1. Mans

    Mans Contributor Contributor

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    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

    nhope Member Reviewer

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    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.
     
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  3. thirdwind

    thirdwind Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I start with one and add as many as I need. How many characters I end up using really depends on the individual piece.
     
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  4. AndyC

    AndyC Member

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    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.
     
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  5. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    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.
     
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  6. Renee J

    Renee J Senior Member

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    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.
     
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  7. thewordsmith

    thewordsmith Contributor Contributor

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    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).
     
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  8. ChaosReigns

    ChaosReigns Archnemesis of the Damned Contributor

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    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.
     
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  9. Curupira22

    Curupira22 Member

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    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! :)
     
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  10. Acanthophis

    Acanthophis ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Contributor

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    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!
     
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  11. Mans

    Mans Contributor Contributor

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    Thank you all so far. What you opined based on your knowledge and experience, was very interesting and useful for me.
     
  12. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    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'...
     
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  13. Veo

    Veo Member

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    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. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

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    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.
     
  15. Bryan Romer

    Bryan Romer Contributor Contributor

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    It really depends on the story. I have as many characters as needed to handle all the parts. Nothing else makes sense.
     
  16. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributor Contributor

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    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)
     
  17. Fullmetal Xeno

    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    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.
     
  18. Tesoro

    Tesoro Contributor Contributor

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    As many as I need to tell it! :)
     
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  19. Chad Lutzke

    Chad Lutzke Member

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    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
     
  20. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    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.
     
  21. Annalise_Azevedo

    Annalise_Azevedo Member

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    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.
     
  22. Siena

    Siena Senior Member

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    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.
     
  23. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributor Contributor

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    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.
     

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