Too Many Characters Not Enough Page

The more the merrier, right? Well, not exactly. Not when it comes to characters in a scene. 

I once had a scene where my party crash landed on a planet. Oh the excitement and drama! Uhm…sure except that a page in I’d already forgotten three characters were part of the group. My answer was to go back and make up dialog to remind me and the reader they were there. 

Wrong answer.

The story started to bog down and I eventually stomped off in a huff, blaming the story of course, to work on something else. Then I read a little article in one of the writing magazines I love to collect and it cautioned writers to keep characters to a minimum. Make characters work double duty if possible. Hmmmmm interesting. I suppose if a multi-published author thought limiting characters in a scene was a good idea I could give it a shot. 

Problem was if I took out those three characters I’d have to go way back in the story and cut them early before they got into the situation that would allow them to crash land.  

Pages and pages got crumpled up into cat toys. 

So I got back to the crucial point and then had to explain why these three were leaving. And that’s when it clicked. It was way more natural for them to have left at that point then to have stayed. Plus, their leaving set up tension between two of the remaining characters and THAT propelled vibrant dialog and consequences far beyond the crash landing. 

I guess the old adages, “Everything in it’s place and a place for everything” and “Less is more” applies to characters too.  

Have you ever taken characters or scenes out to revitalize your story?

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