Handful of Characters: Why it’s Best


Have you ever read a book with so many characters you’re stuck asking yourself, “Wait, who did what?”

This is the question to avoid because readers don’t want to be confused!  Readers enjoy straight forward books that do not cause perplexity over characters.  This is why you want to keep your characters to a minimum.  I do not have a set number of characters you must have, that is for you to decide, but I do have advice.

In any story, a writer must include primary, secondary, and tertiary characters.  With this, you have main characters, the character’s friends, and coworkers which create a believable world.  Secondary and tertiary characters are what fill the society’s population while maybe knowing the main character and contributing to their life.

Keep character numbers as small as possible so you aren’t stuck explaining the character’s relation to this person and that person.  Make it easy on yourself, and avoid complex relations, unless it is a key part of your love story.

If you have two secondary characters who both play minor roles in your book, combine them.  This way you have one character who is more involved in the plot and has a more well rounded personality.  Readers will become attached to the characters as their personalities become more and more prominent through out your book.

Having unique, interesting characters are important to maintaining the reader’s attention, and helps avoid confusion.  Be sure to create characters that have distinct personalities, actions, looks, and way of speech.  With this, if you have two characters’ whose names are Mark and Marcus, readers will have no difficulty telling them apart.

Fewer characters are also easier when writing dialogue.  The recommended number of characters in dialogue is three, so that there is no distraction of who is speaking and more focus on what they are saying.  Identifying characters among dialogue can be difficult if you do not give the characters unique, distinctive voices or way of speaking.

Use the least amount of characters you can in your books to enable a smooth plot with zero confusion from readers.

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” Earnest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon     http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/characters

Romans 8:37

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