Anyone else here with big casts?

Dunno if I should put this here exactly, but Fantasy is known for having more large casts than other genres. If it belongs somewhere else, I’m sorry but I’ve been trying to think of where in these wide forums to stick it for days.

There are so many writing advice posts I see talking about “main character this” and “protagonist that”, and every time I see those terms I’m like, “But what if you don’t have just one main character, or even a central trio?”

I have seven main characters in the first part of the Sisterlands Sequence, and also seven only slightly less prominent characters who do stuff too. Then there are the relatives both adopted and by blood, some friends, new allies acquired throughout the series, and I’m not even getting to the family of villains yet! I don’t have one of anything!

Is there anyone else who’s in the same boat?

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I mostly managed to narrow mine down to two “main” characters whose arcs I’ll be focusing the most on, but I have seven recurring POVs just to keep track of everything going on in the world (fantasy epic. Multi-pov is the best way I’ve found to introduce some ticking time bombs for the reader)

As for villians… I have two main ones, but they both come with their own set of supporting cast and “minibosses”.

I’ve tried to cut some of it (and I have – it used to be worse) but there comes a point when taking away anything else turns the story into something else, and not the grand epic I want to tell. Just so long as they’re not all named “Jon.” :grimacing:

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Most of my stories have groups of people, some are side characters, some main, and often times I have multiple villains. Which usually if I want a new villain I start another book and make it a series. One of my books has two MC and they all have side kicks/friends. You’re not alone.

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My first draft during NaNo I had three POV characters, but in my rewrites I’ve had to add several more from my ensemble. I have at least five POV characters, not counting that two of them change names and when they do, they effectively change character. There’s at least a dozen major characters running around.

That said, I did decide one character is the main character. There are then two secondary mains, who get their own arcs. The answer to “what if you don’t have one main character” is you do all that work multiple times, the secondaries just don’t get as prominent of an arc.

Yeah, I like to give all of my characters arcs along the way. They’re all important and it’s sometimes hard to just make one the MC.

I started my most recent big project with 14 major characters which then I got down to 10 that then became four main characters with the rest being major side characters

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More of a general character question, since while fantasy can have big casts, any genre can!

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Not alone at all. I always have a cast slightly too large to manage conveniently. The worst is when I start breaking characters into lead/major/secondary/tertiary because the lead characters and some of the major cast had herds following them and not all of herds were equal. My current project is threatening to do that to me.

It is probably going to get away with it, too, because I tend to find large casts immersive. There comes a point when a small, tightly casted story starts to feel off, not because the author did anything wrong, but because in a city of 100k which the cast spends more than a scene or two in, there are 2 unique named characters. There are plenty of ways to get around that- goodness knows an adventure story can get away with fewer characters than epics by a mile.

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There’s a reason some character types and professions are more common. A PI has himself, an assistant, a love interest, the cop that gives him some information and then the plot related characters. Compare that to a police detective: his partner, the other detective teams, the captain, a couple lower level patrol officers, either a love interest or a spouse (maybe kids). If you’re playing by TV rules the DA and forensics are going to be present too. A military squad is about twelve people, depending on the needs - and that’s before you get into the command structure.

So, yeah. I have a detective. I have a crime boss (I mean undercover agent, wait, what?). I have a secret society of wizards. HERDS!

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Jumps up and down. Meeeeeeeeee! Big casts are my achilles heel. Lol Currently I have three WIPs.

In my first, it’s a satirical dystopian speculative fiction (complicated, I know) and I have four mains, nine supports, seventeen that get used frequently, and a pleathora of ones that show up from time to time. All in all, there’s roughly around 60 characters, and there’s always at least five in every situation.

My second one is a fanfic, and it has three main characters, nine supporting characters, some odd 30 that are like the supports of the supports, and a few more than just beebop around and pop by when it’s plot convenient. That has about 40-ish characters in all.

Then there’s my third one which has one main character, zero supports, and about 90 (at the last count) other ones.

But my problem is that I cannot focus on one character if my life depended on it. Probably cause I started out as a doubling roleplayer, whoops. I may have one main character, but you had better know every shred of detail about the 90 background characters because otherwise you’ll be hopelessly lost.

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While it’s certainly thinking way too far ahead in the future, I have an idea in mind for a crossover between the casts of the first four books in a magical-girl fantasy setting I’ve written the first book of.

Sticking with the ideas I have in mind for the other three books, it’d include a main cast of 24 characters. (Kind of by necessity, because part of the idea’s appeal is getting to explore the group dynamics of each book’s cast in different circumstances from their initial story.)

Currently, my two biggest inspirations are The Wheel of Time and the Murdoch Mysteries TV series. I don’t think I’m capable of having one main character, or even a fairly small cast.

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I used to do big casts, but lately I’m all about streamlining and simplifying. I tend to combine similar enough characters into one character that serves the same plot purpose. I hate it, but I also start to itch if there are too many characters standing around taking up all the space I could be devoting to the actual important characters.

I seem to be the opposite of most people in here. My casts are generally pretty small. I have a YA Fantasy that has a main character, a love interest (and secondary POV character), a mentor, a main villain, and a secondary “villain” who is a much smaller role and newer addition to the story. Which, overall, isn’t a lot.

I have another story (whose genre I’m unsure of) that literally has 4 characters.

I do, however, have one WIP in the planning stages with a main cast of 7 characters. I’m kind of excited to try and tackle a story with a larger cast!

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Well, since you guys have explained your casts a bit more than I did, here’s some of my own reasoning.

So there are seven magic Sceptres the travelers have to collect, and seven royal siblings to bear them. That’s the main set. Each has a book where they get more focus than in the others (it’s an eight-book series, or at least the first part of The Sisterlands is), but their arcs are spread out, and woven together throughout the series. Sam comes to terms with being the eldest and a future king, Rain has to adjust to the traveling life where she can’t sleep during the day and do needlework or spinning at night, and also deal with being surrounded by people all the time, etc. If you’re wondering why they didn’t adjust sooner, well, they didn’t know they were royals to start with, but that comes out before the quest begins, because then you get to watch them reevaluate everything they thought they knew about themselves, something hidden-royal stories don’t always do until the sequels if there are any. There are sequels, but I wanted to get that reveal out of the way partly because there was no reason to keep it from them any longer once they had to flee, but I digress.
Then we have the Talenasian royal siblings, of whom there are also seven. They have arcs too, at least one being fairly prominent.
Then there’s the villain, who has fourteen kids with curse specialities. They seem similar at first, but the key word there is seem. I won’t get into that too much because spoilers. I’ve already given a key point away just by dropping that hint. :smiley:
I have dropped the odd minor character here and there, but far too often, instead of getting rid of a minor character, I flesh them out to the point where if I’m not careful, people will want entire books just about them! But hey, gotta throw the future fanfic’ers some bones, don’t I? :smiley:

I wasn’t quite sure if it fit in Character Cafe, since I kind of thought that was for shaping individual characters. Sorry for the misplacement!

My main fantasy novel is very similar in number and their corresponding roles! Main character, love interest who main character doesn’t realize is a love interest right away (and secondary POV character), a sidekick/mentor, a main villain, and a love interest who is actually the real main villain! lol (What is this, Scooby Doo?)

If I ever get back into writing Mahou Shoujo, though, I may have to resist my simplification urge and just go wild with a big cast of characters.

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I tend to write epic and political fantasy, so yeah, big casts ahoy.

For me the question of the main character/protagonist comes down to “whose story is it?”

  • In a political fantasy where a prince gets kidnapped in an assassination attempt, the story belongs to the person who sets out to rescue him. She has a whole team helping her, and they certainly have their own arcs, but it’s her story.
  • In an epic fantasy with about 8 POVs and lots of different interweaving arcs in different locations, the story is about a young man who just found out he’s a dragon–the only one who can defeat the dragon who has been terrorizing the archipelago for two decades. The story belongs to him and the person he trained to fight alongside, no matter how interesting or important the other characters may be.
  • In a political fantasy about a war between brothers, the story is about the brother that made an offer to head off war with another family. He was willing to sacrifice himself to prevent a war and that made him king; his older brother started a different war in retaliation. Despite a large cast, that story is intensely focused on the protag’s reactions to his older brother’s betrayal.
  • In an epic fantasy with two separate inter-woven plots, the main characters are the two who head those plots. One is trying to build a functioning society, the other is fighting a civil war. There are lots of POVs in that, tons of named characters, and over a dozen separate character arcs, but the MCs are the two that exemplify the main plots of the book. (I’m working on re-plotting this one now to reduce POVs.)

I have found that if a character is important enough in one book that’s not about them, chances are they’ll be important enough to have a sequel of their own later. Then that sequel can be about them. But that first book, no. The coveted place of MC belongs to whose story it is.

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OMG, me! So much me! I (along with my husband) write epic high and urban fantasy. It’s a whole series. Any one given book will have a good 10-30 characters (yes, 30, or more). Over the whole series? Well, our “story notes” is a family tree that has over 3,000 people in it. I have had so many people (not fantasy/sci-fi writers/readers who get large casts) tell us that we have too many characters to follow. I get tired of hearing it, honestly. Anyone else feel this way?

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Yeah, I get tired of people saying that sort of thing too, especially when they’re criticising a story I could keep track of just fine! My fanfics tend to be heavily populated too, and I like fanfics with lots of characters. They feel like more realised worlds if there are lots of people (or Pokémon in some cases) in them.

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