Too many characters?

fantasyretreat

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Hey guys,

New author here. I recently got a comment on my story (literally the first comment). It says that the number of characters I introduced in the first chapter of my story is hard to keep up with. So I edited the first chapter a little and added dialogue tags to the speeches that didn't have them attached.

My questions are, are five characters one too many for the first chapter of a story? Do I need to reduce the amount characters in that chapter? Would love a feedback from you guys.

Thanks.

 
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ManwX

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yep a little to much. mine are liek 3 or 2. I just make mc the main focus and i dotn add much interaction depth with the side character because there is no need. That is for the future
 

fantasyretreat

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yep a little to much. mine are liek 3 or 2. I just make mc the main focus and i dotn add much interaction depth with the side character because there is no need. That is for the future
That’s interesting. I feel the rapport between characters set the stage so the readers know at the back of their minds the connection between characters.

Nevertheless, I’m grateful for your feedback. I may not be able to reduce the amount of characters in that first chapter, but I can you use this going forward.

 

J_Chemist

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It depends on how you write and how you develop your story. If you throw 5 into the mix and give them equal screentime, it can be a bit much. Think of how noisy a conversation can be when several people are trying to get a word in. When you read something like that, it's the same sensation. Readers can get overwhelmed.

However, if you introduce them separately and each have their own "moments" without them all cluttering the screen at once, it's manageable.

By the time you put them together, they've been introduced already and you can get to your meat and potatoes of the scene rather than bounce all over the place with minor, less necessary details.
 

fantasyretreat

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If you throw 5 into the mix and give them equal screentime, it can be a bit much. Think of how noisy a conversation can be when several people are trying to get a word in
True. But what I did is make sure no one is talking over another. There is only one leader among for of the characters. And most importantly, perspective matters. The story reads from the perspective of just one person in different scenes so I believe readers should be able to follow.
However, if you introduce them separately and each have their own "moments" without them all cluttering the screen at once, it's manageable.
This is very true. But I'll argue that if you put them in one scene and write from the POV of one person, you can introduce the characters without being too confusing.

Do correct me if I'm wrong though.
 

groudonvert

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I think it depends. As an introduction, for example, if the MC is a member of some adventurer's group and is betrayed by his group in the first chapter, it's normal to have a huge number of characters at the start that will completely disappear after chapter 1 to come back later bit by bit for some plot revenge (there's a Light Novel like that), I think it's fine.

An other possibility is if your chapters are longer than usual (let's say 15k words), it would be normal to have 2 or 3 characters introduced to actually interact with the MC, so no info dump for 15k words ^^
 

Temple

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And most importantly, perspective matters.
This is correct, however I don't see this happening from the way the chapter is written. Who is the pov character in the first section? A first, I assumed it was the blind man, but he walked away so it wasn't him. POV must be one of the children then, but not clear.

Then in the next section, the pov was passed to the blind man who didn't know the names of the children. So, why was the first section a different? Because you were trying to cheat out the names of the children, given that the blind man didn't know them. Though Rihal has the POV, you insert "Rihal’s current name for Whistle" to cheat out to the reader such an information. That's your own comment to the reader, breaking the third person limited writing.

Here's a tip, when a reader complains about something, it usually isn't the actual problem. Having too many characters mentioned in the first chapter isn't an issue if handled well. For example, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe has I think nine characters mentioned in its very first paragraph. But it's one of the best-selling books of all time.

The actual problem in your first chapter is that there three POV jumps. "Too many characters" really means the reader can't connect to them. And your readers can't connect because you keep jumping around as an attempt to cheat out information you want to convey but can't figure out how with one POV. Better write the whole chapter one in the POV of Jerome. If you can't explain the blind man with that, just leave it for later rather than compromise story structure.

Look at your chapter 2. Five sections, four scene breaks in a single chapter.
P.S. Don't feel bad, though. This is also my issue when I started writing stories years ago. :blobtaco:
 

fantasyretreat

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This is correct, however I don't see this happening from the way the chapter is written. Who is the pov character in the first section? A first, I assumed it was the blind man, but he walked away so it wasn't him. POV must be one of the children then, but not clear.

Then in the next section, the pov was passed to the blind man who didn't know the names of the children. So, why was the first section a different? Because you were trying to cheat out the names of the children, given that the blind man didn't know them. Though Rihal has the POV, you insert "Rihal’s current name for Whistle" to cheat out to the reader such an information. That's your own comment to the reader, breaking the third person limited writing.

Here's a tip, when a reader complains about something, it usually isn't the actual problem. Having too many characters mentioned in the first chapter isn't an issue if handled well. For example, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe has I think nine characters mentioned in its very first paragraph. But it's one of the best-selling books of all time.

The actual problem in your first chapter is that there three POV jumps. "Too many characters" really means the reader can't connect to them. And your readers can't connect because you keep jumping around as an attempt to cheat out information you want to convey but can't figure out how with one POV. Better write the whole chapter one in the POV of Jerome. If you can't explain the blind man with that, just leave it for later rather than compromise story structure.

Look at your chapter 2. Five sections, four scene breaks in a single chapter.
P.S. Don't feel bad, though. This is also my issue when I started writing stories years ago. :blobtaco:
Thanks a lot for this! This is what I needed. I knew there was something I wasn't getting right and I think you've pointed out the crux of the matter.

The first pov in the first chapter is third person omniscient. My brain has been skipping over that since I wrote it. I ought to have turned it to be third person limited.

I'll do as you said. I'll change it to Jerome’s pov and then reduce the amount of povs in the 2nd chapter.

Thanks a mill! I really appreciate.
As an introduction, for example, if the MC is a member of some adventurer's group and is betrayed by his group in the first chapter, it's normal to have a huge number of characters at the start that will completely disappear after chapter 1 to come back later bit by bit for some plot revenge (there's a Light Novel like that), I think it's fine.
True. I've had an idea like this before for a story too.

An other possibility is if your chapters are longer than usual (let's say 15k words)
:s_eek: that's a lot of words for a chapter. Who can keep that up? And for how many chapters?!
 
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TheTrinary

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This is correct, however I don't see this happening from the way the chapter is written. Who is the pov character in the first section? A first, I assumed it was the blind man, but he walked away so it wasn't him. POV must be one of the children then, but not clear.

Then in the next section, the pov was passed to the blind man who didn't know the names of the children. So, why was the first section a different? Because you were trying to cheat out the names of the children, given that the blind man didn't know them. Though Rihal has the POV, you insert "Rihal’s current name for Whistle" to cheat out to the reader such an information. That's your own comment to the reader, breaking the third person limited writing.

Here's a tip, when a reader complains about something, it usually isn't the actual problem. Having too many characters mentioned in the first chapter isn't an issue if handled well. For example, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe has I think nine characters mentioned in its very first paragraph. But it's one of the best-selling books of all time.

The actual problem in your first chapter is that there three POV jumps. "Too many characters" really means the reader can't connect to them. And your readers can't connect because you keep jumping around as an attempt to cheat out information you want to convey but can't figure out how with one POV. Better write the whole chapter one in the POV of Jerome. If you can't explain the blind man with that, just leave it for later rather than compromise story structure.

Look at your chapter 2. Five sections, four scene breaks in a single chapter.
P.S. Don't feel bad, though. This is also my issue when I started writing stories years ago. :blobtaco:
Well said on reader's problem. You always have to understand that the reader is feeling a certain way but they can't necessarily understand the reason why. Being able to vocalize those problems is the mark of a good critic which people just aren't.
 
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