Too many characters?

Question: My novel revolves around one first person POV protagonist, and has 5 major secondary characters, 3 friends of the protagonist, one love interest, and an ex-boyfriend, all very important to this story, and I have like 10 minor characters and a lot of walk on characters. I made a list and found out that there were 30 named characters in total. Do I have too many characters?

Answer: Well, the first book in the Harry Potter series has about 50 characters in about 77,000 words, which is not an overly long novel. (There are 772 characters in the entire series.)

However, it really depends on the writer and the story. Harry Potter is chock full of characters because people are an important aspect of Rowling's world-building. On the other end, it would be perfectly possible to have a story with only one or two characters (perhaps making the antagonist a personification of Nature).

Every story is different. Every setting is different. So there are no fixed rules about how many characters should be present in a story.

What matters is that the major characters should be there for a reason -- because they are important to either the external action of the plot or to the main character's growth.

Sometimes in revision you find you need another character to fill a hole. Other times you realize a character isn't useful, so they get pushed off the page. And there will always be a few characters who are just part of the scenery -- like shoppers in a crowded mall.

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