Monday, July 16, 2012

The Ensemble Cast

When writing novels, I get asked about how many characters should populate your story? I don't have a huge cast of characters in California Girl Chronicles. I didn't create a huge cast of characters of purpose. The best way to explain why it's important to limit what I call the characters on the canvas is from the reader's point-of-view. Have you ever read a book where you have to continually flip back and forth to remember a character's name and his or her role in the story? Doesn't that just frustrate you? It also makes it difficult to track what is going on when you confuse your characters and sub-plots, because if you have confused the characters you probably aren't tracking the sub-plots either. I had a recent conversation with an author where we explored the problems associated with a plethora of different people populating his pages. He had reasons to justify all of his "peeps" but I pointed out that once you lose the reader what really happens is the experience becomes less pleasurable, and people lose patience. Once a reader loses patience, the author has failed at his or her job, because most readers then put the book down. Book set down equals an unfinished book -- and that is a disappointment for everyone.

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