Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Writer's Corner: Too Much Character?
Then I reached high school and a funny thing happened. I started making up stories. I don't know why. Maybe the real people just weren't interesting enough. I'd lived 16 years without a single vampire/werewolf/zombie showing up. So I made up my own. Now I can't stop doing it and the result is that I keep trying to cram all of my characters into the books I write.
As a result, my books tend to be supporting cast heavy. The writer in me keeps trying to push this agenda despite my inner reviewer crying out for rationality. Sometimes lots of supporting characters add a richness to the story. Think Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. But mostly, when a book has too many characters, they tend to blend together and become indistinguishable. I've read a few of these types of books and they often frustrate me more than anything else.
So I've been thinking about the techniques that writers use to make characters stand out. Sometimes they give them unforgettable names. Sometimes they have special powers or cutting edge personalities. And sometimes a writer has to do the unthinkable and cut down their cast. I did that a few weeks ago. I cut two characters from a MS I'm plotting. It didn't feel good but I'm hoping that weeding out characters will make others more prominent. It still leaves me with a group of six supporting characters that I have to breathe life into and make memorable.
And still I think six is too many. I want to keep reducing the number but each and every one is essential to later books. It's a good thing I have you guys to throw ideas around with :) What do you think guys? How many characters is your absolute cut off number? Do too many characters put you off reading a book or is your motto the more the merrier?