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A question about characters
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Lisa M



Joined: 08 Jul 2004
Posts: 1844
Location: Rhode Island
A question about characters  Reply with quote  

Being, as knikkki so aptly said, a "misty" writer, I've realised I may have too many characters. Some of course hang out in the background & may or may not be important. Others seem to take on a life of their own. For example, I wrote in what was initialy a bit part of one characters mother. All of a sudden she decided she wanted a larger role. Now she's kind of important. This may not be a bad thing, but I guess the core question is: how many are too many? I don't really have a "main" character (no Charlie Asher type. A couple beta males, however).

Post Wed Jun 07, 2006 8:10 am   View user's profile Send private message
knikkki



Joined: 13 Jun 2005
Posts: 3145
Location: Davis, CA
 Reply with quote  

Read "Between the Bridge and the River" and you'll know how many are too many.

I think when character's start to detract from the story rather than enhance, it's too many. When the reader gets confused about who has which back story it's too many. When you right each chapter in POV and it's been so long since you've seen a character you have to go back and look them up to remember who they are.

That probably doesn't help as a writer, but that's what I dislike as a reader.
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Post Wed Jun 07, 2006 8:23 am   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Lisa M



Joined: 08 Jul 2004
Posts: 1844
Location: Rhode Island
 Reply with quote  

Thanks, K! But you know, I enjoyed Between the Bridge and the River. It isn't on my top ten or even top 100 list, but I found it a pleasant read and didn't worry about the many characters. I tend to agree with you about how they were presented, but it didn't really bother me.

Anyhow, I really appreciate your reply. I am struggling with it.

Post Wed Jun 07, 2006 8:36 am   View user's profile Send private message
Regina



Joined: 02 Mar 2005
Posts: 952
Location: Northeast U.S
 Reply with quote  

Ug I had to kill some characters for the first novel - what I did was took a look at which ones were similar to each other and combined them into the one guy.... It actually didn't change the plot much... which goes back to something knikki said - if a character is not enhancing a story then ....

Post Wed Jun 07, 2006 10:11 am   View user's profile Send private message
Boota



Joined: 09 Apr 2004
Posts: 830
Location: Kokomo, Indiana
 Reply with quote  

I think the number of characters is really fluid, according to how many you can manage. I generally like a story with only a few main characters when I'm writing. I think of my characters in stages of importance as primary, secondary, tertiary, and "who the fuck is that guy and why did he do that?"

Stephen King, love him or hate him, handled a huge cast of primary characters incredibly well in The Stand.
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Post Wed Jun 07, 2006 1:59 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
FattyFattyPorkFace



Joined: 10 Aug 2004
Posts: 6381
Location: Michigan
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Agatha Christie and many mystery writers try to manage 9 or more characters. Apparently, the human mind struggles to track this many and so she could aptly weave her web of deceit without worrying that the reader would learn who done it until the end.
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Post Wed Jun 07, 2006 7:59 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
palmer



Joined: 30 Mar 2004
Posts: 1324
 Reply with quote  

The lowest I've ever heard of is one; the most, 400 (Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow -- so I figure it should be somewhere between those two numbers.

Post Thu Jun 08, 2006 5:21 am   View user's profile Send private message
Lisa M



Joined: 08 Jul 2004
Posts: 1844
Location: Rhode Island
 Reply with quote  

palmer wrote:
The lowest I've ever heard of is one; the most, 400 (Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow -- so I figure it should be somewhere between those two numbers.


lol, Palmer!

Post Thu Jun 08, 2006 6:38 am   View user's profile Send private message
Regina



Joined: 02 Mar 2005
Posts: 952
Location: Northeast U.S
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I thought David Foster Wallace beat Pynchon in Infinite Jest?

Good one, Palmer Smile

Post Thu Jun 08, 2006 12:40 pm   View user's profile Send private message
BIGjuevos



Joined: 06 Apr 2006
Posts: 1183
Location: Dante's Inferno
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I'm good up until about 3-5 characters, keeping track in my head of what they are doing and who's associated with whom. I can handle more temporarily, but when it got to 16 some odd people in Lamb, I was like "this better get cut down" and it did. Alot of characters are fine. In my opinion, even extras should have names and a history (even if it isn't important).
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Post Thu Jun 08, 2006 12:45 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address MSN Messenger ICQ Number
chris
Site Admin


Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
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BIGjuevos wrote:
I'm good up until about 3-5 characters, keeping track in my head of what they are doing and who's associated with whom. I can handle more temporarily, but when it got to 16 some odd people in Lamb, I was like "this better get cut down" and it did. Alot of characters are fine. In my opinion, even extras should have names and a history (even if it isn't important).


I sort of didn't have much of a choice in Lamb. If I had, I would never have had that big a cast, but when you field apostles, you gotta have at least twelve. That's the rules. (Unless there are apostles in the penalty box, where you have to play short.)

Post Sat Jun 24, 2006 2:00 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Butch the Vizsla



Joined: 12 Sep 2006
Posts: 558
Location: Branford, CT
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chris wrote:
I sort of didn't have much of a choice in Lamb. If I had, I would never have had that big a cast, but when you field apostles, you gotta have at least twelve. That's the rules. (Unless there are apostles in the penalty box, where you have to play short.)


Good thing you didn't have to deal with The Book of Numbers from the Old Testament. Figuring out all that stuff about who begat who might have slowed the story down a bit.
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Post Tue Sep 26, 2006 1:07 pm   View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
CoffeeCatMuse



Joined: 10 Jan 2007
Posts: 22
Location: Dayton, OH
 Reply with quote  

Another question about a character:


I am changing one of my main characters. He used to be based on someone I knew, so it was easy to flush him out with voice, mannerisms, and overall personality. Then I decided that wasn't going to work for the story.

Now, I'm going back and recreating him--totally making him someone else. Only problem is, it's really hard to make him interesting, now. Being based on no one. I don't have a real-life inspiration for him at the time, either. So I have to build him from scratch. I know what his conflicts are and what kind of a guy, overall, he is...but he's not coming as easily as the first version of him.

So far, it's been challenging. But hell, it's only the first draft. I just hope more inspiration comes.

Anyone ever change a character this radically before???
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Post Wed Jan 10, 2007 6:01 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website Yahoo Messenger
FattyFattyPorkFace



Joined: 10 Aug 2004
Posts: 6381
Location: Michigan
 Reply with quote  

CoffeeCatMuse wrote:
Another question about a character:


I am changing one of my main characters. He used to be based on someone I knew, so it was easy to flush him out with voice, mannerisms, and overall personality. Then I decided that wasn't going to work for the story.

Now, I'm going back and recreating him--totally making him someone else. Only problem is, it's really hard to make him interesting, now. Being based on no one. I don't have a real-life inspiration for him at the time, either. So I have to build him from scratch. I know what his conflicts are and what kind of a guy, overall, he is...but he's not coming as easily as the first version of him.

So far, it's been challenging. But hell, it's only the first draft. I just hope more inspiration comes.

Anyone ever change a character this radically before???


My best character started out as nothing but a voice in another character's head. It isn't based on anyone but has become fantastically interesting. I suggest you have a conversation with your character and let their personality shine through.
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Post Wed Jan 10, 2007 9:28 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
CoffeeCatMuse



Joined: 10 Jan 2007
Posts: 22
Location: Dayton, OH
 Reply with quote  

FattyFattyPorkFace wrote:


My best character started out as nothing but a voice in another character's head. It isn't based on anyone but has become fantastically interesting. I suggest you have a conversation with your character and let their personality shine through.


Jeff! I did this last night, and now I feel I know him well enough to start the edits on his scenes.

I kinda have a crush on him, too. *blush*

Very Happy Thanks for the great advice!
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Post Tue Jan 16, 2007 11:12 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website Yahoo Messenger
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