the next chapter begins, that same lightning bolt slams into a tree right outside the window, splitting off a large limb . . . also startling group number two. The reader gets the idea of simultaneity while the parallel story lines unfold. This example is probably not the best because there can be more than one lightning bolt during a storm . . . but that might not be important as the storm itself probably would suffice to establish the general time frame.
  6. inkslinger

    inkslinger Active Member

    Jul 11, 2008
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    I agree with Last1Left. If you have several characters in one scene all performing similar actions, just refer to them in group. It cuts down on naming each and every character. Obviously don't let the reader forget who's in the scene, but you don't need to remind him every few sentences either. There's a happy medium.
  7. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributor Contributor

    Nov 30, 2006
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    Ohio, USA
    Reinforce: Are the characters all necessary? If you're having trouble keeping track and it's your story and creation, the reader will have absolutely no hope.

    Introduce the characters 1 or 2 at a time. Have them connected to a person or an event, or occasionally something a bit odd (physical, speech, habit, etc). Like Jane's little brother, Freddie. Or Max, the guy who threw a gallon of gasoline on the bonfire. Sue, who is a head taller than her boyfriend and a lab partner at school with the main character, Gina. This will give the reader an anchor to tie them into the story, remember them by.

    Hang in there and good luck.

  8. Etan Isar

    Etan Isar Contributor Contributor

    Nov 4, 2007
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    Use collective terms. Try to avoid having everyone present at all times. Drop or combine if you feel it necessary, but don't overdo it.
  9. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    I agree with what Terry and Dean said. Make sure each character is really necessary, and when you have whittled down the list, make sure each gets his or her introduction into the story, removed from the rest, so the readers can wrap their heads around who this character is. If you need to introduce two characters at once, still focus on one, then give the other the spotlight a bit later.

    You should be espacially careful about this at the beginning of the story. You really need to establish the viewpoint character early, at the same time that you are also trying to set the scene and bring on the beginnings of conflict. That's a lot for the reader to absorb all at once, so if you try beinging in multiple characters at that point, you're asking for trouble.

    Of course, your opening scene may need several characters to be present. Just don't try to introduce them to the reader at that point.

    Have you ever walked into a party or a new class, any large group, and get interoduced to everyone at once? How many of them do you really remember clearly at that point? You're lucky if you can even attach the right name with the face. And that is a situation where you have visual and auditory information coming in as well.

    You only begin to remember them and have a sense of who they are after you have a chance to interact with each one individually.
  10. assassins creed

    assassins creed Banned

    Jul 2, 2008
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    Like what Cognito, Terry and Dean said; make sure that the characters you are using are essential to the story. Like with J.K Rowling and her characters, you could kill off some of the people in the story quite early. Leaving room for the MC and sub character to develop even more. If you still wish to keep the other characters, you could always introduce them at the end of this book, leaving room for a sequel to follow. This is where you could expand these other characters and play around with them, if you think it is necessary to introduce new attributes to their characters then do so.

    Assassins Creed
  11. Ungood

    Ungood New Member

    Jun 3, 2008
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    I see your problem but many times you only need to use names when someone is doing a 'separate' task of their own.


    John ran down the hall screaming and we ran after him.

    But you also need to establish who is "we" at some point. But that can be more along the lines of introductions and such to get a feel for the "usual suspects" in your story.
  12. Kylie

    Kylie New Member

    Aug 24, 2008
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    I tend to want to add a lot of characters when I write too. And it tends to get confusing even for me. So I started cutting out the unnecessary characters. Ask yourself, are all these characters necessary? If you are still left with a lot then you need to find a way to either change your story up a little or strategy on how to introduce the characters to your story w/ out it being confusing ... :) A lot of characters tends to get the reader all mixed up.

    Whatever you do, don't start the story off introducing a ton of characters or the reader will be totally confused.
  13. woken2reason

    woken2reason New Member

    Jul 9, 2008
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    I find adding to many characters to daunting to start with. Most of my first short story's had 2 or less. Now with a larger word count in mind i find adding characters simple. Think of them as chess pieces, you may have allot, but you cant win without them. Only use them if you need to, but if you over use someone useless that is when the story will become boring and overdone.
  14. Leo

    Leo New Member

    Jul 1, 2008
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    Oxford, UK
    Could you merge some characters?

    Sorry if someone's suggested that before but I didn't have time to read every post. I promise ill come back :).

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