Sunday, March 15, 2009

Main Characters

In PHAIAKIA (my book), I’ve 3 main characters that I follow. This involved some extra work in developing a unique voice for each as I alternate telling the story though their separate perspectives. Too, I at first struggled to ensure that the audience identify and like the characters fairly equally. When I failed to do so, my early readers grew frustrated as the story alternates.

One bestselling author who seems to alternate multiple character viewpoints fairly well is Terry Goodkind. I’m not going to name any names, but I’ve also read books where this tactic came across poorly.

I recall having read that the most an author should attempt is six main characters. This sounds like a staggering figure to me. What do you think would be the most an author should attempt? Or, better yet, what is the most you would be willing to try?


  1. How many main characters are in Lord of the Rings? I have one main character in my book but his life is told from the third person perspective (and incorporates A LOT of minor characters).

  2. You're right, Marty. Lord of the Rings did have several main characters. If it weren't on the other side of the house, I'd get up and go thumb through my copy to see how Tolkien approached each.

    I think the extra danger for you and I with our characaters is that since we are dealing with ancient Greece, the names themselves make it an extra challenge to engage the reader early (i.e., it's harder for them to recall who is who).

  3. I think the most I could juggle would be four. I think. And it might give me headaches!

  4. No wonder my head hurts! ;-)

    The more you add, the more complicated it all gets. Keeping track of who has done what when and what they know. Yup, I'd say a headache is in order.