Too many characters

Question: My story started with four main characters (a family) but soon became seven I am worried that there are too many. I don't want my characters to be just waiting for something to do. Each character is important to the end of the story and the new characters are their love interest. Any suggestions?


Answer: By "main character," do you mean a point-of-view character?

If so, there's nothing wrong with having a number of POV characters. You just must recognize that there's a trade-off. The more you have, the less connection the reader will have with any one character in particular. Having many POV characters will shift the reader towards an objective or omniscient perspective, because the reader's perspective will encompass many perspectives.

Sometimes that's okay. Sometimes that's what you want. Some stories are more about what happens to a community than what happens to one person. Some stories relate what happens over generations rather than just one person's lifespan.

You can also have one primary POV character (a "main, main character") and several secondary POV characters, if telling part of the story from their perspectives is important. You don't have to fully develop the inner conflicts of these secondary POV characters.

However, many readers prefer experiencing a story from the point-of-view of one character in particular who they can empathize with. The price you pay for multiple POVs is disappointing these readers.

On the other hand, if by "main character" you mean "major character," one who is seen from the main character's perspective, but not a POV character, that's a different situation. You can have as many of these as you like, provided your word count doesn't swell too far into six-digit territory. You can certainly give major characters arcs without making them POV characters.

So you have a lot of artistic freedom. For a first draft, you just have to trust your own instinct. Get some people to read that draft to see what their response is and if the story is received in the way you intended. Then write a second draft.

Comments for Too many characters

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Mar 07, 2015
Thank you!
by: Anonymous

Thank you for your reply and and answering my question. That gives me something to think about as I continue writing my story.

Mar 13, 2015
Two Characcters POV
by: Vijay

In my current Work in Progress of a romance novel, I have two important male and female characters. I really like going into both of these character's heads and write each chapter. I am restricting one character POV for an entire chapter of the novel.Though the POV switch is not exactly in the alternating chapters, they both share equal chapters in the end.

According to you, we must stick to one character POV for the reader to empatize with. Is it not still interesting if I work as per my plan above? Does it not make the reader understand the story well from both person's POV as the reader can read the inner feelings of both the characters? Your suggestions are appreciated.

Mar 14, 2015
To Vijay
by: Glen

Absolutely you can write from more than one POV. Many effective novels do. What I am saying is that there is a trade-off. Sometimes it is most advantageous to give the readers one main character who they can feel a close relationship with. Other times, the addition of other POV characters and the perspective they offer on events is more advantageous. It depends on the story you are telling. You have to trust your instincts to determine when the additional perspective is worth sacrificing some of the connection between reader and main character.

One way to look at it is to consider that some stories are more about the overall throughline -- a big change that happens in the story world. Other stories are more about the main character throughline -- a big change in one person's life. And still others are mostly about a big change or development in the relationship between two people (such as falling in love). All are valid.

Mar 15, 2015
Too many characters
by: Vijay

Hi, Glen,

I think I've two improtant thourough line pertaining to both the characters. And according to you, it make sense if I stick with two POVs.
Thank you, I appreciate your help to all the writers who seek vital clarification from you.

Until next time,

Vijay

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