Welcome to the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler! Please read The Newbie Guide To Absolute Write

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 45

Thread: Average Number of Characters in a Novel

  1. #1
    Learning to read more, post less
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    106

    Average Number of Characters in a Novel

    When I searched this, unfortunately, people use characters to mean alphabetical characters, but I mean the people in your novel - main characters and the supporting characters, not the minimal characters. The ones that engage in dialogue more than just a couple of lines and have more than just a cameo appearance in the plot.

    Just a guesstimate as I am sure there is little to no data on this.

  2. #2
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Brillig in the slithy toves...
    Posts
    15,018
    How long is a piece of string...
    <---- NEW BOOK (Snazzy new cover coming ASAP.)



  3. #3
    Feeling like an old timer rainsmom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Pacific NW
    Posts
    1,026
    Yeah, unfortunately, there are no guidelines really. Novels vary from a 45K middle grade to 250K fantasy tomes. Even in a single genre, the stories vary hugely in complexity, setting, etc. A story that's set among a group of four characters caught in a blizzard is going to have fewer characters than one set in a high school. Probably.

    Consider the reader when you write. Readers can keep up with only so many names, so many different characters before they all start to run together. Make sure EVERY character is necessary. Can characters be combined and have one accomplish what two (or three!) did before? It's not unheard of for publishers to request that sort of change.
    Melissa C. Alexander

    Click for Joy!
    Click for Joy!
    Sunshine Books, 2003
    Winner "Best Training/Behavior Book 2003" by Dog Writers of America

    WIP: Doubting River (est. completion 2014)
    Winner mainstream category of "The Sandy" literary contest, 2010

    Blog: A Plotter's Guide to Novel Writing
    Twitter: @M_C_Alexander

  4. #4
    Learning to read more, post less
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    106
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyia View Post
    How long is a piece of string...
    Lol! I get it, but there are a finite number of novels that have been published in English so it could be calculated. It seems that people can calculate the average number of English words in a novel.

    I know I didn't really give hard guidelines as to what is a main and supporting character vs. a minimal, but I would think the average would be 5-10.

    Minimal characters don't add much to the plot or the character development. They are filler characters - people you put in the novel to describe the setting or because the person is doing something and it would not be realistic for them to be doing it in a vacuum.

    Just a gut feeling.

  5. #5
    Literary Flibbertigibbet
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Illinois
    Posts
    99
    I mean, honestly, there's a point where you have to stop asking questions and just go with your gut feeling. Sometimes there's a cast of 100+ in a story who all prove important in some way, as in J.K. Rowling's novels. Sometimes, it's only one, like in Kafka's Metamorphosis. Sometimes there's two. Sometimes there's four. Sometimes there's a love triangle. Sometimes there is unrequited love. It all depends on the story you are trying to tell. There is no average! How many characters does your story need? That is the question you should be asking (yourself).
    Last edited by PriyankaB; 01-10-2011 at 05:25 AM.
    Current WIP: short story collection


    The Story Weaver- my writing blog!

  6. #6
    Learning to read more, post less
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    106
    Quote Originally Posted by rainsmom View Post
    Consider the reader when you write. Readers can keep up with only so many names, so many different characters before they all start to run together.
    That is what I was thinking - that in order to do decent character development, you can't have too many characters before it starts getting too confusing for the reader. I was thinking over 10 start to get too many if they are all developed somewhat.

    Someone else told me about a book that had so many characters in it, they provided you with an appendix to show you how they were all related to each other so the reader could refer back to it.

  7. #7
    Learning to read more, post less
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    106
    Quote Originally Posted by PriyankaB View Post
    I mean, honestly, there's a point where you have to stop asking questions and just go with your gut feeling.
    I just registered here yesterday and wasn't able to post here until today.

  8. #8
    Arranger Of Disorder WriteKnight's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    30,000 light years from Galactic Central Point.
    Posts
    1,735
    Don't think about the number of characters in a novel - think about the number of characters in a scene.

    And the answer is no more than seven.

    Now, you have an answer - get writing.

  9. #9
    Caped Codder jaksen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    In MA, USA, across from a 17th century cemetery
    Posts
    5,118
    Quote Originally Posted by WriteKnight View Post
    Don't think about the number of characters in a novel - think about the number of characters in a scene.

    And the answer is no more than seven.

    Now, you have an answer - get writing.
    Seven!

    Omg now I gots to rewrite all those battle scenes with 1000 people.

    Latest story in December 2013 issue of EQMM.

    Eeyore was saying to himself, “This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Over-rated if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it.” A.A. Milne

  10. #10
    Literary Flibbertigibbet
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Illinois
    Posts
    99
    Quote Originally Posted by NeverDoneIt View Post
    I just registered here yesterday and wasn't able to post here until today.
    I wasn't talking about the forum itself- I meant in general. If you keep asking questions about how to write and overthink everything, you'll never actually end up writing anything at all! I mean, there has to be a level at which you trust your own abilities, isn't there? Otherwise why would you ever consider becoming a fiction author?
    Current WIP: short story collection


    The Story Weaver- my writing blog!

  11. #11
    Learning to read more, post less
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    106
    Quote Originally Posted by jaksen View Post

    Omg now I gots to rewrite all those battle scenes with 1000 people.
    Those would be minimal characters.

  12. #12
    Learning to read more, post less
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    106
    Quote Originally Posted by PriyankaB View Post
    I wasn't talking about the forum itself- I meant in general. If you keep asking questions about how to write and overthink everything, you'll never actually end up writing anything at all! I mean, there has to be a level at which you trust your own abilities, isn't there? Otherwise why would you ever consider becoming a fiction author?
    I am considering becoming a fiction author to make money. I have an idea for what I think it is a great story and I want to sell it.

    I have written a synopsis and the first chapter. I want to make sure before I invest any more time in this that I have a feel for what may hurt my chances of selling my book. I want to maximize my chances of selling this book.

    That may be foreign to some of you who look at writing as an art. I am a prolific non-fiction writer, but not for publication, internal use. Anyhow, I decided to try my hand at fiction to see if I can make some money off of it. I have a vivid imagination.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW Krintar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    267
    Quote Originally Posted by jaksen View Post
    Omg now I gots to rewrite all those battle scenes with 1000 people.
    There's a huge difference between 1000 people and 1000 characters. You know that wasn't what he meant


  14. #14
    Literary Flibbertigibbet
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Illinois
    Posts
    99
    Quote Originally Posted by NeverDoneIt View Post
    I am considering becoming a fiction author to make money. I have an idea for what I think it is a great story and I want to sell it.

    I have written a synopsis and the first chapter. I want to make sure before I invest any more time in this that I have a feel for what may hurt my chances of selling my book. I want to maximize my chances of selling this book.

    That may be foreign to some of you who look at writing as an art. I am a prolific non-fiction writer, but not for publication, internal use. Anyhow, I decided to try my hand at fiction to see if I can make some money off of it. I have a vivid imagination.
    Okay, so that's your main problem right there. When you're writing a fiction story, you can't start by thinking about whether it will sell or not. The most important thing is that it is a good story. If it is a good story, then it will sell. With fiction, especially as a first time author, you can't think in terms of "maximizing" your sales chances. It's like trying to catch a trend. It's not going to happen. Step away from what you think is "marketable" and focus on why your story needs to be told. Don't write fiction because you think it'll make you money, write it because you want to tell a good story.
    Current WIP: short story collection


    The Story Weaver- my writing blog!

  15. #15
    Feeling like an old timer rainsmom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Pacific NW
    Posts
    1,026
    I am considering becoming a fiction author to make money.
    Okayyyyy. You need to do a LOT of reading around here. I don't want to hijack this thread, but let me just say that there are people who sell books regularly who don't make a working wage from their fiction.

    Writing is EXTREMELY competitive. It is very difficult to get a manuscript sold. Heck, just getting an agent is hard. (Search out the agent blogs. Several posted year end stats. Think 10,000 queries for every 1-2 clients.) And then when they take on a book, they're selling 50-75%.
    Melissa C. Alexander

    Click for Joy!
    Click for Joy!
    Sunshine Books, 2003
    Winner "Best Training/Behavior Book 2003" by Dog Writers of America

    WIP: Doubting River (est. completion 2014)
    Winner mainstream category of "The Sandy" literary contest, 2010

    Blog: A Plotter's Guide to Novel Writing
    Twitter: @M_C_Alexander

  16. #16
    Caped Codder jaksen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    In MA, USA, across from a 17th century cemetery
    Posts
    5,118
    Hello NeverDoneIt,

    I made that comment about the 1000 people in jest. Sometimes sarcasm/humor doesn't come across well online.

    I see you asking a lot of questions on AW, and that's legitimate; it's okay. Most people starting out in fiction have questions. As for myself, I just wrote a story and sent it to a magazine and they bought it. I really had no clue about POV, tense, story structure, etc. etc. I guess you can say I winged it and got lucky.

    AW, however, is an excellent place to get answers to all sorts of writing questions. But there is a time when a writer needs to write the story and simply trust his or her own instincts.

    Trust yourself. If you haven't started working on the idea you've got, then I would urge and encourage you to do so.

    Go for it!
    Latest story in December 2013 issue of EQMM.

    Eeyore was saying to himself, “This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Over-rated if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it.” A.A. Milne

  17. #17
    Learning to read more, post less
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    106
    Quote Originally Posted by PriyankaB View Post
    you can't start by thinking about whether it will sell or not.
    Yes I can.

    Quote Originally Posted by PriyankaB View Post
    The most important thing is that it is a good story. If it is a good story, then it will sell.
    That is what I keep saying but people keep saying I can't head-hop and have it be a good story.

    The story, meaning the plot and the characters, are good, IMO. Now all I need to do is understand the techniques I can use to show/tell it.

  18. #18
    Learning to read more, post less
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    106
    Quote Originally Posted by jaksen View Post
    I see you asking a lot of questions on AW, and that's legitimate; it's okay. Most people starting out in fiction have questions. As for myself, I just wrote a story and sent it to a magazine and they bought it. I really had no clue about POV, tense, story structure, etc. etc. I guess you can say I winged it and got lucky.
    I might have been able to do that, too, but I would have head-hopped to my heart's desire and according to some people here, no one would ever buy my book if I did that.

    Quote Originally Posted by jaksen View Post
    But there is a time when a writer needs to write the story and simply trust his or her own instincts.
    I just registered yesterday and got posting privileges today.

    Quote Originally Posted by jaksen View Post
    Trust yourself. If you haven't started working on the idea you've got, then I would urge and encourage you to do so.

    Go for it!
    I have a synopsis, all the characters developed, and chapter 1. I want to maximize my chances of getting published and that is the name of that tune. This is not a hobby for me; it is a job.

    I found a lot of the info on this site useful, like how to try to get more description of scenary in my book. I like hearing what others have to say about point of view, too. I am still mullling that one over. Just asking for opinions, don't know which way I will go ultimately.

  19. #19
    Banned
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    2,682
    Quote Originally Posted by rainsmom View Post
    Writing is EXTREMELY competitive. It is very difficult to get a manuscript sold. Heck, just getting an agent is hard. (Search out the agent blogs. Several posted year end stats. Think 10,000 queries for every 1-2 clients.) And then when they take on a book, they're selling 50-75%.
    Yes, but NeverDoneIt has an idea for what he/she thinks is a great story.

  20. #20
    Learning to read more, post less
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    106
    Quote Originally Posted by RobJ View Post
    Yes, but NeverDoneIt has an idea for what he/she thinks is a great story.
    Yes, I do think that. Why would anyone bother to write a story if they didn't believe it was a great story?

  21. #21
    Learning to read more, post less
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    106
    Quote Originally Posted by rainsmom View Post
    Okayyyyy. You need to do a LOT of reading around here. I don't want to hijack this thread, but let me just say that there are people who sell books regularly who don't make a working wage from their fiction.

    Writing is EXTREMELY competitive. It is very difficult to get a manuscript sold. Heck, just getting an agent is hard. (Search out the agent blogs. Several posted year end stats. Think 10,000 queries for every 1-2 clients.) And then when they take on a book, they're selling 50-75%.
    I absolutely believe you. But I believe in me, too. If someone doesn't believe that they can get published, why would they do this? Unless they are just writing for themselves and family and friends.

    I have a day job, so I am fine if I don't succeed. But I believe I will.

  22. #22
    Literary Flibbertigibbet
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Illinois
    Posts
    99
    Quote Originally Posted by NeverDoneIt View Post
    This is not a hobby for me; it is a job.
    I of course can't speak for anyone but myself, but I think that writing fiction should never just be a job. It should be a hobby and a pastime and, most importantly, a passion. You shouldn't worry so much about getting things right, or you will never actually enjoy the writing process itself!

    ETA: I do not believe people should write fiction for the sole purpose of selling it or they really will go nowhere. Fiction should first and foremost be a storytelling process that starts with writing for themselves. There is no perfect formula for writing a book that will sell. No amount of advice by itself can make or break your story. That is all on your shoulders.
    Last edited by PriyankaB; 01-10-2011 at 07:05 AM.
    Current WIP: short story collection


    The Story Weaver- my writing blog!

  23. #23
    Banned
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    2,682
    Quote Originally Posted by NeverDoneIt View Post
    Yes, I do think that. Why would anyone bother to write a story if they didn't believe it was a great story?
    Absolutely. Everyone who writes a story believes they have an idea for a great story. All they need is to understand the techniques they can use to show/tell it.

    As you already have a first chapter, perhaps you'd like to post it in SYW with all the other first chapters.

    Good luck with your novel.

  24. #24
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Kentucky
    Posts
    613
    There are so many ways to make money. And all of them are easier than this.

    I'd like to quit my day job and do this more fun/satisfying thing instead, but if that were the only reason I was doing it, I'd give it up and choose something else.

    I'm doing it because nobody can write my stories but me. If I don't, they'll never be written and I think they deserve to be written. And also because I'd like to do something I feel is more worthwhile than my day job, more important (but not necessarily lasting/high-falutin - just entertaining people is more 'worthwhile' than my day job which is sorta-kinda in advertising).

  25. #25
    Learning to read more, post less
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    106
    Quote Originally Posted by PriyankaB View Post
    I of course can't speak for anyone but myself, but I think that writing fiction should never just be a job. It should be a hobby and a pastime and, most importantly, a passion. You shouldn't worry so much about getting things right, or you will never actually enjoy the writing process itself!
    You can say that about any job. Your job should be your passion. But lots of people go to work every day and aren't passionate about their job and still get the job done and get it done well.

    Quote Originally Posted by PriyankaB View Post
    I do not believe people should write fiction for the sole purpose of selling it or they really will go nowhere.
    I guarantee you there are authors out there who feel more passionate about the money they make off their writing than they do off their writing. What about someone who writes formulaic schlock like Danielle Steele but who made a fortune doing it? Do you really think she was feeling passion for those books?

    Listen, you see yourself as an artist. I see myself as a producer of a product that people want to buy.

    Quote Originally Posted by PriyankaB View Post
    Fiction should first and foremost be a storytelling process that starts with writing for themselves.
    Why should you be writing for yourself? I already know my story. I made it up. I don't need to write it down since I already know it in my head. Writing it down only helps me to convey it to other people.

    Quote Originally Posted by PriyankaB View Post
    There is no perfect formula for writing a book that will sell. No amount of advice by itself can make or break your story. That is all on your shoulders.
    Of course. That goes without saying. But it is nice to hear what others have to say particularly people who have read and written a lot of fiction. Sometimes they can give you good ideas. Other times not so much. You have to decide for yourself.
    Last edited by NeverDoneIt; 01-10-2011 at 07:29 AM.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Custom Search