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FOR READERS & WRITERS: How Many Characters is Too Many?



Today’s writer topic comes from QSFer Kelly Haworth:

How many characters is too much? Point of view characters? Characters in one scene? Total characters in a book?

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1 thought on “FOR READERS & WRITERS: How Many Characters is Too Many?”

  1. I believe it depends, to some degree, on the type of story and the skill of the writer. I once asked Josh Lanyon this same question and his answer was: “unless you’re writing War and Peace, three to four principle characters are more than enough”. I tend to agree with Lanyon. Even if one is writing an epic story like War and Peace or The Winds of War (war stories always have lots of characters) or some other fictionalized account of an historic event, from the reader’s POV it is essential to keep the narrative focused. The best way of doing this is to limit the page time of each character. If I read a story with more than three or four unique points of view, I become distracted, frustrated and eventually give up.Tthe only exception – in my ‘reader’s’ opinion might, just might, be in the genre of thriller/action-adventure. A talented writer of the genre can nail it (sometimes) but, still, extra-multi-character stories with extra- multi POV’s usually go directly to my DNF pile.


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