Saturday, February 5, 2011

Character 102 - Handling more MCs

Hey, all! Still on characters. This time with a touchy - feely subject. Well, at least to me. Why? Because I tend to write many, many characters. And worst of all, make many of them MCs.
Let's get to it...

Here's the history of this post. Beside my Paranormal Romance NaNo novel, Hunters, I write YA. Upper YA, I tend to think, seeing as my books deal with hurting, killing people and a lot of romance. Plus, the characters are almost all over 18 (don't get that dirty mind working, I write clean books *wink wink*).
The thing is, my book series focuses on five brothers and how they handle a family feud (by family feud, I mean crazy-ass villain trying to kill them and crazy-ass secret agency recruiting them to fill some shoes). Let me reiterate that, in case you missed it. Five brothers. FIVE. Which gets me to having FIVE MCs. The only good part about all that is that I have seven (yes, SEVEN) books in which to stretch out their adventures and bring all their traits into focus.

My only problem is the first book, in which I introduce them. I start off with one of them, obviously - Sam - my POV character - I stick with his POV for six whole chapters before his deranged brothers take over. The thing is, some people found my constant POV switch (I ended up giving all the brothers a cornucopia of POVs in which they explore their deepest regrets and sorrows) confusing, to say the least.
And I don't blame them. I have a lot of characters! As in, give each MC a love interest, add an extra chick in there for a cat fight, add the cousins and backup team and... you've got a team made out of...18 people.
Which, realistically speaking, seeing as they're battling an army of henchmen, is not that many people. Yeah, try writing a scene with all of them there, though - I did. And without making it confusing. So I guess I don't have any trouble handling a large mass of characters.

I'm still kinda brainstorming on what to do with all the people. And I came to the conclusion that, except for important cousin Billy, everyone in the backup team will be an amorphous mass the reader shouldn't be bothered with. No real traits, no POV.
You might ask why I don't just delete the extra characters. Because I need them later. And I want the reader to remember that they did meet this guy at some point, he didn't just pop out of the ground. I'll work on this.

Back to the five MCs. The thing is, I mostly stick to Sam's POV - so he's like my main MC (MMC :-) ). But, as those who read my story can tell you. some of his brothers become a lot more interesting along the way - and romance nuts know what I mean.
While Sam has a tame relationship which involves nothing spicy, three of his brothers are a lot wilder when it comes to romance. So you have a love-hate relationship for one of them, a cat fight between two girl for another, and a long-lost-love betrayal story for the third.
And then there's Jerry who is like a comic relief because he's so anal about everything. He's the MC who's not really an MC yet. He will start growing and taking his words in future novels.

By the end of the series, all five of the bros will be just as important. They will have grown equally and all faced a life-changing event. Also, starting book three, I tend to break them up - fewer characters in a scene for the win (FTW).
Oh, did I mention that I get into the girlfriends heads too and have their POV? Hmmm... maybe I should have.

The thing is, for me, it's not hard to do. And, fortunately, the one teen reader I had (yeah, I'm looking at you Anna) wasn't confused with all the characters and the POV switches or anything - and they're my target market.
So, I basically like to handle and build this many characters. Everything would be crystal clear if I could write a 200k first volume. But I can't. So the hard part is selecting scenes and putting them together and make all of it flow.
I'm currently working on it. And I'll make it.

One of my critters told me, after she started reading Hunters, that I spent so much time giving my many characters the spotlight, that I couldn't shine as a writer. She's a sweetheart. And writing Hunters was fun. But I miss the complexity and the challenge my YA series provides.
Writing just two characters can turn into a drag. But, hey, it's a short novel which is meant to be fun and fast (for the curious ones, check out the first chapter in the sidebar)

So, basically, I think I might have a character fetish. I think not! Okay, I'm not exactly entitled to say.
The thing is, by the end of the whole thing, people got a clear image of my MCs (even Jerry - he's the anal, stubborn, quiet one, right? - yes, exactly). Which means I did a pretty good job with handling them. I'm not saying I don't need work - I need A LOT of work to make this flow well. And I'll search for the recipe for success.

Here's today's post's challenge/ question - what's your biggest number of characters in one WIP? Counting the heroes, the villains, the friends and even people who appear just once (okay, you can skip waitresses unless they have lines :p)

Mine is: *drum roll* 34 - including bad guys with names, parents, schoolmates, guides and a doctor. (Honestly, I was expecting a much larger number there)
So, what's your extreme number?


  1. Oh dear. Don't even ask me for that number :P I think it's about 24 in one, but I think the number only goes up in the next books :/
    Good post :)

  2. Well, I keep track of anyone I name in a "characters" document so this part is easy to answer. I landed up with an extreme number of 80 - which I blogged about here last year.

    Before anyone falls off their perch at this number, I explained more about it here. Basically, this count includes many "characters" who never even appear. On the other hand, I have no count of the many anonymous characters filling in the background in this world.

    And if you want a comparison, the first Harry Potter book introduces over 50 before Harry even reaches Hogwarts.

    On the subject of MC's, though, most of my novel stays in the head of just two (with a few guest visits elsewhere for single scenes).

  3. I have 28 in my NaNo novel but several are just 'extras' in a cafe. The story is a romance with a twist and has just the two POV and only five strong-ish voices after them. I was surprised when I counted them up! Good post.

  4. @ Anna: Lol - I was counting the first book. Don't make me count then next ones which will of course have many more characters - heck! once you're used to the MCs, you can focus on other people.

    @Botanist: Wow, I read both your posts and they were awesome. I don't mind many characters - I never knew Harry Potter had that many - I think my major problem is keeping them in a tight group. But I found your reasoning so good... let's form a "Many Characters" Club.

    @Margo: Well, very unlike me, my NaNo novel keeps just 1 POV (well, with the occasional intervention from the antagonist, so I guess that makes it 2 POVs) throughout. I counted 13 characters in there out of which only 8 appear in more than 2 chapters. I think I might have outdone myself :) I'm not counting the anonymous bands of Vampires and Hunters.
    I was surprised too, now when I counted - actually, I was surprised at my 34 characters too - I was expecting them to be a lot more :p

  5. I have a project in outline stage at the moment that's up to about 20 main characters each with their own full character description and analysis in the outline. I'm trying to keep the POV characters to a minimum, though, and I'm up to about six or seven at the moment. The trouble is these numbers will grow when I get to the writing proper.

    Your project sounds very ambitious and interesting. Good luck with it.

  6. Hmm, I do try to minimize POV characters. I wrote ART in all first person, with three POV's (Cali, Galadin, and Jayden). Other characters that had main roles were Cali's parents, Galadin's two closest shipmates, Jayden's L.I.O. partner Lillyanne, Cali's best friend/mentor Juliana, her once-betrothed Aelendyl, and her other mentor Malchior. I guess that's 3 mains and 8 significants :)

    Serenya's Song is featuring only 2 POV characters, Jayden and Serenya, Serenya's meany husband Sebastian, plus Lillyanne is back, Serenya's stepdad Douglas, 2 scouts, 2 paladins, at least 2 creepy guys, and I'm not sure who else will appear yet.

    Kudos on handling that many people--I don't envy you on having to weed them out though. I hate cutting anyone :)


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