Writing and Me

Characters, Characters Everywhere!

Have you ever thought that you have too many characters in you novel? I understand that ‘too many’ is a subjective concept, but if you are thinking you have too many characters, the chances are that you have too many characters.

I’m battling with this problem right now. Due to the nature of my story, many characters died in book one of the EVO Nation series, but I still managed to bring eleven forward into book two. Two of the characters were only introduced to us in the final chapter of book one. (I say introduced, but actually, my protagonist knew only that they were male and fighting for the same side.) The issue I am having is that every character is linked into the narrative in one way or another, or will be needed in book three. I’m a pantser not a plotter, and allow the story to lead me, but I do have one idea that seems set in stone for book three. Not only that, the narrative arc finds me introducing new characters.

What can be done?

  • Cull– If this aids your narrative, then great, cull away. The only problem with this option is that you may end up killing off characters for the sake of it, and leaving the readers disgruntled or feeling cheated. Embark on this option with great care.
  • Split up the characters- At first my characters are forced to remain a group due to external threats, but I have the option of splitting the group up. Not only does this aid my narrative, but it’ll give the readers, and me, a respite.
  • Give sub-characters a way out- If they’re not a necessity to the progressing narrative, give them a way to separate themselves from the main character and the current story. It is fine for them to play their part, and then excuse themselves as long as it is true to the narrative and a closure for that character and the reader.
  • Revise- If your are on your second or third book in a series this can prove tricky as most characters are established and you can’t just erase them. If the character is fresh and newly introduced, revise their importance. If you can do without them, do away with them.

If you have any tried and tested techniques for managing characters, or an abundance there of, I’d be happy to hear them.

5 thoughts on “Characters, Characters Everywhere!”

  1. Those techniques sound great. I’m not sure there’s anything else one can do to cut down on the number of characters.

    I actually used culling and splitting up for my second book. Since my current trilogy is in first-person, splitting up the characters into two groups allowed me to switch to another lead character every other chapter to keep tabs on that group. So I have the story told from a different character’s view for a number of chapters. At first, I thought it’d be pretty awful, but it’s actually turned out to be good for the overall story as it’s allowed me to show the similarities and differences of how these two characters think.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I found myself feeling overwhelmed with the amount of characters I had to keep track of. Splitting the group happened naturally, but allowed me to concentrate on three old characters (including protagonist) and introduce the new ones. I’m still deciding whether all of the characters return for book two or not… decisions, decisions.

      I’m glad you found a way to manage the chaos of characters. I wish I could switch P.O.V’s with another character, but that won’t work in my story. My protagonist is left to fret and wonder over the fate of her friends.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m worried I’ll end up having too many but I’ve split them up already and there aren’t actually that many, so I can probably rest easy. Had I introduced all Sparrows by name – now that would have been an issue! It’s a big-ish group and Rachael can’t know all of them in the short time she has, so why would the reader know them all? I’m quite happy I didn’t fall into a trap there 😛
    These are all great ways of cutting down too many characters, thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw a post whilst researching that said 25 characters is a maximum, any more is too many. If that is the case, then I’m fine. I have lots, but not 25.

      I would struggle with 25! I’m not George R.R.Martin haha (I am in awe of that man by the way).


      1. 25!! I’ve got nothing to worry about then, I’m nowhere near that. I’ve also got several narratives which I’m hoping will help, since readers can see the story unfold from the POV from different characters.
        Same here, the man is a miracle worker! (and a hilarious one at that!)

        Liked by 1 person

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