Today I wanted to talk about something that is half fiction musing and story updates. What I’m talking about is a cast of characters.
I will not name other works of fiction — I think you can identify them pretty easily from the description — but one source of frustration I have is when I read a book and it has a ton of characters. Now, it is not because I feel the characters are under-developed or they are just there for plot advancement. No, most of the time they are very well developed and engaging. It’s just that sometimes there’s simply too many of them. You attach yourself to characters A, B, C, and D, but you have to wade through characters E,F,G,H to get to them. I do not want to imply the latter are bad or boring characters, but you run into the problem of: well I prefer these, not those, and oh God, look at what I have to do to get to what I like.
This is why I have always favoured a smaller cast. In Heart of the Sand I have 10 different character perspectives. Four of those perspectives have only one chapter each, and another three have two chapters each. I think, this allows for the audience to grow more attached to a smaller set of characters, and they will see them on a much more regular basis. Again, to use my work as an example, this means that three characters (Aerona, Daniel, and Lutessa) account for 14 out of 24 chapters. Oh, and if Sea of Storms did not make it obvious, those are my “main” characters going forward, without question.
I had recently just finished a young adult dystopian series (yes, I still like young adult fiction). It did a lot of things really well, but what I think stood out for me, is that it felt like I really knew the small group of characters. Somehow, I felt more attached, more compelled to their trials and tribulations, their hardships and their struggles. If the cast was increased significantly, I don’t know if I’d feel the same.
Well, I hope more works follow these lines. I love my small casts, after all.