Everyone loves characters, so you should be able to simply add more and more of them with no consequences, right? Turns out that’s not quite true, and we talk about why today. We discuss how an overabundance of characters can clog down a narrative, when it’s okay to add a new character, and how many characters is the right amount.*

Transcript

Generously transcribed by Perspiring Writer. Volunteer to transcribe a podcast.

Chris: You’re listening to the Mythcreants podcast, with your hosts: Oren Ashkenazi, Wes Matlock, and Chris Winkle.

Oren: This episode was made possible by the support of our patron: Kathy Ferguson, professor of Political Theory in Star Trek.

Chris: Welcome to the Mythcreants podcast. I’m Chris, and with me is…

Oren: Oren.

Chris: And…

Wes: Wes.

Chris: And so, for this podcast, we’re going to start with the three of us, but then, every minute, we’re going to add an additional host.

Oren: Oh, that sounds good. I mean, more hosts is better, right? We can have- you know, more diversity to the conversation. It’ll be great.

Chris: Yeah, yeah, yeah, we want to have diversity in our podcast, right? And I think it’s really good to focus on all different types of relationships we can have between all sorts of different hosts that happen on this podcast.

Oren: Yeah.

Wes: I really- whatever I say, you guys need to know what I said from a few other people’s perspective as well, just so we get the full story here.

Chris: Yeah. And of course, it’s also because we need to have a party during the middle of this podcast, and so, we might actually introduce ten people at once, because, of course, a party needs at least ten people. [Wes laughs]

Oren: Right.

Chris: I’ll just tell everybody each other’s names; I’m sure they’ll remember.

Oren: And like, obviously each of those people didn’t just like, spring fully forth from the womb, right? Like, they have parents. So, they’re clearly- we have to introduce- they don’t necessarily have to be on screen, but you should name all of their parents and any siblings they might have.

Chris: That might be important character motivation. Like, part of their backstory. Yeah, definitely.

Oren: So, I think- so, what are we talking about today? [Chris laughs] I lost track of it cause I had this amazing idea for a new podcast. [laughs]

Chris: So, yeah, today we’re covering stories with too many characters. Which is a surprisingly common problem-

Wes: Yes.

Chris: -to have too many characters. And it’s especially bad in short stories, because short stories just can’t handle as much overhead, but it definitely still happens in novels as well.

Oren: I mean, you have more opportunity to misbehave in novels, right? Novels have a greater capacity, but also, like, there’s only so much mischief you can cause in 4000 words, but if you have five books, who knows what you can get up to. [Chris and Wes laugh]

Wes: But is it- I mean, yeah, there’s problems with too many characters, but is there a cut-and-dry answer to just how many is too many?

Oren: Five. [Chris laughs] That’s exactly the right number.

Wes: And probably, you smart-alecs out there are thinking ‘forty-two.’ You are wrong.

Oren: That’s fine. Forty-two is way too many, guys. Calm down. [laughter] Everybody simmer down on that one.

Chris: I mean, it’s really hard to say, because- the answer is ‘just as many as you need to carry out your plot, but no more.’ But then, the question is ‘what kind of plot do you have, and is your plot way too complex?’ [laughs] Cause it’s like, ‘well, maybe you need that many characters to carry out your plot, but you really shouldn’t be trying for that much plot in one novel.

But at least with plot, if you have too much plot, usually you just end up with more books. Like, it just gets longer. Whereas I think what happens with characters is, if you stuff a lot of characters with less plot, then it doesn’t just naturally get bigger; you just have way more characters packed in the same amount of text, and so, that creates a particular kind of character overload.

Oren: And like, too many characters is sort of the most common manifestation of series bloat, right? It’s not the only one, but it’s probably the most well-known.

Chris: Yeah. Certainly, series bloat- I think what I call chronic series bloat, where a series of books tends to get kind of slower and more bogged down and way broader in scope, probably more than it should be, as it goes is, in particular, not just introducing characters, but introducing more viewpoint characters.

Which is not just- usually, that’s not just introducing characters, but introducing additional plotlines, because most of the time, when people add viewpoints, they are adding another plotline. I think it’s great when they don’t; I think that’s the way to go, is to have your viewpoints actually following the same plotlines.

But I think the average writer is not actually good at doing that, so, it tends to make a plot that sprawls, and I think that, ultimately, is what causes chronic series bloat.

Oren: And I know that, at least for some authors, one of the things that can lead to too many characters is what I like to call ‘What About That Guy Syndrome,’ where it’s like- if you have a series, and you have multiple books in a series, sometimes one book will require an extra character that the other books don’t need.

Like, in the Expanse books, which I very much enjoy, in the second book, they really needed this character named Praxidike, I think is how you say his name? But they needed him, he was like, a biologist living on Ganymede, because a huge part of the novel revolved around the environmental collapse of Ganymede.

And so, he was important, because none of the other characters could feasibly know what he knew, and he gave an- it was useful to have that character of someone who lived on Ganymede as the thing was collapsing. But after that, he was not necessary. Nothing else that happens in the story focuses on Ganymede.

But then like, suddenly in book six, he’s back, and we have chapters from his perspective, even though the book is not about Ganymede anymore. We’ve moved on. It’s like, ‘hey, whatever happened to Praxidike? [mispronounces]’ Prax. Everybody just calls him Prax. [laughter]

Chris: Just call him Prax.

Oren: Yeah. ‘Whatever happened to Prax?’ It’s like, I wasn’t actually that interested- that curious. I didn’t feel like I needed to know.

Wes: But like- I got to wonder, it’s a syndrome, or maybe even, it’s just like, peer pressure, cause- you know, I think about writing- maybe you haven’t had this experience, but like, when you’re in a writing group, or like, people beta-read something for you, and they’re like- they’re just intrigued by just a hint of description or dialogue that some one-dimensional sideline character says, and they’re like, ‘I really like what you did with Regina. What’s her deal?’ [laughter] ‘Maybe you should write a book about her.’ [Wes and Chris laugh]

Like, there’s definitely this kind of pressure to round everything out, flesh it out, build your world, you know? ‘You need to do this, or you’re not legit,’ or something like that, or that you have to plan everything down to a ‘t.’ And that’s not fair. Like, the best writers know when to just leave a character as a cardboard cutout and when they need to round them out.

Chris: And I think that is also my guess, is that’s also responsible for a lot of books having way too much exposition, because every time you go through test reading, there’s usually a bunch of feedback that’s like- everybody is curious about something different, and they’re asking- or like, ‘wait, is this how it is?’ And then, they’re always asking questions, and the wrong writer who has not learned to be immune to this might be tempted to go into the story and then add explanations for all those things. [laughs]

Especially if they have a few test readers who are really close to them that they use every time, and they may not see the bigger pattern and realize that every reader has a different set of information requests, and that you mostly just have to ignore them. And so, that kind of bloat- and I don’t know how much of it is due to that happening, but I suspect that some of that is going on.

Oren: Right. And like, I feel like this affects different mediums in different more-or-less extreme ways. Like, I don’t know whether or not television writing decisions are actually influenced by how much fans like a particular story. I know that there are a lot of thinkpieces out there that are very concerned that that’s the reason people are making these choices.

I’m not super convinced, but I do know, from back when I used to work at Privateer Press, where we had a game line, and that game line had a story with multiple characters, there was basically a directive: ‘you cannot kill a character who is a model in the game. Like, ever. They can’t die.’ And the rationale behind that was that, if that character was dead, people might not buy their model.

And I have no idea if there was any truth to that. It certainly doesn’t seem to have been a problem for other companies that produced similar products, but maybe they had some other way around it. So, that definitely led to the Warmachine fluff being way overfull with characters. It’s like, there are more characters coming out of every nook and cranny in that setting.

Chris: Yeah. I do think that the best kind of plot if you like to have multiple characters is a kind of intrigue plotline. Obviously, Game of Thrones still has more characters than it needs, but the kind of plotline that Game of Thrones is can, I think, sustain more, and the reason why is because you have lots of different- basically, factions that are in competition with each other.

And because they’re in direct conflict with each other, you can sustain more viewpoints than another book, because those viewpoints are directly interacting, they’re affecting each other, and it gives you a reason, if you like one viewpoint, to actually stay engaged during the other viewpoints. So, the story can sustain more viewpoints without fragmenting, and then, each of those viewpoints, you’re going to want several characters.

Generally, you’re going to want at least two, because it’s just easier to write if you have another character that your viewpoint character can talk to. You know, it just makes expressing a lot of things easier. And so, then, with those kinds of plotlines, they can generally sustain more characters, whereas I would say a more streamlined plotline can’t.

Although, it’s not just- I don’t think this is just about how many characters you have, but like, what you’re doing with those characters; if you’re like- Harry Potter, for instance, technically has a lot of characters, but it never feels like it has too many characters, and I think the reason for that is just, Rowling is really good at knowing when a character should be there and when they should not.

She does not- she introduces them slowly; she keeps them with their own role. For instance, Madam Hooch. Not even slightly an important character, but you know that she’s the coach, the Quidditch coach and that she teaches Broom, and she appears for those scenes and no- and then she doesn’t burden the story the rest of the time.

Oren: Right.

Chris: But having those named characters- and of course with a whole series, you also have more time to learn their name, but having those named characters give the feeling of having a school, with all of the teachers and all of the students- but like, something like that has to be really carefully managed, because the more people around that are good guys, the more you have to explain why it’s your hero, now, that’s saving the day and not everybody else.

She has to make Harry a rulebreaker, because if he wasn’t a rulebreaker, there’d be too many people around to solve the problem, so that’s why he has to creep out at night by himself. [laughs]

Oren: And like, Rowling also has the advantage that she cleverly created a format in which she can cycle in new adult characters and then cycle them out as they gain and lose jobs at Hogwarts. [Chris and Wes laugh] And like, the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is the famous one, but there’s others. There are a number of characters who have some kind of job or some kind of requirement to stick around Hogwarts for a year, and then they leave at the end. And that helps keep the number of characters down.

Rowling is also very good at establishing memorable characters. So, you have, for example, the Weasley twins, who are- like, everyone knows who the Weasley twins are, and they’re very memorable, but they aren’t super important plotwise; they don’t take up a lot of time, it’s just like, they have a such an immediate presence. It’s like, ‘oh, hey, it’s the Weasley twins. We know them.’ And then they leave and go do a joke somewhere or whatever.

Chris: She also, definitely- for a lot of the other students, she doesn’t create the expectation that you will remember them. For instance, in the beginning of book one, when you have kind of like this roll call, where all the students are going up and getting sorted into their various houses- it’s just, McGonagall is calling their names, and so you hear a lot of different names, but you know, in that context, that you are not expected to remember these names. It’s purely for atmosphere.

But those same names do come up later, and, very slowly, you get to actually remember them and remember who these different students are, but you’re never- they’re never just referenced as though they’re important and you’re expected to remember them.

Oren: It’s like, ‘hey, I just- I don’t remember who that person is and that’s okay,’ and then, later, when they’re important, they’re like, ‘oh, it’s THIS person.’ And maybe you remember that you heard that name back in book one. Who knows? Although even Harry Potter does suffer from the ‘too many adults around’ problem.

Chris: Yeah.

Wes: That’s true.

Oren: Like, it works in the story, but there’s definitely a feeling that like, all of the adults are incompetent- [Wes and Chris laugh] -because that’s the only- that feels like the only explanation for why, seven years in a row- I guess six, really. Six years in a row, there’s some kind of critical problem that only a group of students can solve. [laughs]

Wes: I think one other nice thing to consider that Rowling definitely does do well is- you know, ‘you’ve got your plot, and so, how many characters can that support?’ But also, the setting is nice in kind of quelling those kind of questions from readers that we talked about. A school setting is great.

Like, everybody has experienced a school setting, so when you say, ‘this is Snape, the Potions-master-’ or, you know, somebody with that little describer of who they are at the end, you can just be a little satisfied with that, and know that you don’t need to deal with them, and it’s very clear that like, ‘this kid is fulfilling this teen role, and that one is that one.’

So, you kind of get to fill in the blanks, because everyone has experienced school, and so they can add their own story to these characters, and that means the writer doesn’t have to do that at all. Like, they can focus on a select few and trust that the context is going to give readers more than enough information that they can go with and not have- I mean, it’ll save space, it’ll save time, so, context. That’s my pick. [laughs]

Oren: Although, I can’t help but feel- and I have no proof of this, this is just my gut acting up here, is that Harry Potter, basically, could only be done once, in that- Harry Potter was certainly not the first magic school story to achieve popularity, but it achieved popularity to such an extent that things that people were willing to forgive because Harry Potter was so novel and cool, I suspect they would be far less of- if a new series did that.

Even if it did all of the same things that Rowling did to alleviate those problems, I suspect that we are willing to give Rowling a pass, because she was occupying a space that had been previously vacant. And now, it’s like, ‘well, Harry Potter’s in that space, so your book better do something Harry Potter doesn’t,’ right? [laughs]

Chris: Certainly, the novelty from the magic school setting, if you just do everything Harry Potter did, it’s going to seem kind of repetitive. And so, if you introduce another Potions-master- [laughs] -in your magic school setting, it’s not going to feel like introducing Snape for the first time. You have to do something to give your magic school a twist to make it feel fresh again and make people care about all of those different schoolteachers.

Wes: Well, another thing that I was thinking about that can contribute to too many characters being in a story kind of revolves around writing prep. You know, some people really like doing characters sketches. I mean, I do. I really like doing that; and so, there can be a problem when you don’t really have a well-thought-out plot, but you’ve got all of these great characters, and they just all have to be in your story because you spent so much time planning them out and thinking about them.

And it’s very clear, to me, when I’m reading stories- or even like, entertaining ones of my own, when I have a plot and when I just have a bunch of what I think are cool characters. So, any advice for dealing with that? Like, if people plan with characters in mind, how should they go about that?

Oren: Make your characters very boring so that you won’t be at all tempted to include more than one. [Chris laughs] That’s my special, absolutely real advice. [Wes laughs]

Chris: I mean, I do have some advice- there are some steps that you want to take if you have too many, and I think a lot of these can alternately be used for a checklist to try to see if you have too many.

For instance, the first step is just, looking at all the characters and saying ‘if I took the character- this character out, does the plot change significantly?’ And if the answer is ‘no,’ then that is a big sign that you should cut that character, because they are just superfluous, and they are not going to make a big impact because they’re superfluous, or if an audience member gets attached to that character, they’re going to feel disappointed when they don’t actually influence anything. So, definitely, that’s a character to take out, keep for another story.

Another thing is that you can- especially if you have characters that are present and influence the plot for the beginning or the end, but not both, et cetera, ask if it’s possible to combine those characters into the same character. And this is true even for really minor characters; it is more helpful to have a minor character that kind of recurringly- repeatedly pops up in the story and does a minor role than to have like, four different little minor characters doing that role.

Then, I would say, making sure that you have a good priority, okay? Because, even when you have a big ensemble cast, you still want a character that is the head. Like, you notice in most tv shows, there’s one character that’s really the star. It’s an ensemble cast, but most of the time, one character is more important than the others, and I think that’s important.

And if you go ahead and rank your characters to which one you want to be the most important and which one you feel is the most important, and then actually look at their role in the plot and see if that what happens actually reflects that- is your most important character introduced right away in the beginning, and are they the person who actually drives the end, who actually does the- makes the big choice, or does the cool thing in the climax to bring about the resolution?

And then, from there, make sure that the people who are lower down actually have less presence and actually influence the plot less, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And again, make the tough choices to prioritize your characters. And I think that all helps. What about you, Oren? Any…

Oren: Okay, okay, okay. So- again, this is largely process advice, which can be very subjective, but I try not to do setup that I’m not using. Like, people talk about ‘well, you could do a monologue with your character and really get to know them, or do a sketch with them,’ and like, if that works for people, then great. But I’ve found that whenever I do that, that just makes me want to use them regardless of if they actually fit.

And it’s the same with anything, like, this is why I don’t do tons of research before I start writing a story, because if I do tons of research and tons of worldbuilding, it’s like, ‘I did all this work. I should include all of it.’ And it’s hard for me to cut. So, in general, when I’m trying to figure out how many stories- how many characters a story needs, I try to create the plot first, and then fill in where I need a character. And that doesn’t always work, and I still sometimes end up with more characters than I need. [laughs] But it’s the best option I got.

One particular area in which I see characters- too many characters crop up a lot, I think is related to roleplaying games, because in a roleplaying game, you kind of have the feeling that in most cases, characters kind of do one thing. Like, they specialize and are good at a thing. So, it’s like, ‘well, I’ve got my sneaky character,’ and over here, ‘I’ve got my bow character,’ and over here, ‘I’ve got my fight character.’

But in a story, those can be the same person. Like, they don’t all have to be separate people; you’re not bound by the number of character points that you have available. And I have seen a number of stories where it really feels like, ‘okay. Whoever wrote this is modelling a roleplaying game party and assigning a new character for each skill when they don’t necessarily have to do that.’ Now, sometimes that works; if that skill is really important to the story, it can be useful to have it spread out among different people.

You know, the Belgariad series really comes to mind, where- and certainly, some of that is also like, ‘I need to collect one person from each country.’ [Chris and Wes laugh] But like, each character has an almost comical level of specialization in the thing they do, and it’s like, really, some of those skill sets could have been combined. [laughs]

Chris: Certainly, there was- you know, the Belgariad series is just like- it was clear that the characters were there to represent the world, that the authors really wanted to show off the world and all of these different quirky countries, and so, every character was there to represent the country. And for that reason, the other unfortunate thing about that is, the characters were all country stereotypes, right? [Chris and Wes laugh]

Oren: Yeah.

Chris: You invent this cool country, and then you have like, one character there that’s representing the country. Now they can’t show the natural variation that people in that country would have, right? Not everybody in that country is going to be the perfect stereotypical citizen of that country. [laughs] But that tends to happen, too, and that definitely happened in that work.

But- let’s see. So, there are some other ways that can help handle lots of characters. One of the definite problems with having too many characters, especially when you have heroes, is- you know, you end up with a pile of heroes all together. [Oren laughs] And you want them to all fight the bad guy, but there’s not always things for them all to do.

And so, sometimes you end up doing weird logistical things, where you’re like, ‘okay, this character has to be over here, because… I don’t know, this reason. And this character- [laughs] -has to be over here.’ And like, Star Trek, for instance, I think runs into this problem, where like- especially since the captain is supposed to be the most- the central character, right? And the action takes place in a dangerous area, and there’s no good reason why the security officers on the crew shouldn’t be doing this dangerous job for the captain, right?

But now, we come up with all these excuses to like, send the captain and the first officer on an away mission, because we want to have a scene with them together, and there’s- you know, that doesn’t make any sense.

Oren: It’s very exciting, right? [Chris laughs] I mean, how else are you going to get the captain stabbed by a Klingon? There’s like- that’s not going to happen on its own. Gotta work for it.

Chris: And we saw this happen recently, both with Discovery and Orville. [Oren makes a noise of disgust] Yeah, Orville has- is not good. But in any case, they- [Wes laughs] -I’ve watched episodes from both recently, and they both have a scene where the captain and the first officer go off on an away mission together. [laughs] It’s like, ‘why are you doing that?’ But it’s because they want to have a scene with them together and have a plot with them together, and now we have to figure out all these logistical reasons.

Which wouldn’t happen- it doesn’t happen when you have less characters. And you have to have things for them to do. I think Star Trek does handle it better because they all have assigned roles. It’s not perfect, but you have an Engineer, and you have a Security Officer, and you have a Helms person. And that makes it so that they don’t step on each other’s toes so much. There’s reasons that are built in for them to be doing different things.

Oren: And- so, here’s another idea: something that I’ve noticed is that, between installments in a story, sometimes the writer will, like- usually in a book this happens, because the writer is bored with their existing characters and wants to bring in a new one, or like, sometimes they foreshadow that this new character would exist, but in order to make room for them they have to eliminate an existing one.

And that sounds like a good idea, cause it avoids too many characters, but it also creates what I call ‘the interloper problem,’ where it’s like, ‘hey, I don’t really like this new character. I haven’t spent an entire book building a relationship with them. But I did spend one building a relationship with that other guy who is dead now. Thanks.’ [Chris and Wes laugh] And I had this problem with His Dark Materials, where Lee Scoresby was the balloon guy, that’s his big thing, he’s the balloon man.

He dies so that we can have the shaman dude. I don’t remember his name, but he’s Will’s father, and it’s like, ‘let’s bring- that guy needs to show up, and so, in order to be room for him, we have to deemphasize Scoresby, and also Iorek, who is another amazing character, to make room for all of these new characters.’ And it’s like, ‘I really liked those old characters. Why can I not have them back?’

And so, I kind of- and then, of course, even in the main cast, it’s like, Lyra gets sidelined. She doesn’t die, but she gets sidelined so that Will can show up and take the spotlight. And so- and I feel like- I could be wrong here, but I suspect that for a lot of this, it’s motivated by authors wanting to do something different with their characters, and I think that, in a lot of cases, you can avoid this problem by having your character go through a change, rather than simply getting rid of them and bringing in a new one.

Now, that’s not always going to work, and like, sometimes if you try that, your character will feel not true to themselves, but there’s- I can imagine Scoresby learning- having his own arc where he learns the tricks and the knowledge that the shaman character is necessary to provide. And I can imagine Lyra going through an arc where she arrives at the mentality that Will has in order to solve the problem.

And so, that’s not 100% going to work, but I do think that, if you are in that situation, it can be useful to try to change- try to have your character that already exists go through a change, rather than introducing a new one.

Chris: I mean, it is certainly always disappointing for me when a character is taken in a direction they have already gone for. Where- like, let’s say they used to be really dark and gritty, and then they found joy in life again, and then they are made to be dark and gritty again. It’s like, that does not feel satisfying. [laughs] It is definitely good to take characters in new directions.

Oren: Right. And sometimes, it’s also good to replace- to retire them. Like, sometimes a character is done. I mean, the proto-example is Sylar from Heroes, right?

Chris: Oh, yeah. He was- I think their problem- the problem with that is that he, originally, in the beginning, was so well-liked that- I doubt he was well-liked- maybe he was well-liked at the end, but they overused him so much that I don’t think he stayed that way. [laughs]

Oren: I mean, certainly not to the same degree.

Chris: Yeah. They just- and that happens sometimes with villains. And sometimes- with Spike, it worked, right? Spike was popular, he was not intended to stick around, but they were able to bring him on and convert him slowly to a protagonist, and for the most part, that worked really well. But with Sylar, they kept him as a villain, and then they made him a hero, and then they made him a villain again, and it was just really inconsistent and just all over the place.

Oren: I mean, sometimes, it’s just kind of a throw of the dice whether or not you have a character with enough depth to handle those major changes, right? And I’ve definitely- I’ve noticed that like, on a more immediately practical level, it can help to imagine that you’re casting a tv show, because in tv shows- and tv shows are not immune to this problem, but they’re more resistant to it because each new character they bring on has to be paid.

They need a new actor to play that character, so they’re less likely to just bring in characters whenever they feel like it. And not to say that this never happens; we’ve talked a lot about how Teen Wolf has too many characters, but it’s less likely. Whereas an author of a prose work, it’s super easy to just run away with your imagination and be like, ‘you get a character, and you get a character, and you get a character!’ [Chris and Wes laugh]

Chris: I will say, one thing about Teen Wolf, though: the season one finale has a scene that actually has a huge group of heroes working together to defeat a single- maybe two. Mostly just one bad guy, and they actually find a way to give everybody a significant role. Which is actually really, really difficult to do. It’s in the last episode of season one of Teen Wolf.

But I feel like most writers would struggle to write that scene a lot. Which is why having too many heroes, particularly together, can be so troublesome.

Oren: And you have to really set it up in advance, and like- or, alternatively, you could just replace your final boss fight with a Disney-style dustup, with like, a big dust cloud, and the characters faces occasionally pop out of it. [Chris and Wes laugh] That’s your final boss fight now, and it doesn’t matter how many characters you have, cause there’s always more room in the dust cloud. [laughs]

Chris: I think, if you have a lot of characters that have to add to your ending, I think that the best strategy is to… first of all, come up with a reason why people need to be in several different places at once, so, you can split them into teams, but then make it so that each role in each different place is actually important. It’s the traditional, like, ‘you have to infiltrate the base and take the shield down so that the other heroes can get in and fight.’

That’s happened in several popular stories I know of, and there’s a reason why, is because you have a large cast, you need them all to have a role that gives them a different role that is interdependent. The day cannot be saved unless each team succeeds, but then they’re not all together.

Oren: This is true. Alright, well, speaking of being all together, we are out of time. [Chris laughs] So, Wes, you haven’t said as much as Chris and I; do you have any final thoughts you want to say before we round this episode out?

Wes: I guess just one thing: if you’re bent on having a bunch of characters, if you’re writing your grand novel, or whatever, and there’s- if it’s especially dealing with intricate family relationships, do us all a favor and include a family tree. I’ve read several texts that just have a quick reference at the front- I mean, this, I think, was a more common practice back when things were serialized, but just in the way that maps included with books are really fun reference points to keep locations straight, so can family trees. It’s nice just to have a visual reference.

Maybe write it down for yourself, and then take a look at how big it is- [Chris laughs] -and make an assessment on if you need everybody. But like, those kind of visual aids, I’ve enjoyed them when I’ve seen them, which is not very often.

Chris: Yeah. And if you’re tracing who might inherit the throne, they can also be pretty plot-relevant. [laughs]

Wes: Yes, exactly.

Oren: Alright. Well, thank you both for joining us to talk about this excellent topic of too many characters. Those of you at home, if anything that we said piqued your interest, you can leave a comment on the website at Mythcreants.com. Otherwise, we will talk to you next week. [closing song]

Chris: This has been the Mythcreants podcast. Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton.

P.S. Our bills are paid by our wonderful patrons. Could you chip in?

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