I am caught up in the ever-increasing circle of more and more and more characters in Heirs of Alexandria series that either keep telling me they need their story told, or having reader inform me that really they need to know… (which is where the story that is up on the Baen site comes from. A reader had asked me just what Antimo Bartelozzi‘s backstory was, that made so intensely loyal.)
Now as anyone who has become involved in the 1632 saga knows, the more stories get written, the more loose ends there are fraying away out there, begging to be tied in, and of course, getting more and more wrapped up in a canon that gets more detailed and more complex with each story.
I have the same issue with the Heirs books, in that I’m a dismal failure at killing enough interesting characters. And the canon is now very complex – the problem with Italianate Macchiavellian politics is that after a while (like the end of a big fat book) you get messy stains on the pages from the author’s small brain exploding. It’s that or confused readers, and I’ve decided I prefer the former. I can always get more braaaaaaaaaainz… At last call I (and a few others) were interested in more adventures of Cair Aidin, more adventures Jusef Szpak (from A Mankind Witch (Heirs of Alexandria)
– which is selling about a copy a day at the moment, which I am very pleased about. THE FORLORN
, less so.), more from the person that perceptive souls may have realised was a famous Swedish king in the same book, more from Iskander Beg, Guiliano Lozza and Thalia, (in TRM) and more from the thief, David, and Count Mindaug (MUCH FALL OF BLOOD). And that’s without the major characters, some of whom we will hear more of. (Vlad is less than certain.)
And that’s just one series. And they’ll spawn more, if I write them…
Which brings me to my topic. Of course this varies from writer to writer, setting to setting, subgenre to subgenre… but is there a good number (particularly of principle or POV characters)? And just how do you tell. Personally, I KNOW from practical experience, that too much head-hopping confuses me as writer, let alone readers, but in Byzantine intrigue in high fantasy plots it is very hard to avoid. I’m quite limited by the samll brain, so I’ve found 4 major POV’s is ‘easy’ with an occasional blow in acceptable. But the size of your cast of major characters is question I have never had adequately answered. I do find each major character adds between 10-20K to a book… which has some practical limitations. But what are your thoughts?