Characters Everywhere!

Have you read a book with so many characters you find yourself asking “who did what now?”  If you ever read the Silmarillion your head is undoubtedly bobbing right now.  The number and names of characters is a hard one to decide on as an author.  Generally, if you want your stories to be believable, characters need to encounter others.  How many characters?  Well there is no set number it depends on the plot, but too few can make the world seem sparse and too many are difficult to keep track of.

In the above paragraph I referenced the Silmarillion as a book with many characters.  Not only are there A LOT of characters but they have similar names, and I struggled keeping track of who was who and responsible for what.  LOTR wiki was rather helpful during that reading.  It was a marvelous book, but far from a casual read.  Frankly, note taking is a must for this book.

Most books are not as dense as Tolkien’s history book, but still sometimes overwhelm the reader with many characters.  What is a good number of characters if you are a reader?  Do you ever read a book and wonder what a certain character(s) point is?  I certainly have.

Sometimes it is overwhelming when there is an excessive amount of characters to follow, for it isn’t just the characters but their sub-plots as well that all need to be kept straight.  Sometimes a large world with many characters is a good thing and works for a story, but most often it makes a tale confusing and hard to follow.

What sort of balance do you look for in a book?  I prefer a story to focus on a handful of characters, but I understand that not all plots allow for that.  When I write I try to stick to no more than a small group otherwise it gets difficult to maintain.  If you are a writer what is your approach though?  Let me know in the comments.

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