Lv 6
. asked in Arts & HumanitiesBooks & Authors · 5 months ago

Is it good or bad idea to have many main characters in a novel?

How many should be bad?


In your opinion, how many would you say are too many to ruin the novel and why?

7 Answers

  • Andrew
    Lv 7
    5 months ago
    Best Answer

    It's not necessarily a bad idea to have a larger number of characters in your book or story, it's really more of an issue of whether or not the story being told requires that many. If each of them fits the story and the end result doesn't seem too bloated or muddled, then it's fine. But if you're cramming them in because you're trying to increase the word count or to add a bunch of sub-plots that veer away from the main focus, it's probably a good idea to try and trim the total down. It depends on the scope of the plot really. If they're necessary and well-crafted and fully fleshed out, it's not a problem. But if they're just filler, see about excising the ones that can be removed. Another option is to take two side characters that aren't all that important and combine them into a composite character that can handle both roles in the narrative.

  • Zac Z
    Lv 7
    5 months ago

    There really is no ideal number of how many main characters a novel should have.

    There are novels that only have one character. In Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend", which is excellent, there's really only one person for the most part of the novel, not even supporting characters.

    On the other hand, there are novels with many main characters.

    Three examples came to my mind first: "The Stand" by Stephen King, "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett, and "Limit" by Frank Schätzing

    In "The Stand", there are about 10 main characters that have independent narrative strands which eventually start converging.

    "The Pillars of the Earth" is a story that spans several decades and has numerous main characters. Their individual stories are intertwined and touch and influence each other.

    "Limit" has several narrative strands that first appear to be entirely independent but eventually merge; one of the strand concerned a group of very wealthy moon tourists and in this strand alone there are a good dozen main characters.

    What these three books have in common are that they are massive novels and were written by experienced writers that had already written a good number of novels of far less epic proportions.

    Now, I'm not saying that a new writer cannot write a big novel with many characters but chances are that it will be too big a bite to chew and will end up in a bad book.

    I should also say that I am an avid reader who doesn't mind big tomes with many characters.

    But I have seen feedback on the novels mentioned above that criticized the cast of characters as too large and confusing. I didn't share this feeling at all but given that some share of the readership has difficulties to follow a large cast of characters even when they're written by seasoned writers having a good grip on storytelling, you should expect your book to not be accessible for all if you make your cast too large. That's if it's written well; if it's written poorly you'll lose even more readers.

    All that said, I'd suggest to start with a story that doesn't require a vast number of main characters.

    Hope this helps.

  • David
    Lv 7
    5 months ago

    The last story I wrote had ten characters in it, each with varying degrees of involvement. It's a judgment call as to how many characters you think you can use effectively.


  • 5 months ago

    The number of characters is irrelevant. You might have one or two, or you might have eight or nine; all that matters is how well the author handles them and the story. Obviously it'll be easier to handle them effectively if there is a good reason for each of them to be in the story in the first place.

    The ONLY rule in novel writing is never to bore or confuse your readers. With that in mind, the sky is the limit.

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  • 5 months ago

    No one can give you a fixed number, it all depends on your story. I will say, however, that a mistake many new writers make is that they have too many characters.

    Rule of thumb: Only have as many main characters as absolutely necessary. Look at each character (this goes for side characters as well) and see what function they have and what role they play. Sometimes characters can be scratched without it affecting the story, sometimes two or even three characters can be combined into one single person etc.

    This is where you might have to kill your darlings, you might love a character, but if there's no reason for him/her to bet here, then he/she needs to go (it doesn't have to be goodbye forever, you can always reuse characters in other stories).

    Remember the more characters you have the less page space you'll have to develop each character and have your reader get to know them, and you don't want your reader to start going, "Who is this guy, again?". This especially goes if you're writing a stand-alone novel. If you're writing an epic saga spanning several books, then you have more page space and more leeway.

  • Pearl
    Lv 7
    5 months ago

    thats up to you how rnany characters you want in it

  • Anonymous
    5 months ago

    You can but you have to keep the focus of the book on One person OR One group to keep the reader's interest. TOO MANY 'mains' & he'll lose interest ....................

    • .
      Lv 6
      5 months agoReport

      How many would you say are too many?

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