Narrowing Your Cast of Characters

Last week I attended a webinar on writing fiction. One of the things that she mentioned is that having massive casts of characters is old fashioned and not something you see in modern books for young readers.

Wait! Wait!

I can hear your objections already. What about Harry Potter and the Hunger Games? There are so many amazing characters in both series.

And that’s true. You have Harry, Ron and Hermione. There are the twins, and Jenny, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Hagrid, Dumbledor, McGonaggal, Snape, Lupin and oh so many more. But as Mia Botha pointed out, they aren’t all primary characters. Think about it. Who is the main character in the Harry Potter books? Duh. Harry. And most adventures involve at most two other characters. Early on it is consistently Ron and Hermione. Other characters move forward as needed with allies coming and going, sometimes rather permanently.

I have to say this is a relief. In Airstream, I have two sibling groups for a total of six characters. For various reasons, all six characters are essential in that they play a part in the story. One has been strictly humorous and I’ve been thinking that maybe but maybe he needed to go. But Botha reminded us that one of the best ways to bring humor into a serious story is with a pair of comedic characters.

Yes, a pair. Just like Fred and George.

The key to having six characters will be to make sure that all six have a purpose. So far I have POV character, 2 sidekicks and a comedic character. One of my spares will become my second comedic character and the other will become a nurturing mother. This last one is technically a Jungian archetype but I think she’ll play well with the others.

The key to having six characters in play is to decide who will generally be in the forefront. Then I have to make sure that they each have enough to do while bringing the three remaining characters forward periodically. Now that I understand the part that each of them will play, this is something I can handle.


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