A Cast of Characters

Earlier this week – or was it two weeks ago, I can’t remember – I finished a comprehensive read-through/edit of my current project (Working title: JADE MOON WANING). Part of this read through…

Ok, full disclosure here: It should have been part of the read through. I actually thought of this after the fact, and that resulted in what I’m going to call a skim through.

Anyway, part of this read through included taking note which characters appeared in which chapters, with the end goal of having something that I could look at (In this case, an Excel Spreadsheet – where I still don’t do any math) that would tell me how my characters were distributed through the novel.

Now I didn’t include any characters that didn’t have what I’m going to call “Generic” names: The Driver, The Tinker, The Tailor, The Soldier, The Spy, etc. This was a count of characters that had names, and a “Graph” of sorts (this got too suspiciously close to math for my tastes), where I could see who showed up where.

To my surprise, I discovered that I had FIFTY-TWO characters in this book. As I was putting this together, I thought that it would be clever to give each character a color…

…and I started running out of colors to designate characters with. I couldn’t look at the entire “Graph” without shrinking the worksheet to something like 40% Small enough so that, while they were all on the screen, I couldn’t read a damned name.

Now this isn’t me saying that if I’ve got 52 characters in my book, and it seems like too many (and, believe me, Reader, it most certainly is) that 52 characters IN YOUR BOOK is too much.

You’re a better judge than I am of how many characters your work can bear. For this project, my Beta Readers have nearly universally said that the story drags a bit through the first 100 pages.

Clearly, I have some tightening up to do. And that is going to include taking a look at my cast of characters – especially the ones that show up in only one or two chapters – and give some thought to either consolidating some of them, or getting rid of them entirely.

There are going to be a few that may survive the cut on the virtue of it being too “Clunky” to use a generic name over and over in a single scene or chapter, especially where there’s dialogue between that character and one of my main characters. Those folk will have to stay even if they only show up once – assuming that I don’t decide to cut that scene or chapter entirely.

I have – and maybe you have too – heard the phrase “Write without fear – Edit without mercy.” That’s clearly something that I’m going to have to do this time around. While I’m enjoying it (I really dig every part of the process – I’m a weirdo in that way) it is slow going, and will probably push my target to start querying agents with it, back till late June or early July. We’ll see how it shakes out.

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Next Weekend, I’m going to be at Balticon! It’s a great con and, if you’re in the area drop in and say Hi!

You can find my schedule for the weekend on my Events page.

See you on Thursday!

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2 Responses to A Cast of Characters

  1. I do spreadsheets for the primary characters, but not the secondary ones. Wow, you are diligent!

  2. Pingback: Head Down, Moving Forward. | Ken Schrader

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