The idea I have for the fifth Sarah Blair book I’m writing is perfect. It’s funny, it’s light, it’s going to be something readers enjoy. That is, if I can write it so it is funny, light, and fast paced.
Here’s the problem I’m having with it: The introduction of too many characters in the first pages is bogging down the telling of the story. The first 5000 words I wrote were good, but not quite there. I threw them out. The next 10,000 words I wrote were really good, but I could see it would be another 10,000 before I got the plot moving. I threw them out.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had a problem with too many characters to introduce. I like having a lot of people in my stories. Usually, by the second chapter, the reader has met eight to ten characters. This time, it is more like twenty-four – and that’s not counting RahRah and Fluffy.
My mind tells me to pare down my characters. Surely one can do the job of three. But this book is being stubborn. It won’t let me substitute one character in place of even two. I need every distinct character for the storyline to work.
Barbara Bradford used to put family trees at the beginning of her books so that when readers became confused, they could simply flip back to remember who was who. I remember hating keeping my finger in one page while I glanced back two hundred pages to find out the heirs of Simon, who being caught in an avalanche had little chance of survival. I don’t want to do that. I want the characters to be memorable.
But with twenty-four introduced at once, I know they won’t be. I think I have a solution to the keep the plot rolling along, but I’d love to hear any ideas you might have – as well as how many characters you enjoy meeting in the first few chapters of a book.