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For my own novels, I generally have a protagonist, three to six strong supporting characters against a main antagonist and maybe three or four henchmen. Then there are background players. I try to stick with no more than three point of views in any story, otherwise I feel like I start losing focus. I had four POV in Eclipse, and that was about the limit I think I can handle confidently at this point.

As for other novels, I made it through The Wheel of Time, so I seriously doubt there is a number of characters that would cause me to stop reading.
 

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Jesus, I'm supposed to count?!

I have to admit, I almost never tally up my minor characters. Generally, I have between 3-5 main characters, 5-10 frequently recurring characters, and as many minor/one off/nameless characters as I need for the plot in question.

Don't know my highest and lowest figures.

And yes, I have stopped reading books due to an overabundance of characters...but every time it's happened, it's been because there were too many characters introduced too quickly -- generally, stuffed into the beginning of the book.

Have never stopped reading book for a lack of characters. As long as there's at least one, I'm good.
 

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No hard numbers. Have as many as the number of voices that jockey for space in the narrative, as many as feel natural.
If it feels crowded, or sparse, you can address that later.

Personally, my novels tend to have a central cast of 6-8, with about the same number of minor characters.

I have stopped reading because of too many characters, but can't say I have because of too few (though the examples I'm thinking of with small casts were all exceptionally well-written).
 

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My first trad pubbed book had four characters ever appear in the pages.  And one had approximately two lines before disappearing completely.

This arc has roughly a 20 named characters.
 
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I've only written three novels in the same series. Actually there was a novel I wrote when I was 21, which had 4 main characters, and twenty something minors.

For my current series I have seven major characters and 4 - 5 minors.
 

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I usually have two to four main characters.  In my Ravenswynd Series, there's the main character and her twin sister, and then their love interests. But as the series progresses, there are many more minor characters.  In my time travel book (River of Time) there are two main characters. My current WIP also has two main characters, plus 4 minor.
By the way...this is my very first reply in kboards! (I've been messing around in my profile all evening, trying to get the dang photo to load!)
;D
 

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Arrington Flynn said:
Novel writers: How many different characters do you average in your books?

What's the highest number you've had, and what's the smallest?

Did you ever stop reading a book primarily because there were too many characters, or conversely too few?
I do remember reading a series when I was in high school, Chung Kuo series I believe, that had several pages of a character directory/index to help keep the characters straight. I remember liking the series, but you REALLLLLLLY had to pay attention

as for my own books, I haven't counted.
 

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My first book has roughly 90-100. Maybe more, depending on how you count. Just counting named characters, it'd still be easy to hit a mark north of 80, I think. There's a good reason for this: At the start of the book, the MC lives in a building that's a tight-knit community with 56 other people. Factor in later additions, ancillary characters, etc. and it really gets up there. Many of them never have dialogue.

My second book has a much smaller number. I want to say roughly 20, maybe 25 or more if you count people who get named but never get any "page time". It's a shorter book for one, but it's also more action-oriented. The MC and his friends make up 5, there are roughly a dozen villains (by group, so it's actually more), and of course the minor supporting characters who round out a scene here or there. If you count people like clerks in shops, if they have dialogue but no names, the number still goes up.

My upcoming book has a core cast of 12. Counting miscellany you could probably double that.
 

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Arrington Flynn said:
Novel writers: How many different characters do you average in your books?

What's the highest number you've had, and what's the smallest?

Did you ever stop reading a book primarily because there were too many characters, or conversely too few?
Highest number of characters -- 37.

Smallest number of characters -- 18

Have never stopped reading a book because there were too few characters. If a book is interesting but has too many characters, have flipped through already read sections to try and nail down who is who when the number of characters gets overwhelming.
 

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For the novel I just finished writing I have a file with all of the named, recurring characters (ie. they appear in more than one chapter) and there are 17 of those.  In addition to them, nearly every chapter has a couple of characters who only appear briefly.  At 22 chapters that probably brings the total number of characters to something in the range of 50.  But the reader wouldn't be expected to become familiar with more than a handful of those.
 

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I probably have more characters than average, but I'm not going back to count.

The issue here really isn't how many characters, but how they are handled.  Young writers may make some characters too memorable, and some not memorable enough.  They might introduce them too quickly.  Or they might have a couple of characters who are wasted because they aren't doing anything interesting, and you could combine them.

IMHO the best thing is to look for models and see what they do.  I'm a mystery writer.  I find that Georgette Heyer, when she wrote mysteries, always overwhelms the reader by dumping the cast of characters on you at once, and giving them similar names.  So she is hard to read even when she has a relatively small cast.

Agatha Christie, on the other hand, has a way in introducing dozens of characters, each in their proper context, so you don't have trouble keeping them straight (and if you forget who one is, she reminds you when you see them again).

Hard-boiled writers also tend to have books with large casts, but it isn't always obvious, because you only meet a few at a time, as the detective works his way through the story. (However, I notice that terse writers, like Dashiell Hammett, can make it hard to remember a character who disappears and reappears several chapters later, because he doesn't give enough information.  Chandler, on the other hand, always paints such a vivid picture and gives such good individual attention to even minor characters, that you remember then.)

Camille
 
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Arrington Flynn said:
Novel writers: How many different characters do you average in your books?

What's the highest number you've had, and what's the smallest?

Did you ever stop reading a book primarily because there were too many characters, or conversely too few?
The characters in my Benton books are trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Therefore some of them may (or may not ;) ) get killed off. But I start my series with seven characters - or at least seven human characters. ;)

As far as my personal preference, I don't care how many characters are in a book. :)
 

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Good question. I never really counted until now. My MC (two MCs if you count his personality disorder in book 2), 5-6 strong supporting characters, another 2-3 to help move the plot in places, typically 2 villains with different agendas that are somewhat related, and another 1-2 supports to the villain.

So on average a minimum of at least a dozen.

Sent from the back of a white CIA van using Tapatalk. Please help!

 

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Joliedupre said:
As far as my personal preference, I don't care how many characters are in a book. :)
Same here, but I do understand that a large cast may become confusing for some.

Lucky for those readers there are many different books, and lucky for those authors there are many different readers. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Raven Lady said:
I usually have two to four main characters. In my Ravenswynd Series, there's the main character and her twin sister, and then their love interests. But as the series progresses, there are many more minor characters. In my time travel book (River of Time) there are two main characters. My current WIP also has two main characters, plus 4 minor.
By the way...this is my very first reply in kboards! (I've been messing around in my profile all evening, trying to get the dang photo to load!)
;D
honored to have been the one to get you on kboards, nic pic.
 

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I think that 10 is about the maxiumum number of major characters I would like to see in a novel. More and it gets tedious to follow them. I've never stopped reading a book simply because it didn't have enough characters.

In my own writing, the first book of my series introduced 3-5 major characters (depending on your definition of major), and each following book introduced 1-3 new major characters. So by the end, there were a fair few (more than 10), but over the course of the series, I could give each of them the attention I felt they deserved.
 
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