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Anonymous
Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesBooks & Authors · 2 years ago

Would 22 characters be hard to develop in a story? Should I stick to just... 3?

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    That depends on the story and your method of relating it.

    If by character, you simply mean people in the story, then this isn't an outrageous number, you'd just stick to one person's point of view as they interact with two dozen people.

    Lord of the Rings for instance could be considered a book with one main character, four, or a dozen. It has one character, you're introduced to his three close friends, who proceed to travel with another five people, and eventually there are another three or four who have story arcs. By the time the story splits into three narratives and then four, the reader has a good working knowledge of the characters and what is more cares about what were secondary characters as they become primary characters.

    In a similar fashion George Martin's sprawling epic starts with the Stark family, which splits into three narratives, each of which picks up secondary characters who often spawn their own stories, after we've read about them for awhile. You become acquainted with Tyrion as he travels with Jon Snow and he is distinct enough that he then becomes a narrative in his own right, as does Samwell Tarley. Tyrion then spawns other people as well. Upon analysis, the worst part of the books generally come when Martin doesn't get you invested in a character before he spins off their individual narrative, but merely shoe horns in some spear holder's narrative to relate an incident, such as the attack on Myrcella. The whole Griffin cast comes off a bit like one of those 70s sitcom spinoffs, launched after a short guest appearance by Tyrion. (No wonder it was cut from the television show)

    However, if you expect to follow all of these people as individuals from the start, discussing their own perspectives, and actually making the reader care at all about each one as a protagonist, this is a pipe dream. The average reader won't be able to differentiate between the narratives if they're introduced all at once and will spend large chunks of the book wondering just who is doing what. You can't introduce two dozen people at once to humans and expect them to retain anything. I shudder at the thought of the type of information dump which would be required to introduce that many people at once, even if they were broken down into sets as when a movie introduces the cliques in a high school. For that matter, ever watched an action movie with a large cast? The archetype is the Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven, basically there is no real character development beyond some broad caricatures, such as the drunk, the knife guy, the Indian, the explosives expert, etc... You don't even learn their names before they start dying.

    Now on to the actual question of whether it is hard.

    Yes, because you're not just juggling the separate narratives to keep the reader interested (I've abandoned such books before, because the plots never went anywhere.) You're also going to need to interest the reader in each separate narrative, making them give a crap about the people you're writing. Otherwise, a chunk of your audience will get bored and quit entirely and another chunk is going to just flip ahead to the people they want to read about. Most authors struggle to even invent one popular character and you want twenty.

    That doesn't mean you shouldn't try, but I suggest you actually study how at least one author you admire achieved this by dissecting his or her books. I'll even advise you to go through the same process on someone you thinks fails at this, as failures teach more than successes.

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  • Andrew
    Lv 7
    2 years ago

    That would depend on a host of different factors ranging from your own prowess as an author and your ability to flesh out 22 separate characters to whether or not the story in question might require so many to begin with.

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  • Athena
    Lv 7
    2 years ago

    Stick with three.

    Give your readers a break.

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  • Who
    Lv 7
    2 years ago

    you cant "stick" to any particular number- you have as many characters as you need to develop the story you wanna tell

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  • 2 years ago

    You should have as many characters as you need to tell the story, no more. You could consider each character in turn and ask yourself how the story would have to change if you removed them. If the answer is "not much" or "not at all", you should probably remove them.

    22 characters sounds like a lot, but bear in mind that not all characters will be equally prominent in the story, and not all of them will need the same amount of development. My latest book has 20 characters with speaking parts, and a few more who don't speak, but a lot of them are only in one scene, or even just a few paragraphs. The number of characters who are central to the story, and who would cause major rewrites if I took them out, is more like 6 or 7.

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  • Anonymous
    2 years ago

    It would depend on the length of the work. You probably could not do it in a short story. A multi novel universe ("A Song of Ice and Fire" series by George R.R. Martin comes to mind) could easily handle that kind of story arc.

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  • Murzy
    Lv 7
    2 years ago

    you could have as many as 10

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  • 2 years ago

    It's not impossible, but unless you're George R.R. Martin, it might be a bit too ambitious.

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