Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Dealing With A Large Cast

One of the things I have always found challenging is dealing with a large cast of characters. Unfortunately, all my books tend to have a large cast of characters. Even after eliminating several, there are still plenty of people. They are not necessary. Each one is supposed to add something important to the story. Each one is supposed to contribute to the growth of major character(s). The key words here are: supposed to. When I think of the plot, I have some clear scenes in mind where these characters are important. Those are the scenes that go in the outline. The difficulty then is to tie these characters all around the story, and not just have them disappear after the first scene. I always get confused about where to set the scene? If there are several characters, and if they are just sitting around, talking, that would drag the story. And yet, what kind of action scenes can I possibly create with these characters? The importance of these characters often comes from the things they say to the main characters, or the things they do to the main characters, and this is more often emotional rather than physical. So all the more difficult to show with action scenes. Having too many people in one scene is a common problem for me. Unfortunately, I am still figuring out how to fix it, and how to handle a large cast of characters without turning the scene into a circus or a set of a soap opera. How about your cast of characters? Are they small, medium, big? How do you deal with LCS (large cast syndrome)?


  1. I, too, suffer from LCS. I have thought many times of who can be cut or combined. It's too much like Sophie's Choice. I have a planned series, so some characters, though minor now, are expected to have a larger role later. I felt it was important to establish who they are early in the story, but maybe that can wait.

  2. I have a large cast for the book I'll be writing for Nano. The interesting thing is, I plan on killing most of them throughout the book. I guess if you look at it from that perspective, there really aren't that many characters.

  3. My first novel had 3 main characters, an antagonist, the antagonist's right hand man, and a sort of "go between" character. All were necessary, and all required multiple scenes of their own.

    I think I handled it well enough, but it would've been a darn sight easier with a few less people. ;-)

    My other works have had less characters. Not through choice, it's just the way they turned out.


  4. I have characters in my story for a reason, but sometimes I have to go back and weave a character into more scenes. I have one who tends to disappear.

  5. I had a large cast of characters in my last (unpublished!) novel. Many were there in the scene because I saw them there, but they didn't add much.
    In future I think I need to try harder to erase them from my view!

  6. I get confused just trying to keep up with my main characters, so I try to keep the cast at a reasonable level. There are seven characters in my current WIP - all with a specific purpose. A few of them never cross paths, which makes it easier. When I did the round robin thing on the Harlequin site, that story had a ton of characters - I literally had to refer to a list when writing my chapter to keep track of everyone! :-)

    Even when people are talking to each other, there's plenty of action to be found. They can move about the room, handle objects, look out windows - and use gestures & facial expressions. But I'm sure you already know that. Just how big of a cast are you working with? :-)

  7. I recently culled six characters from my novel, as the cast was far too big - and still feel I have too many. I merged some of the characters and lost a whole subplot too - so much work - it better be worth it one day!!

  8. Thanks for all your comments everyone.

    I have 3 main characters, 3 major supportive characters, 2 villains, 4-5 minor supporting characters. And that's after I have already gotten rid of one major supportive characters. So you can imagine my issues. But I am going to see if I can get rid of a few characters, and also then see if I can have few people in a scene at a time, as oppose to whole lot of them together. Just need to try to figure out how exactly I am going to make that happen.