1. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    What's the most amount of characters you can handle?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by deadrats, Dec 28, 2016.

    So, what's the most amount a characters you can have in a scene? How did you find your magic population number? Was it trial and error? Are you still trying to figure it out? I guess people could have scenes with hundreds of characters if some battle is going on, but for the sake of discussion, let's keep it to named characters. I was thinking in terms of scenes, but if any of you want to weigh in about how many characters you use in a chapter or a whole story, that'd be cool too. What are the benefits of a large cast of characters vs. a small one? Looking forward to hearing what some of you think.
     
  2. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Shenanigan Master Contributor

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    I tried having a group of five main characters one time, but that turned out to be too many so I quickly dropped one. So four as fair as main cast ensemble goes. As for how many in a scene, haven't figured my upper limit on that yet. Haven't generally had too many characters crammed into one scene very much though.
     
  3. I.A. By the Barn

    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    In a scene? No more than six. Main cast, no more than three so far.
    I find the benefits of a large cast are that you can explore more subplots, create more chances for twists and more characters to kill :D. The problem is that you can get overwhelmed and end up with useless characters.
     
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  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    About six - eight my characters are fighting in teams of ten , but i only have a few main characters in one team, and of course people get killed from time to time (I'm not adverse to killing my principal view point characters every now and then)

    In addition to the team in terms of named characters there's the CO , the main antag, and a few supporting cast people.
     
  5. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    12 contestants, 3 judges and a host. So 16 has been my max number so far.
     
  6. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Well I don't think trying to cook up names for about a million characters would be a pain in the ass.
    3 MC's
    Around a dozen secondary/tertiary characters.
    And spotty estimate on 'important' antagonists (see first statement multiply by 10). :p
    Most scenes are anywhere from 2-6 characters depending on what/who is there and going on.
     
  7. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The greatest number of characters?

    6 - 7 .... maybe-ish...? There's a tavern scene where the place is having a stellar night as regards business, but I don't think all those "extras" count, do they, even if they do get mentioned to some greater degree than just "they" or "the crowd".
     
  8. Vanthu

    Vanthu Member

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    I usually have 2-3 characters, but sometimes can have 6.

    In one of my stories, I had 8 main characters, with them all once going to the city and meeting one of their (unusually large) bands. That added about 5 others. Plus, there were a few extra characters, bringing the total to about 15.
     
  9. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    About 4 named, important characters per scene. The rest are just background.
     
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  10. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    I recently wrote a scene where a Counsel was held. Several unnamed characters had their say. I tried to sum up the feelings and opinions of the several sensitivities in the crowd from the point of view of these few that spoke up. It was a daunting thing to do but not as hard as I thought it would be once I felt comfortable with this "trick". Only two main characters and a secondary character spoke, the rest were extras (introduced as the tavern keeper, his daughter, the priestess, a man close to the priestess, an older woman, etc, no more characterisation than this needed).

    But this is a people's Counsel. I didn't have to show the deeper feelings and emotions of the speakers. In a scene where I need to do that, I find that showing the reactions of more than four characters is too much. Especially if they are all main or important secondary characters. Imagine a scene where they are all witnessing the death of another main character who they all love. The type of death is not important, but the reaction to it. One will wail, the other will cry their name, the other will turn to his/her significant other for comfort... Too many reactions. A lesson I've learned the hard way and will try to avoid in the future.
    However, not always possible to avoid. If everyone is supposed to be there at the person's deathbed, all these characters will have to react and this has to sound natural.

    As for characters in a novel, I tend to stick to two main characters and around 3 or 4 very important secondary characters. Secondary characters may vary according to the length of the story (I mean time, mostly). Some of them may come into their lives and leave because they move, get married, die, break up with the main characters, etc, which doesn't mean they were not important and didn't leave a mark.
    Too many characters are a nuisance. I'm working on reducing. ;)
     
  11. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Contributor Contributor

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    I would suppose it all depends on how many sub-plots you're trying to mix and how important the character are to those plot lines. More than three in any one scene could get a bit tedious and confusing.
     
  12. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    With dialogue and everyone getting his or her say? The most I've done so far is four.
     
  13. ginkgo88

    ginkgo88 New Member

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    I like two or three main characters, not including an antagonist. I like to keep anchored with the two or so mains, then I don't feel overwhelmed no matter how many persons end up actually populating any given scene. 8 to 10 named characters per story arc seems to be about my limit, but only two or three of those will be characters who are really, deeply followed in the narrative. I think the last story I wrote had about 35 named characters who were either main movers and shakers or recurred throughout the story, which ran 3 novel lengths. There was also a tie in novella which added another 7 or so.

    In regards to the benefits of large vs small casts, I think my opinion on this is largely dependent on the amount of world or setting building that's going on in the story. The story with 35 important, named characters has rather simplistic world building, so there isn't too much to follow. If I were writing the same story in a more complex setting, I likely would eliminate some of the characters. As it is, 35 people over 3 books is still, in my opinion, a pretty low number. I believe that the smallest number of named characters I've ever had in a story was one, wherein only one woman was given a name and the male narrator never took the time to tell the names of anyone else, not even himself, because she was the only one that mattered.
     
  14. LinaJones

    LinaJones New Member

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    When I was younger, I could handle large casts of characters when writing superhero teams.

    These days, I prefer much slimmer casts, with a recent novella featuring three main characters each with the own small arcs and supporting cast. Otherwise, plenty of stuff is one-on-one.
     
  15. Jaiden

    Jaiden Member

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    I tend to favour incredibly small crews, with 1-2 being the norm. Of course, that doesn't include people that pop into scenes briefly and then leave, nor people that are recurring features of the story. However, in terms of amount of characters that influence and drive the narrative? I have never written anything with more than three, and most of the time I have one or two main characters that we follow on their story, and often scenes are one-to-one, with or without an ensemble crowd.

    I guess it all depends how you define characters. Because I fully believe every single one of my characters can live or breath on their own, but most won't even get more than a line or two.
     
  16. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Contributor

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    Depends on how you define 'main characters'. If you mean POV characters, I once tried with four and it worked. Nowadays I have two and I am satisfied with that choice. But there are numerous (I have not counted them) individuals who have a major impact on the storyline. I'll have to wait and find out how readers react to the resulting jam in their brains :D
     
  17. Thom

    Thom Active Member

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    Hmm, I've never counted how many I have going at one point. But generally, from one to six.
     
  18. Kaya S

    Kaya S New Member

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    I have a scene with 8 different characters in it, although I'm starting to feel like it makes it too busy, like I'm trying to do too many things at once...
     
  19. Christine Ralston

    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    I tend to create too many characters and have to work on eliminating or melding characters during the revision process. It's very easy to get attached to a character, but if they are not moving your plot forward or if melding them with another character will only make the plot stronger, then they must be sacrificed.
     
  20. halisme

    halisme Contributor Contributor

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    Main characters in my current work, about six.

    Side characters, a lot. At the moment I have, around twenty that are reoccurring, though they are grouped up.
     
  21. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    Melding is something I've never done because I'm a planner. Story and characters (and ending) are already defined before I start writing. Still, I don't remember an instance where I've thought, even during the making up of the story in my mind, about melding characters. I do the opposite. I only make up a new character when I feel they're necessary.
    I have, however, conveniently "removed" characters that the story no longer needed.
    There was this old maid that was important to the plot at some point. But then, she no longer served a purpose. Well, and she was old... Long story short, she died peacefully in her bed. :whistles:
     

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