Hi Mythcreants,

The core of my story revolves around my protagonist forming a pirate crew in order to rescue her sister from the villain. My main concern is that I don’t want to fall ​into a pattern of “protagonist meets character A” then “protagonist meets character B” and so forth until the crew is complete.

What would be your advice on how to prevent that from happening and, more generally, how to introduce and handle large casts of characters?

Thanks a lot for your time and your amazing work!



Hey, Frank, thanks for writing in! 

The first thing I’ll say is that having your protagonist meet and recruit a number of supporting characters isn’t something you have to be afraid of! It’s a perfectly serviceable trope that readers are happy to enjoy. The main tips I have for that kind of story are…

  • If your hero is spending a lot of time recruiting a crew, then recruiting the crew needs to be a conflict. 
    • Maybe the hero has to convince other characters to join, or they need to pull off a heist to get the money for wages. 
    • So long as something is happening beyond job interviews. 
  • The recruited characters should be distinct and fulfill different roles. 
    • In most cases, you don’t need to show the hero recruiting two snipers. 
      • Maybe if you’re planning on having a sniper rivalry or something. 
    • But a sniper and an explosives expert can be done separately. 
  • Major characters should generally all be introduced before the one-third mark, even if they don’t get hired until later.
    • If the hero doesn’t meet them in that time, they should at least hear of the character by reputation. 

On the other hand, if that’s not something you’re interested in, then you can shorten how long it takes by simply having the hero hire more than one person at a time. They can put out the word that they’re hiring a crew, and then you can summarize that they have a crew now. No need to dwell on stuff that doesn’t interest you. 

As for how to handle a large cast, that’s a much broader question, and my general advice is to only include as many characters as you need. The more distinct and prominent a character’s role in the story, the more likely readers are to remember them. For example, if you already have a character who serves as the hero’s emotional support, you probably don’t need to introduce another character to do that. And if you find that another character is also free to perform that role, then you can combine two characters into one. 

The more you do this, the more you ensure that every remaining character will be distinct and memorable. We also have a few posts that you can check out: 

Hope that answers your question, and good luck with your story!

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