Most novels begin with too many characters. Some writers, who have a knack for unusual cool character names, trot every one of them out in a novel’s first chapter.
Writing Tip for Today: You’re midway through your first draft and suddenly it hits you: your cast of thousands needs trimming. What are some things to think about if you need to kill off a character?
- Does the Character Alter the Story? If the character in question is removed, is the story line of the protagonist affected? If the answer is no, consider axing that character.
- No Dialogue, No Name. If your character doesn’t have much in the way of a speaking part, that character doesn’t really need a name at all. He/she can be policeman, nurse, fifth grader, whatever.
- Uppity Sidekicks. Supporting characters can sometimes try to steal the protagonist’s thunder. What often occurs is that a novelist’s secondary character is so unique and colorful that it makes the main character seem boring. These sidekick characters usually need to be restrained or in some cases, whacked altogether.
- Composite Characters. See which of your secondary characters could be combined. The fewer characters the reader must keep track of, the better experience for the reader.
- Intro New Characters Slowly. Limit the introduction of new characters to one or two in a scene or a chapter. Give the reader time to cement these new characters in mind. Most novels do not bring in important new characters past the midpoint of a novel.